Preparing a Submission for a Critique Group Session

Material submitted to a critique group is somewhere between a first draft and the final draft and may be an entire short story or just a few scenes from a novel.

On one hand, a true first draft is riddled with grammar and spelling problems, best fixed with a grammar and spell checker like Grammarly or ProWritingAid. A critique group does not want to waste time commenting on, or suggesting fixes for, things the writer and a little software can resolve. On the other hand, an author will be reluctant to change a nearly final draft in a way that might introduce typographical errors or inconsistent plot elements.

Consequently, the group function most efficiently by critiquing work that has been read out-loud and a edited a couple of times by the author (most finished works are edited by the author at least ten times).

Submitted work should be formatted to make critiquing as easy as possible, so the focus is on the work and not questions about where in the book the text is coming from or details about characters previously introduced. Some critiquers lament “the ten page syndrome” which is a limited critique due to inadequate information beyond the ten pages submitted.

Below are guidelines to format text being submitted to a critique group. The format is the same for printed and online material:

  • Include author, title and page number in the header.
    • The starting page number should be the same as in the full manuscript
    • Due to differences in font and spacing the number of words per page will vary, so the ending page will not correspond to the full manuscript
  • Use an easy to read font like Times New Roman or Ariel
  • Include a couple of single spaced paragraphs from the author at the beginning of the submission to orient the critiquers to the characters presented, location in story world, what happened before this point in the story, any specific questions or concerns the author might have and the number of words submitted. It’s nice to say, if known, where the submitted material fits in the arc of the story:
    • Act 1
    • First half of act 2
    • Second half of act 2
    • Act 3
    • Denouement (resolution)
  • Double space the rest of the text
  • Include underlined chapter titles
  • Separate scenes with special characters like “#”

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