Critique Rules/Guidelines

For included one-page critiques:

One-page critiques will be conducted in small groups led by a published author. Attendees will be matched as closely as possible to authors writing for the same genre and/or age range of the manuscript.

1) Bring 5 - 6 copies of your first manuscript page, double spaced (maximum of 250 words).
2) Be prepared to talk about the genre and age group of the manuscript, as well as offering a short synopsis of the book as a whole.
3) Be prepared to listen to other critiques. You will often learn more from other critiques than you do from your own because you are less attached to the material.

For optional Agent Consults:

1) Bring two copies of the first 500 words of your manuscript, double spaced.
2) Be prepared to read this out loud to the agent, as well as offering a short synopsis of the book as a whole.

Tips:

1) Be ready to hear that what you have on paper needs to be completely rewritten from scratch. Published authors hear this all the time. It does not mean that you are a bad writer. It only means that you are telling the wrong part of the story here. It also doesn't mean that the critique session has been useless. This is really useful information, as you can now figure out where the right place to start is.
2) Sometimes what you find will out is that you need to do more research into your targeted genre, regarding scene length, word count, and viewpoint appropriate for the age group, or that you need to be reading more current books. What we adults read as children would probably not be sold today. Expectations have changed.
3) You may need to start on a new book. This is advice that published authors also hear fairly often. For whatever reason, if you have reworked a book too many times, you can no longer see it clearly and can't make it better right now. Working on a new book is the best way for you as a writer to get out of a rut and to show the things you have learned since you first started work on an older project.
4) Please be kind to other participants. Don't dismiss other writers' work out of hand, and make sure that you always offer your thoughts as yours alone and not as universals.
5) Take notes so that you have a chance to think through everything later, when you're not under pressure.
6) Always remember that you don't have to take anyone's advice (not even a published author's) if you don't want to. There are times when an editor or even an agent offers the wrong advice to an author. You have to figure out what is right for your book. That said, don't immediately dismiss anyone's thoughts without consideration. Most of the time, they are offering good information for you.
7) Common critiques include things like unsympathetic characters, confusing beginning, too much backstory to begin with, and voice problems. Another big problem is uniqueness. Your story needs to be a unique addition to the marketplace. Sometimes the only response you may get is that it just didn't stand out. It needs to stand out.

For more information about critiquing, look at this article:
http://www.intergalacticmedicineshow.com/cgi-bin/mag.cgi?do=columns&vol=mette_ivie_harrison&article=037