In my last post I discussed clarity about what you want in a critique group. Today let’s look at the other side of the story — what does a critique group want from you.
- Honesty — yes, it’s subjective, but honest feedback stripped of any agendas (see next bullet).
- No agendas — some folks take critique very personally and I’ve witnessed tit for tat exchanges. You say I use “to be” verbs too much, so I’m going to rip you for your lack of commas. If you find yourself using your feedback on a colleague like a blade in a knife fight — stop. Just don’t go there. It betrays the trust of your group and it’s not professional.
- Respect — giving someone critical feedback on their writing has nothing to do with who they are as a person. So nothing is stupid, dumb, pathetic, sad, etc. The assumption being that your colleague’s intent is to put their best work in front of you. One way to give respectful feedback is to say something like, “I felt pulled out by…”(passive tense, a word, lack of description, etc).
- A giving spirit — caring about the critique group members and their artistry by committing to each other’s success. There’s something very powerful about a group of writers saying we’re here to get us all across the line, whether that be querying short stories, getting manuscripts to competitions, or getting published.
When joining a standing group or starting a whole new group, a conversation around expectations will avoid a lot of heartache. Some groups love getting in the weeds of grammar (coagulate, noun or verb?). Others want to stay focused on structure and story arc. If you’ve got proofreader DNA and just can’t help yourself, be clear up front if a group appreciates that kind of feedback. One way to be sure there’s a fit with a group is simply to attend. How does the group feel to you? What kind of feedback do they tend to give each other? How do they give the feedback? A group can say they value respect, but do they respect each other in practice?
If you’re experience, what do the most effective critique groups want from their members? Post a comment. I’d love to hear from you.
Next post I’ll look at choosing the right critique group for you.