How to Give a Good Critique

I found the Go Teen Writers blog by chance on my friend’s blogger dashboard, and I immediately fell in love with the idea. Now I’ve been following the Go Teen Writers blog for about a year, and I’m so glad I found it. GTW is amazing. It’s filled to the brim with helpful advice, all geared toward teen writers, and it’s an amazing support network.

As of this month, Go Teen Writers now has a book, titled Go Teen Writers: How to Turn Your First Draft Into a Published Novel. The authors, Stephanie Morrill & Jill Williamson, are having a blog tour to celebrate, and I’m participating! Today I’m hosting one half of the GTW duo, Jill Williamson (on the left in the picture below). She’s here to discuss how to give a good critique. I found this article extremely helpful, and I hope you do too! Stay tuned for a giveaway at the end of this post.


How to Give a Good Critique
by Jill Williamson

One of the best ways to become a better writer is to learn how to critique the work of others. It can feel strange at first, especially when you can’t seem to find anything negative to say, but do your best. It will get easier.

Ask the author what kind of critique he wants, then do that. Don’t point out every negative thing you can. If you do all the hard work for him, he’ll never learn. Point out things once and suggest he make the change throughout the manuscript.

Here are ten tips for providing a good critique:

1. Read the chapter without marking anything. As you read, ask yourself: Am I confused? Did the beginning hook me? Is this realistic? Am I bored? Do I like the characters? Is there a problem the main character is facing? Do I feel drawn into the story?

Write down your overall thoughts at the end of the chapter. Point out positives first, then negatives. You can be honest without being cruel.

2. Go back and read the chapter again. This time make notes when thoughts come to you. Again, make positive and negative comments. Even if the story is horrible, you can always find something positive to say. We all learn a little at a time, so overwhelming someone with solid red marks isn’t necessary.

3. Consider not using a red pen. Pick a friendlier color like blue or green. If you’re using Track Changes, you can choose a color, but it never seems to show up the same on someone else’s computer.

4. Mark misspellings, grammar errors, and punctuation mistakes, but only if you’re certain you know the correct rule.

5. Word use. Does the writer use too many passive verbs (be, is, are, was, were). Advise him to use action verbs instead. Does he use vague or bland words over the more specific? Ex: “Walked fast” instead of “ran.” Note where the writer’s words stood out, good or bad. If a metaphor confused or impressed you, say so. Point out when you didn’t understand the description or when it hooked you into the story.

6. Dialogue. Does it sound realistic? Do character conversations move the plot forward? Does the author use too many said tags or action tags? Not enough? Is the punctuation correct?

7. Viewpoints. Can you understand the point of view? Are the transitions from one point of view to another smooth and clear?

8. Did the author use the proper manuscript format?

9. When you finish, edit and proofread your critique to make sure it’s clear, kind, and doesn’t contain typos.

10. Remember whose story it is. He doesn’t have to accept your advice. Be careful not to critique personal writing preferences or life beliefs. We are all different. We don’t want to critique each other to the point that we strip the personality from each other’s writing. Our unique way of saying things is part of our budding voice. So don’t squash that out of each other.

I always try to end my critiques with a statement like: “These are my opinions. Use what’s helpful and ignore the rest.”

When you give your critique back to the author, let it go. And don’t be offended if he chooses to ignore some or all of your suggestions. The point of a critique is to give your honest opinions and advice. What the writer does with that information is up to him.

Stephanie Morrill and Jill Williamson have written a combined two dozen speculative and contemporary novels for teens. They also blog obsessively at www.goteenwriters.com. When not writing or blogging, they can be found at the teen table at writer's conferences or wherever chocolate is being given away. Come hang out with Stephanie at www.stephaniemorrill.com and Jill at www.jillwilliamson.com.

_______________________



Stephanie & Jill have generously offered to give away a copy of the Go Teen Writers e-book to a blog reader!

Here are the ways you can enter:

Leave a comment on this blog post. This is mandatory.

There are also additional ways you can enter, such as following the GTW blog, liking Jill and Stephanie's FB pages, and Tweeting about the giveaway. Once you've left a comment, these entries will unlock in the Rafflecopter below.

Good luck!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

33 comments:

  1. :D I've lately been wondering how to be better at giving critique, so this was a very helpful post for me. :) Thank you very much!

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  2. Great post! This is something I've been wondering about a lot!

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  3. Thank you for this post.
    Are these points also a way to criticize your own story, or do you use other point than?

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  4. I had a teacher who always said that if your paper did not bleed red, someone was not doing their job right. That is what I tell people when I give them my manuscripts because it is the only way for me to get honest help. I was also thought the "critique sandwich" but dislike it and tell people not to use it for me. I'm grown enough to take criticism and except true praise.

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  5. Great post! This book sounds really helpful, definitely something I need to read.

    Thanks for the giveaway! :)

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  6. Great post. :) I've been doing critique for a while but this helps with a list to check off and I also love your quotes, Sky. Especially the one by G.K. Chesterson. I got to memorize that. :D

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  7. Ohhhh, this was so helpful! Thank you, Jill! I've been wondering about this lately. :)

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  8. Thanks for the helpful post! I've found myself critiquing more and more of my friends' work lately; I'll definitely remember your tips next time!

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  9. I belong to Critique Circle, and the guidelines say much of the same stuff - make it clear it's your opinion, make sure it's the kind of crit they're looking for, that kind of thing. I totally agree with including positives as well as negatives - the way I format my crits is usually 'I like this and that, now here's the crit' and wind up with a reminder of what they did well and encouragement to keep writing. I know how much a badly-put crit can hurt someone.

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  10. Thanks for the post! I don't have any critique partners yet, but since my older sister is almost done with the first draft of her novel, I may have to use these techniques soon! :)

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  11. This was really helpful, Jill! Thank you do much, and a huge thanks to Sky for hosting! :)

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  12. Jill is so brilliant! I love that this article also serves as a way to know if you're RECEIVING a good critique and if you have a good critique partner.

    Thanks for all the kind words and for hosting us, Kylie!

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  13. Thanks for the great post! I occasionally do short critiques online, this advice will be helpful :)

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  14. This is very helpful. I just got crit partners and critiquing seems to be a learning process. :)

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  15. I find critiquing other people's work so hard! These rules are pretty good to keep in mind. I just end up encouraging more then correcting, though that's not a bad thing, I don't end up the most useful critiquer.

    Thanks for the helpful post, Jill, and another giveaway..eeek!!!

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  16. Awesome post. :] Definitely some great things to look out for when critiquing.

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  17. Jill! You are such an amazing writer! Thanks so much for being who you are!

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  18. HEY SKY!!!

    Anyway, this was an amazing post. Thanks so much! And it's so cool that you're doing this with them! Hope it goes well!

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  19. Awesome post! I definitely agree with the point about the author deciding which things to listen to and which opinions to ignore.

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  20. I'm not very good at critiquing, even with my own work! -_- But it's great to see the tips!

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  21. Very helpful! My friend and I always critique each other just for a bit of extra help, so this will be very useful ^_^ thanks!

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  22. This is so great, and you can use it for your own editing, too!

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  23. I never really know how to critique other peoples' work, so this was really helpful! Thanks!

    -Abby

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  24. What a great post! It contains some excellent advice. :)

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  25. This a really good list of tips! Thanks for sharing. :)

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  26. I've just started doing critiques recently. :) Thanks for the tips Jill!

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  27. Yay! Thanks for the tips! I was hoping someone would do a post like this. I feel like I say the same things for everything I critique someone on their story, so this is really helpful!

    Your book looks awesome! I really hope I win one of these giveaways.

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  28. I often find it difficult to know exactly what to say when people ask me to critique their work. Thanks for the tips!

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  29. Ahhh, good! I need to print this out and give it to my friends and tell them to critique *my writings as well!

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  30. Wizard checklist! I'll definitely be bookmarking this one for future reference.

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  31. Ah! I needed to read this. Often when critiquing friend's novels, I'm at a loss at just WHAT I'm supposed to do. I think I shall print this list out, or at the very least, keep it near at hand.

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  32. I agree with Ashley...I never know what to say/do when critiquing. I'm definitely keeping this close at hand now. :D

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