Tuesday, December 28, 2010
Self-Editing One Step at a Time: Critique Groups Part II
Critique groups often find it helpful to put guidelines and procedures for submissions and critiques in writing. These are the general rules my groups follow:
1. Set a page limit for submissions. Depending on the group, ten to fifteen double-spaced pages may be sufficient.
2. Establish a meeting schedule. Assign specific dates for each member to submit work on a rotating basis.
3. Set a submission deadline, which should be at least five days before the meeting date. Ask that everyone submit via Word attachments to an e-mail.
Critiquing the manuscript of another writer is a big responsibility. The goal is to encourage, motivate, educate, and provide honest feedback in a helpful and respectful manner. Techniques I recommend:
1. Read each submission at least twice during the critiquing process.
2. Use Word’s Track Changes, if you know how, or print the submission and make notes on paper with a pen or pencil.
3. Focus first on what’s good about the submission. Take a look at plot, dialogue, narrative/descriptions. Does the author show, or does he tell?
4. Make notes on your observations and be ready to point out specific examples with page numbers.
5. Do not cross out or delete large passages of a member’s submission. Use margin comments or comments at the end of the piece to make suggestions for cuts.
6. Bring a copy of the critiqued submission to the meeting to give to the author.
7. After the submitting author reads two pages aloud, he listens and takes notes as the other members deliver their critiques verbally. At the end of the session, the submitting author may ask or answer questions.
8. During the verbal critique process, members should avoid copy editing issues such as typos and errors in punctuation, instead focusing on story and story arc as well as polishing the manuscript’s prose. These topics will be covered in upcoming posts.
By critiquing and listening to critiques, all members will gain proficiency in seeing their own work with the reader’s eye, the foundation of good self-editing.
Patricia Stoltey is a mystery author, blogger, and critique group facilitator. Active in promoting Colorado authors, she also helps local unpublished writers learn the critical skills of manuscript revisions and self-editing. For information about Patricia’s Sylvia and Willie mystery series, visit her website and her blog. You can also find her on Facebook (Patricia Stoltey) and Twitter (@PStoltey).