Kara’s Top Tips For Critiquing || In Which I Discuss How to Critique Someone’s Work

karas-top-tips-for-critiquing

Why yes, that is my handwriting. And yes, I am aware it is terrible handwriting.

If you’re like me, and you’re absolutely terrified of critiquing other people’s work (which I’ll get into later) then most likely you’ve panicked over hitting the Send button on a critique you’ve sent someone. And so, I thought I’d compile together a post of the most handy tips I’ve found. I’ve critiqued quite a bit. For people on online websites (Wattpad, namely), forpanic critique partners, and friends’ manuscripts. I still have a lot to learn when it comes to critiquing, I know, but I can easily say
I’ve improved a lot.

Like I said before, giving critical feedback kinda scares the crap out of me. What if they hate me? What if I’m too mean? But, oh my gosh, what if I’m not helpful enough? What happens if they don’t agree with a single thing I’ve said? So pretty much, I’m a giant ball of panic when I go to critique someone’s work.

Hence, my list of tips I thought I’d provide.

  • BE HONEST.

No shit, Kara, you’re probably thinking. But it’s an important one! Be honest! If you don’t think something works, TELL THEM. They want to know. They’re asking for criticism expecting, so give it to them.

  • Tell them why something doesn’t work.

I mean, it’s great to tell them that something in their novel is working… but you do need to tell them why. It is because you’re confused? Or maybe there is too much of something given. Or maybe a character does something that’s… out of character. Whatever it is, it’s important to tell them why something doesn’t work, and how the story could be benefitted from changing it.

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  • Be KIND.

Yes, they want criticism, but that doesn’t mean you should be rude about it. Criticism at the best of times can be hard to swallow, and why it’s okay to be blunt at times, don’t be cruel. Or rude. Or mean. Or you might find people not responding to your criticism very well at all. So, yes, honesty is important — but so is being good about it.

  • Read through what you’re critiquing multiple times.

(Okay — so perhaps if you’re critiquing a full novel this might be hard to do. But at least make sure you’re understanding what you’re reading in order to give a good critique. This one might apply to short stories more than anything, or if you’re swapping only a couple of chapters at one time.) Here’s how I do things: I do a quick read-through once. I make note of the things that stand out to me — big things that jump out at me. Then I read through again and again, and make note of the smaller things I notice. And I go through until I think I’ve done a good enough job of giving notes.

  • The majority of what you give SHOULD be criticism, but don’t be all negative. DSC_0582

People like to know the good things about they’re novels! They should know what they’re doing wrong with their novels… but
what about the good stuff, too? Like a character? Tell them. Love a line? Let them know! It’s important, people, and, let’s face it, makes it so much easier to take criticism.



So what about you? Are you like me, and worry about giving out criticism? Also, add to my tips! Any tips to share below?

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24 thoughts on “Kara’s Top Tips For Critiquing || In Which I Discuss How to Critique Someone’s Work

  1. I don’t worry as much as I used to – I used to be AWFUL at giving feedback, but I think I’m a lot better now :) I worry more about GETTING feedback haha. Although my critique partners are awesome so I don’t know why that would be :P

  2. OMG Kara, you and I are exactly alike in that regard. What if someone totally hates me because of how harsh I was but then again, what if I’m not harsh enough?? All good points. I’m going to save this for the next time I critique someone. :)

  3. Even though I’m not a writer myself, I think this advice is still amazing and can be applied to any time you’re giving feedback in general. Honesty and kindness are so, so important when you’re critiquing (and in life in general – ha!) Thanks for sharing and, as always, fabulous post! <3

  4. I definitely needed to read a post like this, so thank you for all of the helpful tips! At school there are many occasions when I do have to critique the work of others, and it’s always been something of an art to me.

    So happy I stumbled across your blog!

    – A fellow book lover (Julia Anne)

  5. Awesome! These tips are gold, and will definitely take them in once (or if…I’ve become slightly less enthusiastic about it over the years) I start getting back into the critiquing malarkey.

  6. These are awesome tips, Kara, and spot on. If you are critiquing someone and you aren’t honest than you aren’t helping them, and though it’s awful to get a manuscript back torn to shreds by a critique, the writer understands the necessity of it and (at least they should be) thankful for that honesty, after all the goal is to make your story better.

  7. Fabulous tips, Kara! I’m currently part of a critique group for this one book, and it’s really awkward that I seem to be the only person who didn’t enjoy the book as a whole. Whenever we do group chats, I try to give constructive criticism without being a bitch about it, and I always add some positive tidbits here and there. Also, I get really nervous when giving feedback because I might just be interpreting things wrong. But yeah, this is a full novel and I don’t really want to go through it again. o_o

  8. These are all great tips, I’ve done a few beta reads so far and I always do most of these things in my beta feedback. It’s hard to tell an author something doesn’t work or you didn’t like it, but they ask for your feedback and I think being honest while still being kind is a good way to present your feedback. And throwing in some good things is a great tip as well, negative feedback is easier to shallow when you also emphasize what was good and I think mentioning the best or good parts can also be very helpfull. Great tips!

  9. Giving criticism is so difficult. I never know how to critique someone enough because I always get worried I’ll offend them. I think these tips are great, Kara! Another thing that I also like to do is to think about what my feelings are as someone being critiqued. The person that I’m critiquing will likely feel the same way, so I can cater my negative critique to positive critique ratio to fit nicely.

  10. I have critiqued quite a bit as well, but I still worry often about whether or not I’m helpful, or too harsh, etc. I think the balance between praise and critique tends to be the hardest part – especially when you either really like something, or really don’t. I’ve seen pieces I knew I could give great advice for, but it took me much longer to think of nice things to say to balance the bad. And then of course there’s the opposite – I always panic when I LOVE something, and don’t know how to help improve it!

    • Oh, I SO agree! Balance is really, really important — but it can be very hard to achieve sometimes. YES, OMG. I have this inner panic attack when I read something brilliant. I mean, I don’t WISH it was bad, but it’s really hard to come up with something helpful to say. Thanks for the comment!

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