Tuesday, March 18, 2008

The Ten Commandments for Critique Group Members

"Books aren’t written, they’re rewritten. Including your own. It is one of the hardest things to accept, especially after the seventh rewrite hasn’t quite done it.”—Michael Crichton

Louise Brooks observed, “Writing is one percent inspiration, and 99 percent elimination.” A good critique group helps your inspiration shine and eliminates what dulls it. It’s tempting to emotionally cling to words that detract or get mad. Create drama on paper, not within your critique group.

1. Graciously accept each critiquer’s honest feedback as constructive. You are not obligated to use all comments. Any feedback can be accepted or rejected. If you do not agree with suggested changes, do not use them. The author is the final editor regarding what stays, goes or changes.

2. If several members point out the same thing, give their comments serious consideration and incorporate their suggestions.

3. Respect each critiquer’s area of expertise and learn their feedback. After something in your writing is pointed out several times or repeatedly receives comments, double check and correct your writing before submitting it to the group.

4. Be teachable. Keep your defensive barriers down. Emotional attachment to your writing blinds you to its flaws.

5. If someone misinterprets or misunderstands your point, find out why. Do not defend or overly explain what you have written. If the words fail to convey or explain your message, brainstorm what you want to communicate. As you talk, sometimes you self-edit or the group identifies the core points.

6. If you disagree or feel hurt by another critiquer’s comments, do not argue or retaliate. A critique is not a debate. A critiquer’s comments are a cue that you are not communicating your intent to that person and possibly your readers. When you feel angry, write down your response to the feedback. Later, when you are feeling less emotional, review the validity of the critiquer’s comments.

7. Do not justify the use of a technique. Listen to how the words affect the critiquer.

8. If you do not understand a critiquer’s feedback, respectfully ask the critiquer to clarify the comment.

9. If you are not sure how to make changes based on the feedback, politely request suggestions from the critiquer or the group.

10. Give as much as you take from the members of your writer’s group.

Remember: There is no great writing, only great rewriting.—Justice Brandeis

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