Critiquing other people’s work is one of the best ways to learn the craft. When you start to see issues in other’s work and the possible solutions it becomes easier to spot the same problems in your own work.
It may feel daunting, you may not feel qualified, but all insights can be helpful to an author. So don’t be afraid and here are a few tips to help you on your way.
- Do try to find something positive to say, even if the writing is awful there will be something good that you can point out.
- Do give examples to clarify what you mean. For example if your feel something is overwritten give an example of what you understand by overwritten.
- Be honest about what doesn’t work for you. Don’t just say nice things because you don’t want to hurt someone’s feelings. This rather defeats the point of a critique.
- Do make suggestions if you can see how something might be improved.
- Do point out what doesn’t work for you, even if you can’t quite put your finger on why.
- Don’t make it personal. Keep your critique purely to the writing.
- Don’t try to rewrite. Leave that to the author.
- Don’t be overly negative or discouraging. Remember that authors are sensitive creatures.
- Don’t concentrate solely on the minutiae. The big picture stuff is often more important.
- Don’t get drawn into an argument if the author gets defensive.
- Don’t expect the author to act on your suggestions. It’s their work after all.
- Don’t criticise or argue with other critiques. Remember that all feedback is subjective and what one person loves another may hate.
Receiving critique can terrifying at first. It’s easy to take it personally. It’s easy to get upset. So here are a few dos and don’ts to help you keep your cool the first time you hear that your writing is maybe not as perfect as you hoped.
- Do thank them for taking the time and trouble to critique your work.
- Take some time to think about the feedback, even if initially you don’t agree with it. This is particularly true if more than one person raises the same point.
- Do keep your earlier drafts. You may decide that what has been suggested doesn’t work and wish to return to your earlier version
- Do keep an open mind.
- Do get feedback from more than one person. Look as where the feedback differs as well as where it agrees.
- Don’t take it personally. The critiquer is commenting on your writing. Not you.
- Don’t argue with your critiquer, even if it’s obvious they’ve completely misunderstood what you are trying to say. Instead try to think about why they might have misinterpreted your words.
- Don’t make every change suggested. It’s your work. Only act on the feedback that resonates with you and you feel makes your work stronger.
- Don’t completely ignore negative feedback simply because it’s not what you want to hear. It may be what you need to hear.