Top Seven Takeaways from Writing Conferences (Part 5): Critique Sessions


concritMany conferences offer critique sessions in a group setting or one-on-one feedback meetings with a professional writer, editor, or agent. Is it worth missing out on another session to attend a critique?


Even if you are in an MFA program or have a phenomenal writing group, the feedback you receive in those critique session – while valuable – is often geared toward first (or near-first) drafts. The piece(s) you bring to a writing conference critique should be close to what you perceive as publishable. As such, the feedback you receive from publishing experts will help you fine tune your work so that it is marketable and ready to be sent out for queries or submission. It’s unlikely that the other ten or so MFA students (and even the instructor for that matter) can offer you the kind of insight that seasoned publishing professions can. And while your local writing group is invaluable for helping develop your work, the input from a professional can make all the difference.

There are some things to consider …

  1. Be prepared to receive feedback. Even brilliant stories and poems can benefit from another pair of eyes and seasoned input. Don’t let your ego get in the way. Listen, take notes, say thank you, and let the feedback simmer for a few days. Don’t try to argue your perspective or explain why you are right.
  2. Do your homework. Make sure that the person(s) who will be giving the critique is a up downgood fit for your work. In other words, if you want feedback on a romance piece and the only available time slot is with an editor who specializes in sci-fi… consider waiting until next time.
  3. Bring everything you might need. In addition to the requested number of pages, come ready with business cards, additional work, a bio, a synopsis and/or elevator pitch, and breath mints (hey, you’ll be in close quarters!). You never know where a critique session will lead and don’t want to scribble your email on a napkin or the corner of a piece of paper. Be ready for anything.
  4. Don’t forget – you’ll hear the good things about your piece, too! Critique sessions are designed to provide constructive criticism, and constructive criticism includes elements in the story, poem, or essay that work well for the reviewer. It helps to hear about what you’re doing right so you can keep it up in the draft you’re presenting and in future work.

If you can’t attend a conference that has a critique opportunity, I recommend joining a writing group (either virtual or in-person) or asking a trusted writing friend for feedback. While it can be difficult to listen to feedback and criticism, it can also make the revision process easier and more focused.

How about you? I’d love to hear different experiences with critiques and feedback! Plus, sharing stories and advice will help other writers as we look for new opportunities to grow. So share away!


4 Comments Add yours

  1. James Stack says:

    I had been in a writing group from which I greatly benefited. They mostly gave me “little” things to work on, but the little things add up. I had an editor read my memoir and comment – I was thrilled to have her say when she loved something or that something made her laugh or that it was a fantastic description, etc., and after my ego got over the things she told me to delete, I knew she was spot on with her comments. I no longer have an ego like that – seriously – since I know a good editor is only going to make my work stronger. As such, I see critiques and editors – I love them!!! Thanks for posting these insights.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Kat says:

      Thank you!
      Great comments, James. I think receiving constructive criticism takes practice. And you make a great point about hearing the good things. It is equally important to know what works as it is to know what could use some additional thought. I think you nailed it – a good editor makes works stronger.


  2. S.K. Lamont says:

    Excellent post Kat! I think it takes a certain amount of bravery to receive a critique and in the beginning it can be a bit daunting! I have yet to attend to a writing conference so these are excellent tips! Like James above I was thrilled when the editor loved certain things, and had to digest what needed to be cut and improved, but it definitely enhanced the work overall! Thanks so much for these great tips!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Kat says:

      You are very welcome! And thank you for your comments – I think it is good to hear other writers talk about editing and critiques because most people naturally shy away from it (I used to!). 🙂


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