Last time we talked about how writers ought to prepare for and take a critique. Today I go over tips on giving a critique.
WARNING: Many people tell writers “oh don’t take a critique personally. The work is being judged not you.” Well, I’ve never known any writer to not take it personally (even if they’re smiling on the outside). If you’re a friend or spouse of the person being critiqued—think twice about stepping into that emotional landmine field called a writer’s ego. It can seriously harm your relationship.
1. Be honest if you have the time. There’s nothing worse than making a writer wait weeks, months…years for their critique (yes, I am guilty of this!).
2. Be honest if you can read the material without bias. Can’t stand graphic violence to poodles? Hate westerns? Or chick-lit? Tell the writer that even if it was well written, it wouldn’t appeal to you, and pass.
3. Write legibly. If you are marking directly onto the manuscript, neatness counts.
4. As important as it is to find flaws in the story, it is MORE important to point out the things that are working well. A writer has to know what’s working so they can learn from that, and do more of it.
5. Omit the personal comments and the remarks you think are funny. Never jot down things like: “You must be one screwed up individual to write this…” or “This story needs more sodomy” (actual quote on one my short stories that had nothing to do with sex). Critique the story—not the person.
6. Note places in the work where you’re a) bored b) confused c) don’t believe what’s happening. These are the three big writing sins. If you don’t know why you’re bored/confused/unbelieving that’s okay. Just report those reactions to the writer and let them fix it.
7. Avoid suggestions on how to fix. Most readers cannot resist offering their solutions to problems in a manuscript. It’s not your job to re-write their story. Keep your re-write suggestions to an absolute minimum.
A note to writers regarding the first point: If your readers don’t get back to you in a timely fashion, consider that they really could be busy. There is, however, an alternate explanation: Your story is not gripping them. No one wants to read, let alone critique, a bad story. Consider shelving the material, moving on, and coming back later with fresh eyes.Share on Facebook