Friday, April 8, 2011

How Editing Groups Work (Part 5 of 4)

Peter Lundell sent this email:

I’m lost in semantics. The online group I’m in does basically, in an online format, what you’ve described in these “How Editing Groups Work” posts. But we call it a critique group. I’m having a hard time distinguishing what you’re calling editing and what we’re calling critiquing.

Here’s my response.

Writers’ critique groups formed in the days when it was expensive to make copies of manuscripts. They were set up so they could read their manuscripts aloud. It’s an old-fashioned method that seems to have survived. Across the country people still sit around a table and read their manuscripts while the others listen without interruption. They make comments at the end of the reading.

In 1971, I decided what I wanted and formed such a group. I formed a group where I didn’t have to listen to anyone read aloud (or bore them with my reading aloud). As far as I’m aware, no one else called them editing groups in 1971. I did that intentionally to distinguish us.

I started the face-to-face group and called us the Scribe Tribe. A week before each meeting, we mailed copies of our manuscripts to every member—and we kept the membership to no more than nine people. Sometimes that meant typing (as in using a typewriter and making carbon copies) the manuscript twice or three times.

I wanted members to write on the manuscript so I could take the various responses home with me and ponder what they wrote.

In the days since the Scribe Tribe and the proliferation of the Internet, the words have tended to become interchangeable, but I still use editing when it means people edit manuscripts sentence by sentence. As long as read-aloud groups remain, I’ll insist on the word editing.

Editing groups edit manuscripts.
That’s why I call them editing groups.


  1. Cec,
    Just a note to offer heartfelt thanks for all you do for the up and coming authors. Your series of posts are insightful and give new writers like me a continuous education in the craft.

    I've asked to establish (not lead) and online group for critiques and am considering a closed yahoo group as the venue. Documents will be placed in the group for a weekly critique.

    Our current group members write in a variety of genres. Should submits be developed in specific genres to allow more focused advice or would the main group be more beneficial to all. Members have suggested both concepts. Your thoughts?

  2. Great post! In Sacramento, Inspire Christian Writers meet in small groups for critique. At least three days before we meet, we submit our manuscripts to each other by e-mail so we can give encouraging critiques at the meeting. We usually don't read to each other. The results are great feedback and useful, constructive criticism.


What are your thoughts?