Novel Critique: Organizing Group Feedback

Posted by on Mar 13, 2014 in Writing Inspiration | 6 comments

Novel Critique: Organizing Group Feedback

On March 6 I talked about my best practices when it comes to receiving feedback during critique group discussions. Today I want to explain my process for pulling all of the comments together in a way that is useful to me and my famous pea brain :-).

Keeping in mind that we have over fifteen people in our group and even when only some provide feedback, there’s still a lot to sift through! But here were my steps.

  1. I took notes during the discussion. I brought my laptop and wrote down things that struck me, occasionally asking “Is that in your notes?” so I knew whether I should write it down or that I could refer to it later. When the discussion went “off book,” that’s when I was really scribbling.
  2. I reviewed written notes and highlighted suggestions that resonated. Nearly everyone gave me typed up comments so I read through them with a highlighter in hand and marked everything that I wanted to remember and/or revise in the manuscript. I made special note of anything that was said by at least three people.
  3. I reviewed manuscripts to check for “big” stuff. I went through all of the marked up manuscripts–both paper and digital–to pull out any “big” things like character development, plot points, etc. In this first past I don’t focus on line edits because often during the course of my revisions, whole scenes will disappear so it doesn’t make sense to correct a word here and there if it may be gone altogether. I do pull the pages with good suggestions, though, and when I am in my final polish, I will refer to those to see if the text still exists and make the changes at that time.
  4. I compiled the notes into one document. Once I’ve done my highlighting and manuscript review, I type up everything into a new document organized by character, plot, climax, etc. — whatever categories make sense to me.
  5. I determined which changes will have the biggest impact on the story. If there needs to be a character change–like someone isn’t believable or likable enough, that usually means I will have to tweak that throughout the story. Character development and motivation are usually the two things that cause the biggest changes so I start with those.
  6. I let the big ideas simmer. At this point, because of the review and compiling the notes, the suggestions are planted firmly in my mind. This enables me to start mulling over possible scenarios–character adjustments, scene changes, and so on–until things begin to solidify. I do this anywhere from a few days to a few weeks.

Once I feel things coming together in my mind, I dive into revisions.

If you have a process for compiling and implementing feedback you receive, share it!


Hey there!


  1. I really like ‘let it simmer’. I had to learn this the hard way. I would rush home from a critique meeting and immediately make all the changes anyone suggested, then when I reread the story I realized it wasn’t even my story anymore. Now I ‘let it simmer’ before committing to a big change!

    • Yes! I used to do the same thing. It’s good to get to a place where (a) we know we need to let it all simmer and (b) we have the patience to do so :-). That usually means we have other projects we are passionate about and can turn to while our subconscious does its thing. I’m now mulling the novel suggestions over while I go for a run, do the dishes, etc. Snippets of scenes are starting to spark…soon I’ll be ready to jump in!

  2. Denise, I shared a link to this post with the 12x 12 picture book gang and with a ReviMo group (revision month). Thanks for the tips.

    • Wow! Thanks so much, Stacy. I share 12 x 12 with lots of PB writers in the classes I teach. Are you doing it this year?

  3. Great post Denise! I especially like the idea of typing up all the big ideas into one document. I’ll have to try that. Currently, I keep mine all in one hardcopy notebook – maybe a little dangerous.

    • Thanks, Jean! The single doc really helps me keep things straight. I’d love to see that notebook sometime :-).

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