1. You do not talk about write club.
Oh, but you do. You have to. There are several things to consider when forming a critique group. It needs at least three members; otherwise, what you have is a critique partner. Right? A good group size is about six; any more members and adjustments to the work load have to be made.
A good critique group should be divided into genres – fiction, non-fiction, short stories, novel-length work, poetry, children’s books, etc. Each genre has its own focus, rules, and expectations, and the members cannot be expected to be experts in each.
The group must decide when, where, and how often to meet. Some critique groups work online only and others meet in person. The best place for in-person critique groups is to meet in neutral zones, places without distractions, like a library meeting room or an office. Restaurants and private homes compromise the owners into hosting the event.
Also talk about how often the group will meet. Once a week, once a month, twice a month? And how long will the meeting last? Time of day? In order to limit the focus and stick to the business a critique group, allot one or two hours per meeting and stick to the work at hand.
2. You DO NOT talk about write clubs.
We have to. Let’s talk about the task itself. Depending on the size of the group and the genre to be discussed, the group must agree on the number of pages each member is allowed to submit to be critiqued per meeting. It makes sense that the number of pages a poetry group submits per session will differ than the number of pages a group reading each other’s novels will submit.
Decide how to share the pages to be critiqued so the group members have time to read and discuss them? Will these pages be posted online and critiqued on-line, or posted on line and discussed in person? Will the author bring printed copies for everyone in the group and will it be read at the meeting or sent home to be read and returned at the following meeting?
All work should be submitted according to the rules of traditional publishing: printed in 12-point font, Times New Roman, double-spaced, one-sided, with the author’s last name and title in the header, and pages numbered in the footer.
3. Someone yell’s stop, goes limp, taps out, the fight is over. The focus of critiquing is easy: listen to what input the author wants from the group (edits, revisions, help with problems encountered) and stick to that objective, remembering that in the end, any changes to the manuscript belong to the author.
4. Only two guys to a fight. Respect and share the time allotted so everyone gets to share and get input in the discussion of the group. Always keep to the rules and expectations set by the group.
5. One fight at a time, fellas. Learn the rules. Follow the rules. No exceptions. If the group starts to stray from its objective, take a break and revisit the rules and objectives. Remember a critique offers structural suggestions and a criticism looks for flaws and faults.
6. No shirts; no shoes. Pages submitted for critiquing should stand alone without lengthy explanations from the author. No long oral prologues and epilogues. It it’s not on the page, it is not on the page.
7. Fights will go on as long as they have to. Go about it like professionals and come prepared. It is a two-way partnership. Both sides invest time and effort into the experience and should learn from each other. Stop repeating the same mistakes and the writing should improve from it
8. If this is the first time at Fight Club, you have to fight. This probably should be #1. Everyone in the critique group should bring pages to be critiqued, regardless of the writer’s level of expertise or need. A group member might be in a writing lull, and joins the group to get inspired or keep up with the group’s progress, but sooner than later, everyone has to submit pages to be critiqued.