What makes a good critique? Do you have a comment sandwich: all the negative stuff between two comments such as “I really like character Y” or “You have a good grasp of narrative”?

Do you suggest solutions for people, or do you just point out what they did wrong? Do you judge? Do you hate to critique? Do you correct their grammar? Do you have nothing to say?

What’s the most useful thing you know about critiquing?

7 responses to “Critics

  1. I love it if the writer asks for something specific. If it’s a first read, or if they want more general feedback, I have two columns titled: “This is what’s working,” and “Opportunities.” Not because I’m cheesy, but because I believe it’s important for the writer to see what’s working for the reader so far, and because any negative feedback/reaction is an opportunity for moving forward.

  2. The most useful think I know about critiquing other people’s work is that the story isn’t mine.

    I’m not there to rewrite it the way I would’ve done it if I’d had the idea first.

    I’m there to respectfully report to the writer what I see and don’t see in the story, what meaning I’ve taken and what confusion I might have, what knocks my socks off and what knocks me out of the story. Plus whatever else they specify.

    I try not to critique as a writer, but as a reader. And as far as I know, I don’t have a price on my head, yet . . .

    • My favorite critique ever was my very supportive friend who read my whole manuscript just scrawled “bullshit” under one of my ridiculous metaphors. Or under “lazy sunshine” she wrote something like “you’re a poet, for christ’s sake”.

  3. I try to say what I think is working and what isn’t. How I deliver that message depends on who I’m critiquing and how well I know them. Yes, I correct grammar, but that can be scary as I’m not a grammar expert. so only if it’s obvious. I also correct spelling.

  4. I try to give feedback based on what the writer needs at the time. For me, the most helpful critique is one where possible solutions are batted around, so if I see something that makes me go hmm, I try to offer something that might work better. It doesn’t matter whether the other writer takes the suggestion as long as it gets him thinking about the work in a different way.

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