How To Set Up File Sharing For An Online Critique Group

One of the most important parts of online critique is setting up and maintaining the group’s file sharing service. For the purpose of this post, we will not proclaim to be experts in file sharing, nor will we bore you with all the technical details. We will explain what we use and how we use our shared drive. If you are interested in learning more about the services available, one good place to start your research is in PC Magazine in The Best Cloud Storage and File-Sharing Services for 2020.

Why We Use Google Drive

Our group uses Google Drive because it’s widely used and easy to access. Here are a few other reasons we prefer using Google:

  • Most writers already have a Google account. Setting up new members is quick and easy. And members are also more knowledgeable of the service when they start critiquing.
  • Google’s file sharing and Gmail work together. Create an email account for your critique group and it includes a Google Drive. This way, your file sharing is not associated with one member and is easily transferable to a new critique leader.
  • Google Drive includes Google Docs for additional word processing capabilities. Members can copy and paste their critique pages into a Google document, and critiquers can easily copy the file when it’s time to complete their review.
  • Google allows uploading of critique pages in other word processing formats such a MS Word. It’s easy to open these formats as a Google Doc. It’s equally easy to download documents to do critiques offline.
  • And the number one reason we use Google Drive is because IT’S FREE.

How to Set Up Your File Sharing Folders

Whatever file sharing service you choose, after you’ve created your group’s account, there are a few things you’ll need to set up in advance of your first online critique session:

1. Create folders for the upload of critique pages. In all, four folders are needed for members’ critique pages as follows:

  • Current week’s critique session, where writers upload their pages for the upcoming critique session.
  • Last week’s critique session, which includes all the critiques done at the last meeting. This is important because it does take time for writers to read through and apply comments, so this is a convenience for easy access to their critiques.
  • Next week’s critique session, accessible for the earlybirds who always have their pages ready far in advance. This does not include me.
  • Other past critique sessions, for storage of past meetings’ folders for up to three months or more. This folder is not only an important archive, but available for any critiquers interested in reading past pages to catch up on other members’ stories.

Confused? Below is a picture of what our folder system looks like to help you better understand. Note the ~ symbol in the filename is there to keep the critique folders at the top of the folder list so they are easily located. Why do we do this? Because we have other folders on our shared drive for valuable information for writers and group activities, which are discussed next.

2. Include a folder for writer resources, which is the actual name we’ve given our folder. This is a community folder for member recommended resources on writing, publishing and marketing. Members should be encouraged to discuss what they’ve added to the folder at meetings.

3. Other folders should be added as needed. You’ll determine what folders to add as the group grows. Our group has a folder for planning this website and blog. We are also planning an anthology and have a folder for its planning.

Share Folders and Files with Critique Members

Every file sharing service is different, so inviting critique group members to access your shared drive involves different steps. Typically, you’ll send requests to join via email that will include the steps the member will need to follow to access the shared folders and files.

Consider ease of use when you’re choosing a service because your members’ level of knowledge of technology is anywhere from beginner to expert. Just helping some writers understand how to access the folders you created in the last section will require time and patience.

That’s enough to absorb and get your group started. In my next post, I will share our system of providing access to files and our procedures for uploading pages and completing critiques.

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