And don’t get me wrong, I love having my family and close friends read my WIP, but they’ll never be able to give a critique the way another writer can, because they don’t know what information a writer is after. And for some of them, no matter how many times I assure them that I can handle the truth, they just give the completely unhelpful response – “It’s good.”
So having made this decision, I had to start thinking about how to go about giving a good critique, because having a CP is a two way deal. Here’s what I came up with, written as a kinda writer’s toolkit:
A good CP won't just say “it’s good” or “I don’t like it” or leave the writer scratching their head trying to figure out what you were trying to say. Don’t just focus on the what (it’s good), because then you will miss the most important part of the critique – the why.
It’s good because I love the way this dialogue shows the characters personality.
If you get stuck with the why, try to keep the word ‘because’ in your mind, it will prompt you to take that next mental step.
What to look for
If you’re not sure how to pinpoint the sections that need work, try reading through the sample and make a note if you:
- Become confused by the setting/dialogue/action/description
- Become distracted/are finding it hard to focus on the writing
- Read something that is so unlikely that you can no longer suspend disbelief
- Read something that you really like
Once you’ve pinpointed these, go back to asking yourself why.
Things to consider
When writing a critique you might want to consider the following...
Characterisation: do the characters seem real, do they have depth and emotion? Are they based on well known stereotypes? Do real motives drive the characters actions?
Dialogue: Is the dialogue stilted? Is it weighted down by exposition? Does it have a purpose? Is it realistic, without being too realistic? Does it reveal details about the characters? Is it clear who is speaking?
POV: Is the POV consistent and is it easy to follow? Does it jump from person to person and confuse the reader?
Pacing: Is it too slow/too fast? Just right?
Mechanics: Sentence structure, style, clichés, overabundance of adverbs, too few strong verbs, etc
Voice: What does the writer’s voice invoke? Do you enjoy it/not? Why?
Always start out by emphasising the good – and there will always be something good (and remember 'why'). Constructive criticism involves a little compassion. Writers become very emotionally invested in their work, and with good reason; it takes a lot of time and effort to write a novel! Take giving a critique as an opportunity to help the writer your critiquing learn as well as learning more about your own writing.
Try to separate your own preferences out when critiquing – be objective. Try to give suggestions instead of instructions, and avoid using the word ‘You’. If you focus your critique on the work, rather than the writer it seems less personal, and more like advice.
Aaannd…. That is all! Keeping in mind that all my "you shoulds" and "you shouldn'ts" up there
Anyone have any of their own suggestions about critique style?