Below you will find the Critique Guide to help those who choose to join the monthly Salt City Genre Writers Critique Groups that are held the last Saturday of every month. You can find details concerning the submissions and sign up here.
Critiquing is an age-old tool in improving your writing. It forces you to look at stories from the outside in and examine their construction. It forces you to examine the experience of a reader as part of your craft. It forces you to become a better writer.
It can be hard though. Once you’ve been through a draft, you can be fooled into thinking your draft is as good as it will ever be. Hearing all of the problems with your manuscript can be discouraging. Offering your work up to scrutiny is an exercise in vulnerability. It can be disheartening to look at all the work ahead of you. But, I guarantee, you’ll be a better writer, and have a better story for it, too. You learn by making mistakes. And we all make them.
To that end, we’ve established rules and guidelines for critique groups to make them safe spaces. You’ll know you’re here not to “get your story shredded” but to learn how to be a better writer and make your story more publishable.
Salt City Genre Writers Critique Group Rules
You must submit a piece of work to participate in the critique group. We don’t want people to critique without offering their own material for the same scrutiny.
Submissions are due on the 15th of every month. Talk to the chapter Vice President (Cassidy Ward - firstname.lastname@example.org) if you need a bit of wiggle room.
Submit via the monthly forms found here.
Within a week, you’ll be sent the pieces to read and comment on. You can provide those notes in longhand on printed copies, or by commenting on Google Docs or in a Word document.
Critiques are held on the last Saturday of every month at Watchtower Cafe at 9am, with equally afforded time to each individual critiquer.
Groups gather in separate rooms and one storyteller volunteers to have their story critiqued first. The critiquers then take turns going through their notes and issues.
It is advised that those being critiqued hold their questions, comments or discussions until all parties in the group have offered their critiques.
Please supply any grammatical, spelling or additional notes in a hard copy or digitally noted document. Don’t worry about bringing this up at the meeting, the time is better spent focusing on craft and story issues.
Tips for those being critiqued
Notes are optional! - If you disagree with a note, it doesn’t mean that you have to take it. Everyone has a different style, so remember their note is from their perspective.
Gauge the experience of the critiquer - Put more weight on notes from critiquers with more experience.
It’s not personal - Those critiquing are not looking to tear you down as a person. They’re offering their thoughts and expertise to make your story better. It is not an attack on you so if you feel offended take a deep breath and remember they are trying to help you. Feeling vulnerable can be an uncomfortable experience for many people, but we want these groups to feel safe enough to allow for that vulnerability.
Do not jump to defend your work - When you walk away from a critique group it is your choice to take the advice of your peers or not. Jumping in to defend your work or attempting to shut down the feedback will only lead to others becoming reluctant to help you in the future, by either refusing to critique your work or giving watered down, safe comments. A discussion is fine, but do not simply jump to defend your work.
Tips for giving a critique
Identify the Writer’s Needs – Even though you’ve taken the time to write out a critique, make sure once you are face to face with the writer that you check what their needs are. If you need this information beforehand, reach out so you are not focusing on unnecessary things.
It is about Feelings & Symptoms – Tell the writer how things made you feel, what your initial reaction was and how it affected you. This is the most helpful feedback because the writer can gauge if the emotions are conveyed accurately.
Always offer help or a way out – When you say something negative about a person’s piece of work, you should always try to offer a way to fix it without writing it for them. Suggestions to improve the current story help a writer feel less trapped. BUT! While you may offer suggestions, leave them open-ended and always offer them as just that. This is not your piece.
Avoid simple comments – Only saying that it was good or bad is not at all helpful. Explain what worked and why along with what didn’t work and why. They need context in order to either fix or continue doing what they are doing with the sections you review.
This is NOT an edit - Commas, grammar, and spelling are not what a critique is looking at. The focus should be on the content itself. The only time any grammatical issue should be mentioned is if you need clarification. (You are welcome to write edits down and hand it to the person if you want to take the time, but that is not part of the critique.)
Draw on Your Experience - Have you been rejected for something specific or had an editor ding you for a bad habit? Is the writer you’re critiquing guilty of the same thing? Pass along that knowledge and explain where you got dinged for it. This is all about helping others learn from their mistakes.