Three Things That I Give My Critique Partner When I Share a Story

I’m a member of some fantastic critique groups. I’m actually in three groups that meet regularly, two over zoom and one in person. I love these groups, and I feel like my critique partners give me some fantastic advice. You can read about their advice on creating characters here, on tightening the focus of my story here, and writing stronger opening sentences here.

Those links are three paths to some great advice FROM my critique partners. But when I’m bringing a story to my next critique group meeting, I’m always prepared to give my partners three things. I think these three things help me get the most of my group time, but they also help the group overall.

  1. I bring my story pitch. I like to bring my story pitch because I want to sell my stories. And I know that to sell my stories, I need to be able to pitch them. I also know that the story pitch is the promise of the story, what I’m promising I’ll deliver to the agent, editor, and reader who picks up my story. So, I bring the pitch because I want to know if it’s interesting and if I’ve delivered on the promise. Bringing the pitch is good practice because I can also tell if a story is ready to bring to the group. If I can’t pitch it, it’s not ready for the group. And it’s far from ready for my agent!
  2. I bring a clear, main question about my story. I never ask my critique partners if they like my story. That’s not a helpful question. But a clear, main question about my story that I do bring is “Does this part of the plot make sense?” or “Do you believe the main character would make this choice?” or “Does this voice set a scary tone or a funny tone?” Because those questions are ones I can take action on, I can make revision decisions. I can’t change if someone likes my story or not. But I can strengthen my story based on the answers to a clear, main question. Also, I can focus feedback on something that really helps me write a better story.
  3. I bring suggested comparative titles. Why do I bother bringing the comparative titles or “comps” to critique group? Because I want my critique partners to know the vibe or feeling or theme that I’m hoping to create, and I want to know if I’ve hit the target. I also want them to help me refine my comps into something that feels right. Again, I don’t really want to know if my crit group likes my story. I want to use this precious time to really hone in on the best way to market my story.

So those are the three things I bring to my critique group. But there’s also a fourth and fifth item that I bring, and I thought we could all use a reminder. I always bring an open mind, and a closed mouth. I come prepared to listen to feedback and not use up the group’s time defending my choices or explaining what I meant to write. That’s a waste. I want to get the most from the group that I can, and I don’t get that if I’m the one talking!

Do you bring anything special to your group? Do you always prepare a specific question? Do you always ask people to read your story out loud? I’d love to hear your methods and ideas!