When critiquing a piece
of writing, consider the following elements:
may find it easier to put your critiques into the
headings below, and give your views on each topic.
Some members prefer to break the story down into parts
and refer to each element in the story that they feel
needs further work.
What can be problematic is when a member writes about
how the story has affected them personally and/or
offers praise. Although praise and sentiment are very
worthwhile they are not what a writer needs most when
trying to "polish" their work to perfection. In the
end, it is ultimately whatever you are most comfortable
with, but at all times consider what would you
most want for feedback on your writing.
Do the characters seem real with depth and
emotion, or are they recognizable stereotypes? Are
the motives of the characters understandable and logical
to the story? Are the good guy(s) likeable and the
bad guy(s) really bad?
characters are very important to any story and they
must be believable. There is room in any critique
Does the dialogue seem realistic? Can the reader imagine
real people talking as the characters do?
If the story is, for example, about the rich and famous,
details of wealth must be included. If about poor
people, the reader has to see that they are
poor. Is there atmosphere in the story allowing the
reader to experience what the characters experience?
Can the reader imagine the location around the characters
POINT OF VIEW:
Is the POV first or third person? If it is third person,
is the narrator able to see into the heads of the
characters? Is the POV consistent throughout the piece?
Does the story develop logically, so that the reader
can follow the specific changes which occur in the
story, or does the story make sudden leaps which cause
the reader to lose the direction of the narration?
Is the progression of characters and events logical,
or is the whole story too confusing?
Pacing is a key to appeal; how well does the reader
get involved in the story? Does the action progress
slowly or quickly? How long does it take for the story
to be set up? Is the reader drawn into the story from
the beginning? Is it non-stop action or character
development? Different readers prefer different paces
in what they read.
A beginning writer often has trouble with mechanics
and needs help. Sentence structure, verb agreement,
and aspects of basic style are considered here. If
a reader feels that there are problems with mechanics,
s/he will specify the problems seen, rather than simply
stating that they are there.
Readers react to what they read. Sometimes the gut
reaction to the story is more important than anything
mentioned above--especially when the writer is more
experienced. Gut reaction can negate nearly anything,
with the exception of flaming another writer.
A GOOD CRITIQUE GROUP PARTNER
Here are some general rules to being a good critique
group partner. You will get out of this experience
what you put in, so do your best to follow the rules
Now is not the time to lie. Be gentle, but
tell the truth. If the submitter's story doesn't have
enough plot, or the characterization needs work, tell
them so! Editors don't have time to tell you what
they think--critique partners do.
2. BE THICK-SKINNED
The first time you have a story critiqued by a group
of writers might be difficult for you. If some critiques
are somewhat negative to your material, it doesn't
mean you're a bad writer. It's sometimes hard to separate
our writing from ourselves, but it is absolutely
necessary that you learn to do so. Nothing is
personal in a group such as ours, comments are made
on the words that are submitted only. Even after
you're published, editors will want to change things.
And you may well gather a heap of rejections before
that time. Buck up and get used to it.
3. CONSIDER COMMENTS CAREFULLY
Not every comment a critique partner makes will apply
to your story. It could be just a personal preference.
You are the final judge of what to change
and what to keep. However, don't blow off
a comment because it hurts your feelings. If possible,
let it be for a while, and look at it again later.
Often you'll find at least a shred of wisdom in the
4. BE KIND
This is important, treat others as you have them treat
unto you. Honesty doesn't mean brutality. A writer's
story is his/her baby--and you don't want to tell
someone their baby is ugly!!! Word your critiques
carefully, as you would have others critique your
5. BE ENCOURAGING
One of the biggest benefits to having critique partners
is having others who understand what you are going
through as you sweat blood trying to get work published.
Encourage one another to your best writing, and help
one another when you face a nasty case of writer's
block or rejection. Hang in there together!
6. BE FRIENDLY
Get to know each other. Become friends. Writing a
story in today's market is a harrowing experience,
best shared with others. The more you know about each
other, the more you'll be able to help.
7. BE PROMPT
When you send something out to be critiqued, you are
probably on pins and needles to know what others think.
Remember, your partners feel the same way about their
material!!! Do your best to get back to them
within a reasonable amount of time.
8. LOOK AT THE BIG PICTURE
the first thing you'll be tempted to do as a critique
partner (especially if you have strong grammar skills)
is to start nit-picking commas, etc. While this is
helpful on a FINAL DRAFT, what you should be looking
for in the early stages is the overall picture. Is
the plot sound? Do the characters do and say things
that are out of character for them? Do they
depend too much on adverbs, rather than choosing strong
On the final draft, of course, you'll want to make
sure what they are sending to the publishers is picture
perfect. Now you get to edit out all those
More than likely, your critique partners will be the
ones who laugh with you when you get the go-ahead
to send a manuscript, cry with you when you face rejection,
and rejoice with you when you sell that story. Best
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