The Art of Critiquing

Welcome to Toolbox Saturday where you’ll find tools for various things from writing to whatever.

edit photoIt’s come to my attention that there are a lot of us who don’t have a clue how to honestly critique. We can tell you we like your story (or hate it), but we leave out the most important part — the why.

Critiquing isn’t just about misspellings and bad punctuation. It’s about understandability, what makes a story something you just can’t put down. Or, as Kelly Hart put it in her post Critiquing, “[I]t is about trying to help the story creator reach the full potential for that story.” She goes on to remind us that each story is the writer’s “baby” and “[f]or this reason you should try to be as diplomatic as possible, nobody likes to be told bad things about their baby.” (And I can say that’s true from both the mother’s and writer’s POV)

One way to bone up on the hows of critiquing is to just do it. Receiving critiques and critiquing others’ works makes a writer a better writer because  it “improves your own editing eye,” according to blogger Penny in her post The Art of Critiquing, Pt. 1. I have to agree with that. As I’ve read and edited others’ works, I’ve noticed problems in my own writing.

Of course, getting critiques (honest ones, especially) can be difficult. I’ve mentioned Critters as a place to find other authors willing to give good criticism, but I recently read about another called Absolute Write. After reading the Newbie section I think it sounds like a great place, so long as you can handle a little heat. Apparently there have been some, as the moderator put it, knock-down-drag-out arguments on things as silly as the appropriate use of serial commas.

My suggestion before putting your work out there for criticism is to edit it at least once yourself. Track down as many of those niggly little misspellings and punctuation errors as you can. And don’t forget about grammar. While in some cases grammar rules can be bent, it’s best not to break them without at least knowing them. For that I would recommend a fantastic little book called Grammar Girl’s Quick and Dirty Tips for Better Writing.

Regardless of where you find your critics (or where they find you ;)) try to keep in mind what you need to improve your writing, then reach out to your fellow writer to give the same in return.

In what areas do you find yourself needing some extra help? What tips and tricks do you have for giving (or receiving) critiques?


Catch up on the adventure with other books in the Malkin series.

Apprentice Cat CoverApprentice Cat available in paperback and for KindleNookKoboScribd and iTunes.

Buy the .pdf now 

Also available as an audiobook on AudibleAmazon and iTunes.



Journeyman-Cat15percentJourneyman Cat available in paperback and KindleNookScribdiTunes and Kobo.

Buy the .pdf now 

Audiobook coming soon.



Secrets-of-the-Malkin-sidebar-newsletterSecrets of the Malkin ebook version available for KindleNookiTunes and Kobo.

Buy the .pdf now 




Huntress of the MalkinHuntress of the Malkin ebook version available for KindleNookKobo and iTunes.

Buy the .pdf now 

6 Responses to “The Art of Critiquing”

  1. […] Read the rest. This blog, The Road to Writing, will be discontinued Dec. 31, 2011. If you would like to continue receiving great tips and inspirational posts please remember to subscribe to my new blog by RSS or email for LOL Mondays, Spirit Wednesdays and Toolbox Saturdays. Share this:TwitterLike this:LikeBe the first to like this post. […]

  2. I remember in college having to do peer critiques, and it was awful because I could rarely think of something to say. But I’ve done a lot of critique swaps with writing buddies the past several years and feel pretty good about my ability. One of the things I think is most beneficial about critiques is having others see what might be confusing or unclear to a brand new reader. As the author, we know the ins and outs of everything, so it’s not always clear when there are holes. Like you said, it’s about helping the work reach its full potential.

    And I have my grammar flaws as well. Lately my issue is with “was” clusters, but the more often my crit partner points them out, the more ingrained recognizing them becomes and I’m eventually able to spot them on my own. It’s great to have that outside eye. =)

  3. The best advice I got for critiquing was to ‘sandwich’ your response. Something positive, something that needs work, something positive. That, and to take all the critiques, write them out in one long document on the computer and then move on. Once you have a few edits done, revisit the critiques and see what needs tweaking.

    This last part was because I kept writing chapter one over and over to please my writing group. An easy mistake to make for a rookie writer.

    There is absolutely nothing as valuable as an honest critique.

    Great post!

  4. […] is a reprint from Virginia Ripple‘s blog. Bookmark on Delicious Digg this post Recommend on Facebook Buzz […]

  5. […] The Art of Critiquing: I explain what makes a good critique and give some suggestions of what to do before handing over your manuscript to a beta reader or critique partner in this post. […]

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