Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Critique Partners: Providing Thorough Critiques

How do you provide a great critique of someone else's writing?

Here are some points to keep in mind, first:
1. Be polite: comment on things you do like about the writing
2. Be honest: give your true opinions
3. Be aware: give accurate advice
4. Be helpful: make suggestions for improvement

Next, before you can be a great critique partner, you need to read a book on the craft of writing (in my humble opinion!). Once you've read a book, you will know what to look for when critiquing.

Here's a short list for starters:

Then, use the review bubbles in Word to leave comments on the Word document. These bubbles make it very easy to quickly make suggestions for improvement in the ms.

Give accurate advice. I know with one of my CPs, I was nagging her about her use of ellipses. I began to wonder if I was being accurate, so I googled it. After reading advice on several websites, I realized I was wrong. Check out this site if you'd like to test your own knowledge:

Researching specific topics and reading books on the craft will help improve your eye.

By giving excellent critiques for others, you will improve your own writing. Your eye will become more fine tuned to the details of writing and your writing muscles will become stronger from the exercise!!

What do you look for in your critiques?

[post originally publised 3-3-11 ... for more tips on critique partners, click on the tag]


  1. good points!

    i would add if you don't know and don't have time/can't find via google, just leave a comment in the bubble suggesting you are not sure about this and perhaps they need to check it. Much better than leaving an incorrect comment. *nods* good advice Margo

    that is what i do sometimes when a fact just doesn't seem right.

    thanks for the book links

    Sarah ketley

  2. Oh and have just got a copy of the first two books delieved to my branch of the uni library. MORE books to read :-)

    thanks again

  3. That's what I look for and that's what I try to give. I think you've hit the main points.

  4. Great grammar link. I need to check it out like you wouldn't believe!

  5. Another great list, Margo! Critiquing is really a 'skill' that can be developed. Just like writing ...

  6. Honesty, first and foremost. A long critique is useless if it isn't forward and truthful. I'd rather someone tell me they hated something and why than tell me what they think I want to hear.

  7. Sarah - Yes! But when I take the time to research an item (grammar, punctuation), I end up learning so much...and better my own skills in the process. :)

    Clarrisa, Angela, and EJ - thanks for stopping by!

    Tangynt - HONESTY - agreed. VERY MUCH SO!

  8. Thanks for the suggestions on craft books and the grammar link--I've written comments before along he lines of "I'm not sure if you need that comma," because it reads awkwardly, but I'm not 100% positive. Now I can check!

  9. Great advice (and nice list of books!!)
    Always triple check you're right when dealing with grammar and punctuation. I'm loathe to give advice concerning either unless I'm 100% sure I'm right. If not, I'll mention it, but only as a "might want to double check" suggestion.

    Have a great weekend!

  10. well thought out post. I look for someone who can think about why I may have broken a writing rule and figure out if it works or not -- rather than just pointing out a broken rule.

  11. I've read a couple of those and I really like the Fire in Fiction!

  12. Actually I agree with all of your points there. And, I'd be keen to meet new good critique partners. You really do have to find the right one,and someone you can trust too. ;-)

  13. Oh, giving a critique is so hard to do! But it's true, I sure learn a lot about my own writing by reading others' manuscripts.

  14. Margo, I've really enjoyed these posts you've done on critiquing. I haven't read Self-Editing For Fiction Writers yet, but I'll definitely pick it up.

  15. Great list for a beginning critter like me. This is a great series, I'm learning a lot.

  16. What a cool series to do - yes, agreed - in researching for others, you learn a lot for your own writing.

  17. Yes I'd agree with all that honesty, but kind constructive criticism is best. Thanks for the book list too :O)

  18. I will have to check out the books you linked. Another good resource is the Online Writing Lab with Purdue. I know it helped me through a lot of papers in school and is very easy to understand.

  19. Great post and link! I haven't done a lot of crits for other people. I am trying to add to my technical knowledge of writing.

  20. Isn't it funny how we get something in our head about what is "right" and become so militant about it? I've had that happen, too. And it's so difficult to stomach when you find out it's wrong. :)

  21. What wonderful thoughts here. I am going to check out that link. Fantastic tips, Margo. I have done that before. I have given advice and then I had to go back and say, *sorry*, but I don't know as much as I think I do. Ha!


  22. I need to look up some of those books! Great post :)

  23. Hey Margo, nice to meet you! Great advice you've given here. I'd love to hear what do you recommend as to how many CP's is ideal? If you have more than one, and they disagree on a point, how do you choose who to listen to? Thanks for stopping by and following!
    Tina @ Life is Good

  24. THose are excellent books on craft for those starting out. I also highly recommend "Thanks, But THis Isn't for Us" by Jessica Morrell.
    Honesty is key and if you blend it with compliments on the writer's strengths, your CPs will love you.
    Hope you had a wonderful Thanksgiving, Margo!! :)

  25. Great advice. Great blog. Thanks for following me. I'm not in a crit group right now, but I do run things by people sometimes. Sharing early drafts with people you trust is very important.

  26. Yes, great advice for critiquers. I look for critiquers who spend careful consideration on what they are critiquing and pay attention to the words rather than just scanning the piece. I also like the reasons behind why something doesn't work for them so I know where they are coming from.

  27. Hey Tina (and others) here's a post I did that answers the question about multiple CP's:

    And, when they disagree on a point, I mull it over for a few days and go with my gut.


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