Critiques in Writing Groups

I belong to an excellent writing group that meets every four weeks. Using a rota system – because we are a relatively big group – everyone gets a chance to chair the session and read and receive feedback on their writing.  The group also undertakes ad hoc projects such as themed writing, anthologies, workshops, ‘blind’ readings. As the group comprises a mix of poetry and prose writers and in order to ensure everyone gets a chance to read, time is limited for each reader and for feedback on their piece. As a prose writer, I felt we were lacking the opportunity to present an extended piece of prose writing and to receive more detailed comments, in addition to the ‘short reads’. The group therefore agreed to set up a ‘critique swap’ list  for those interested and having launched this – well, we will see what happens.

How will it work? Here’s what I suggested, and agreed to by our writing group.

“I see it as self-administering and best kept simple.
1. Contact a member on the list and agree to do a mutual critique swap.
2. Email your piece of writing. Invite your critique partner/buddy to send their work to you.
3. Complete and send your critique. (No hard and fast rules but I suggest guidelines of up to a week for a chapter, 2 weeks for 2-3 chapters, 1 month for a complete book).
Some members may wish to get together and have a face-to-face chat to feed back/clarify and discuss comments. Over time and as experience grows, the arrangements can be reviewed.
Although I think the responses to a piece of writing are up to individuals, the checklist below devised by Holly Lisle should prove useful , especially if the writer has asked for comments on specific aspects. Thanks Holly.”
“Holly Lisle
never give up on your dreams
writing, books . . . and magic

The following is a recommended (but not required) format for offering a complete critique of a manuscript. You are welcome to cut and paste this to a text document on your computer so that you can reuse it any time, or you can cut and paste it from here (somewhat awkward.)


My first impressions of your story:
The plot:
The characters:
The action:
The dialogue:
The background:
The overall story:
The theme:
The technical details (spelling, grammar, scientific or historical details), etc.:
What I loved about this work, and why:
What caused me problems, and why:
Final comments:
A link to the story of mine I would like comments on: (if applicable)


You can go into as much or as little detail as you would like on each area of this, leave out areas completely, or just mark one or two areas you feel require comment. Remember that the critiques you receive will often reflect the amount of effort you put into yours. (If they don’t, find new and more appreciative critiquing partners  ).”

Thanks again, Holly. (You can visit her site via In-Text link below – good stuff there.)

So – we’re up and running. I’ll update this blog at a future date to report on our experience.

If anyone does something similar in their group, please let me know how it works for you – we can all learn from one another.

Write on.