Wordsmiths is tops, but I have been in a number of other critique groups over the years. Here are a few friendly do’s and don’ts based on those experiences.
DO make a commitment. Once you’ve been accepted in a group and have decided to join, enter the meeting dates on your calendar and make attending a high priority.
DON’T attend just now and then. I’ve actually known people who were eager to join but then only showed up if they had “nothing better to do.” Example: one woman said she couldn’t attend a meeting because she was having her carpets cleaned that day! Everyone has emergencies, illness, etc., but we owe it to the group, and to ourselves, to plan our schedule around the meetings.
DO make encouraging comments. Preface remarks with statements such as “Would you consider…” or “How about…”
DON’T be negative or hurtful. Marking our whole paragraphs (or pages) and writing comments such as “This makes no sense” or “Stupid idea” does not help anyone. Even if you don’t like the work, respect the effort.
DO encourage good work. Note where dialogue, setting, etc. work well.
DON’T be too positive! A manuscript with ALL glowing comments doesn’t help a writer, either. Show where something doesn’t quite work, or is inconsistent, and suggest an alternative.
DO try to accept all comments. Even if comments are occasionally hurtful (should that happen) simply listen. Then use only the ideas you think will work. Remember, it’s still YOUR story.
DON’T explain or defend your work. You can be sure that if a group member spots a legitimate problem, an editor will see it, too…and you won’t be able to explain it to him or her.
Whole books have been written about critique groups, but I think the above ideas can help any group be the best it can be.
Contributed by Marjorie Flathers