Critique group formats and tools

There are many options for conducting your critique group in person or online. This discussion will focus mainly on how submissions and critiques are handled in different formats.

In person groups

In person groups meet face-to-face at a particular time and place. In some groups, members bring material to the meeting and distribute copies to attendees. Each person reads the manuscript silently or a reader—this could be the author or another group member—will read it aloud. Members mark their copies and then give critique verbally. They will often mark the copy too and give it to the author.

In other groups, members share the work in advance. They use the physical meeting to deliver the critique and discuss the work.

Finally, some in person groups do their critiques virtually with one of the methods below and use their meetings for writerly discussion, support and conversation.

Virtual groups

Virtual groups meet remotely. Most groups work asynchronously, meaning that group members do not need to participate at the same time. But groups that want a specific meeting time can meet by video chatting through a tool like Hangouts, Skype, or webinar software.

Email groups share their work over email, either pasting or attaching files and sending them to all group members for comments. Group members could either send comments back to the individual only or to all members.

Groups using Google Documents will post work in Documents and share it with their groups. Here, each group member’s comments appear on the same manuscript. Because the document is stored in the cloud and shared with members, the author eliminates inbox searching and attachment opening to find the comments.

Facebook groups share their work in a private Facebook group. Documents are posted and discussed on the group’s shared wall. Groups can chat as well, so there are elements of synchronous communication available.

Inked Voices is a service for online writing groups that combines many of the features discussed above, plus some unique features particular to critique groups.

Like Facebook groups, Inked Voices groups each have their own private space. A shared, common space helps groups stay cohesive, organized and up-to-date. Our groups have spaces for submissions, discussions, critique Q&A and submissions guidelines / schedules.

Group member submissions are posted to the group’s page and are assigned a deadline based on the group’s settings. Members are notified of new submissions and upcoming deadlines. Authors are notified of new critiques.

Like in Google Docs, group members have the ability to make inline comments and these comments display together on the final document. Unlike Google Docs, group members initially critique a clean (not marked up) copy of the document. There is also a space for making general comments on the manuscript.

Here is a comparison of the online tools above, broken down by feature. Note that you can combine tools as well.

Video Chat Email + Word Processor Google Docs Facebook Inked Voices
Chat X X
Shared Discussion Space X X
Notifications of new submissions, critiques X X X
Submissions process with optional credits, deadlines and reminders X
Critique a clean copy X X X
Make inline comments X X X
Comments appear together on final, marked up document X X
Lectures & writing resources X
Community outside of individual group X