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Wednesday , May 31 , 2023
How to Have a Great Critique Experience

It is our goal to make the Placer Gold Writers Critique Meetings a positive experience for everyone! Each participant - both the writer and critic - can learn much in the process of analyzing shared writing. 


Here are some good resources for productive critique sessions:


We want to be sure that the wonderful feedback is not lost in the delivery. Yes - writers have egos and some of our members haven't developed their "chops" yet. Writing/publishing is a hard business and we need to be tough enough to hear some criticism and new ideas in a positive and supportive environment. To facilitate smooth and productive meetings, here are the guidelines for our group time:





    1. Come prepared:
    1. Be on time - or contact facilitator if late.
    2. Sign in - be sure we have your email address.
    3. Passage to share (if any) and printouts (if possible).
    4. TYPICALLY 1st Timers DO NOT READ but may critique or just observe and get to know us.
    1. Come with a clear, agenda-free mind!
    2. Bring a pencil/pen and maybe highlighter.
    3. A pad or extra paper for notes can help too.
    1. How many people can share?

We will limit the number of sharing to no more than 8 persons in an evening. If more, missed or late people can have priority next time.

You do NOT HAVE to share a piece, you may just come and be a critic - you will learn a lot!

    1. How long a reading?

The TIME will be divided equally between those at the meeting's start. At least15 minutes will cover 2-3 pages 2x-spaced (approx. 300 words per page).

A facilitator will be keeping time, and warn you at "5 minutes to go".

Please respect the limited time. Limit your comments to one or two until everyone one else has had a chance to comment.

Please respect the time-keeper and stop when time is called. Don't cut into next author's time.

    1. What work is appropriate?
    1. Typically, first drafts can derail your time because obvious wording/spelling/grammar errors gets in the way of understanding. Put some 'polish' on the piece before sharing.
    2. Any content is allowed - HOWEVER be aware we are meeting in a public place where others may be listening. Also, forewarn the group about "adult content" and perhaps have an alternate reading or READ THAT PART SILENTLY or not at all if there are objections.
    1. Avoid getting hung up on "proof-reading" (which is ALWAYS the LAST STEP in writing.) Just circle spelling/grammar/construction items and listen/comment on the WRITING.
    2. If you are uncomfortable with something, feel free to 'excuse yourself' from that reading - sit it out at the bar or just be quiet.
    1. Must I bring printed copies? How many?

Printed copies for everyone is ideal (4-5 copies is typical) because critics can make notes on the paper for you and to recall comments. If you don't print, be prepared to take notes during critique. 

-->BEST is double-spaced text (11 or 12 pt) with 1" margins. Double-sided printing is fine.

USE the PAPER - circle typos or problem words/sections. Underline/highlight parts with a note in the margin for comment. If not, plan to take notes if author doesn't bring copies.

    1. Author's best use of time:
    1. You may request specific types of feedback, like characterization, flow, hook, style, etc. Or, simply share for general comments.
    2. The longer your text, the less time for discussion. USUALLY less is more, longer passages CAN be read at the end IF there is leftover time in the meeting.
    1. PLEASE focus on listening and commenting PER the author's requested focus! If you have an awesome comment off-topic, writing on the page and/or discuss after meeting.
    2. See guideline #2 - share the most important comments first.
    1. Reading of the passage:

The author may request how passage is read:

  1. Out loud by another member -- RECOMMENDED as it is often good to HEAR your own work to discover problems.
  2. Out loud by author
  3. Silently from printed copies - often takes a longer time b/c reading and notetaking.

Sometimes you may have to SET THE SCENE if the passage is from the middle of the work. Typically it works best with as little introduction as possible.

Volunteer to read others' works if you are comfortable. Also LET OTHERS do the reading so they can learn from reading, too.

Don't make commentary WHILE YOU ARE READING ALOUD.

LISTEN first: best to do notes after reading. Use circle, underline and checks to come back.

Try not to get hung up on plot details - take the passage at face-value. Ask a question after reading if something has you hung up.

    1. Critiques:
    1. Let people know where you are in learning the writing craft. Everyone starts somewhere, no one starts out as Henry, Joyce or Rice.
    2. Remember the comments are only their opinion! You're free to accept it or reject it.
    3. Don't waste time justifying what you wrote. Best to say, "Got it" and move on if you don't agree.
    4. It's OK to ask questions of the commenter to clarify or expand on the comment.
    5. TRY to remember that it's not that important if they LIKE your writing. People's tastes vary and your content may be controversial to some. Be sensitive and don't press/pump for comments.
    6. Not all feedback will be positive. Writers actually need to practice rejection. Learn and let it go.
    1. TAKE INTO ACCOUNT the level of the writer. Tailor your expectation and comments!
    2. It is only your opinion - state it as such! Don't REWRITE THE PASSAGE in your own image. Just say, "this did/didn't work for ME because…"
    3. Let the author win the argument -- there are no real RULES that must be followed here.
    4. It's ok to ASK the author "why" or "what did you mean by…"
    5. Keep your morals/values to yourself. Feel free to say instead, "I prefer to not offer comment on this piece." or just stay quiet during comment time.
    6. Only positive comments are not helpful, but also balance good/bad feedback. Be nice, remember, you're next in the hot-seat!

Everyone has their own style, but these seem to work well. If we can all use the same system it will be easier to interpret each other's notes when we get home, ready to update our writing selection.


-->Circle word or phrase = spelling, grammar or other mechanical concern. DON'T waste time to CORRECT IT.

-->Circle word or phrase with "?" mark = Unclear use of term/word. Draw line to margin to make suggestions or comment.

-->Circled words connected by lines = Pointing out distracting "echoed" (repeated) words too close together. 

-->Proofreader markup -- DON'T WASTE MUCH TIME on proof-texting: try to limit to content-related issues:

  • Curly-Q through a word = recommend eliminating word.
  • Double-line backwards P = recommend a paragraph break here.
  • Arrow/caret = indicates to insert "…" here


-->Checkmark = use to mark place you want to return to, to write a note or make a comment on AFTER reading.

-->Underline/highlight words OR draw vertical line left of the paragraph with:

  • "+" or even "+++" = indicates you like something.
  • "?" = indicates you don't understand something.
  • "awk" = indicates you feel wording is off or idea/logic doesn't flow. Add notes in margin if any.
  • "POV ?" = indicates you feel there is an unexpected change in the Point of View in the narration.