Sunday, July 31, 2011


Finally.  I put aside all the duties of family and made it to a meeting of a group of local writers.  They meet the last Wednesday of every month.  A few members of the group have invited me in the past but the timing never worked out for me to make an evening meeting.  Since I dropped my membership in RWA at the end of last summer, I've missed meeting with fellow writers face to face.  Thank you to Don Helin for inviting me.

The group met at the local B&N since Borders closed. Even though it's about a 35 minute trip in heavy traffic, I felt I really needed some person to person connection.  It was great.  Twelve writers attended, a multiple of genres represented, and together discussed where to go for the next meeting.  B&N didn't really want us there taking up space in the cafe.  Scrooges.  Next month will be in a local library.

After getting the organization items out of the way, the group hunkered down to the real purpose of their meetings.  A number of the attendees had brought up to five pages of a piece of work.  They passed around hard copies for everyone.  We took a few minutes to read and mark, and then went around the circle and gave feedback.  One of the rules is for the author not to respond to what is said.  It was very friendly.  The scope of knowledge and professionalism makes me regret not getting to this group earlier.

So what kind of feedback should one give?  I think it's important to start with the positive.  Good dialogue, great characters, interesting setting or perhaps an engaging plot.  But you don't really help anyone if you're only positive. 

At least one of the things shared was not of a genre I like reading so I tried to only pay attention to the words on the page.  If I felt I couldn't relate to the characters or their behavior, I kept my mouth shut unless I could specifically say what didn't work about them.  If I thought the pacing too slow, I searched for where the writing could be tightened.  It was my first time giving feedback in such a setting.  Usually I do this sort of thing online and not in real time so I have more time to figure out the words that are constructive rather than destructive.  I did know enough to try and end with a positive observation.  Writing is tough and anyone who can stay at it deserves some pats on the back.

Fortunately, the group gathered made few grammatical or punctuation errors.  Do you ever do face to face critique sessions?  What is the most important feedback you feel you can give or receive?


  1. I keep meaning to get back to a Pennwriters meeting. Are they moving to the Fredericksen library? Maybe if I mark it on my calendar I can remember!
    The great thing about multiple readers is that each one picks up on something different. Honest feedback's the best.

  2. It was great to meet you in person at the critique group this week! I've ben following you on-line for quite some time. What I love about this group is the support and encouragement I get. It always tickles me when one person totally disagrees with what another has said! I always come away with suggestions I can use.

    Cate--We're planning to start meeting at the New Cumberland library in August. Hope to see you there.

  3. Feedback is always tricky. I have been involved in groups like that. I think it's always good for the writer to ask for specific help like on content or on mechanics.

  4. I've never done a face-to-face, but I do online all the time with a few of my writing friends. I have different rules with each. One, we don't bother to correct the grammar/punctuation errors, only the plot and flow of the story. I think it would be difficult for me to critique on the spot. I need a story to set in sometimes.

  5. I'm tough on my reviews and expect the same from my reviewers. Better to hear it up front before publication rather than from readers after they purchase the finished product.

  6. We have a weekly writer's group and it is very beneficial to me, when I can go. Even if I don't read, I learn by hearing feedback others are getting.

    The things I'm best at catching in other's writing is inconsistencies that make me stop to think while I'm reading. Others are better at other things, but that's mine.

    It's great to have a mixed genre group, but I wish there were other fantasy writers in mine because there are things unique to genres that I could use insight on.

    I hope you get to attend your meetings every month. They do mean a lot to me, to be able to interact with other writers on a regular basis.

  7. I love meeting and talking to other writers and their work face to face, but I don't feel I get a lot accomplished.

    Face to face critiques are better at getting a point across, but you spend so much time on specifics that you rarely get a chance to give everyone a fair shake.

    I do all my crit online.

  8. We miss you at our RWA meetings, Sue!

    With that said and out of the way . . . I do all my critiques on line. I prefer to take my time and give thoughtful feedback. I don't feel like I can do that right on the spot after a cold read.

  9. Sounds like you were a wonderful crit partner. I bet they're all hoping you return!

    I have a regular face-to-face crit group. We all write different genres (sometimes the same, now, but we started out all different four years ago, lol), so learning how to crit in different genres was tricky at first. But we figured it out--just doing like you did.

    Actually now, I find the NON-YA critiquers to sometimes be the most helpful because they can zero in on problems whereas the YA critiquers might get distracted by comparing my work to other YA stories and such.