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.
- 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.
- 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.
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
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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