Write CCF if you'd like us to sponsor your writing group.
There are as many ways to run a critique group as there are members who participate in them. The following are guidelines we have found to work well in the Critique/Writers groups CCF sponsors.
Keep meeting place and times a constant. This adds a sense of stability to the group.
Commit to attend group meetings. A commitment to attend group meetings on a regular basis is required. Members attend meetings whether or not they have any writing of their own that needs to be critiqued.
Meet at least twice a month. These can be on-site or online meetings. Some groups choose to meet online twice a month with additional but optional onsite meetings of members who live in close proximity of each other. Other groups may want to meet once a month online and once a month on-site. Some may just want to meet online or on-site all the time.
Post writing goals. By or before the first meeting members attend, members post their individual writing goals to the group's virtual workspace and are then able to see their goals, as well as other members' goals, online. They are given private log-in information and may add or delete to their goals throughout the first half of the year. After July 1st the goals are "set in concrete," log-in is disabled and no further changes can be made through the end of the year.
Pay $24 annual dues. By or before the first meeting of the year the member attends, members pay their annual dues. Members joining the group the last three months of the year pay $6 to join for the remainder of that year but do not participate in the "get your money back" program described under the "Celebration dinner" bullet point that follows.
Celebration dinner. This option is for group members who live within driving distance of each other, whether they're participating in on-site or online groups. At the end of the year the group gets together for a celebration dinner. Members bring their year's writing goals with them and share how many of their goals were met. Members who meet all their writing goals get their annual dues back. The money from members who did not meet their goals is divided among those who did meet their goals. It's a time to celebrate each other's accomplishments.
Private listserve. Members are added to a private listserve set up just for their group to use between meetings to interact with each other. Useful information is shared via the listserve by members on an ongoing basis. Only members in good standing, who are participating in meetings regularly, are allowed to stay on the list.
NO HOMEWORK!!! This is a HUGE rule in the writing groups CCF sponsors. Members give their best to each other during meeting times but that's it. A total of 4 hours per month is the most time members should spend critiquing manuscripts. Members use the rest of the time available to them between meetings to get their own writing done.
DETAILED GUIDELINES: Below is a description of how a group may want to run their on-site meeting:
Group meets at a predetermined place and keeps that location a constant. Meet every first Wednesday of the month, for example, from 6-9 p.m., in a room that allows for quiet work. You may want to reserve a room at a branch of your public library.
6:00 to 7:00 p.m.: Dinner and a time to discuss writing-related topics. Because the group meets in a private room, the library may allow members to bring a sack dinner to the meeting.
From time to time the group may also use the time before 7:00 p.m. to meet at a restaurant and have dinner together. This works best if the restaurant is near the scheduled meeting place so members can get to their scheduled meeting place by 7:00 p.m. If members want to meet at a restaurant located further away from their regularly scheduled meeting place, they meet there 5:00 to 6:30 p.m., and still make it to their meeting place by 7:00 p.m.
The first hour of the meeting is also used to talk about writing-related topics, share about upcoming writers conferences or talk about conferences attended. Group members come up with writing-related topics they want to cover during the first hour and these are scheduled in ahead of time by the group moderator.
From 7:00-9:00 p.m. members work in silence.
If someone needs to talk or ask questions, they leave the room. The 7:00-9:00 p.m. time is used to give our best critique to members' manuscripts. We each bring as little or as much of our work as we want critiqued but only bring one copy of each manuscript. We put our work in the middle of the table and group members pick from what needs critiquing and use different colored ink pens to mark their edits.
The group moderator keeps and brings the different colored pens to each meeting. Each member selects a color they like to mark their edits. By the time the original author gets their edited manuscript back they'll have edits in different colors on the manuscript. Members look their edited manuscripts over just before the meeting ends and decide if they have any questions on what the green or red or blue edits mean and ask who used that color and ask questions of that critiquer outside the meeting room.
There are different ways to run a critique group. Some groups read aloud their work and get verbal feedback from the group. The CCF groups are not that type of group. We're emulating the setting around an editor or agent's desk, where they have a stack of manuscripts to go through. They pick one up, read it, mark it up, and make their decisions. So, no talking while we work! :-)
We also bring to our meetings our own work so we can do our own writing if we finish critiquing the work that other members brought. For some members that may well be the only writing they get done that month! So come prepared to stay the entire length of the meeting and work on your own writing if you get done with looking over everyone else's work.
The CCF online group is still open to new members so feel free to write CCF and invite others who'd like to walk together with them along the writer's journey.
A note about homework: This is a HUGE rule in the critique groups CCF sponsors--NO HOMEWORK!!!
We give our best to each other during our meeting time but that's it. We use the time available to us between meetings to do our own writing. We cannot possibly get to every manuscript that needs to be looked over during a 2 hour group meetings, so we pick one manuscript and work on it and if it's a long one we don't read/edit it all but just some pages of it and then pick another manuscript, etc. If we get totally taken by one manuscript and spend quite a bit of time on it then we remember whose member we gave most of our time to and pick another member to help at our next meeting. But between meetings we do not look over other members' manuscripts nor spend any time editing them. Basically, we ask members to not ever feel guilty for not getting to every member's manuscript during the meeting time and feel they need to give of their time afterwards. That's not how CCF groups work. Members commit to being available a predetermined number of hours per month and that's all they're asked to do. That number is four hours per month. Period.
Joining a critique group is one of the best steps a writer can take to improve their writing.
Send us your comments or questions using the CCF Contact Form and let us know if you'd like CCF to sponsor your writing group.