Critiquing: How to Critique Another Writer’s Story

Kim Smith, today’s guest blogger, is the author of Avenging Angel, a Shannon Wallace Mystery coming soon from Enspiren Press. Smith writes:

So you are going to critique another writer’s story? How do you feel about this?

Do you feel you have the ability to be non-personal, and give them the sort of information they will need to be a better writer? Or do you worry that you may say something that will turn them against writing for all time? It’s okay to feel all of this. Hopefully by the end of this article you will believe you can do this critique thing with no fear, or worry. 

A good first question to ask is why am I doing this? 

We all as writers need someone to look at our work and give it an overall opinion as to whether it is good or not. We all need improvement, and a helpful crit can get us to the next level with our writing.

Critting also helps the critter, too. You have an easier time seeing your own little problems when you correctly find it in another’s work. And oh yes, we all have issues. 

Of course, you want to keep your critique along the lines of helpful

A negative critique should always be directed toward the writing, not the author. Leave your personal attitude at the door, people. I mean no one wants a sarcastic, nasty crit that smacks of personal attack. No room for that at the table, not even when trying to make a valid point. It should rest with the author as to whether your advice is taken. So, in essence, critique as you would have them critique you. 

Now of course, the writer also plays a part in the critiquing effort, and that is, he or she should be willing and able to accept the critique offered.

Listen, this critiquer is giving you all of his or her knowledge, maybe your book DOES need the change. Don’t toss the baby out with the bathwater. 

How you go about giving a critique is as individual as the books are.

You can do a complete read through and go back and make comments. You can do a line-by-line as you read, and you can always combine those two, or come up with your own method. No one cares HOW you do it as much as the fact that it is useful and correct. 

Correctness is a matter to consider also, critiquers.

You must research your own opinions, too. Google that historical fact, make sure it is accurate. One time I had written something about a “red-light district” in a Civil War novel. Of course, that would have been completely impossible, because electric lights such as I had implied didn’t exist yet,. and my critters called me on it. 

Finally, think through your critique and put it into a good format for your writer.

If they need a line number to go to or a chapter place to go to, put it in the crit so they can find where you are telling them the problem is. A writer sometimes cannot see the forest for the trees, so it is good to have reference points. 

I hope this has helped you in your efforts to give and receive a critique of your work.

“Critiquing” by Kim Smith ©2008