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Thursday, August 27, 2015

To Critique

© photosteve101
Joining a writing group is great. You get to submit your work to others who will read and give you the feedback you've been craving. The only catch: you must read and give feedback in return.

How does one critique someone else's work?

What if I have nothing to say? What if my opinion is wrong? What do I know about writing anyway? I can't help anybody. I should just sit quietly and let the real writers do the talking. After all, I have no idea what I'm talking about.

At least, that's what I was feeling.

When you ask others to read your work, you want honest feedback. We get to caught up in our little worlds that we have a hard time seeing what might be missing. Which is why we ask for others to critique our work.

And that's all you have to do. Read. Offer honest opinions.

When you read someone else's work, you can only read it from your perspective. Your opinion is just that. The great thing about being part of a group is that yours is not the only opinion offered. There are others there to agree or disagree with your opinion.

A few things to remember when reading for others:
  1. You are offering an opinion about the writer's work. Not about the writer personally. If you dislike the person you're reading for, keep that out of your critique.
  2. Be constructive. If something isn't working for you, say so, but if you have some idea on how to make that scene/section/chapter work, offer it. 
  3. Let the writer know what does work for you. Point out favorite lines. If something shocked you or made you laugh, make sure to include it in your critique.
  4. You may disagree with the group's assessment of something. If something doesn't work for you, but it worked for everyone else, say so. Conversely, if something does work for you that everyone else has an issue with, speak up. 
  5. You are not the author. You are only offering opinions on how the story as presented reads to you. If you disagree with the plot or viewpoint of the story, you are free to write something that works better for you. It's not your job to rewrite the whole story.
You are there to help the writer with his/her revision process. Presumably, before publication this writer will work with others, like a professional editor. It is not your job to catch every little mistake. So, enjoy what you're reading, and have fun with the process.

What do you look for when you critique someone else's work? What other tips can you offer?


Janie Junebug said...

I've had problems with people who critique my work who want me to change my voice. When I edit, I never mess with the author's voice.


diedre Knight said...

Does the story reach out and grab me? Might it work better with a different POV? Is it paper mache (all dressed up and empty inside) or a pinata (gold beneath the glitz)?