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Tuesday, June 7, 2011

How to Give a Good Critique--the Sandwich Method

The submissions window is now open. 

You can send up to 350 words of ANY scene that you know something isn't working, but you just can't figure out what. This can be from a finished or unfinished WIP. Submit to charity.bradford@gmail.com and include Fearful Critique in the subject line.

Please include:
Name (will be removed before posting)
Genre/Word count

Brief intro or question you would like us to look at while reading.

Then your 350 word submission.

Mmmm, hungry?
Yummy subs and constructive criticism. Surprisingly, they have a lot in common. Soft bread, meat, cheese, and other complimentary elements bring together flavors that satisfy. This is what we all crave with critiques that we receive. The best way to get these kind of critiques is by learning how to give them.

The sandwich method of critiquing breaks down as follows:
  • Soft bread--Say something nice--first overall impression (if it was positive), what you liked, etc.
  • Meat--Constructive comments that are meant to help and improve, not tear down.
  • Lettuce, Tomato, Condiment of choice--comments that point out the phrases and sentences that you just loved!
  • Soft bread--Say something else nice and encouraging.

The key is the nice things have to be sincere. And there is always something nice you can find in any writing. Here's how I do it.

1. Read the whole selection to get a feel for the writing and the scene.

2. Make note of anything that jumps out at you
a. phrases you love
b. things that pull you out of the story

3. Read it a second time and look for the details
a. excessive use of adverbs, adjectives, etc
b. confusing passages
c. POV slips
d. verb confusion, passive voice
e. spots where telling can be replaced with showing
f. spots that hook you, cause you to ask questions, see the setting clearly, or feel emotion, etc.

4. Write the review using the sandwich method. Phrase things in a positive way so the author doesn't feel like you are attacking them personally or their story. It's hard enough to hear something isn't working without feeling picked on.


Michael Offutt said...

But I love personal attacks! How dare you handcuff me like this :P

Huntress said...

I like jalapeno peppers on my sub. Does that count as a personal attack? :>

Charity Bradford said...

LOL! Michael, I thought you would like handcuffs.

Carol, you've never served me any jalapeno peppers!

mshatch said...

I definitely agree with reading a piece more than once. I can be picky at first glance, but after I read something a few times I almost always like it a lot better than I did the first time.

Love this method of critiquing, too. I always say, be kind, and be helpful.

Tara Tyler said...

that was an excellent analogy! and a savory one!