Shining the Light on THE WRITING & CRITIQUE GROUP SURVIVAL GUIDE by Becky Levine

I am so happy to have Becky Levine here today as my guest hostess. Becky offers great insight on the writing process. Did you know she wrote a book about the critique process? Enter THE WRITING & CRITIQUE GROUP SURVIVAL GUIDE: How to Give and Receive Feedback, Self-Edit, and Make Revisions. If you’re looking for a book to help you get your writing to the next level, this is a GREAT choice. (In the interest of self-disclosure, I won Becky’s book on the fabulous Shrinking Violet Promotions blog. Thank you to The Shrinking Violets and Becky! I should also mention, Becky is a friend and invaluable critiquer. I’m here to tell you, Becky talks the talk AND she walks the walk. Becky KNOWS critiques.)

THE WRITING & CRITIQUE GROUP SURVIVAL GUIDE is easy to read and filled with good examples. I’m telling you, this book will help you get more out of the critique process so you can improve your writing. This will get you beyond the fear of critiques to structuring and working on your entire manuscript–we’re talking about plot, dialogue, pacing, setting, voice, POV–through the details and the big picture. Whether you’re thinking of joining a critique group or have experience, you will find something that will get you thinking, developing your internal editor, and finish revisions. And isn’t that what we want to do?

I bet you’d like to read Becky’s post now, wouldn’t you? Please welcome Becky Levine!


What You Can Do for Your Critique Partners
When Vivian invited me to guest-blog at HipWriterMama, I knew right away that I wanted to write a post that would fit here. Vivian’s posts are continuously supportive and encouraging, and—since I believe that’s also true of the best critique groups—I decided that’s what I’d focus on today.


Support in a critique group might seem obvious. Yes, it’s about listening to each other whine discuss the latest problems in our manuscripts. Yes, it’s about leaning on each other when we get rejection letters. Yes, it’s about calling up our local bookstores and libraries and making sure they have our critique partner’s books on the shelves.

It’s about a lot of other things, too, though. And sometimes, we all need a little reminder about what those things are.

You are supporting your critique partner when you:

  • Take the time and energy to give detailed feedback about their project. Give them a clear explanation, point to examples in their manuscript, and make suggestions about specific changes they might want to make.
  • Don’t ignore that bland dialog or inconsistent characterization that is bothering you. It’s bothering them, too, believe me. They just don’t know what to do about it yet.
  • Help them brainstorm through a plot problem or two. Schedule time to bounce ideas back & forth about their hero’s character development.
  • Read multiple revisions of their manuscript. Who’s going to get it all right the first time through? Or the second?
  • Say “yes,” when they ask if you can read longer chunks of their book, even the full manuscript. Work out with them and the rest of the group how much time everyone will need, then schedule it out. When you read more pages at a time, you can provide a stronger critique in terms of consistency, plot tension, and character change.
  • Make your commitment to critiquing their work strong and steady. Put critiquing time on your calendar, put aside dedicated time for reading and thinking, and deliver your critiques on time and with as much clarity as possible.

Does all this sounds like a lot? It is. Take another look at the list, though, and switch around some pronouns. Put your critique partner in the place of the one doing the work, and drop yourself into the recipient’s chair. Look at everything you’re getting back.

This is the strength of a strong, supportive group. Everything you put into the group, every minute of critiquing you do, comes back full circle to help you. Not simply because your critique partners are doing the same for you, but because that commitment and energy build something powerful, something that lets us grow our writing community and our writing craft.

Becky Levine is the author of The Writing & Critique Group Survival Guide: How to Give and Receive Feedback, Self-Edit, and Make Revisions. Becky has participated in her own critique groups for fifteen years and has ten years experience as a freelance manuscript editor. She writes fiction and nonfiction for children and teens, as well as freelance articles and book reviews. Becky’s online class Mastering the Art of Group and Self-Critiquing starts at the new Writer’s Digest University on May 6, 2010.

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Vivian Lee Mahoney

Consider yourself warned: I write books about rebels. I'm also a postergirlz for readergirlz, a literary advisory group for teens. Who knew going back to the teenage years would be so rewarding?

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