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Critiquing Tips (growing frequently)

Tips & Warnings

Giving Critiques

Critiquing the work of others requires balance. Being too nice will not help your fellow writers develop their work; being too harsh can crush a writer’s ego (particularly new writers, who tend to be shy about sharing their work). How can you achieve the right balance? Here are some tips:

Take care to point out both what works, and what doesn’t. It's a good idea to start with the positive.

Whenever possible, be specific when pointing out things that you didn’t like (don’t just say “I didn’t like this part” or “I’d cut that,” say “I didn’t like this part because…” or “I’d cut that because…”).

Try to offer suggestions when you think a change is needed. Suggestions, even to the point of an offered rewording, can be very helpful; even if the suggestion isn’t exactly right for the author to use, he or she may get a good idea from it, or at least a better understanding of the point you are trying to make.

Be honest and direct, but in a polite and caring way. Holding back your feelings about a piece because you’re afraid to share your thoughts isn’t going to help anyone.

Receiving Critiques

How you handle critiques you receive is just as important as how you give them to others. It’s natural to want to defend your work, but it isn’t a healthy thing to do in a writers’ group. Why stifle what people really think after reading your piece?

Don’t argue with someone’s critique of your work. If you don’t like the changes he or she has suggested, just say “Thank you,” and move on. After all, a critique is an opinion, and we’re all entitled.

Feel free to ask questions. Sometimes, asking a person to clarify what he or she has said in a critique will help you to see why that suggestion was made.

You’re the author, and you have the final say. As you receive critiques it is your prerogative to accept or reject any suggestions made. This is useful when the group is pretty evenly divided on a point. Don’t feel like you have to change something just because someone in the group didn’t like it; but also don’t make any overly hasty judgments about critiques. Sometimes they make more sense when you go back and look at them later.

If everyone has the same reaction, there’s probably something to it.

You can save time (and add value) by having members provide printed copies of the work to be critiqued. Then, rather than pointing out each typo, the group can simply discuss larger issues, and the author can take the handouts back to check for line edits later. Avoid repetitious comments (if a member has already said what you were thinking, simply say “I agree with…” and continue to the next point). Having printed copies with members’ notes also reduces the author’s need to take notes as the critiques are received, allowing the author to listen more carefully and ask better follow-up questions.

--Here begins a 2nd article on the same topic of: critiquing--

  • With a fiction critique, you won’t be so concerned with whether you like the story or how you would have written it. You’re just trying to get a feel for what the writer wants to accomplish.
  • Don’t worry about giving the wrong advice. Ultimately, the writer will decide which suggestions work for her and which ones don’t. She’ll appreciate the effort you put into critiquing the story.
  • You might read a story that’s not quite working and think you can do a better job. That’s natural, especially if the writer has a great concept but the execution isn’t working. Keep in mind that you’re trying to help your peer write the story in the best way that she can. You can suggest how you would do things differently but you don’t want to dictate.
  • You’re not going to like certain types of stories based on your own reading preferences. In fiction workshops, you’re going to encounter types of stories you wouldn’t normally read. It’s important to recognize your biases and put them aside.
  • A common problem writers encounter in fiction workshops is lack of participation. Some members don’t give a lot of suggestions in their critiques or they don’t critique at all. There might be members who don’t like your suggestions or your writing. It might be easy to decide that when their turn comes, you won’t give these members a good critique. This will only hurt you, though. Learning to give good critiques will only help you become a better fiction writer. Close readings you do on other people’s stories will help you identify strengths and weaknesses in writing. You’ll then be able to see these things in your own work.
  • Do you have another tip or warning you want to share? Message me (Dave). I can make this public or viewable only to members, if you have something top secret. I prefer to make this particular list public to help other writers out there and to show we are the kind of group that promotes learning in this way.

  • Table of Contents

    Page title Most recent update Last edited by
    Critiquing Tips (growing frequently) March 4, 2016 3:11 PM anonymous
    About The Stuffed Owl Louisville Fiction Group June 15, 2016 9:21 PM anonymous

    Louisville, KY

    Founded Nov 11, 2008


    Dave, E Dannielle Slaughter

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