Critiques - Rules and Advice

By reviewing and critiquing each other’s work, we hope to become better writers. We believe that everyone benefits from getting and giving critiques, and from listening to the critiques of others, even if it’s not our own work.

The following are the group’s rules and advice for reviewers and submitters. Following them will make the experience more productive and enjoyable for everyone. Please read our FAQ page as well for other guidelines.

 

For All:

o   Be Respectful. We are a diverse and inclusive group, and we want to make sure everyone knows they are welcome. Whether giving critiques, getting critiques, or having general conversation during meetings, please refrain from divisive or potentially offensive comments or jokes about race/religion/gender/sexual orientation/political affiliation/etc. If these topics are the subject of the piece being critiqued, please discuss them with sensitivity and respect.

 

For Reviewers:

o   Download the current submissions from the Submissions tab of our website. You will receive an email when submissions become available, usually 1 to 2 weeks before the meeting.

o   Read the critique form that was filled out by the author and attached to the submission. Your review should focus on their specific requests for the type of feedback they want. Feel free to add comments that weren’t specifically requested, but refrain from commenting on anything that the author specifically said they didn’t want. For example, sometimes the author states that no grammar or spelling comments are required.

o   Review the piece prior to the meeting. The level of detail in your critique may vary, depending on the time you have to put into it and the nature of the submission. For example, if the piece is long, you may not be able to go into as much detail, or if the piece has a lot of grammatical errors, you may not want to spend your time calling out each one.

o   At the meeting, give a verbal summary of your critique, and then hand your written comments to the submitter. You will have up to 4 minutes to give your verbal critique. The time allotted may vary based on our attendance. When the timer sounds, please wrap it up within the next couple of seconds.

o   When giving your critique, use the sandwich method. Start with something you liked, then provide constructive criticism, and end with something you liked.

o   Respect that what works for one writer might not work for another. Some writers prefer to submit finished pieces. Some like to submit first drafts. Some like to outline everything. Some like to discover their story as they write. Please refrain from criticizing these individual choices, even if your own choices would have been different. We feel strongly that writers should write using the methods that work best for them, and submit at any stage in their writing that they feel it will benefit them.

o   Respect the writer’s intent for their story. For example, you may feel a story should be fiction instead of an autobiography, but that is not your decision. Asking if an author ever considered changing the point-of-view is appropriate; telling them they should change their finished 200,000-word novel to a short story is not.

o   Be specific, polite and constructive. Instead of saying that something is awful, say you felt the characters weren’t rounded enough, or that you didn’t believe the setting, then politely explain why, and offer ideas for the author to consider.

 

For Submitters:

o   Our average submission is 3,000 to 5,000 words, which is about 12 to 20 double-spaced pages. The maximum submission is 7,500 words.

o   Submit by email to Cathy Greco or Dave Volk no later than 1 week plus 1 day before the meeting. Sooner is always better, especially if your submission is more than 5,000 words.

o   Submit when you feel you need feedback, even if you think the writing is still rough or imperfect. We accept submissions from novice as well as seasoned writers, at all stages of development.

o   Remember that no draft - including yours - is perfect. Expect to be told where it may need improvement.

o   Don’t take criticism personally.

o   Refrain from getting defensive. There is no need to justify your writing. If you don’t agree with someone’s critique, keep it to yourself or politely address it at the end of the meeting when the critiques are finished.

o   Don’t try to explain anything during a critique, unless asked. You will have a chance to do so when everyone is finished critiquing.

o   Weigh and consider everyone’s comments carefully, but remember that the ultimate decision about what to do with your story is yours.


Pittsburgh South Writers Group

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