This topic came up as the result of a couple of my Facebook writing people. They were scared to put out their work for critique because of people who tore them apart, and were not constructive. They were hating on it, in other words. When you are a new writer, constructive criticism can feel like a personal attack against them. Basically a critiquer shows where the strengths are, and where there is room for improvement. However, there are good ways to critique, and bad ways to critique. When I belonged to a local critique group, this topic was discussed in detail for us to follow...thought I would share.
- Be Courteous. There is nothing good about being an a**. Be respectful, this shows you are a professional. “This is the worst crap ever written,” is a BIG NO NO!
- Be Professional: Use good grammar and do not use profanity. Basically use good manners.
- Be Specific: Point out what you mean in your critique. Give examples. When I critique, I usually take out the section that needs work (that I think needs work), and mentionwhat is the problem. Sometimes I even rewrite the passage to show what I mean. Words like “That didn't work for me...” with no explanation of where it didn't work is really annoying You can say, “This section didn't work for me, and this is why...”
- Babylon...oops wrong blog!
- Be Clear and Concise: Make your notations and comments in clear, easy to understand wording. Nothing worse than having to ask about every little thing the critiquer has said in a critique, and this shows you are a professional...if they have to ask that many questions...you haven't done your job as a critiquer.
- Do unto others...: Be respectful when doing a critique. I am because that is the way I would like to be treated when someone is critiquing me.
- Be respectful of Writers Feelings: For instance, if you think something is too wordy (because too many details are being used), you could first state that the details really make the scene come to life, but then gently point out that sometimes it can interrupt flow, you could also make a brief suggestion on how to do that. Also, with newer writers, it can be helpful to point out only a couple of things to focus on, and praise the strengths you see.
- Do Not Judge the Story itself: A critiquers job is to judge the quality of the writing. Especially if it is a genre you do not usually read.
- Reread your critique: Before you send back a critique, go through to make sure it sounds good, and looks good. Looking professional is the key, and the writer has to be able to understand your critique.
I have a form with structural information...i.e. Spelling errors, grammatical errors (tallies), and repetitions. Then I have a section on pacing (flow), and structure comments. I add a disclaimer that states that the critique is just suggestions, and that I am making the comments to make the work stronger. But that the suggestions are just that...suggestions on how I *believe* what the work needs. Then I take the manuscript and go through it, making the comments themselves. Highlighting the errors on grammar, speelign, and specifics etc. To help the writer see what I mean.
So what experiences have you had with critiquing? What is the worst critique you have ever had? Conversely the best? In my next blog, I will discuss on how to take a critique of your work. Happy Writing and critiquing!