I recently joined a new writing group. It’s pretty diverse: two film makers, a memoir writer and me, an aspiring literary scifi guy. The group, without much preamble, has gravitated towards open critique and feedback. So far, this has been mostly met with mutual appreciation.
I haven’t yet figured out how we’ve formed our group, since it’s still being formed. But a lecture by Brandon Sanderson (BYU) offers a useful frame for these types of collaborations.
- Come prepared. Read and take notes before meeting.
- Your feedback should be specific and descriptive. Talk about your reactions to the writing, not what you think the writing should be. E.G. ” I had fun here…” “I was bored here…” Avoid the phrase: “You should…”
- Ignore the small stuff, like: grammar, spelling, prose, style. Focus on plot, setting and character. The other stuff will be addressed during revision and rewriting.
- If you are the author being critiqued, you cannot speak. Anything you say will only dilute the feedback.
- Bring finished work to the group. Unfinished work will tend to get bogged down in “Wouldn’t it be cool if…”
- Understand that most the feedback you get will be dumb.
- Help the work that is being critiqued become what it is trying to become, not what you want it to become.
My 2 cents so far:
- The “descriptive” position seems a great position to take in any situation. In therapy we call it: “I-statements” versus “You-statements.”
- Our group actually does some brainstorming around unfinished work, which I find helpful. I’ve used a lot of the ideas the other guys have shared.
- The no-talking rule for the presenter is a good one, but hard to pull off. I always feel the urge to defend my work. The whole, “no, you don’t get it. Let me explain…”