“All problems become smaller if you don't dodge them, but confront them.”—William F. Halsey
Over the years, some problems cropping up in a critique always surprise me. What’s a writer to do when a critique group member shares your manuscript with third parties—without your permission?
Address the situation with that person—privately and immediately. Don’t allow the violation of trust to fester.
One fundamental courtesy of any critique group is that members do not share another writer's manuscript, i.e. intellectual property, outside of the group without first asking the author's permission.
When this happens it sows seeds of distrust in the critique group. Who feels comfortable sending their work to someone after they breach trust? Writers in a critique group need to feel total freedom to share their work and that can't happen without members respecting one another as professionals. The works created by a writer belong to that author until the author decides to make his or her work public.
Trust and confidentiality is vital to a healthy, productive critique group. Neither manuscripts nor creative ideas are discussed outside of the group. Critique group members respect confidentiality to not disclose someone’s intellectual property to third parties, nor use any of the writer’s work in their writing.
Don’t take it for granted that everyone understands the cardinal rule of confidentiality without stating it up front.