Tuesday, January 3, 2012

7 Ideas to Begin your own Writer's Critique Group

It's that time of year to start new things and get extra motivated about writing! Can't find a writer's critique group that meets close to you or provides what you need for your writing?

Photo by Julie Jordan Scott, courtesy of Flickr
Why not get going with a critique group that you have created yourself?

I love the idea of creating what works for us because there will always be things that we need that others will need too; plus, we can be in charge of our ideas instead of sitting back and doing what an already established group has done for years. We can gather the people that write what we write and we can gear our critiquing sessions to our own style.

Sound fun?

Here's a list of ideas to get you started on your own critique group followed by a critique group that I am starting up:

1. Get on your favorite networking sites and let others know what specific genre your interested in writing. It's always good to meet with others who enjoy writing what you like to write. Get some feedback on the days and times that work best. You're not going to please everyone, but deciding on a day and time early on will help others to make the decision whether or not to gather with you.

Photo by Wootango01, courtesy of Flickr

2. Will you be gathering online or in person? Online groups are very popular simply because days and times are not necessary to getting a good group together. Online is great for super busy people, but something is usually lacking in connection when it comes to critiquing work. I prefer the in-person approach because  you get a greater sense of personality, quirks and writing style when you are able to converse with the person in a live situation. The only caveat to the online choice is if you are able to talk to each other in real time and through the use of a computer camera.

3. Keep your group small and manageable. Something strange happens when the numbers reach 7 or more. Suddenly, time is lacking and the time you spend has become a free-for-all. My favorite number is 5 because no one gets paired up, and there is just enough writers to handle some heavy critiquing without anyone feeling left out.

4. Create a critique sheet that you'll use when critiquing others work. My critique sheet is a compilation of what others have done and what I've found that works for me.


CRITIQUE SHEET for

_____________________________
(Name of writing piece)

Rate the story from 1-10, 1 being, “More work is needed,” 10 being, “Excellent”.

The Whole Truth

How well was the emotional experience translated onto paper?  Did you feel with the writer?  Did their imagination run free? 
1_______________________10

Where are you?

Did you feel like the story was trying to impress you, or was the story real and at its best?  Was it the writer’s own language, own rhythm, own story? 
1_______________________10

Point of View

Could you see more than one point of view?  Did the writer’s point of view help you to see something in a new way?
1_______________________10

Dialogue

Was the dialogue true and realistic?
1_______________________10

Details  

Is the setting beyond the ordinary?  Do you feel like you are there?
1_______________________10

Five Senses

How did the writer handle the five senses?  (Did you smell the baking cinnamon?  Taste the chilling air?)
1_______________________10

The Whole Truth

Was the ending natural and not forced?  Did the story feel complete?
1_______________________10


Total points__________
                   

*Additional comments to help the writer: (Use back of page if needed).

This critique sheet is taken home with the writing that I'll be critiquing and returned with the manuscript the next time we meet. More general critiques are given when the person reads their work at the meeting itself. 

For example, someone might read their short story at the critique group, and the group would give general comments about characters, plot and a general feel of the piece. Another person would read their piece followed by general critiques. Following each reading a member would take another member's work home and critique it with the form above (or other you may choose to use). The following meeting time the story would be returned with the written critique attached. At this time questions and concerns would be addressed about what was written on the sheet followed by the reading of something new.

5. Keep the reading to 5 pages each for 5 members. Make sure everyone double spaces their work so that the time spent on reading is the same. You may even want to set an egg timer to make sure that everyone keeps to the same amount of time. Keep the meeting under 2 hours. Anything longer and you'll lose people.

6. Where are your writing skills? You may want to start a beginning writer group, an intermediate group or an advanced writer group. An advanced writer group would include published writers only. Of course, mixing your group up a bit allows for writers at different levels to help each other. If you are a beginning writer yourself, you might want to invest in a least one or two intermediate or advanced writers that can help bring the level of writing up within your group.

7. Never be afraid to fail. There will be quirks that need to be worked out as you go, writers that will not work out with your group that will have to be let-go, stuff that you will have to change or revise. This is okay. Eventually you'll have the critique writing group of your dreams; one that has evolved through the varying ideas and people that have become a part of your group.

I AM STARTING UP MY OWN CRITIQUE GROUP FOR NON-FICTION AND FICTION BOOK WRITERS. YOU CAN BE AT ANY LEVEL, BUT YOU NEED TO BE SERIOUS ABOUT YOUR WORK! Writing will not be a hobby for you but a career! The critique group will meet at my home in Bountiful, Utah but I haven't yet decided on a day and time. What works best for you?

Reply to this email with your suggestions and comments. I welcome them!

Kathryn











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