QueryTracker Blog

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Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Critique Group Scheduling Ship

Yesterday, I blogged on whether or not you need a critique group.

Scheduling is an important factor in a successful critique group. Today we’re going to examine three things:

1. How much material to post
2. When to post said material
3. When to have critiques done on posted material

Members of a forming critique group should have a discussion about these three things before starting. Everyone in the group should come to a consensus on how much to post, when they'll be posting, and when they'll have their critiques done. Everyone has a real life (shocking, I know) that gets in the way sometimes. Be aware of this going in.

I hope you packed a swimming suit and some sunblock, cause it's gonna get hot in here!

Loading at Dock #1: One chapter per week.
I participated in a critique group with these four words as the schedule. The entire schedule. Um, that didn't work for me, but I was coming into it as a newbie and they had their thang worked out, so I didn't say anything. For a while. I finally did, and here's why.

I don't like the vagueness of "one chapter." I write very short chapters, so I was posting 6-8 pages of text. Maybe 12 on a really long chapter. Other people were posting up to 20 pages of material. Consistently. That's a HUGE difference in my opinion, and I started to feel resentful that they could post that much, and I couldn't post 3 chapters a week to make up for it.

My advice to avoid Dock #1: Set a number of pages, not chapters. In one group, we set the number of words. That works too. The point is, you want to have equality in almost everything as far as the Scheduling Ship goes. Otherwise you'll end up like me—begrudging the time it takes to be in the group, resenting the other members, and giving less than adequate critiques because you're feeling slighted.

Loading at Dock #2: Post when you want during the week.
Dude, I don't like this dock. I'm sure it works for some people, but not for me. While I do recommend that you set a weekly schedule instead of a bi-weekly or monthly schedule, not having a day to post drives me wonky.

Here's why: In the afore mentioned critique group, this was part of the schedule. There was no set day for the members to contribute, so what happened? Most of us posted our chapter either on Saturday, Sunday or Monday. Of course. These are the days people have off and/or time to work on their submissions for critique. I didn't like the barrage of new posts. It made me feel anxious that I wasn't keeping up. Suddenly, during the week when I had to work, I also had five chapters (of varying lengths) to try to critique.

My advice to avoid Dock #2: Set a specific day for each member to post. Since I don't recommend more than 5 people per group, each of you could take a weekday and use the weekends to catch up on critiques, or—shocker—for your own writing and/or family life.

In the group I just joined, we set a specific day to post. Mine is Friday, which isn't my ideal day, but at least it's mine. (Mwa-ha-ha!)

Loading at Dock #3: Get to it when you can.
This is a joke, right? I really don't like this dock. It has cockroaches lurking underneath and broken slats in the boardwalk. Critiques should be done and delivered in a timely manner. If you're running on a weekly schedule, the critiques should be given for the posted material for that week. For example, I just said my day to post in one of my groups is Friday. We have it set up that critiques will be offered within one week. Which means I can expect critiques on my 15 pages within 7 days. Then I can post new material and not have the other members have this huge backlog of my stuff to read.

My critiques of other members work will be posted within seven days. If they post on Monday, my critique will be done by the following Monday.

My advice to avoid this broken-down dock: Discuss it with your group. Critiques need to be timely. Like I said, in a weekly schedule, crits should be done within seven days. A bi-weekly schedule, within 14. A monthly schedule—well, you need a new group. Seriously. A monthly schedule?

So we're all going to be boarding at Dock #4: Post 15 pages every Friday. Deliver critiques within seven days of when they are posted.

This is a ship I can board. Raging parties will be held. And I'll be right in the thick of them, enjoying myself instead of standing on docks #1, #2 or #3 angry, upset, resentful, or jealous.

Tomorrow, we're examining how to be a good member of a crit group.


Stina said...

With my group, we were so into each other's stories, that we read at our own pace and demanded chapters on a daily basis.

One of our members couldn't handle reading 3 different stories at once. So she did one at a time. For the most part, we would each read several chapters from one book before working on another. Once done, we reposted the stories for further feedback. We were done all four novels in less than two months (and that include Christmas break!).

This approach wouldn't work for everyone. But we had the flexibility. We also didn't want to take a year to finish, which is what would have happened if we had done the one chapter per week rule. Besides, it's hard to remember what happened in the last chapter if you read it a week ago.

Elana Johnson said...

You're so right Stina. You have to find people that work the same as you. You have to find what works for you. It sounds like you have a great group! Congrats!