What about group leadership and rules? Support groups have elected officers. Most Discussion & Critique groups don’t. However, some jobs still have to get done. These are:
a. Timekeeper. Organizing humans is like herding cats. Someone has to call meetings to order, and let people know when time is up.
b. Moderator. In Discussion groups, there’s usually a topic. Leeway may exist but someone has to bring people back on topic when they drift. It’s best if people police themselves but they won’t always. Moderators may also deal with cross-talk, where individual conversations start while someone else is reviewing.
Moderators may remind members of certain rules. My group asks writers not to comment significantly until all reviews are done.
c. Taking Minutes? Some groups have a member take minutes. I don’t think it’s necessary.
Group Rules: Best Rule = Be Flexible. Rules should be a group decision. We voted on ours democratically, and can change them the same way. Any member can make a proposal for change.
Procedures: These vary widely from group to group. For my critique group, submissions are sent to the group via an email listserve. Reviewers print a copy of the piece, make notes on it ahead of time, then discus their thoughts at the meeting. Reviewers give copies of marked up pieces to the author. This creates another job: “Keeper of the List.” This person adds new submissions to the review list as they come in. I handle this job in my group.
As far as length of submissions go, shorter is better. We generally look for five to ten pages of material at a time. We look at single chapters of novels, and sometimes longer short stories of up to twenty pages. I’ve shared parts of two novels with the group but they’ve never seen every bit of those novels. I needed the most help early in the process.