One Writer’s Journey

May 5, 2015

Critique: The wonder of a top notch critique group

Filed under: Uncategorized — suebe @ 1:04 am
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grandma's china

Coffee and critique — the best friends of any writer.

One of the best parts of the Misssouri SCBWI Writing Retreat is the opportunity to work with a top-notch critique group.  I have the honor of getting to run one of the groups each year but I have to admit that it’s a socialist affair.  I want to hear about everyone’s groups and then we decide how our particular group is going to work.

What’s there to decide?  Most of the decisions have to do with how we present our work.  Sometimes the author reads the work out loud.  Other times, one of the other participants has that honor.  My group usually just reads things silently and then we discuss them.

At the retreat, we decided to combine techniques.  We read silently and then someone other than the author got to read out loud.

I have to say — I’m sold on reading things aloud.  We didn’t catch any rough spots but we did catch some repeated words that didn’t stick out when you read silently.  We also caught a few places where the ear expected some word play or a chorus and then . . . nada. I will definitely recommend this technique to my other groups.

Other than that, we were pretty informal.  We didn’t go around the circle and make comments one at a time.  In fact, we had a tendency to interrupt each other as we bounced ideas around or asked for clarification.

Sure, we disagreed with each other sometimes but it was always with a great sense of fun, probably because we were all running fun picture books past the group.

If you are putting together a new group, here are some things to consider:

Goals.  Everyone at the retreat wants to publish traditionally but also electronically.  A hobby writer or someone who wanted to self-publish might not have fit in as well.

Time.  We had a tight schedule with only so long to critique.  Since we all had short pieces, we just had to keep an eye on the time.  In fact, we had an official time-keeper.  If you are doing novel length work with your group, you might have to do one novel/meeting.

Written comments or oral.  Some groups do either or.  We did both.

It can take several tries for a group to gel.  We were very fortunate that things clicked at our first meeting, perhaps because most of us knew at least one other person in the group.  If you try to put a group together and this doesn’t happen, don’t worry but do try again.  A good critique group is worth their weight in gold.



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