Chatham Area
Meeting the fourth Wednesday each month

Chatham Area Public Library 6:00-7:30pm

Chatham Writer's Group Critique Guidelines


Respect the author by giving them your full attention.  Take notes for your commentary while they are reading.  

Do not make decisions based on genre.  Be open to experiencing other worlds of writing.  You may just get inspired!

Put yourself in their shoes.  Writing is so very personal.  Always be honest and always be kind.  

Avoid generalizations.  Be specific in your critique and follow it with suggestions for the author.   Rather than state: "I really liked it," comment with what you specifically enjoyed about it.  Rather than comment "I thought it was confusing," comment about the specific part of the selection that was confusing and ask questions for clarification.

Focus on the current selection.  Do not base any commentary on where the selection is going in its continuation.   If you require this type of clarification to give your best critique, kindly ask the author for more details. 

Listen as a reader first and a writer second.   Listen as if this is an already published piece.  Write down your first thoughts.  Then after the reading is completed, write down a brief summary of your complete perspective.  

Put content first.  While it is perfectly fine to offer suggestions for grammatical errors, the main goal of feedback is to respond to the content.   Unless the author has specifically requested feedback on grammatical aspects of the piece, prioritize feedback on content. 

Direct commentary toward the writing and not the writer.  Refer to the selection and not the person.  By stating "the story/poem/script/piece" rather than directing the comment to the author by using words like "you" or "your" keeps the feedback focused on the selection and not the individual. 

Speak from your own perspective.  Giving feedback using the words "I" and "My" keeps you focused on your perspective and shows the author you are speaking authentically through your own assessment. 

When speaking from your own perspective, keep the commentary on the writing itself and not your preferred writing styles, politics or moral view of the selection.  Keep the focus on helping the author rather than changing their views.  Respect the individual in the same way you would want them to respect you under the same circumstances.

Important: Never copy or share any of the author's work without their clear, express, written permission. 


Put yourself in their shoes.   It is difficult to offer constructive commentary knowing it may be taken personally.   Respect their willingness to offer their thoughts and ideas.

Keep in mind that individuals are...individuals.  One reader may find something confusing while another reader sees it with complete clarity.   Differing views are opportunities for us to dive deeper into our writing.  We learn to make changes or we learn something was already in its perfect place.   Differing views help us navigate in that decision making process.

Do not take anything personal.  Remember, this is about one selection of writing, not you as an individual.   If you are hearing a variety of commentary, ask yourself what best fits.  If you are hearing the same commentary repeatedly, most likely this is an area that needs some editing. 

Do not enter into debate over any commentary.  If you need further clarification, ask questions but do not respond defensively.  Listen to all commentary at face value and remember:  the final decision always rests with you, the creator of the work.  

Remember the focus of the commentary is on this individual selection.   Something confusing at this point may become clear after they have read the entire piece.  Keep this in mind as you listen to the feedback.  Make notes where you think clarity may be needed. 

Give it some time.  Make notes about the commentary you received and take a few days to think about it.  You may gain a better understanding of the other perspectives.   Always give it some time to measure how comfortable you are making the suggested changes.   If you feel they fit, go for it.  If you feel the suggstions do not fit, be grateful for the opportunity to give careful consideration to the commentary given to help you move further toward your goal. 

Commit to learning something each time you receive feedback.   Learn something about your work itself and practice receiving constructive criticism. 

Give compliments and praise for your work the same amount of thought and importance you give constructive criticism.  Writers often view the constructive criticism as the "honest feedback" and quickly dismiss praise as someone "just being nice."   Remember, our writing group is not just a group, it is a fellowship we enjoy on our journey.   Note the suggestions, but also note and treasure the positive responses to your work.   It is a much more difficult journey when you dismiss the gift of authentic appreciation for your work and place value solely on constructive criticism.  Onward!
Chatham Writer's Group Mission Statement:

Our mission is to provide a welcoming environment for all aspiring writers.   Through thoughtful, considerate, authentic feedback, we agree to work as a team to encourage all authors to achieve their individual goals.   Through this fellowship, we agree to respond with kindness to each member of our group.  We agree to respect all work presented for commentary.   We agree to respond to all work submitted with thoughtful feedback focused on the goals of each individual author.  We agree to meet at the Chatham Area Public Library two times each month.   We agree to respect the property at the Chatham Area Public Library.   We agree to respect the instruction of our group facilitator.   We agree to attend as many meetings as our schedule allows and make attendance a priority to provide for many opportunities for our members to read, critique and share their challenges, experiences and achievements. We agree use the time allotted to read, respond  and discuss the writing selections and educational presentations put forth by our members.   We agree to contribute our time, education, thoughts, ideas, suggestions and humor to maintain a fellowship of trustworthy, motivated and kind individuals contributing their time and effort to help their fellow writers succeed.   We recognize writing as a unique gift we share and agree to be a faithful traveling companion on the writing journey.   

Onward to great things with our fellow writers and friends!

Be around the light bringers,  the magic makers, the world shifters, the game shakers. 
They challenge you, break you open, uplift  and expand you. 
They don't let you play small with your life. 
These heartbeats are your people. 
These people are your tribe.
-Danielle Doby