The last two articles I’ve talked about things I’ve learned on my writing journey. The First Draft Is Not 'The End' and Need for Critiques and Edits. Today I’m talking about some of the things I’ve learned about giving a critique.
When giving critique of another’s writing what’s involved? That depends upon what I’m being asked to do. Is it a critique for content? Or spelling and grammar or both? Is this an early draft or the final draft?
The dictionary defines critique: the art of evaluating or analyzing works of art or literature.
A careful judgment in which you give your opinion about the good and bad parts of something—such as a piece of writing or a work of art.
So when I give a critique I’m paying close attention to problems that stop the story or pull me out of the story. I make a note each time I spot something whether it’s a scene or word choice or character doesn’t ring true or a reaction that doesn’t feel right. Sometimes I ask questions and other times I may offer a suggestion to make it smoother or even suggest this scene would have more impact if X, Y, or Z was done. Or if, in my opinion, a scene would be better if it was in a different place.
Always I keep in mind the tone I use when asking those questions or making those suggestions. I keep in the forefront of my mind that this is someone else’s story so I need to get a feel for their voice and style of writing as well as their vision of this story. I show respect for that vision and voice by not intruding my voice or how I would write it or present it. I want to show respect for and have a care for the feelings of the writer, who is usually a friend, but I also want a good story to be the best it can. I want to see the writer succeed. To do that I have to be honest but I don’t have to be brutal.
Critiques should be constructive criticism. What does that mean?
The dictionary defines constructive criticism as promoting improvement or development.
In other words my job is to help the writer to develop or improve the story. My comments are designed to encourage the writer to do that. I can’t do that if I take a sledgehammer to the project. Then the critique becomes destructive. It tears down the writer and their work. It’s hurtful. It’s not building up and encouraging improvement; it’s destroying.
Things to keep in mind when giving or receiving critiques.
- Critiques take time to do. Unless there is a deadline involved, which is usually stated up front, turnaround may be a couple of weeks. Patience is needed.
- No matter how tactful the critique, it may still sting the ego or hurt feelings.
- Critiques are the opinion of the person evaluating the piece.
- You don’t have to agree with everything said and probably won’t. Use what works with your vision and disregard the rest.
- Problems identified in a critique doesn’t mean you or your wringing are being attacked so don’t respond as if you are (and that includes slamming the person in thinly veiled blog rants or on social media. Writers live in a really a small world).
- If someone takes time out of their busy schedule to critique your work at least have the respect to consider the comments even if you have to walk away for awhile and come back to the critique.
- Be professional, honest, and tactful in giving critiques.
I don’t do a lot of critiques, lately, but they have taught me a great deal about writing.
- What about you? Do you do critiques? What have you learned?
Wednesday I won’t be blogging as I’ll be taking my son to the airport and from here that’s an all day thing and depending upon the weather, that might mean going up the day before and staying overnight at my sister in St. Louis.