How to Form and Facilitate a Critique Group (part 1 of 2)

I presented the non-fiction critique workshop at the Catholic Writers Guild Live Conference last week. I drew from my experience as facilitator and co-facilitator of two different critique groups to demonstrate how a critique group works. I encouraged the writers to form the critique groups they need. Here are some guidelines, in two posts.

Why a critique group?

We all need motivation to persevere. We take time from our writing because we need:

  • Deadlines and accountability. A commitment on the calendar to submit something of ours to other writers helps us become professional.

  • Feedback. This is the basic benefit of a writers group. On our own with no input from other writers, we have little direction and little confidence in our work.
  • Advice. Writers groups are the place to go for all kinds of resources. The Catholic Writers Guild exemplifies this. Be open to sharing what websites, seminars, articles and books help you with your craft and marketing. In both the Dallas/Fort Worth Catholic Writers (DFWCW) and the new Catholic Writers Guild Non-fiction Critique/Editing group (CWGCG) we have writers seeking traditional publishers and self-publishing opportunities. Suggestions range from structural changes to lack of clarity as well as format and design ideas. We use the Chicago Manual of Style as our standard.
  • Support and camaraderie. No one can relate to our struggle as a writer like another writer. Although writers groups are not designed as emotional support groups, the community of friendships we form by sharing our writing projects is invaluable both personally and professionally.  It’s vital to keep the critique meeting focused on writing, but once it’s over, we can regroup and meet our writing friends for personal conversation and enjoy leisure time together.
  • Marketing connections. We naturally promote one another’s work on our blogs and social media. We help with book launches, attend book signings and write reviews. We introduce our writing group friends to anyone we know in publishing and marketing such as bookstore owners, radio commentators, newspaper and magazine editors and website columnists.

Types of Writing Groups

How many different ways can people get together in writing groups? There are workshops, critique groups, writers guilds, writers groups and reading groups, each forming a unique community. Annlee Ellingson sorts them all out in Types of Writers Groups.

Giving and Receiving Critiques

Do you ever wonder just how to give a critique or how to receive one? I mean gracefully and honestly! Here’s a link to giving and receiving critiques from  Don't Forget to Write! A guide to building and maintaining a lasting writers' group, by D. M. Rosner of 6' Ferrets Writing Group.

Presented by Nancy HC Ward on 8-1-14 at the 2014 Catholic Writers Guild Live Conference

Don’t miss part 2 of “How to Form and Facilitate a Critique Group: What’s Our Mission?” on tomorrow’s blog.


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About Nancy Ward

Nancy HC Ward is a journalist, author, and speaker who blogs about Catholicism, her conversion, and Christian community at,
 7 websites and 7 magazines. She loves to share her faith story and help others share theirs through her Sharing Your Faith Stories seminars, also available on DVD. She contributed four chapters to The Catholic Mom’s Prayer Companion. She facilitates the Dallas/Fort Worth Catholic Writers and a critique group for the Catholic Writers Guild, where she serves as a board member.
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3 Responses to How to Form and Facilitate a Critique Group (part 1 of 2)

  1. kellie says:

    Very informative!

  2. Nancy Ward says:

    Thanks, Cheryl, for your encouragement to other writers who may hesitate to share their work. Critique groups are a commitment of reciprocity for those who are vulnerable but courageous.

  3. I am grateful for every critique group I’ve been a part of, not the least of which is the present CWG crit group. Why? For all of your reasons posted, of course. I encourage every writer to look for, or start, a group that will encourage the members forward with their gift.

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