Monday, June 14, 2010

How to Give a Good Critique

Some writers warn us to 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 have gone out of their way to really trash a manuscript. I am not one of those writers or critiquers. 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.

HOW TO GIVE A GOOD CRITIQUE || writing advice for critique partners | what to include when you critique a story

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 have done critiques in the past - and for my current critique group - I offer my honest opinion with comments that I hope will be taken as helpful and insightful.

To give a good critique, here's what I do, and what you can do too. Offer:
  • Praise for good writing in specific phrases, paragraphs, and sections.
  • Examples of where and how to cut wordy sections.
  • Examples of how to make dialogue more age appropriate or characters more believable.
  • 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. 
If you want to get published, it is wise 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 of their groups may be for picture books, and another group 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. Any story you write is YOUR story, and you must stay true to your own vision. Remember that each person offers their own opinion and that each critique is the opinion of one. Use what you find helpful. Disregard the comments you highly disagree with. However, if you're just being unwilling to revise, but multiple people are saying the same things, then you should probably take it to heart and "kill your darlings" (i.e. FIX what you're so reluctant to change). Happy writing! And happy revising!

QUESTION: Are you a member of a critique group? Share your experiences in the comments!

Keep on keepin' on...


  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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