When reading articles on critique groups, it amazes me just how much of the article is normally on how to behave. So in this post I am assuming you already know how to behave like an adult, even when insulted by some snot nosed…
who has completely misunderstood…
and who has the spelling and grammar of a…
To get the best from critiques they need to be used as a tool. You must know the reasons why you submitted any piece of work and what you are hoping to get out of it. Also you will need to analyse both the critique comments and the critique itself. Did I just say the same thing twice? No. The comments that form the critique are one thing and the critique as a whole provides quite separate information.
Which critique group you join is a big part of making this tool work for you. Depending on what level your writing is at will determine whether your submissions are wasting the time of the group or if you are wasting your own time. There are some groups on the web that require an assessment submission before you are allowed to join. Others have participants with a wide range of abilities, sometimes with sub groups specialising in genre or stricter critiques. So select groups that will stretch your writing and ignore the socially minded ones.
Having found a suitable group, lurk for a while and read other critiques, pay attention to who critiques in your genre and gives solid and constructive advice. Don’t be in a rush to get your work up. If you are reading good critiques then chances are that some of the points raised can be applied to your work. It will do you no favours to upload your work when it is riddled with flaws, the better the submission, the better the feedback. Having identified suitable members, build relationships with them, be honest and tell them you admire their work and would appreciate it, if they’d consider critiquing your next submission. The worst that can happen is they say “No”.
Before you submit your piece, decide what it is you want the focus on and request that scrutiny when submitting. If you are weak with dialogue or think your protagonist might be shallow then ask for comments on these. People will still comment on all your other sins but instead of concentrating on their pet peeves they will be primed to spend time elsewhere.
For the initial submission limit the word count. This is a kindness to whoever performs the critique, since doing a decent critique takes time. Additionally, people who do the best critiques put a lot of work into them and a high word count may put them off starting one for you. You can always increase the submission word count after you have shaken out any initial problems.
Apart from the critiques that you solicited, there will be critiques returned from other members, all varying in length and quality. This is where you have to analyse the critique; look up who performed it for you and rank the information against what you already know. If there are flaws in the advice displayed then double check the remaining points, don’t ignore them, check them. They may be right.
Critiques that are ‘light weight’ or contain silly errors of comprehension are valuable, so don’t disregard them. The reader, who reads line by line and word by word, has a different experience than someone who just reads and expresses from emotion. The judgment of the latter is closer to that of a public readership, so if they are having difficulty or they missed the point, you had better listen.
On any point raised, if you don’t understand it then don’t be scared to ask for some more help, maybe by way of an example. Most people will go to great pains to help you understand if you are taking a sincere interest in their advice. However, if the same information can be found on the web then do not abuse people’s good will, as you may alienate a good reviewer.
Photo; Judging of Best Pig in Show, Dave Hamster