Last year, Kevin and Chersti’s group did a full novel review: http://thescribblerscove.blogspot.com/2012/10/fnr-or-full-novel-review.html
What a great idea!
Our writer's group decided to do it, too. We set a goal to swap novels by January 1st. Honestly, we had no idea how big a whale we set out to eat (think a monster blue whale), but it was worth the effort.
First off, no matter the state our manuscript was in, we submitted on the due-date. Period. Not a day (or year) later.
Second, we each asked the critiquers for specific things we were looking for, like character arcs, plot, flow, etc.
Third, we put simple requirements on the reviewing process:
a) Read the manuscript fast.
b) Write a one page review. (Anyone who wanted to do more, could.)
The reviewing process was simple:
1) Have a moderator.
2) Review the good things about the story.
3) Review the things that needed work.
4) Open it up for discussion.
Even though it was among friends, it was still a bit unnerving. Several people in the group felt my first hundred pages moved too slowly and didn’t help the plot.
Honesty. True Honesty. It’s a blessing that can hurt.
However, one of the benefits of a group review was it helped weed through the subjectivity and find things collectively-agreed-upon that needed attention. And yeah, even the subjective items were pretty on-target. The first hundred pages that did absolutely nothing for my story? Gone.
However - DISCLAIMER: After receiving a review, always allow yourself time to think it through. Make decisions after your emotions simmer down.
Long story short, I have a nice list of bullet points to work on. I have a growing respect for the power of various perspectives. I’m grateful for the time the others invested in my story, and hope as I review theirs, I use as much tact. (I expected a karate-chop, and all I got was a quick band-aid removal.)
And Kevin, thanks for telling us about it! It’s a great help.