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Kim Tomsic

Friday, March 24, 2023

Creating a Critiquing Group with Healthy Rules and Boundaries: Part One

Healthy and successful critiquing groups aren't made up of people who just want to be kind to one another. Your goal is to critically address the glows and grows in your groups' manuscripts, and you want to do that in an environment that promotes encouragement, growth, honesty, and productivity.  Hopefully, your critique group feels invigorating. But it won't if someone's deliver gets under your skin. Creating healthy boundaries is a great way to plan for a group's success.   

Establish a set of rules:

I don't know about you, but I love clear boundaries. Last summer, Lysa TerKeurst came to Scottsdale, and I attended her lecture on how good boundaries help establish healthy relationships. The principle of healthy boundaries can be applied to working with and establishing rules for critiquing groups. Perhaps you establish rules for a critique, noting what might be useful to help your group members stretch their skills.

Sticky situations that can show up during in-person critique groups: I've walked into a new critiquing group where one person hijacked the entire meeting by doing all the talking. I've been in a group where a person recentered the discussion on their work rather than on the manuscript in hand. I've been in a group where an individual waxed on about the proper use of commas (also eloquently called polishing the turds), when the author was really hoping to discuss her protagonist's motives. Through these uncomfortable experiences, I've learned to manage expectations and outcomes by discussing and designing the rules in advance with my groups. 

Remember, without having clear and established boundaries, a critiquing group can get hijacked, dominated, or weave left when you were hoping to turn right. Setting yourself up for success is a matter of agreeing in advance to a few (or many) rules.

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