Critique group/partner etiquette, part one

Once you join a critique group or find a critique partner, there are a few things you should keep in mind.

Critiquing, just like writing, is a time commitment. If you get feedback on your manuscript, you’re expected to give feedback in return.

If your critique partners give fabulous, detailed, valuable feedback, you are expected to also spend as much time giving detailed feedback on their work.

It just isn’t fair if your time commitment isn’t the same as the other people in your critique group or your critique partner. Don’t be a leach, and don’t be selfish—give back as much as you receive.

Don’t be argumentative. No one likes a whiner. Even more, no one likes a belligerent writer. You can expect to get bad feedback or kicked out of a group if you insist on arguing with your critique partners.

Take time after you get a critique to calm down and get some distance (physical and temporal). When you return to it, you might find that the comments are more helpful than you initially thought.

And if you don’t agree with a comment, don’t argue about it. A critique is only one person’s opinion, and they’re entitled to it. Be polite and treat your critiquers the way you’d like to be treated.

Be timely. If your critique group agrees to one chapter a week, then critique your groups’ chapters that week, especially if you expect them to critique your chapter that week.

It isn’t fair—in fact, it’s plain selfish and inconsiderate—if your group is critiquing your chapters, but you “haven’t yet gotten to” their chapters. Most likely, they’ll stop critiquing your chapters for you.

Be honest, but don’t be malicious. Balance positive comments with negative comments.

Even long-established critique partners will sprinkle “LOL”s in their friends’ manuscripts as well as hard criticism at other places. They’re not always just negative or critical.

If you are crushing another writer’s spirit with your comments, it’s time for you to look long and hard at your own attitudes or leave the group.

More next time.


  1. The critiques are as much a skill test in writing as the actual writing is. Think about how everything is phrased and make adjustments. I always try to really make what I commented on sound like a suggestion, like "Maybe you could try doing this ..." or "I think ..." Sometimes phrasing makes a big difference in how the critique is received.

    I've had seasoned writers argue with me over the above, citing that when they get out in the real world of agents the writer needs to be tough skinned. Yeah, that's true to a point, but if the critique fails because the critiquer didn't know how to properly communicate his message, then 1) the writer being critiqued doesn't get any benefit from the critique, 2) the critiquer wasted his time, and 3) the critiquer hasn't learned the proper writing skills either since the message couldn't be communicated!

    Even a critique is writing! Use it to improve the writing skills.

  2. Camy,

    Great counsel and, for me, very timely. I'm in the early stages of my first CP relationship, so it's nice to find out what works well. I'll be back for part two.

  3. Thanks, Keli!

    Linda, I agree with you to a point. Sometimes it is important to be "softer" in your language as you give a critique.

    However, there's very little you can do to soften something like, "Your characters are cliche."

    And my opinion is that if a writer can't take an honest (granted, it smarts, but it's honest and it's not malicious) comment like that, they need to work on their own ability to hear hard things.

    Editors will NOT have time to add
    "softening" words. Writers need to not expect lots of pink fuzzies and smiley faces in their critiques. But you shouldn't have to put up with all-negative critiques, either.



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