Every writer will tell you the importance of joining a critique group. When you receive critiques on your work, you’re looking for suggestions to make your work better, so it will inevitably be published. There are many things a fresh eye can see in your work that you can’t. In order to receive critiques, it’s important that you give critiques, right? Fair is fair and critiquing others’ work will help your writing. It will teach you what to look for when self-editing your own work, and give you a sense of what you like and don’t like to incorporate in your own writing.
So you need to do a critique? Where do you start?
First, know that we’re all human beings and we have feelings. We’re not critiquing the person, we’re critiquing the work. That’s why it doesn’t hurt to begin by pointing something out that you like about the manuscript. A little encouragement goes a long way! However, critiques need to be brutally honest. A writer would rather hear these notes from his or her critique group instead of an editor giving a flat out rejection with no reason why! Critiques will help a writer polish the manuscript to perfection, save time on postage, and not waste an editor’s time.
After reading through a manuscript, ask yourself…
1. Did you like the story? Why or why not? Does it flow? How is the pacing (too fast, too slow, just right)? Is there a beginning, a middle, and an end, and are they logical?
2. Does the beginning set up a problem or conflict? Did it catch your attention? Did you want to keep reading?
3. Are the characters’ behavior consistent? Are the character’s believable? Do the characters have good names?
4. Consider the audience– is it age appropriate?
5. Can you restate the story in a single sentence?
6. Does the author show instead of tell?
7. Is it technically sound?– point out bad punctuation, incorrect grammar, misspelled words, and formatting
8. Is the dialogue realistic? Does the dialogue help move the story along? Is there a perfect blend of dialogue with narration?
9. Is the title a good one?
10. Does the ending make sense and is it rewarding? Was the conflict or problem resolved? Does the main character undergo some sort of change?
11. Does the point of view work or would the story be better if it was told by another character?
12. Is there variation in sentence length? Too many short, too many long, or just right?
13. Excessive use of passive voice? ex: Emily was running to the store is passive voice. Should be…Emily ran to the store.
14. Is the story original and creative?
15. Does the setting work? Do you get a sense of when and where you’re supposed to be?
16. Did the writer make use of all the senses?
Some examples of critique notes you might give or receive:
*Paragraph or chapter needs tightening– Give examples of where the writer can cut out necessary words and sentences.
*Verbs are weak– Verbs to watch out for are. . . is, as, was, were.
*Plot lacks focus– Give a suggestion for the writer to consider.
*Dialogue is not age appropriate–Show an example that is right for the age.
*If the overall concept and writing is weak, suggest classes, how-to books, and online articles that can help.
*Tell the writer if the work is not your genre or favorite type of story
*Don’t be afraid to critique if it’s not your favorite type of story.
*Don’t read other critiques of the work yet. Give your own critique, then read others. You don’t want others to sway you! Everyone has an opinion, so give your own–don’t steal!
Everyone points out the advantages to a critique group, but not many address the disadvantages. When you have your work critiqued, your exposing your work to others. Unfortunately, we don’t live in a perfect world and there are dishonest people out there. When you put your work out there– yes, there is a chance that it can be ripped off or stolen! Can you imagine all that work and somebody else reaps the benefits? It’s just not right! There’s no need to copyright your work because once it’s written, it is copyrighted. However, you can’t put a copyright on ideas and that person that just critiqued your work can go out and write another story with your idea! You need to weigh the advantages of a critique group with the disadvantages and you have to be selective with who you show your work to!
Writers need to encourage each other and realize that writing is a craft. It takes a long time to master a craft and it takes work and revision after revision to get a good story! A good rule of thumb when it comes to critiquing is. . .
Critique as you would want to be critiqued!
Lori Calabrese is a freelance writer who specializes in parenting and children in both her personal and professional life. Lori’s publishing credits include Boys’ Life, Odyssey, Appleseeds, Focus on the Family Clubhouse Jr., Stories for Children Magazine, and The Institute of Children’s Literature’s Rx for Writers. Lori is a graduate of The Institute of Children’s Literature and a member of The Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators.
To learn more, please visit http://www.loricalabrese.com
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