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), for 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.
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.
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.
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.