Wednesday, May 11, 2011


Critiquing. I see some of you wince. Okay, I don't see you, but I'm sure some of you are. This word can make us shiver with joy or pain. Trust me, I've had many eyes read my work and it doesn't get easier, you just need to develop that thick skin.

I never knew how to critique until I started to critique, and to be quite honest, I'm still learning. I like to think that I'm better at it than I used to be, but I know there is room for improvement. There are many methods, but I like to use the positive approach. I point out what may need improvement or what I thought didn't work, along with what I liked. I know it helps me when this method is used mainly because I know what works and what doesn't. Of course, in the end it is up to the author, right?

So, how do we become better critiquers?

One way--practice. Just like our writing skills, practice makes perfect. That means find a fellow writer to swap with, preferably in the genre you write. Those are the folks who know what works.

Another way--advice from others who are more experienced. Definitely, those who are wiser can give tips and pointers on an effective critique. You can find some on Teen Fire, YALitChat. These are only a couple resources off the top of my head.

Self help books--I have to say I'm not a great one with self help books. I try, I really do, but I tend to get distracted with them. Some do not hold my interest and I find my mind wandering. There have only been only a few self help books that have held my interest.

I found this book. The Writing and Critique Group Survival Guide by Becky Levine.

I have not read this, but it sounds interesting. Has anyone used this? I'm curious.

 I did do a blog post on getting critiques and ways to find critiques way back when. You can read it here.

What are your methods?

Do you have any advice on giving a great critique?

Keeping it short today. Lots to do. Have a great day! 


  1. I think I'd really benefit from this book but I have more learning to do before I become a serious critiquer! I'm keeping this on my TBR pile though.

    I just recently purchased a 'How to write a chick lit' book. Though I've written one and I am half way through a new one I think it'd be nice to have some tips and tricks of the trade while in revision mode.

    Then I'll bust that critique book wide open for some much needed ideas!

  2. I read through the work and leave it for a day or so. Then I go through it with a fine toothed comb and point out both what I enjoyed and what I think needs work.

    Most importantly, I try to keep most personal preferences out of the equation, focusing on what the writer wants me to.


  3. The best way I find to critique someone else's work is to do it on the first read through. My initial reacation. What's good, bad, and ugly. And always point out what's good. Always.

  4. I take into consideration the stage of what I'm reading. If it's just a chapter critique I won't point out typos if it's a first draft. The best critiques are the truthful ones balanced with lots of praise. Just pointing out passive words or awk. phrases isn't nearly as important as structural, plot, and character problems. I don't try and rewrite for people b/c that invades on their voice, but instead, I point out that a paragraph is awk. or repetitive...etc. And let them fix it with their own words.

  5. When I crit, I always look for something good to say. I often start with mild criticisms to test the waters. I can't always dive in with a full-fledged, no-holds-barred crit if I'm afraid the writer isn't ready for it.

  6. I'm still working at being a better critter/beta reader. Everyone has room to grow, and we have our own strengths and weakenesses when it comes to providing feedback.

    I pretty much do what Laura does. I'll tell you when a sentence is awkward, but I won't necessarily rewrite it for you (unless I can). I always love it when my CP corrects my sentences, because she's usually dead on.

    I've learned from reading the feedback of others.

  7. hi miss christine! wow cool tips for being a good critiquer. i love doing critique stuff and i try to do a really good job on it. whats cool is i get writers of mg that ask me to crituque cause im a mg reader. so maybe another good idea is ask someone to critique your stuff whos a reader of what sorta stuff you write.
    ...hugs from lenny

  8. I might have to get that book! My critique partners are doing an awesome job, but when it comes my turn, I think I just might suck.

  9. I'm really aware that no-one (including me) wants to hear bad things about their writing so feedback is tricky to do. I decide that I want people to be honest but kind and constructive so I try to do that in my feedback.
    Using the feedback sandwich approach and an 8-9 point rating scale on characterisation etc.(and under each I give examples of what I'm rating to illustrate why), though I like the sound of that book you recommend. :O)

  10. You can never stop learning as a writer, editor, and crit partner/beta reader. I think being a crit partner you learn as much from critiquing your partner's as well as from their notes on your MS. It's give and take.

  11. Sounds like a great book. I've learnt a lot of critiquing tips from working with my CPs, but I still feel like I'm learning. I tend to do the sandwich method and have feedback & compliments, too. :)

  12. I definitely need to learn a better critiquing method. I tend to either point out major things, like "this paragraph confused the heck out of me" or "where's the tension, man?!?" or else get really nitpicky (the latter only if I have nothing to say about major things).

    I do also make sure to point out positives, as there is always something positive to say. Mostly always.

  13. I want to become a better critiquer. Receiving crits and watching others crit has helped a lot.

    I carefully reread. If I miss things that's okay, because I noticed everyone has strengths when critiquing. In small groups I've noticed I'm stronger on plot than others, while others have a knack for pace, and so on.

  14. I'm honest with my critique partners, but let them know I want to see them succeed. So they know it comes from the best intentions.

    It took time to learn to talk to each other and give each other what each writer needed.

    So patience on all sides is needed. I say, we just recently [after meeting 1-2x a month for over a year] improved at learning to give each other valuable feedback.

  15. Dropping by again to let you know you won a book at my blog!

  16. My biggest thing with critiques is the honesty. Even if you can't line-edit, or you're not sure what works/doesn't work, you can always critique simply as a reader instead of a writer :) I find both types incredibly helpful.

  17. I enjoy critiquing. It isn't easy. But I've found that the more I do it the better I am at critiquing my own writing, catching those passive verbs and questionable plot shifts.

  18. oh, man. I LOVE getting critiques. Just won one from Michelle Merrill, and it was SO great getting another person's response. Writing is such a solitary thing.

    I could give loads of tips, but it's all just learned from years as an editor--which was your point. Practice.

    My biggest piece of advice: Critique the way you would want to be critiqued. Don't be afraid to say what needs to be said, and ALWAYS use a spoonful of sugar~ :o)

  19. There's nothing more valuable to a writer than a good critique. Learning to give critiques in a way that uplifts and helps an aspiring author is a true talent. I'm so grateful to my critique group. They take my novels to the next level.

  20. I did a critiquing post after reading this book. There are some sections of critique groups that I did not agree with, but overall the book was useful.

    I've been giving and receiving critiques for a couple years now, I have my own feedback style. It doesn't work for every writer. Not exactly harsh, but I spend more time on areas that could use improvement than what works.

    If it works, the writer usually gets a simple complement; but if it doesn't, I can be pretty detailed. But I only offer crits to authors I've interacted with frequently so they are used to my blunt style.

    I feel critiquing is an important aspect of writing - both giving and receiving. Its a learniing process. I know I'm a better writer for the experience.


  21. I am HORRIBLE when it comes to critiquing because I always think the work of others is better than my own. With that frame of mind, it's pretty difficult thinking of suggestions that are different from what has been produced. I'm hoping once I experience this process with my own work, I'll learn how to be helpful.

  22. I love it when bloggers post pages to be critiqued and then everyone gets to chime in (as well as the hosting blogger). To "practice" I write down (or type up) my critique without reading anyone else's and then compare. See what I agree with and what I missed.