When to Get Critiqued

When should you get critiqued? Normally I would say after you have polished your work until it feels like a solid piece. Occasionally, in private critique groups, a writer will bring in pieces in various stages of growth: an outline, a ragged piece that they want direction on, or just to brainstorm a plotting problem.

The Critique Process

Who reads

In a large class, it is often assumed that you will read your own work aloud. This is good practice for you, but in a small group someone else should always read your piece.

What you get from this is twofold. You get to hear where the reader stumbles or hesitates when reading. You get to hear how the piece sounds from a new reader who may give a different emotional twist to your work. You want to listen for these moments, take note and modify your writing accordingly.

How much should you present to the group at a time

It depends on the group and its structure.

If your group reviews the writing during the session then five to ten pages is common, as ten pages can be read in about fifteen minutes. You want to offer up as complete a piece as you can, a chapter or a scene. It isn’t as useful to present partial pieces as the critiquers can’t fairly evaluate it. In groups where the pieces are exchanged beforehand via email, you can do longer sections of work. One online group I was in reviewed four chapters at a time. Currently I’m in a group that does three chapters at a time. It’s a group decision,  what works for the group is what works.

Silence, the art of remaining silent when being critiqued

  1. Cone of silence. Writer remains silent while group members offer their feedback.
  2. The writer asks questions during the critique, but only for clarification. This is NOT an opportunity to challenge the reader or to defend your piece.
  3. Writer asks/responds at the end of the critique.

Remember it is to  the writer’s advantage to listen, not to talk.


~ by Gwen Dandridge on July 18, 2010.

7 Responses to “When to Get Critiqued”

  1. Nice post I wonder if you have a list of groups from various locations… Like PA?

    • I don’t but if I were researching it I would call up your local libraries, adult ed classes, search the web for yahoo groups in your area that deal with writing. Try this in your Web search engine: writing critique group pennsylvania

      I found a bunch of possibilities.

  2. I couldn’t agree more. I do think the danger in presenting work for critique too early in the process is that people’s input can unduly influence the work’s direction.

    • Very true. I’v heard writer’s tell me that they modified their pieces based on critiquers comment only to end up with a story that doesn’t resonant with them.

  3. Gwen,
    Yes you are right about offering up a story too early. I don’t like to share things that are in the amoeba stages, but I am part of a group – you know this 😉 – where writers are confidant enough to say, “No. I’ve got my vision for the story, and it’s going this way. Sometimes, at a much later stage in the process, we go back to earlier feedback and DO take those suggestions. But in the early stages, I think you sometimes need to file away the critiques and keep going so as not to lose you vision/direction.

    • When a writer is confident (as you clearly are) and/or confident about the group, then you can bring a piece even as an early discheveled and bad-hair morning state. 🙂

  4. Your response made me smile because it’s so clear you are a born-writer/lover of words. I’m going to start thinking of my early drafts as “bad-hair morning” pieces. 🙂

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