It is enormously helpful for writers to get feedback on their works-in-progress. By this I don’t mean a family member’s unreserved praise, which feels good but isn’t really helpful when it comes to knowing how to improve one’s manuscript.
Rather, I mean thoughtful, helpful comments from people who understand the writing process and know the elements that make up good writing.
Many people get this feedback from a critique group (or more than one). These days critique groups can be in-person groups of writers who live near each other, or very often these days, online groups, which may be made up of people from all over the country or indeed the world.
It’s hard, sometimes, to find the right group, especially if one is new to writing, or lives in an area where there are not many writers. It is also difficult to know, in a new group, just how to proceed.
Enter Becky Levine’s excellent book, The Writing & Critique Group Survival Guide: how to give and receive feedback, self-edit, and make revisions.
In this book, published in 2010, Becky tackles the topics of
- the basics of getting a critique group going,
- how to critique fiction (for adult, young adult, and middle grade readers),
- how to critique non-fiction,
- how to critique books for younger children,
- how to revise and self-edit from a critique,
- and how to maintain an evolving group.
(Those words are direct quotes from the section titles.)
She does this in an easily readable style, giving helpful guidelines fleshed out with enough detail so that a critique group newbie feels totally supported and can understand what to do and how to do it.
There are also many worksheets to both further advance one’s understanding of critique groups, critiquing, and self-editing, and to help work out one’s needs and priorities.
In her introduction, Becky explains why she wrote this book:
“I’ve been in strong critique groups and groups that weren’t so great. I’ve seen poor communication between critiquers make for some nasty moments, and I’ve watched writers struggle, not knowing what to do with the feedback they are getting about their books.
I’ve also seen the success of writers who have joined or built a great group, in which the members support each other in all the important ways—with encouragement and with detailed, thought-out critiques.
I believe that most writers can learn to give respectful and useful critiques, and that they can also develop the strength to hear those critiques and work with them to take their manuscripts to a higher level of writing.
I also believe that writers need a set of tools to succeed at these goals.
My hope is that this book will provide you with those tools.” (quoted from page 1)
I highly recommend this book.
Be sure to come back on December 11, when I’ll be interviewing Becky about this book and about critiquing and self-editing in general.
Title: The Writing & Critique Group Survival Guide: How to give and receive feedback, self-edit, and make revisions
Author: Becky Levine
Publisher: Writer’s Digest Books, 2010
What is your experience with critique groups?