Tier 2 Critique Groups


Tier 2 Critique Groups

Houston Writers Guild announces a new level of critique groups for authors with novels that are complete but not ready for publication. This second tier is a more intense mutual editing experience than that obtained in most groups.

The first Tier 2 critique group has been in operation for about two months. The three members selected completed novels ready for extensive editing. Once a week, each writer posts up to 5,000 words on an electronic dropbox, and a few days later, they hold an online critique session. Allowing time to read one another’s work offline encourages thoughtful comments about character development, use of setting, and continuity. The critiques go into great depth.

If you have a novel that is complete and you’re ready to take it up the next steep learning curve while editing it for publication, you may want to join a Tier 2 group. Be prepared for a major time commitment, though, because HWG requires the Tier 2 members to retain activity in a Tier 1 group.

Setting Up a Tier 2 Critique Group with HWG

Defining Tier 2 Critique Groups

The second level of critique groups within Houston Writers Guild helps authors who have completed a novel move more quickly through a critique process and thereby increase the quality of the work before publication. The maximum amount critiqued each week is about double what is allowed in most groups. Group members receive the pages several days before the meeting so they have time to review the pages in depth. The meetings could be face-to-face, but online sessions remove the problem of commuting and of finding a mutually convenient location.

The HWG has set several criteria for membership in a Tier 2 critique group.

  • The work that is subject of the critiques must be a completed novel. This means the story must be finished.
  • The work must not be published or in the process of publication through a traditional publisher.
  • The author must be committed to editing the work.
  • Each member must commit to diligently critique the other members’ work.
  • To become a member of an HWG Tier 2 group, the author must be a member of a Tier 1 HWG group and is expected to maintain participation in that Tier 1 group.
  • Each group should comprise three members.

Tier 2 Group Process

The first Tier 2 group established a weekly process. Other groups can adapt it to their needs.

  • Name one person coordinator of the group.
  • Hold meetings once a week (e.g. Monday morning at 9 am).
  • Limit submissions to 5000 words (3,000 to 4,000 is most common).
  • Post submissions to a drop box or cloud storage three days in advance (e.g. by Thursday night).
  • Review colleagues’ submissions and mark up electronically. Post the critique file at latest the night before the meeting (e.g. Sunday night).
    1. Members should agree on a format for the comments. Making comments in the text with track changes on is recommended, but so long as everyone agrees, other methods are possible.
  • Provide critique in on-line meeting.
    1. For each stage, there is the one critiquing (A), the one being critiqued (B), and a timer (T).
    2. T generally mutes the microphone (but can add short comments) and announces when fifteen minutes has passed.
    3. At this point, A should wrap up. The objective is to spend no more than 20 minutes per stage.
    4. T and A swap roles to complete the critique of B’s work.
    5. Rotate roles until all three have been critiqued.
  • Clean up the electronic files. Only the author should keep her or his work long term.
    1. After each meeting, the group coordinator should delete any files from the drop box or cloud storage that are two weeks old or more. This leaves the most recent files for review the next week.
    2. Similarly, delete the files on home computers with the same frequency.

Sharing Files

Several methods are available for sharing files. The group can email attachments, although that clutters email servers and can lead to forgetting to delete other peoples’ files. Google Drive is free for the small amounts of storage required. Dropbox is not free, but if one of your members has an account, works well. Other cloud storage sites are also available.

Online Meetings

Webex is free for meetings with no more than three members (ideal for Tier 2). It handles both audio and video, although there can be some setup glitches for the uninitiated.


Why are Tier 2 members required to be members of a Tier 1 group?

HWG does not want to deplete the other critique groups of what is often the more experienced members. HWG is committed to helping writers at all stages.

Why must I have a completed novel to join a Tier 2 group?

The objective of a Tier 2 group is to move rapidly through a completed novel.

Could I form a group with four members? Two?

At this time, HWG recommends groups of three, but would entertain other concepts.

Why the timer?

We are all busy. Enforcing time restrictions keeps everyone focused and encourages spending time on more important areas of critique. The author will see the other corrections in the critique file.

Does everyone use the same software (e.g. Word)?

No. But the group should decide on a file format (e.g. Word) for posting that is compatible with everyone’s software of choice.