How to Write a Great Critique! (For Writers)
I'd like to start this off that this post was inspired by some events that have been happening a lot lately. I'm on Wattpad, if you may or may not know, and a lot of people on there don't give constructive criticism. Most comments on there are things like "omg i luv your story!!!" or "update soon plz".
These comments are not helpful and they do not improve people's writing. There is always something you can improve on. So therefore, I've decided to do a post on how to write a great critique.
- What is the author wanting? This is the most important step in a way. If the author is asking you to look at something specific for them (characterization, plot, grammar, etc), make sure to keep an eye out for that. You can look for other too, but make sure to look for that in particular.
- What doesn't the author want? If the author says that they don't want you to leave a one word comment, then don't. It may be hard, but trust me, its possible.
- But what if you want to give them helpful feedback but all they want is praise? Well I have to options a) ignore them and give them your honest opinion anyways. Maybe they'll actually look at it and take something good away from it. b) Praise them but make sure to include at least a couple things that they could improve on. (note: I am not one of those authors who believes in sugar coating or anything like that. I believe that no matter what you think, you can always improve.)
- Give examples: If you find something wrong, show them what they're doing something wrong repeatedly, show them what they're doing wrong. Don't just say that they keep using the period wrong, if you have to, specifically write out a sentence and show them what you mean. Be specific.
- Explain your thoughts: Don't just tell them you love their story or you hate it. Explain what they're doing right or wrong. Explain why you think about a certain something. If you think a character is a mary sue, explain why you think that.
- Give Suggestions: If you think something isn't working, try giving a suggestion of what they could do to make it better.
- Look for both positive and negative. Always include both in a critique. Make sure your critique is balanced. You don't want to include mostly negative things, but you don't want all praise. If you're having trouble finding a balance, make sure to point out at least one flaw or something good about the story.
- Comment on everything: This means don't focus on one area. Writing a book means more then just the characters. Comment on characters, the plot, grammar, spelling, setting, dialogue, descriptions, the flow of the story, etc.
- Don't be afraid to type something out. A lot of writing sites are starting to have copy and paste locks. So if you need to quote a part of the story in order to show them how to fix something or use something specific, don't be afraid to type it out. If you're going to do this make sure to include quotation marks.
- Stream of Consciousness: This is something that I've started doing recently when I critique something. Especially the beta books I'm reading. I'll comment on something as I read, I'll write whatever comes to mind as I read. Some people like to write a critique after they're done reading, but I find that if I do that, then I may forget some important things I wanted to point out as I was reading.
- Be Honest: If you're never pointing out what they did wrong, how are they suppose to ever get better? Part of me as always felt that if you can't handle honest feedback, how will you handle it when you're published and someone gives you a bad review?
- Be kind, consider the author: the other point I'd like to make is put yourself in the author's shoes. Some people may not know how to handle brutal honesty and may lash back. If you have something to say that you think may come off as harsh, try to word it nicely or just tell the author that you don't mean to offend them.
- Read over the piece again. I find it helpful that once I've written a critique to read over the story again just to make sure I didn't miss anything.
- Check your own grammar and spelling: I shouldn't really have to include this, but I feel I should. I can't tell you how annoying is it to see someone correct me on my grammar or spelling mistakes when their own critique is riddled with spelling and grammar mistakes. It makes you seem like a hypocrite and I don't want any of you to come off that way.
- Overall... I always like putting an "overall" part in my critiques. This is the part where I get to ramble as much as I want about something. Here I try to summarize all my points or I try to focus on the overall part of the story. Here you can try to see how the particular part (I usually do chapter by chapter critiques) fits in with the story overall, or you can comment on the overall story up to this point. You can give your overall impression.
Advice my friends give...
Heather: I do this: For every five negatives, use a positive. -shrug- And I comment on characters, plot and point out any grammar mistakes I see. That's what I do when I feel like leaving a detailed critique. Also, for the negative, give an example on how they can fix it.
Anah: Make sure you quote if you find a flaw. Don't just tell them there's a flaw. -_-
Edit. (This was a rant one of my friends, Courtney, wrote and she gave me permission to post it on here.) A critique is NOT only negatives. It's meant to help, not to be mean. You have to dig down deep and find at least one good thing about the work you've just read. Don't be like: "I'm sorry, but this needs a lot of work. There wasn't really anything good that I could see." You NEVER say that to someone. Never. That's rude on so many levels. At least say: "With a lot of hard work and dedication, this writing has a lot of potential." Something like that. Or say, "I don't want to come across as harsh, but there is a lot of work to be done (explain) but I believe if you put this idea and some of the ideas that I've given you to improve, your manuscript will be far better and draw much more readers. I know the things I've suggested is a lot, but I feel that if you take them into consideration and use them to edit, your writing will be much stronger."
You want to be honest in a critique, but at the same time don't be mean. I've seen so many mean reviews over the past few months. Ones with cussing in them, ones calling something stupid, or and insult to something everywhere. I read some that are down right rude.
Are any of us paid editors? Are any of us published(not self) authors? Are any of us perfect?
How many of you when you started had flawless writing? How many of you could handle some of the "critiques" some of us are giving? I sure as hell couldn't. I had severe depression when I started writing and on inkpop people were so nice. They helped me improve my writing ten fold. Giving me little helpful tips or encouragement, not these mean comments for the sake of just being rude. Critiques aren't meant to puts someone down, they're meant to lift someone up and help their writing grown.
How dare any of us make fun of a writer because their grammar isn't good, or spelling is horrid. I sure as hell am terrible at both. How dare any of us purposely say mean things calling it a critique. Oh wait, we put a disclaimer...because that helps lesson the hurt? No amount of "I don't mean to come across as rude or mean (yes you obviously do or you wouldn't say those things,)" will ever be the truth. If your critique is mean, then it's mean. Be CONSTRUCTIVE. Help the writer. Don't just list the bad things.
Another thing, as I said before, none of us are published or agents or editors. The "majority" of us are teenagers, some adults, who just want to write. Who love to write. We should be kind to one another. We should be respectful. Don't make fun of someone because they might not be as good as you, or are Figs, or Wattpadders. We all started somewhere, we all grew at different paces.
Thanks to my awesome friends for their advice!
So do you have any of your own advice? What kinds of things do you look for when you critique? Do you hate one liners or comments where all people do is praise your story and then beg you to read theirs?