Wednesday, April 3, 2013

5 Tips for Receiving Criticism at a Writer's Group

1. General Preparation. Be sure to bring something to take notes with. Print off a clean copy of your work. Bring an extra folder for everyone else's notes for you. 

2. Identify Weaknesses. What do you think the weaknesses are in your draft? Why don't you ask others to review these aspects in particular? I know it's counter-intuitive to point out your weaknesses to others but it's the only way to ensure that you'll improve on them. Also, if you let your group know ahead of time what you think your problems are then they might not feel the need to be abrasive when advising you. And you will know what they're going to criticize ahead of time which might make the bad news not seem so bad. 

3. Take Notes. This depends a bit on your learning style. For me it helps to take a lot of notes no matter how stupid the suggestions might sound. It helps me focus on filtering ideas later during my first major revision. Plus sometimes ideas grow on you. If taking notes isn't your thing and you don't have ridiculous memory then maybe you could do an audio recording instead. 

4. Shut up. If your writing group doesn't have a silence policy then I would recommend keeping your defensive explanations of your work to a minimum. These will skew others' perspective of your work and your feedback will be inaccurate. Think of it this way; if you had a published work, you wouldn't be able to go around explaining what you mean to everyone all the time. 

5. Debriefing. Immediately after you receive criticism on your work reserve some time to do some journaling/freewriting about your reaction. Blow off some steam. Express yourself. Try to gather your thoughts on revision and jot down notes that you didn't get a chance to during the meeting.

Recommended Reading:

Bird by Bird by Anne Lamott

Reading Like a Writer by Francine Prose