So, I was inspired by CP’s post the other day as well as a meme I saw to talk about something I’ve come across at writing meetings a lot. There are a lot of writing groups that allow people to bring in material for critique. Depending on the group, you can only bring flash fiction, a limited number of chapters, or something else. Whatever you’re bringing in, here are some things to keep in mind.
Pre-Conceived Ideas are your enemy.
The number one thing I’ve heard of and seen personally is someone handing their work over while adding a caveat, “It’s not that great, but…” or, even worse, “This is my favorite thing ever.” What’s wrong with this? It tends to taint the reader of the piece, especially when you talk it up to a level it’s nearly impossible to live up to. Let your reader come into their critique with a fresh eye that has no inkling of what to expect.
Be prepared for lots of red.
No one likes to see their own work covered in red ink. In fact, some schools have done away with using red to spare people’s feelings. I say let the red fly. Every crossed out word or note is an opportunity to improve and grow. Read each note with an open mind and then cross-reference with the Chicago Manual of Style or Grammar Girl if in doubt.
Check your notes before you leave and if you’re confused by something or can’t read it properly, ask. Asking these questions will not only eliminate headaches later, but it might even inspire a discussion that will help the other members of your group.
Following these guidelines and being a great critiquer in return will help all involved to become better, more courageous writers. And remember: if someone gives you a note that stings, look at it as objectively as possible. If it’s not accurate or helpful, disregard.