Saturday, July 4, 2009

Self-Editing One Step at a Time: Critique Groups Part II

Read Self-Editing One Step at a Time: Critique Groups Part I

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 the author of two amateur sleuth mysteries, The Prairie Grass Murders and The Desert Hedge Murders. Originally published in hardcover by Five Star and paperback by Harlequin Worldwide, both are now available as e-books for Kindle and Nook. Her November 2014 novel from Five Star/Cengage, Dead Wrong is a standalone suspense. The novel has been described as “…lightning paced…” and “…a fantastic combination of suspense and action…”

You can learn more about Patricia and her fiction at her website and blog. She can also be found on Facebook, Twitter, and Goodreads.


  1. Good advice on establishing the "rules" for a critique group. I definitely agree with doing the edits on paper and giving them back to the writer. I've seen groups do a verbal critique. That's just too much to expect the author to remember.

    Straight From Hel

  2. Definitely good advice. I think the critique group I belong to needs to set a page limit... Mine is entirely online and we use special colors to indicate things in our critiques. Red for corrections, green for comments, blue for suggestions for example. We also have a set list of questions ranging from 'What did you like about this chapter?' to 'What did you think about the emotion and thoughts in this chapter?' It helps keep everything uniform and organized.

    About the typo thing, that would kill me. If I see a typo, I have to point it out.

  3. Great advice. I agree that "rules" are important so everyone has the same set of expectations.

    Lynnette Labelle

  4. Good post, but I HATE Track Changes. I much prefer the comments feature, because using Track Changes is not only a royal pain with it's manuscript distortion, but also feels more like you're telling someone what's right or wrong. The comments feature leaves the manuscript intact, and allows for more 'discussion' type comments.

    Just my personal feeling--but having to deal with editors who use Track Changes has made me really dislike using it!

    Terry's Place
    Romance with a Twist--of Mystery
    Terry's Place
    Romance with a Twist--of Mystery

  5. This comment has been removed by the author.


The Blood-Red Pencil is a blog focusing on editing and writing advice. If a glitch is preventing you from commenting, visit our Facebook page and drop your wise words there: Blood-Red Pencil on Facebook