Critique Groups: Part Two

writing doctorCritique Groups: Part Two

How to Get the Most Out of Your Critique.

**If you missed Part One, you can find it HERE.

I realize my Monday posts are titled, “Monday Writing Minute.” However, I feel so strongly about the power of critique groups that I’m expanding the next few posts.

Once you’ve found the right critique group, the next step is learning how to be a good editing partner. Proper format goes a long way to a lasting group relationship. You want to send out the cleanest, easiest to read version of your writing brilliance so the other members of the group won’t dread your weekly submission but will be anxious to read more.

Helpful Guidelines:

  • No more than five double-spaced pages a meeting.
  • Use Times New Roman or Calibri 12 point font. No weird font or all italics.
  • Run a spell check with grammar on your work.
  • Read your masterpiece out loud before you submit. The ear catches what the eye misses.

You’ve found your writing family, agreed on meeting guidelines, and have become a formatting ninja. What’s next? Learning how to critique. If you’re new at editing, you may struggle to pick out where changes need to be made.

red pen

Here are some things to look for, in your own work and someone else’s:

  • Awkward phrases.
  • Passive verbs. Especially “to be” verbs. (was, is, am, are)
  • Ly Adverbs
  • ING: Ing opener when used as a verb (Sliding backward, she tripped.) Using ing as a noun is okay (Sliding backward was hard)
  • Too many adjectives
  • Repeated words. Don’t use the same word close together, unless it’s on purpose for emotional power.
  • Vague words: it, that, the, this. Be specific when you can.
  • Extra words: the, that, had (if the sentence reads clearly without them, cross them out)
  • Redundant words or phrases: Two or more descriptions of the same thing or words that mean the same thing.
  • Show/don’t tell: If the author is telling rather than showing an emotion. He was mad is telling. He threw the chair across the room is showing mad.
  • Missing clarity. Write questions in the margins if you have them so the author knows you need more info or further clarification.
  • Weak verb use. Especially the “to be” verbs.
  • Filter words: Take out words like watched, saw, felt, looked, studied, seemed
  • Dialogue: Has to move the story forward, give new information, or reveal your character.
  • Paragraph opening repetition: Do the paragraphs all begin the same way?
  • Repetition of sentence structure: Vary short with medium and long. Use different openers.
  • Long sentences: Don’t cram too much information into one sentence.
  • Head hopping: Are you staying behind the same set of eyes for the entire scene?
  • Action/Reaction: An action must come before a reaction and every action needs a reaction.
  • Emotion: Intense visceral reaction. Does the character react appropriately?
  • Information dump: Don’t dump too much information at once. Don’t dump a backstory, especially at the beginning. Sprinkle the story throughout the book.
  • Cadence: Read out loud. Does it sound good? Does it flow?
  • Action: Does the action flow in a way that makes sense? Are the characters standing in one place one minute and another the next without you knowing how they got there?
  • Character reactions make sense: Stay in character.


The longer you edit, the stronger you’ll become, both as a writer and a critique partner.

Looking for more tips? Check out Monday Writing Minute and Writing Tips.

Interested in attending a writer’s conference this year in Texas?

I’m teaching at the West Texas Writers’ Academy in June. Details HERE.

west texas


  1. Maria Norris |

    Hi Lori, Just wanted you to know how much I love and value your writing tips and especially your generosity in sharing them. I have been following your saga (Kyle’s relapse, your broken ankle, etc.) on Facebook, and I admire you immensely. You deserve so many wonderful things! Happy Easter.

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