How Does Critiquing Work?
When you attend a meeting of the North Florida Writers, you eventually discover that no one has ever died while his or her manuscript was being read and critiqued. You may be ready to face the ordeal yourself. . .or, reading this, you may wonder what exactly takes place during a critiquing.
First, you pitch your manuscript into a stack with others' works-in-progress. Then one of the NFW members hands out each piece to volunteer readers, taking care not to give you back your own manuscript to read.
Second, as the reading begins, each author is instructed NOT to identify himself or herself and especially NOT to explain or defend the work. The writer may never have heard the piece read aloud by another's voice, so the writer needs to focus on the sound of his or her sentences.
Third, at the finish of each selection, the NFW members try to offer constructive advice about how to make the story better. If a section was confusing or boring, that information may be helpful to the author.
The NFW will listen to 20 pages (double-spaced) of prose (usually a short story or a chapter).
Unhelpful feedback: As you listen to a manuscript, you may be tempted to say, "That's the stupidest piece I've ever heard." Alas, you aren't being constructive. If you simply do NOT like any, say, science-fiction, then you may not have anything helpful to say. That is all right. On the other hand, if you think that a piece was going along okay and then fell apart, you can help the author by saying, "I accepted the opening page, but, when the singing buffalo was introduced somewhere on page 2, the piece lost it for me."