Critique Groups: An Agenda For Success!

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— Photo by Kennedy Library
Originally posted at: www.timothyafenner.com

In an earlier post, I offered up thoughts on how to being your own writer’s group. To run a successful writing group, it’s this author’s opinion that you should created and stick to an agenda.

To be clear, I don’d advocate for creating an overly detailed agenda, one so full of life-sucking bullet points that it feels more like a business meeting than a creative meeting of the minds. In stead, I suggest developing a framework to keep everyone on task and moving the group forward, to prevent any one person or subject from swallowing up the entire time.

Below is the agenda my own writing group uses:


 

WHAT TO BRING:

– If you are a new member: Come a little bit early (ten minutes or so) in order to get the quick scoop on the group, what to expect, get help with logistics, etc.

– Existing members: Bring a positive, creative attitude and something you wish to share with the group! (Note: My group shares all writing electronically before the meetings and we utilize tablets and such to review content during the meeting)

AGENDA: (2 hours)

Introductions of new members or unfamiliar faces. Ask the following questions:

– How long have you been writing? critiquing?

– Greatest challenges?

– Been published?

– Favorite style of writing?

Discuss general meeting logistics:

– Message boards

– Voting/Polls

– Keeping the submissions board clean

– Using the Submission Sheets within Google Drive

– Updated Writing Rules document

Creative Round Table hour (details below)

Critique Sharing hour (details below)

 

Creative round table: 1 hour

Each member will have an opportunity to request specific feedback or ask for brainstorming to overcome some roadblock they are facing.  Example: “Several members offered written critiques that indicate my ending is not very strong.  What do you think about this alternative ending?”

-An author will receive feedback from anyone willing to provide it, as time permits.

-If the meeting has few attendees, then a full group creative session may occur. If the meeting has a larger number of attendees, then multiple groups may be formed (randomly using a coin flip or some other random generator).

Rules of engagement within the creative round table:

– Each author will have an opportunity to ask for feedback towards a given topic of the author’s choosing. The time allotted will vary, depending upon the number of people in the group. For example: 1 hour / 6 people = 10 minutes per person.

– Fellow members are encouraged to offer positive suggestions or thoughts on how to provide what the author has requested—this can and likely will come from brainstorming across the group.

– Extreme care should be taken BY ALL to prevent any subject or idea from spiraling into some form of negative critique session—either about the story itself or any suggestions offered.

 

Critique sharing: 1 hour (OPTIONAL)

Each member will have an opportunity to receive specific feedback regarding work submitted in earlier meetings or shared otherwise. Basically, each critter will offer thoughts THEY WISH TO PROVIDE in order to spur dialog (to see if others share or disagree on the merits of the crit):

– A member will receive feedback from anyone willing to provide it, as time permits. The time allotted will vary, depending upon the number of people in the group. For example: 1 hour / 6 people = 10 minutes per person.

-If the work group meeting has few attendees or the numbers of attendees with work to critique is low, then a group critique session may occur. If the work group meeting has many attendees or the numbers of attendees with work to critique is high, then multiple groups may be formed (randomly using a coin flip or other random generator).

Rules of engagement on Critiquing:

– Each critiquer will provide an overview of their feedback on the writing (either what worked and what didn’t) – doing their best to keep things short and to the point. The goal is to explore what is raised and to help the author strengthen the work. Extreme care should be taken BY ALL to prevent any subject or idea from spiraling into some form of negative critique session—either about the story itself or any suggestions offered.

– The author will not attempt to defend or rebut the critique. If the author disagrees, they should indicate that while they won’t likely incorporate it, they still appreciate the idea and effort.

– The author may ask questions for clarity and/or offer facts that the critiquer may have missed (but only to determine if those facts were not apparent enough to the critiquer vs to challenge the ideas raised in any way).

 


 

And there you have it — a simple, yet effective framework to keep things on task, to keep them positive, and to get everyone an opportunity to participate!

I hope this information leads you to forming the best group possible. If you have any other thoughts or ideas to share, please leave a comment. IN A FUTURE POST, I will add content used by my group as possible templates you can use for your own needs!

If you stuck with the article this long and still have some life left in you, please take a moment to swing by my author’s website or Facebook page and leave a comment. I’d appreciate the visit!

 

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