Guest Post by Floyd Hyatt – Online Critique Group Part 1

F. A. Hyatt, veteran of online critiquing, has sent a wonderful post on how to set one up. Here is Part 1:

Why Me?

The impetus to start your very own online writing circle is usually Manifold. Regardless of the availability of Writing Clubs in your area, having a small group of concerned and participating writers available online is its own blessing. Personal pride, of course, does not enter into it, and the ability to participate with other writers at liberty 24/7 rather than once a month or whatever, is irrelevant–sure enough. Plus, Yahoo groups are free of charge to Yahoo members. The process of creating one is accessible from the Yahoo main page, under “Groups”. It is well documented, and simple, So I won’t deal with most of that here.

However, the fact of group management and the idea of creating one, differ – somewhat.

First off, there are some mechanics. Although Group sites provide a format and some tools, these are general, if not remedial. Your group will need a structure specific to the needs of active writers. Do not assume the members will organically create a framework as they participate, or you will end up with a welter of difficult to manage and incompatible structures and site litter; I.E., a mess. Under the left side “Files” menu item, set up an area to contain folders for your writers. This is done by creating a Members File folder in that area. Have your members each establish their own work folder within the folder you create there. (Yes, you can have folders inside folders, just like on your PC) Ask that they place (upload) their Works-In-Progress into the folder they create.

The member’s file folder directory should look like a list of names at that point, with no documents peppering the folder directory itself. Each writer can then add, delete or change the work they store in these areas, and collect critiques in them, as they see fit, without dropping files at liberty hither and yon.

In fact, it is a good idea to establish a directory area for every aspect your club engages in. A review area to collect member reviews, an area to post announcements of author releases notices, whatever activities your site will specialize in. I find using the list’s general post area for any of this a bad idea. Usually work gets completely un-formatted in attempting such use – extremely bad for critique. Instead, use the post area for member Yak, as was intended. Besides, after going to the effort of uploading a document, who wants to have it available to the club for only a few hours until it scrolls down into oblivion? Be sure members have full rights to manage their own folder areas. This will save your assigned moderators (and you) a lot of maintenance work. All these setups are accessible from the main screen “maintenance” prompts, that appears magically on the owners and moderators menus when visiting the site. If you are currently a member of a Yahoo Group, you likely will not see these items, as you are not the Owner or a Moderator.

Here is Mr. Hyatt’s open group:
Established – for Serious and Casual writers, since 2007
Plotters of Dreams

WRITING PROMPT: Write about a critique group in which one member argues against any suggested revision and another member tries to incorporate every suggested revision, even if they’re contradictory. Your mission is to be neither of those members.


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I was born in Louisville, Kentucky, but now live in the woods in southern Indiana. Though I only write fiction, I love to read non-fiction. The more I learn about this world, the more fantastic I see it is.

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One thought on “Guest Post by Floyd Hyatt – Online Critique Group Part 1

  1. STephen Tremp

    November 28, 2011 at 10:21am

    These groups do need structure. I dropped out of a few because it was a hodge podge of people trying to sell their books and that was about the extent of their participation. Not much enforcement of the integrity of what the group was originally advertised to be.

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    • Author

      Marian Allen

      November 28, 2011 at 11:00am

      Agreed. I’m lucky to have a good face-to-face critique group.

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  2. Helen Ginger

    November 28, 2011 at 10:44am

    I’ve been in worthwhile critique groups and some not. I’ve not been in an online critique group, though. I agree, it would need a lot of structure to make it work. Thanks.

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    • Author

      Marian Allen

      November 28, 2011 at 11:01am

      I’ve never joined an online critique group, either. One of the benefits of always having had friends who also write. 🙂

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  3. Sharon Reece

    November 28, 2011 at 10:55am

    Looking forward to seeing what else he has to say in Part 2.


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    • Author

      Marian Allen

      November 28, 2011 at 11:03am

      Floyd has his own category here! If you go up to the tab that says ~Writing, one of the drop-down menu items is Floyd Hyatt, which shows all his posts. 🙂

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  4. Marlyn Bumpus

    November 28, 2011 at 1:04pm

    For online writer’s groups, most of my experience has been with people who have gone to and created fora there. I’ve been actively involved in one or another there for over three years now, and I find that being able to log into a site and browse through the offerings at my leisure works quite well. Frankly, knowing how YaHoo groups work, I find ProBoards actually far easier to navigate and use – both as an owner and as a mere member.

    Having other writers read and offer comments and concrit has become, for me, a far more valuable feedback than simply putting stuff up at a fanfiction site and then waiting for the Replies/Feedback from readers to trickle in. The fandom I’m currently active in is very discerning about many facets of creative writing, and so the concrit I’ve been getting has been very educational.

    I’d recommend a ProBoards writer’s workshop to anyone. The instructions on how to set one up are not great, but once they’re running, they pretty much take care of themselves. The workshop area itself can be locked down to only those who are registered members, there can be areas open to guests, discussions are threaded, quoting is easy, and there are a lot of real benefits offered.

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    • Author

      Marian Allen

      November 28, 2011 at 1:25pm

      Thanks for the input, Marlyn — and it’s GREAT to hear from you!! 🙂

      I detest fora. For some reason, they completely flumgudgeon me. I’ve registered with several, but cannot pick my way through them and have given up looking at any of them. My loss, I know, but my brain just doesn’t seem to get the logic of how they work.

      Maybe you could write a post for me on using ProBoards fora?

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    • Author

      Marian Allen

      November 28, 2011 at 1:27pm

      Hi, Nancy — GOOD critique groups are important. Toxic ones are worse than nothing. My writing group offers a panel at conventions called The Care And Feeding of a Writers’ Group, listing some of the qualities you want and some you definitely do NOT want. 🙂

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  5. Floyd Hyatt

    November 29, 2011 at 4:31am

    This set of posts will focus on the use of Yahoo Groups for setting up critique clubs, and processes certainly differ from one venue to another. Part two will point out a few basic dos and not-so-goods for using groups, just the hard won basics to think about – to get started on the right foot.

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  6. Liz Flaherty

    November 29, 2011 at 6:25am

    I’ve been with my own group for several years. Our key has been keeping it small. Interesting post!

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    • Author

      Marian Allen

      November 29, 2011 at 10:16am

      Define “small”, Liz, if you please. 🙂 I’m in two that fluctuate between three and fifteen in attendance. 8-10 seems about right, although sometimes the bitsy ones are very productive.

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  7. Floyd Hyatt

    November 29, 2011 at 4:25pm

    Very large groups likely need more formal structure than smaller groups. My groups tend to hover at between ten to 20 writers. However, the groups are kept clean of abandoned memberships, so the list does not accumulate a long index of members in name only. On the other hand, members are expected to return or leave as their activity level waxes and wanes. This avoids broadcasting member materials to largely uninterested mail recipients. Using files instead of posts further restricts the broadcast of materials to members actively interested in critiquing a particular file, (story), since files must be downloaded individually, instead of being automatically distributed to the entire list. I have found that smaller groups, with good focus, are more active per capita, (more posts per member) than large groups, safer, and form writing communities with better working relationships, that require less monitoring. Not to say there are not good, large venues, like Critters. But critique groups are not general chat lines, regardless of how much social interaction goes forward on them. They are for authors with materials hoping to benefit from the critique process, through the exchange of mutual effort. Such groups do not benefit from exposure to idle curiosity, or non-contributors. Sites can be structured for such purposes, but those structures will be different.

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