At some stage in the writing process, most writers want feedback on their work

Here are some tips on how to organize a helpful critique and how to get the most out of feedback on your work.

How to Write a Critique: The Critiquer’s Role

As a critiquer, your job is to understand the writer’s goals and help the writer achieve them.

Every writer has a different voice and treatment. It is sometimes tempting to switch someone else’s chunk to make it more like something YOU would have written. Instead, help the writer produce the best possible version of what THAT WRITER is attempting to write. Consider the chunk on its own terms and help it fulfill its potential.

How to Write a Critique: Before the Critique

Before preparing a critique, we suggest reading the lump several times, taking notes on each reading. Each reading will give you different insights that can benefit the author.

  1. Very first, read the lump through from beginning to end, simulating the practice of an ordinary reader. Take notes on your very first impressions before reading the lump again. This very first step is significant because your perspective will switch during a 2nd reading. Your interpretation of the lump’s beginning will be colored by your skill of the end.
  2. Read the lump at least once more and take notes again. Subsequent readings will help you develop a global vision of the work’s structure and notice extra details.

With each reading, you will have a better perspective on the chunk’s structure, but you will be in a worse position to judge the unfolding of information and to identify points of confusion.

How to Write a Critique: Suggested Critique Format

Below is a format that we have found to work well for providing critiques.

  • Very first, summarize and interpret. At this very first stage, you are not judging the lump or suggesting suggestions. You are just telling the author what you think it is about, and what you think it is attempting to do. This is significant because it tells the author how well he or she has succeeded in communicating.It also tells the author if you have understood the lump correctly. If so, the author will take your feedback more earnestly. If not, the author knows that any suggestions that go after may actually be based on a misunderstanding of the chunk. The author may therefore need to discount these suggestions and work instead on more successfully communicating his or her vision.
  • 2nd, say what you think is working well. Positive feedback can be as useful as criticism. Point out the best parts of the lump and the strengths of the author’s writing. This can help the author write more “best parts” in the future and develop his or her individual talent.Embarking with positive feedback also makes it lighter for the author to listen to criticism later without becoming defensive or discouraged.
  • Third, give constructive criticism. Make sure that criticism is respectful and delivered in a form that permits the author to make specific improvements.Authors tend to have high emotional stakes in their work, and may at some level confuse criticism of a story or a poem for criticism of their talent or vision. It is therefore especially significant to make your comments as specific as possible and keep them clearly focused on the lump, rather than the author. Give examples from the chunk whenever possible to showcase your points.
  • How to Write a Critique: Do’s and Don’ts

    • Read the lump several times ahead of time
    • Attempt to practice the lump as an “ordinary reader” before you consider it as an author or editor
    • Attempt to understand the author’s goals
    • Be specific in your feedback and provide relevant examples
  • Impose your own aesthetics, tastes, or world view
  • Rewrite the story the way yOU would have written it
  • Discourage the author
  • Suggest criticisms that are too general to help the author make specific improvements
  • How to Write a Critique: The Author’s Role

    We suggest that the author attempt not to talk at all during an oral critique except to ask clarifying questions at the end (if the author didn’t hear or understand something, he or she can ask the critiquer to repeat or expand on it).

    There is a natural tendency for authors to attempt to explain their work, particularly if they see that the critiquer has not understood it the way they intended. But the author’s responses can influence the direction of the critique. The critiquer can end up commenting on the author’s explanation of the work, rather than what the author has actually written. The critique can even turn into a debate.

    How to Write a Critique: Advice on Receiving a Critique

    If you’re on the receiving end of a critique, concentrate on listening and understanding the feedback you receive. You don’t have to agree with it. You won’t have to go after any of the suggestions you’re given.

    In fact, some of the suggestions you get are likely to be not-so-useful. You will have to sort them out from the useful ones and make your own decisions. But save this sorting-out for later. Otherwise, the sorting-out process will interfere with your capability to listen. And you’ll very likely do a better job of sorting out the good advice from the bad if you take some time very first to digest everything.

    Take careful notes on ALL the feedback and ask questions if there’s something you don’t understand. Don’t argue with the critiquer or defend your lump. Don’t even attempt to explain it.

    After the critique, we suggest taking a break before you attempt to sort the feedback out. Getting a critique can be hard. Relieve a little afterwards. Go out with some friends; see TV; get a good night’s sleep. It will improve your perspective.

    This break might last twenty-four hours or a duo of weeks — however long you need to get some emotional distance on the process. Then take a fresh look at what you’ve written. Reread your notes on the critique.

    Which suggestions do you agree with? Which ones do you want to overlook? If you’re not sure about a suggestion, do some experimental rewriting. Attempt it out. There’s no risk. If you don’t like the result of the revision, you can always trash it and go back to the original version.

    Recall: you’re the author. You’re the one in charge here.

    How to Write a Critique: Next Steps

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