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PFL Guidelines

What to Bring

While most of our members write fiction, we’re open to non-fiction works. We don’t critique poetry; other groups that specialize in poetry are better suited for you poets. We also don’t critique picture books, as artwork is beyond our expertise.

Don’t bring rough “first drafts” to the group for critique. The idea is to bring a selection that is as good as you can make it, then experience the joy of seeing how the input of other diverse minds can make it even better. At the very least, proofread and spell-check your work so the others can concentrate on your style and content instead of being copy-editors.

Limit your selections to approximately 3,000 words, double-spaced, 12-point type (typically Arial or Times New Roman). Please put your name, the title of the work and page numbers on your handouts and staple your copies. Ensure your copies are legible, complete and in order. Duplex (two-sided) printing/copying is acceptable and helps save trees. If this is a continuation of a work previously read, please include on the first page a 3-4 line summary of what happened in the previous reading so everyone will know where we left off. Try to bring enough copies for everyone in the group to read along – check the last 2-3 meeting announcements to see how many people have attended recently.


How the System Works

Bring a pen or pencil so you can write notes on the work you critique. Red or colored ink stands out from the text and makes it easier for the author to find your comments. We ask that you put your name atop the work you are critiquing.

You may read your work aloud to the group or ask another member to read it for you.

Out of consideration for nearby restaurant patrons, if you read a selection with profanity or overtly sexual language, don’t say the “objectionable” language aloud.

When you’re finished reading, we’ll go clockwise around the group one by one (starting with the person to your immediate left) and allow members to react to your piece. Each person offering a critique may speak uninterrupted for up to four minutes. It’s acceptable (but not encouraged) for a member to pass if he/she doesn’t wish to offer a critique.

You should mostly listen and take notes when your work is being critiqued. We encourage candor, and we don’t want arguments between authors and critiquers. You’re not under a gag order, but please consider limiting rebuttals to very brief clarifications or answering simple yes/no questions, if that.

When everyone in the circle who wishes to give a critique has finished, an open “crosstalk” session begins. During this time, you may address points that came up during the critiques of your work, and others may offer additional thoughts. This session will be limited to 10 minutes.

Once the oral critiques and crosstalk are finished, the members will return to you the written copies with their notes.

If a significant number of people have brought work to read, or if a large number of members are present, the moderator may impose the “two-minute rule” – oral critiques may last for only two minutes, and crosstalk may be limited to five minutes. This allows the group to critique more works during a meeting.

If a large number of members are present (generally 14 or more), the moderator has the option to split the group into two halves and distribute among these subgroups any writers with work to read. Each subgroup will operate independently for the rest of the evening following the normal rules for critiques.

Critiques generally are confined to the hours of the meeting; however, members are free to ask others to take selections home for more careful study. Unless the author grants you explicit permission, you can’t take someone else’s reading home with you or share its contents with anyone outside PFL.


Membership and the Reading List

There are no dues or fees for PFL membership. Membership is open to all. To join, just show up.

We believe brand-new members benefit by experiencing the group and its procedures before having their writings critiqued. For this reason, and in deference to members who have been working their way up the reading list for a long time, first-time visitors are not allowed to read their own work. After you’ve participated in two meetings and express a desire to continue with the group, you’ll be added to the bottom of the reading list and begin working your way up along with the other members.

New members may benefit from a personal, one-on-one orientation to the rules and the group culture. If you’re a new member, you’ll be approached after your first meeting by one of our “orienteers” to set up a time to meet. This isn’t required, but we encourage it, especially if you have no prior experience with critique groups. An orientation will ensure you understand the rules and will give you an opportunity to ask questions in private.

Authors read in the order their names appear on the reading list, which is posted in advance on our Pure Fiction League website. After you read, your name goes to the end of the list. If it’s your turn to read but you haven’t brought material, you maintain your place in line until you do bring material.

If you miss three consecutive meetings, you’ll be dropped from the reading list unless you make other arrangements with the moderator. If this happens, you’ll be placed at the end of the reading list when you return. This applies to newcomers as well as established members.

The Pure Fiction League website can be found at In addition to our weekly meeting notes, we maintain the updated reading list, links to useful websites, a calendar of events, these guidelines, and so on. PFL also has a Facebook page ( and sponsors the LIT UP! Facebook page (

Members have the opportunity to share their email and social media information with other members. The email addresses are meant for interpersonal communication and the occasional group announcement (such as regarding the holiday party, or a canceled or rescheduled meeting). They are not to be used for broadcast ads, promotions, or anything that resembles spam. Abuse of member information may lead to dismissal from the group. If in doubt, contact the moderator for guidance.

Version 3.0, 20 February 2020

Printable version of the Guidelines (PDF)

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