critique group

Let’s Get it Started!

writing group logo 2

A few weeks ago I invited you to join a writing critique group. Several of you made the decision to join. Seventy writers from our community will be starting a new writing adventure in the coming weeks. When you take a step like this you feel vulnerable and maybe a bit scared. Everyone, even the most seasoned writers, are not too proud to be a little nervous when it comes to sharing their writing. It is scary! But, it is also exciting and eye opening to have a new audience that has the sole purpose of making you a better writer.

When you get started it is important to be honest and respectful. This is especially true when setting up a time to meet. If you can’t make it, let the group know. It doesn’t hurt to send a quick email. Your friends will soon begin to wonder if you don’t show. Just be open. If you get started and after a few meetings don’t feel you are getting what you expected, let the group know. See if you can work through the issue. Maybe others are feeling the same way too. Keep people and their feelings in mind.

Here are some questions you might have with answers to follow. I hope they help you as you get started. If you did not sign up to be in one of the critique groups maybe it will stir something inside of you. Don’t be afraid to find a colleague and start a group on your own. Doors are always opening.

How do we share?

There are a few ways to go about sharing the work. You could email excerpts ahead of time so group members have a chance to read through them before the meeting. If they are short, you could read them during the meeting. It is better to have most of the time reserved for conversation about the work, rather than most of the time being spent reading the work.

I also think it can be a good idea to have someone else read the work to the group, or an excerpt. It gives the writer a chance to hear the words from a reader. The writer can determine if the work sounds the way she intended it to sound.

Is there a format we can follow?

When working in a critique group with Chris Lehman this past April for Teacher Poets, I learned a great structure to follow. I would suggest you try this too. Begin with a compliment, share questions and then give considerations. Here is a video of one our Teacher Poets Sessions to give you an idea of how to workshop writing together.

Remember to be honest with your feedback while remaining respectful to the writer. Ask the writer to explain what he is working on and what he hopes to improve. This will also help to narrow the focus of the discussion.

Does everyone have to share every time?

No! In fact, you may decide that one or two of you share at a time depending on the frequency of your meetings. It is completely up to you.

How do we organize the meeting?

Set up a time to meet on Google Hangout. Decide ahead of time who is sharing their work. Designate a time keeper for each meeting to help things stay on track. It is easy to get going on one piece of writing and then run out of time. Speaking of time, make sure you set an end time, and stick with it. Everyone has a life outside of the writing group and although there is a level of commitment set aside for the group, each member has other responsibilities.

How does Google Hangout work?

Here is a great link that will teach you the ins and outs of hangouts.

Okay! Are you ready? You may be feeling overwhelmed. Just remember that everyone is experiencing this new group right alongside of you. It is new to everyone. As a last token of advice here is a link to some suggestions and ideas on how to make a writing critique group work and how to get it started. I wish you so much luck and know that each of you will get out of this experience what you put into it. Write on!

6 thoughts on “Let’s Get it Started!

  1. Betsy,
    I cannot even begin to know how you manage 70 different writers! Wow! That’s great. Thank you for sharing your ideas for response groups. Your suggestion to ” Begin with a compliment, share questions and then give considerations.” is helpful. The idea of emailing drafts ahead of time might be timesaving even in writing groups meeting in person.

    Thanks for sharing,


  2. I am excited and very grateful for this opportunity. I really appreciate that you set this up and am already enjoying getting to know you email interactions!


  3. I cannot thank you enough for spear-heading this, Betsy. I knew it would be a big undertaking, but I didn’t realize just how big. I appreciate you taking the time to organize the groups so we can find other writers to push us to the next level. Thank you, thank you, thank you!


  4. Betsy,
    I, too, want to thank you for being the organizer/leader on this. 70 people is quite a few to organize and I’m sure you worked for hours getting the groups formed. Your answers above are helpful. I am going to email my group this morning. I am excited!


  5. Betsy,
    Thanks for all your organization! Wow, 70 writers! By itself, that is evidence of your own commitment to writing groups! The format from Teacher Poets will be very helpful. I am wondering what time frame we should plan for in our meetings – an hour? Does that sound about right?


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