Every author is different and each manuscript they produce varies from another. It is important for authors to be clear about what they are looking for in a critique. If, as an author, you have specific areas you have questions about, then relay this to your critique partner. Don’t be afraid to ask specific questions as this can help guide your reviewer to areas with need outside comment. Asking questions of your reviewer can also help educate them in ways in which to critique.
Questions a critique partner can consider:
- Did the writing move you? In what way? What emotions were sparked?
- How did you find the writing style?
- Were the sentences overlong, or too short? Were they all similar?
- Was the narrator’s voice clear?
- Did the story flow the right order? Did you learn things as you needed to know them? Did any section fail to make sense? Were there any loose ends? Were there things you needed to know more about? Less about?
- Was anything unnecessary?
- How about the length? Was it too short? Too long?
- Were the characters believable? Likable? Were their motivations clear? Was the actions and dialogue in keeping with the character?
- What about setting? Did you get a sense of place?
As a critique partner, your critique needs to be objective and informative. The aim is to help the writer move on with their piece, to assist them in shaping their story into something publishable. You best help by framing your criticisms as diplomatically as possible – you want to comment on the writing, you do not want to ridicule the author or mock their ideas, but you do want to be honest.
Be fully aware of what the writer is asking for and that you have the time to commit to the task. Your writer may want your critique in writing, or they may want to meet to discuss you’re your points through. Always frame your critique in positive language; never say something is terrible, rather focus on ways in which the writing can be improved. Get specific –vague statements will be of little use to the writer and will discredit your ability to analyse the writing. If something doesn’t work, consider why this is and how it might be improved.
Remember, you are not the editor, you don’t have to focus on specific points of grammar (however, if this is the biggest weakness of the manuscript, it is important to pass this information on). You are not required to edit the writing, but do comment on any recurring problems as you see them.
6 tips for critiquing:
Tip #1: Praise the writer, critique the writing.
Tip #2: Read carefully and thoroughly.
Tip #3: Take notes – directly on the manuscript is useful.
Tip #4: Begin with what you most like, end with strengths.
Tip #5: Offer possible solutions, but don’t do the writing.
Tip #6: Follow up with the writer: how the work is going, were your comments useful?
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