How to Give an Awesome Writing Critique— Guest Blog by Brittany Touris

September 24, 2014 / Brittany Touris / A while back I did a post on how to get your work critiqued. I talked about how to humbly accept the advice of fellow writers without getting offended. But what do you do when you’re on the other side of things? It’s important when critiquing others’ work that you do a thorough job, but also that you don’t tear it apart.

Here are some tips to help you give an awesome critique.

  1. If you notice a pattern in their grammar or sentence structure, only mark it for the first 2-3 pages. If they’re making the same mistakes throughout the whole piece, it’s likely they don’t even know they’re doing it. If you mark it on the first few pages, they’ll get a sense of what you mean and then they’ll be able to go through and fix the rest. This also saves you from a lot of tedious work.
  2. Remember certain things are only your opinion. If you don’t like the character, it doesn’t mean every reader will dislike him or her. If you don’t like the style of writing, you might just not be used to it. And if it’s a genre you don’t usually read, there will probably be parts you don’t like. It’s okay to share these opinions, as long as you don’t state them like they’re facts.
  3. Mention parts you didn’t understand or that you had to read more than once. Even if you figured it out and all the information is there, if you had trouble reading it, someone else probably will too. If the writer wants to make it confusing, that’s up to them. But it could have been inadvertent, so let them know.

Don’t even apologize to the joker.

Never apologize for a critique. Don’t say things like, “Maybe I’m just dumb, but…” Or “Sorry to bring this up again.” They submitted their story to you so they could get your opinion, so give them exactly that. There’s no wrong way to read a piece and whatever feedback you have will surely help them better it.

  1. Ask a lot of questions. Usually it’s best to wait to ask the questions until after you’ve finished talking about your initial reaction. This way, the writer’s input doesn’t sway what you thought of the piece, as it stands alone. Once you’ve said everything, though, ask every question you had while reading. Some things the writer may not want to divulge yet, if it’s part of a bigger work. Still there is no harm in asking. The writer will usually be glad to have a chance to explain him or herself. And you can let them know if their intentions came through or not.
  2. Give positive feedback too. Sure, the point of critiques is to talk about what they still need to work on, but positivity is always welcome. It also helps to know what not to change. What’s working for the story is just as important to know as what’s not working.

Try these out at your next critique session and let me know how it goes for you!


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