A healthy critiquing group establishes agreed upon guidelines.
Here are some guidelines you might consider: First, understand the author's goal(s). From there, your goal should be to provide useful, specific, and authentic feedback in a kind and respectful manner. During the critique session, I urge you to employ the sandwich method:
- discuss the specific positive aspects of a person’s work
- discuss the specific questions you have for the author or the opportunities for clarity or improvement within that work
- use craft language whenever possible
- don't spend a lot of time polishing the turds (fixing commas, etc.), focus on the content
- answer the questions the author might have included with their piece
On reading and implicit bias: In a workshop I attended in 2018 lead by executive editor Tiff Liao, she explained that most readers (including PB-YA) assume they are reading a white, straight, cisgender, able character, and she challenged that we need to de-center the norms in publishing. Think R.O.A.R.S., she said, which stands for race, orientation, ability, religion, sexual identity.
According to Jennifer Eberhardt, MacArthur, psychology professor at Stanford University, “…you don’t have to have a moral failing to act on an implicit bias.”(Time Magazine, March 2019). Please pause and notice any implicit bias you might have when you read. According to AAWW’s interview with Virginia Poet Laureate, Luisa A. Igloria, she was “…someone who didn’t cut her teeth in the North American writing workshop model, [and] feels ‘liberated by the idea that I have seen other ways of doing things, other models from global literary traditions that we can draw from.”
IDEAS FOR POSSIBLE GUIDELINES ON RECEIVING AND GIVING A CRITIQUE:
- The writer will present the work with a brief description of their intent. What was the goal of the piece? What questions does the writer have about the piece?
- The readers will answer these questions about the piece:
- What do you think this piece is trying to do?
- What specific elements of the piece surprised you or excited you and what did the author do well?
- How did the writer deliver a scene or use a specific craft elements well?
- What questions do you have for this piece?
- Where specifically did you find opportunities to strengthen this piece and why?
- Provide responses to the writer's questions.
- During the critique, the writer can engage with feedback and ask questions or the writer can choose to be silent/invisible until the end. This can be the writer's choice.
I suggest you work in a paradox! That means that you work in an atmosphere where you don’t interrupt one another, but you also leave space for engagement.
Note to the receiver: The person receiving does not have to take anyone’s advice, nor do they have to agree. Let the feedback marinate and decide what to do with it when you are ready—you might toss out the ideas; you might incorporate some of the notes, none of the notes, or all of the notes. That is up to you! You might even use the ideas to unlock a door that neither you nor the critique members considered. Embrace the possibility of being surprised!
EXAMPLE of giving positive feedback:
EXAMPLE of discussing an opportunity for an author to improve their manuscript: