DOs and DON’Ts for a Successful Online Critique Group – Part Two

Singing at the Podium

Hello again! This is especially for all the participants of the SCBWI Carolinas conference who showed up to our workshop this past Sunday called “Candid Confessions of a Successful Online Critique Group.” I posted the DOs yesterday so you’ll have to scroll down.

Oh, this is me singing into the mic before everyone showed up to our presentation. What was I singing? “And it feels like I’m seventeen again…?”  (I’m usually not this jazzed at 8:45 a.m. on a Sunday.) Okay, here are the DON’Ts:  

1. DON’T MERELY OFFER PRAISE. A pat on the back is nice but constructive criticism is the aim.

2. DON’T CRITIQUE THE WRITER – critique the writing. Never say, “YOU need to do this differently…YOU should improve…” “YOU should throw this out and start over.” A critique shouldn’t feel like a personal attack.

3. DON’T MERELY BE THE GOD OF GRAMMAR. Pointing out typos and/or correcting grammar and punctuation is always helpful and welcome but it’s not a critique.

4. DON’T MERELY BE A LINE EDITOR. Crossing out words, rearranging sentences, rewriting bits and pieces can also be helpful and welcmoe  — uh, welcome, but again, it’s not a critique.

5. DON’T DO “DRIVE-BY” CRITIQUES or “quickies.” Put forth the same effort that you would want the person to put into your submission. If you give a thoughtful and thorough critique, you’ll most likely receive one in return. It’s the old Golden Rule.

6. DON’T JUST SAY, “I LOVE IT” OR “I HATE IT”. While “I love its” can be energizing and ego-boosting, they’re not very useful as standalone comments. So be sure to delve into what’s working in the writing that makes you love it. “I hate its” should be avoided entirely.

7. DON’T BE DEFENSIVE. You’re not obligated to accept someone’s “suggestions” – so defending your work is unnecessary. You’re the author and it’s all up to you. And on the other hand…

8. DON’T TAKE IT PERSONALLY if your suggestions are ignored.

9. DON’T DO “REVENGE CRITIQUES.” If someone gives you what you feel is an unfair critique, don’t give their submission an unfair critique just to get back at them. (Don’t behave like second-graders, even though you may be writing for them.)


11. DON’T BREAK THE ESTABLISHED RULES of the group. You don’t want to cause friction with other members. So play nice!

12. DON’T BE AFRAID TO ASK QUESTIONS if you’re unclear about something. Again, communication is key.

13. DON’T ASSUME A PUBLISHED MEMBER OF YOUR GROUP IS ALWAYS RIGHT. Just because someone is published, or more experienced, or took fifty writing classes doesn’t mean their word is law. Everyone’s opinion should count equally.

14. DON’T TRY TO MOLD SOMEONE ELSE’S STORY INTO YOUR OWN STYLE or a story that you would write. What sets us apart as individuals is also what makes our writing unique – and that’s a good thing!

15. DON’T FORGET TO HAVE FUN! Writing is hard work and can get frustrating at times. Laughing your way through the process with a close-knit critique group can make it a heck of a lot easier.


Thanks for dropping by and DO come visit again soon! ALL COMMENTS ARE WELCOME!!!


3 responses to “DOs and DON’Ts for a Successful Online Critique Group – Part Two

  1. Thanks for posting the Do’s and Don’t’s. I, along with other SCBWI-Carolinas conference attendees are working to create our own online groups. Your conference session and the posted Do’s and Don’t’s are helping us make it happen and, hopefully, successful.

  2. Are folks in the Charleston, SC area still looking for critique groups? I AM!

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