I’ve recently volunteered to help a friend run a picture book event. It was not something I had planned and it certainly didn’t come at the best of times, but it gave me an additional purpose for a little while, and it felt good.
I helped her out with a few things. Things I hadn’t done in a while. I prepared an online survey for participants requesting a critique group as well as prepared a guidelines document on critique group best practice. I thought I’d share it here with you in case some of you might find it useful.
These guidelines were written for the purpose of the challenge but I believe they are applicable for most any critique groups out there. Let me know in the comments if you have more tips or advice for best practice.
Critique Group Guidelines
- Introduce yourself ( name, country or city, writing style, illustration level, age of preferred target audience, published or unpublished and anything else you think of value)
- Explain what you hope to achieve with the Challenge
- What is your manuscript about ( Synopsis in 50 words or less)
- Assign an admin for the group: That is someone that will make sure everyone gets to submit their work in equal number or turns, someone that will be reminding everyone to post their critiques, and that will make sure everyone remains polite and constructive throughout the process. It’s usually best if someone volunteers to take on this extra responsibility. Otherwise, we would recommend that this “facilitator” person be someone with previous critique group experience.
- Critique Schedule: When you will critique (everyday so that everyone can get a turn more often, twice a week, only on the weekends…)
- What you will critique ( writing or illustration or both)
- How you will share your work ( in the group as attachments or files or photographs, or by email , or any other means… )
- Good critique is constructive
- Be sensitive towards other people’s work
- The purpose of joining a critique group is to receive not only praise, but also feedback that will make your work greater than it already is.
- Different perspectives from different people is usually a good way for you to find out what would represent you and what wouldn’t, whilst challenging you to keep an open mind about other possible alternatives you might not have thought about. You don’t have to take everyone’s opinion on board, just listen to what is being said, and say thank you.
- If you feel like you cannot offer any constructive critique elements, then don’t.
- If someone is being a bully, warn them once, then if they pursue with their behaviour, kick them out of the group ( that would also be the admin’s responsibility)
- You can leave the group if you don’t feel like you are a match with the other members.
A critique group is an experience that is supposed to be instructive, supportive and fun.