I’m very thankful for the two local critique groups that I attend and always leave feeling renewed and inspired. One is a well-established combination of writers from all different genres. I lead the second one, which is a newer compilation of writers and illustrators for children’s literature. Each group meets in person monthly, and occasional digital critique swaps are also requested and take place in between our gatherings. Since I’ve been taking part and observing for some time, now, several aspects for effectiveness have jumped out at me and motivated the following suggestions:
*When commenting in writing or orally, try to start out with a positive, follow with suggestions, and possibly end with another positive, as time allows (“sandwich” approach)
*Point out specific sections of the pieces for examples whenever possible, instead of speaking in generalities
*Keep in mind “nerves” and any misgivings you may have had when you first joined the group, upon greeting new attendees
*When receiving feedback, try to listen to a member’s full comments before responding with an explanation of your thinking or reasoning (this can be difficult to do!)
*Share your successes AND your disappointments, which can help to form connections between members
*Offer critiques on a continuing basis, even during those times when your own work is not being shared
Am I ALWAYS successful in remembering to do each of these things? I admit that I’m not, but these are my goals, since I can see how these strategies work so well when implemented. Feel free to add comments with ideas you’ve found to be especially helpful in your own groups!
6 thoughts on “What Makes an Effective Writing Critique Group Member?”
Critiques from a group took some adjusting for me, but proved invaluable, and I helped them as well.You have some good points here, especially the one about being specific.
My worst habit is to get all frothy at unexpected criticisms. Instead of thinking a bit, I start arguing and (I hate to admit) occasionally accuse critiquers of being contradictory, vague, or overly critical (!) At least I’m conscious of this problem, even though I haven’t managed to squash it. One thing that helps with such a reaction is the realization that the final decision is my own, and I don’t have to change anything right away. By the time I’m actually working on the critiqued piece, I’ve calmed down and taken ownership of the ideas presented by the critique group. Being critiqued is definitely worthwhile, despite the jolts.
I imagine that it’s human nature to “defend” our thinking on our writing pieces. I’m finally getting more used to the critique process and try to use it as a way to get many different opinions. As you say, we don’t necessarily have to make the suggested changes.
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