West Valley Writer's Critique Group Message Board › Moderating a weekly Meetup group
|A former member||
Starting the meeting
Warmly introduce yourself to any new members. Sit within talking distance of them and try to include them in conversation or engage them in conversation if there is no other conversation going on. You can also ask another member to do this for you so that guests feel welcome.
Do some kind of general introductions if there are new people.
Ask each member and guest politely if they have brought anything to read.
If you're like me, you should write down all the pieces that are to be read, and their approximate length and author. This will help you coordinate how many to do before and after the break, and you can call people by name to read each piece.
When people are reading, try to listen for one or two areas that need the most improvement, with a few specific examples. Also, try to pick up 4 or 5 things you liked about each piece, even if it is just a particular way something is worded that sounded neat.
General areas of critique involve the following:
Having a hook to create tension and interest
Characterization – Having likeable or relatable characters
Clarity of writing - language, punctuation, tense
Logical agreement. Events must be possible, or they must logically follow the premise.
Audience – If the writer is writing for a specific audience, the wording and language should be appropriate.
Try to open the discussion yourself when possible. Even if you are a laid back moderator, it gives you a note of authority (You will need to use authority occasionally). Start, by outlining a few things that you believe were done well.
At this point some people may jump right in, or you may want to continue, and go into an area where the piece could use improvement.
If there seems to be a lot of criticism, be sure to throw in a few more things that were done well in the middle of the discussion, so that the author sees that there are plenty of strong points in their writing as well as areas needing improvement. It is important to let writers know where their strengths are, so that they do not unnecessarily drop good parts of their writing, or get discouraged if there are many areas of opportunity.
End the discussion by adding another strength, or summarizing the discussion.
Don't be afraid to agree, disagree, or change your mind in the discussion.
In the discussion, a member may say something that you agree with, but the author does not seem to understand, or there is dispute on it. Feel free to state that you agree, why you agree (logically), and try explaining it in a different way so that other people might better understand.
If there is something you think might be done a better way, but can't figure a better way, but are not sure, feel free to bring it to the whole group for discussion.
Sometimes a member might seem to have a point, but their solution might not be ideal, or there are other factors against the member's criticism. Try looking for a third way that encompasses both the member's criticism and the author's intent. Often times, there is a more ideal solution than the one out on the table.
Sometimes you will flatly disagree with a member's criticism. As the moderator, you have to have to step up if a member is providing inaccurate criticism. Address the criticism, and explain in logical terms, why you believe the author made the right choice. Feel free to invite other opinions, and agree to disagree if no resolution is made.
Closing the meeting
When the meeting is over, close the meeting by addressing everyone and letting them know that the official meeting has ended.
The group is a community. If your personal plans or obligations prevent you from moderating, you can ask other members or moderators to step in or help.
Don't be discouraged if it seems that there is no chemistry with you and certain members. Some people are not meant to be part of your group: plain and simple. There are people who will try to take over the group, and others who will not take criticism well. As long as you are friendly, open, and maintain boundaries, you have done everything needed to make this a successful group. People will come and go for many reasons, but many members will keep coming back to form a core group. It's OK to ask other members or moderators for advice on how to make things work better or to help out when needed.
There are a few types of people that need extra attention.
New Writers: These people will need more support and help. Try to keep the criticism to a number of things they can digest without nitpicking them apart.
People with excessive attention to detail. There are people who have a lot of attention to detail (Which is good to get a discussion started if people are at a loss). You need at least a few of these people in the group, but you need to take special attention of them. Try to moderate their criticism of new people to a reasonable level. You will also have some that will try to take over the group. You have to maintain control in order to achieve a good experience for all.
Try your best, and things will work out the best.