Monday, June 14, 2010

How to Give a Good Critique (what makes a good critique)

Friday I mentioned I would post today about what makes a good critique.  If you're looking to pay a professional for a critique, check out children's author, Margot Finke, and her advice of what to watch for.

It has been said to also be leery of fellow writers (or anyone else) who wish to dole out free critiques because they are often looking to make their fellow writers feel bad and become discouraged.  Some go out of their way to really trash a manuscript.  I am not one of those writers or critiquers.

I love to write and I love to read good picture books.  I love to give encouragement and help others feel the same level of determination that I enjoy.  I respect writers and the work we do.  When I do critiques for the winner of my monthly contest I hope to offer helpful comments and an honest opinion.

Here's what you can expect:

  • Praise for good writing found in phrases, paragraphs, and sections.
  • Examples of where and how to cut wordy sections.
  • Examples of how to make dialogue more age appropriate.
  • Examples of how to create stronger verbs.
  • Comments on the overall structure of plot. 
  • Suggestions to help clarify the plot in areas of confusion.
  • A summary of my critique detailing the areas that need help and the areas that work well. 
Another good thing to do is to join a critique group, or start your own.  You can become a member of the CBI Clubhouse (Children's Book Insider) and hook up with fellow writers.  I know of several writers that are members of multiple critique groups.  One may be for picture books, and another may be for novels.  The more people you have look at a piece, especially in the early stages, the more eyes and ears you have working for you.  And I'm just one more set of eyes and ears.  One opinion.  Any story you write is YOUR story, and you must stay true to your own vision.

Happy writing!  And happy revising!


  1. I had a query in a contest in which a critter told me it was nothing but cliches. This was after 6 others told me they loved it. The agent also didn't share the individual's opionion. ;)

    You definitely have to be careful with who you agree to have crit your work. On the other end are the critters who don't give you much feedback, and leave you thinking your ms is ready for prime time when it isn't.

    Great post!

  2. Stina,

    Yes, if we're not careful about who we let critique our work, it could make us second guess ourselves. But on the other hand, if we get defensive and let our feelings get hurt, so long as the comments are honest, are we even willing to revise our work?

    I think it's most important to know what to agree with and what to disagree with, no matter who critiques a manuscript. If we stay true to our vision, I think we'll be able to see what others are able to see with fresh eyes.

    I'll get a piece to a point that I'd swear it was ready. And then, WHAM! my critique group reads it and I'll say, "Man, you guys are good. I can't believe I didn't see that!" But then some will say a few things that I totally disagree with and I just ignore those comments, after carefully considering them (just in case).

    Thanks for the comment and for following my blog. Hope you visit often.


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