May 3, 2011

Critique Group a Positive Step

By Leesa Ostrander
~ Instead of thinking about where you are, think about where you want to be. It takes twenty years of hard work to become an overnight success. 
Dinana Rankin, writer
Reflecting on my last post and the upcoming weekend, I thought a post on an outstanding person in my life would be relevant.
Yet, this did not seem to be the direction my fingers wanted to go. Instead my words want to discuss critique groups.

As I learn more about the art of writing, critique groups are at the center of the rewrite. A productive critique group brings collective assurance to the group’s goal: more writing.
I recently became involved in a very small critique group. It is once a month, one hour in the evening and only four people. We are a mixed crowd, one male and three female and from various professions. I love this fresh perspective I feel privy to. It has also been rewarding since we do not know each other and cannot form a bias based on past experiences.

From an article at How to Choose a Critique Club  

I found helpful direction in the author’s words.
1.      See the “jewel in any piece of writing”
2.      Ask questions in unclear areas
3.      When reading a piece, ask where is the most energy?
4.      And when bored ask more questions

I am a teacher and have made it a ritual to “sandwich” my comments on students writing. This is a common technique of positive comment, constructive critique, and positive comment. It is  successful, especially when the writing is mostly well done. On the other hand, if it has very little to see positively it can be difficult.

In creative writing this is much different than when I am grading essays on conflict resolution. This sandwich technique is still a good method to discuss a piece.
Looking at a piece of writing as a work of art, unique to the creator and speaking from the soul then it is easier to see a “jewel.” It may take a lifetime to polish the rough edges, yet it is truly the process that we can reflect upon. When giving a constructive critique, remember it is someone’s thoughts and soul on the paper, not words generated by a machine.

Going back to my opening quote, it takes learning the skills, practicing the techniques and having a goal to bring success. One step along the way is a critique group.
I ask how many are in critique groups? What do you find the most effective? What have you learned from the group experience that you can share?


  1. I was a member of a group that met once a month on a Saturday in my local area. They still meet, I don't go. Unfortunately it became very apparent that the "older" folks (in this group I was actually a baby) just wanted a place to go and get their kicks by reading their material. They really didn't want critique and when it came they were unhappy with it unless it was good. Since then I pretty much left that aspect alone.

  2. If you're serious about your writing, it's so important to find a group whose members want to improve their writing, not just socialize and pat each others' backs. I'm lucky to have several good resources along these lines.

  3. It is nice to have someone else read my work and provide input so that I can learn and improve.


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