What makes a great critique? Let’s look at two examples:
1. This is a great story. Love it. Thanks for submitting!
2. I don’t think this story works. You need to revise. Thanks for submitting.
Everyone loves to hear praise, but NO one likes to hear the words “this doesn’t work”. Even so, we sometimes need to hear both. Even so, the above examples are TERRIBLE examples of critiques!
There is more to a critique than saying “I like it” or “I hate it”.
So what makes up a good critique? Here are a few things to keep in mind when giving AND receiving a critique…
Be specific. Vague statements don’t help anyone.
- Don’t just say, “I don’t like this.” Tell the writer why you think something needs work and why it works beautifully.
- And if you receive a crit that is vague, ask the questions you need to ask to make your story better. “Why doesn’t this work? Why don’t you like it? Can you give me an example of what might work better?”
Don’t be afraid to say the hard thing. Fluff critiques aren’t helpful at all.
- If you tell someone you think their story is sweet, cute and funny – but their characters are flat, the plot is horrible and they didn’t use spell check…your are no longer a critique partner. You have become a liar. Would you want someone lying to YOU?
- If someone always praises your work with no criticisms EVER – you’d do well to get a second opinion. Some of your work might be perfect…but not all of it will be.
Be objective and be smart. Be careful your critique is based on their WORK, NOT your likes or dislikes.
- Let’s say you hate poetry, but one of your critique partners decides to write a rhyming picture book. Your ears burn. Your eyes water. What will you do? You put on your big girl panties (or big boy panties), set aside your “preferences” and get on with the critique! Don’t be an elitist and think your personal tastes are the only ones with merit. If everyone was like that, there would be NO critique groups whatsoever!
- On the other hand: if you write in a completely different genre than most of your critique group (they write edgy YA and you write Early readers and picture books), you might consider joining an additional group that focuses on the same genre you do. If you are constantly critiquing 50,000 word novels and only submitting 500 word picture books, that is an uneven critique.
Don’t be afraid to teach. Sharing your knowledge is good, but share your resources, too.
- If you are a more experienced writer and you know one of your critique partners is having a specific problem with voice, plot, whatever — share that in the critique…then share a book, article, workshop or something that will enable them to grow in that particular area. They can then choose to pursue that avenue or not, but it is then out of your hands.
- Don’t worry if you are a “newbie”. Share what you’ve learned with your critique partners. Perhaps your “new eyes” will see something the others haven’t yet seen. And maybe someone else needs to learn what you have the ability to teach!
Be teachable. Don’t let pride keep you from becoming a better writer.
- Maybe you are the one who needs to work on voice, plot, etc. Perhaps you need to go to a workshop, invest in a book or take a writing class. Even if you are the most advanced writer in your critique group, you can always learn how to do something better.
- Receive the critique with an attitude of thanks. Even if the critique ends up being wrong, you need to at least consider what the other person has to say. Don’t get defensive. It always backfires.
- Going to workshops and conferences is a sign that you know you don’t know it all. And sometimes you can go to a workshop and find out that you knew MORE than you thought you did. You learn more about perfecting the craft of writing…and get a much needed “ego” boost in the mix. It’s a win-win!
What do you think makes a good critique and/or critique partner?