Peer review and collaboration with other writers is an asset for prompting new ideas and quality writing.
Just look at Douglas Preston and Lincoln Child. Over the last 25 years, they’ve co-authored 17 thrillers, including multiple bestsellers. One of their books — Relic — was even turned into a major motion picture.
What’s interesting is that Preston and Child live 500 miles apart. Their collaboration takes place via phone, fax, and Internet. Because of that, they’ve learned to really listen to each other’s opinions and to work as a team when it comes to strengthening their writing.
In fact, they begin each project with extensive discussion about plot and structure, just so they can get clear on their goals. Once the first draft is typed up, they pass it back and forth multiple times — always rewriting, editing, and tightening the content.
Their approach is a good example of why critique groups and peer reviews work so well for writing. These are proactive ways to get your writing critiqued by fellow writers. If done right, a peer review will improve your copy so it clearly expresses the point you want to make… and ultimately make you a better writer.
Quick Guide to a Winning Peer Review for Writers
In a peer review session, you ask other writers to look at, rate, and suggest improvements on what you’ve written.
During the process, you, the writer, are not supposed to speak. That’s the most important part of the process. I’ll tell you why in a minute.
The ground rules are threefold:
- The reviewers of the copy can’t criticize it. Instead, they can only make observations and suggest improvements.
- If it’s your copy being reviewed, you can’t offer up any explanations for why you wrote what you did.
- Suggestions for improvement have to be specific and copy-focused.
In other words, a reviewer should never say, “This stinks. It needs to be better.”
That’s not helpful.
Instead, the reviewer might say, “Your introduction is confusing… I’m not sure whether you’re talking about one of two things. Consider adding more specificity. Maybe use some numbers to make your point.”
As the person whose copy is being reviewed, you can’t reply, “No, it’s fine — here’s what it means: [insert explanation].” Because if you think about it, you’re not going to be there to explain when your reader gets confused. Your copy has to be clear and easy to understand on its own. This is why learning to keep quiet and listen to feedback from your group is so important.
In fact, I can always tell when someone is new to the peer review process, or at least when they didn’t pay attention to the rules. They get defensive and riled up. They take the critiques as a direct attack on their writing ability and break the rule of silence by explaining their intentions.
Not only does this make them look like the new kid in class, it’s unprofessional.
What you have to realize is that reviews and critiques are designed to make your writing stronger. They are not personal attacks on your literary skills. They’re free tickets to improving everything you write.
With practice, you’ll get to a point where every critique is welcome because you know it will enhance your overall results.
If you’re serious about improving your writing skills fast, you’d be wise to join or put together your own peer review group for writing, either online or in person. Here are some tips to get you started:
- Attend live events. Whether they’re in person or virtual, you’ll have the opportunity to connect with people who can form a targeted peer review group.
- Join writing clubs in your community.
- Link up with other Barefoot Writers through the Barefoot Writer Facebook page.
- Connect with writers through online forums.
Also, when putting together your peer review group, look for writers who…
- Understand the basics of writing persuasive copy.
- Have a variety of interests and come from different backgrounds (meaning you get different perspectives).
- Will respond to critique requests in good time.
- Welcome critiques and suggestions for improving their own writing.
- Share a commitment to making the most of everything the Barefoot lifestyle has to offer.