The Art of Milking a Critique

A good critique group can take your writing to the next level.  How can you assure your critique group is “good”?
    • Practice your timed read.  Choose a passage you can finish in your allotted time.  Practice reading in a conversational tone and measured pace.  It is difficult for listeners to give feedback if they cannot understand the monotone and rushed passage being mumbled from the other end of the table.  Bonus- Hearing your own words makes errors and awkward passages more obvious.  You can fix some of the problems before you even make it to the reading table.
    • “Previously on Downton Abbey…” Provide a brief introduction that condenses the important info and gets you ready to pick up the action.   You don’t have to review the previous 127 chapters, just genre, main character and recent action.  This is also a great time to let listeners know if you are about to read erotica or potentially offensive material.
    • Ask for what you need.  Are you particularly worried that your vocabulary may be too advanced for a middle grade novel?  Concerned that the dialogue is stilted?  Don’t be afraid to let your listeners know if you are looking for specific feedback.
    • Put on your big girl/big boy panties.  Actively listen and take notes when listeners give their critiques.  Do not argue, make faces or silently stew over their lack of literary genius.  Comments are intended to help you, so take them in the spirit they are offered.  Carefully consider all of the critiques and decide what is applicable to your writing.  You may think that your character’s repeated use of “ya think!” is endearing, but if 9 out of 10 critique partners say it is annoying…maybe you should listen.  Bonus- Listen to the comments given to other readers.  You can learn from their mistakes and successes.
    • Participate.  The critique group only works if people critique.  When you are not reading, listen carefully and offer constructive criticism and encouragement.  If you never offer anything in critique group, don’t be surprised if the day comes that no one has a comment for you.  No one likes a taker.  The same principle applies to serving as moderator, timer, board member, cookie baker, etc…  Find a way that you can give back to your group.
You may do all of these things and still find yourself in a horrible critique group. It happens; they are out there.  In that case, take what you know and move along.  Don’t poison yourself in a group that allows personal attacks, untimed reads/critiques or unprofessional behavior.
- Jodi Thompson, DFWWW Member since 2012

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