Brainstorm for Critique Groups

Middle Grade Mondays

Brainstorm for Critique Groups

By Natalie Bright

Are you stuck in the middle of your story and can’t decide where to go next? Unsure about your character’s motivation? Maybe you need some spin off ideas from your finished novel to move on to your next WIP.

Organize a brainstorming session at your next writers critique group.

This is a tool often used by business managers. When I worked as a human resources director, part of my job was to plan employee events. I’d invite a few people from each department and we’d brainstorm ideas for the coming year. Everyone could speak out and make suggestions based on the first thing that came to mind and I’d take notes. In no time I had a list of ideas for places, events, and possible dates. Writers can utilize this tool as well.

A list of edits from my super agent included the need for one more episode before the climatic scene near the end. I had a solid story arc, but it needed work and I needed one more intense scene for the main character. My writers group was very familiar with the story and characters, which by the way, is reason to find compatible critique partners and stay with them. Their input is so much more intuitive when they’re familiar with your complete body of work.

I prepared a chapter grid for my group as follows, which I’ve listed headings and one example.

Chapter # and  Locations  Day # and time of day Main event or scene(s)
Chapter 1, Main StreetHotel lobby June 20, 1887 / high noon TrialVerdict is guilty

With a red dry erase marker in hand, I listed the two ideas from my agent first. This gets the creative juices flowing in the group. I asked for ideas of a scene before the climatic scene, and told them to speak out no matter how crazy. The thing about brainstorming is that creativity begets creativity. One person’s idea will trigger an idea for you, and so on. In a short time, I had a white board full of possibilities which seemed amazing since I’d spent an entire week worrying and pondering over what to do.

When I started writing, I discovered several of their ideas combined into one scene. I had to add a few elements early on in the story to tie it all together. The whole process turned out to be fairly painless.

My current work in progress is set in 1887 Texas featuring a wonderfully spirited eleven year old named Silver Belle. I’m so excited to think that she might be on the bookstore shelves one day.

And thank you awesome wordsmithsix partners. Lucky me for being a part of such a creative and inspirational group!

Part 4 Giving and Receiving Critiques: Respectful Behavior


Part 4 Giving and Receiving Critiques: Respectful Behavior

By Natalie Bright

The personality of your group can dictate the overall benefit you receive from participating. The members may be the most creative writers you know, but they may not be who you need critiquing your work. You may need a “brainstorming” group. You may need a group with several grammarians, who are experts in the rules of English. Or, you might consider a “genre” group, in which all members write mysteries, for example.

Your ideal group might be one beta reader or an online group with hundreds of members. The critiques you receive might be via email or a weekly face-to-face meeting. What do you want from a writers critique group? Identify your goals and share them with the group.

Essential Keys to a Successful Critique Group:

  • Leave your personal feelings at the door and listen with an open mind.
  • Don’t use up valuable time explaining away and defending your work. In reality, this would not be an option when reviewed by an editor or agent. Just listen.
  • Establish ground rules.
  • Critique the work, not the author
  • Be respectful of all work and individuals.
  • Share professional goals: critique with the idea of moving each participant closer to their goals.
  • Your work is not another writer’s work, and their work is not yours.

Happy writing!

Natalie Bright