Writing Critique Circle
Code of Conduct
The writing critique circle is run by volunteers and is attended by members to share and improve their work while providing meaningful feedback on the writing of others. We want everyone in attendance to feel respected and supported. With that in mind, we have some ground rules and housekeeping arrangements.
Respect each other’s time.
- Please arrive on time for the meetings. Unforeseeable things happen; we get that. If you’re a little bit late, that’s okay. However, starting on time is one of the best ways to ensure everyone gets to participate.
- Stick to the reading time allotted to you. When we begin a session, we divide up the time available with the number of participants. We’ll divide up each participant’s time to allow for both reading and the critiques of others. We will let you know when you are reaching the end of your reading time. It is critical that reading time be respected. Please keep to your time limit for reading and be mindful of time when you provide feedback.
- Bring written work to the meetings. If someone is new, they are welcome to observe at first, but let us know in advance. After that, we expect you to bring work for critique as well as participate in improving the work of other participants. We have limited slots and not everyone is always be able to attend.
- Test your equipment before online sessions. For online meetings, if the technology or software being used is unfamiliar, please reach out to one of the moderators in advance and arrange to start early or set up a brief session to test or troubleshoot your equipment.
- Ensure you have a quiet space during online sessions. Minimal disruptions and the use of your mute button to minimize background noise are helpful.
Respect each other’s work.
- Criticize constructively. We are all writers. We specialize in words. You are not required to only say positive things but you have to be kind. Phrase your criticism in a constructive manner. Be careful of phrasing that can be perceived as pejorative or an attack. Focus on the specifics of language and how it affects the piece and the person. This is about the writing. We seek to improve the work, not tear down the writer. Point out what you liked, what was unclear, with suggestions on how to improve it. It’s not about showing off your own knowledge; it’s about improving the work.
- Accept criticism non-defensively. Take the criticism you receive in as charitable a mindset as you can, even if you disagree. There’s no need to argue with people regarding their critiques. You are under no obligation to make changes to your writing based upon what the critique group says. One of the tasks of the moderator is to direct the discussion to constructive commentary.
Respect where each person is coming from.
- Put warnings on problematic content and check with the moderators. This is not about censoring your work. Writing that deals with subjects that are known to cause mental health distress such as sexual assault, extreme violence, gender/racial/cultural /religious/sexual-orientation or torture of any kind, abuse, suicide, genocide, hate speech, etc. must be flagged with what, specifically, the potentially upsetting content is in advance. This does not mean to not bring work that deals with these topics but that the participants get to decide if they are willing to deal with your content in advance. This is not the venue to shock and surprise people. We’re here to provide insight into the mechanics of how to make your writing better in a safe and respectful environment. If in doubt, reach out to one of the moderators in advance.
- Be charitable and empathetic. Remember that you do not know what someone has been through. Empathy for each other, as well as for each other’s writing, is an essential component of a critique circle. We all come from different backgrounds with different levels of education, skill, ability, passions, and experiences. Participants should never feel trapped, subjected to experiences they are not willing to have. Be wary of invalidating other people’s experiences, or normalizing intolerance. Be sensitive to the sensibilities of the other participants and be respectful of beliefs which differ from your own.
We are writers who wish to share our work, improve it, while growing as writers and individuals. We do so by walking alongside each other, encouraging and challenging, with compassion and kindness. Our writing, ultimately, has to touch people’s hearts.
“All good writing is swimming under water and holding your breath.” -Scott Fitzgerald