We form critique groups to 1) find other writers, 2) identify weaknesses in our writing, and 3) receive constructive criticism.
Establishing a critique group is easy with these simple guidelines:
1) No one should dominate and take all the time. Pages should be distributed to all present and be limited, single-sided, double -paced, 12-point font. The author or someone else reads the sample aloud while others make notes for comment.
2) Those critiquing point out strengths before tackling weaknesses. Strengths might be strong dialogue, good transitions, an active voice, or a well-defined character.
2) Suggest ways to fix problem areas. Weaknesses might be passive voice, redundancy, author intrusion, point of view shift, poor word choice, meaningless dialogue, inaccurate facts, too much information, and/or grammatical errors.
3) Focus on the writing sample, not on the author. No one should get personal, no one should judge the genre, and no one should take offense. Group members are there to support one another and offer honest critique.
4) Those being critiqued have the final say about their writing. The author resists the urge to over-explain or defend her work. A group critique is a chance to hear how our writing sounds when read aloud. Any comment offered is only reaction and feedback.
5) For a professional critique, seek an outside editor or peer coach. In the network of writers in your area and at the libraries, universities, and community programs, you will be able to get references. Shop around and compare costs.
Don't stay home from a critique group simply because you have nothing to share. I've learned as much from critiquing others as I have from any class or book. Suggestions I often give others have later been applied to my own writing. In critique, we assume an editor's role. This practice makes us more objective when looking at our own writing.
Although writing is a solitary act, we can benefit from brainstorming and discussion. In a writer's critique group, we inevitably form bonds and learn from one another.