Critiques

Posted: January 18, 2011 in Writing
Tags: ,

So, I was on Haley Whitehall’s site and she was talking about what she called the “Critique Earthquake”. It was a nice little bit of reading, and it got me to thinking about what critiquing should be.

One of the things that I feel is very important is that you, as an author, should somewhat direct the critique. You should let whoever is critiquing your work know what areas you would like them to focus on. By all means, allow them to stray a little, but I find that you can get a much better critique out of someone if they know what you are looking for. If I know my grammar is off, and I just want to know if a certain scene works in general, I say so. A lot of bad critiques could be eliminated by implementing this simple idea.

As a critiquer of other people’s work, I feel it is important to do two things:

Firstly, you need to be honest. If you see something that isn’t working, say so. An overly praising critique does the aspiring writer no good at all. Don’t be cruel about it. Just state what you feel is not up to snuff. Also, as part of this honesty, make some suggestions. How often have you sat there, knowing that something was off about what you wrote, not knowing how to fix it. When I am critiquing someone’s work where the scene seems empty, I may suggest that the author give me more sensory input, or maybe get some motion into the story. Just generalized little hints are all that is needed at times.

The second thing that I believe that all critiquers should do is say something nice. Give the author at least one thing that you feel worked well in their writing. Maybe it is their dialogue. Maybe it is the idea that they put forward. Maybe it is the description of their world. Don’t forget how much work that someone put into that piece that you are now ripping apart. It is their baby. Imperfect, perhaps, but still a creation of love. I have yet to read something that had no merit whatsoever. Even when I have personally disliked someone in a critique group I found a way to lead with the positive. I also try to return to this positive at the end as well. There is no reason to be mean or abrasive.

Well, that sums up my thoughts at this moment. Enjoy reading, and enjoy writing even more.

Comments
  1. amkuska says:

    I agree with this quite a bit, although to be honest by the time I’m ready to have my story critiqued its because I -hate- my manuscript and I just wish someone would help me BLOW IT INTO A THOUSAND PIECES OF DOOM!!!

    Er…you did not hear that violent outburst from me. I’m a nice person. Mostly.

    I usually end up playing 20 questions with my reader. “What do you think of this? Did this work for you? Did you understand this? Tell me what the chapter was about in your words…oh you thought that? Oh…” *notes*

    • jmcmurray says:

      Asking those questions of your reader are exactly what I would recommend. Undirected critiques are what really hurt. Most people will find that the non-0constructive criticisms will decline if they are more direct with their readers.

      Oh, and violent outbursts are useful. At least that is what I tell myself.

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