Wednesday, January 26, 2011

What do you look for in Critiques?

What's the biggest thing you look for in a critique?

What do you hope people will give you in their critique?

I happen to have a remarkable crew of critique partners. In my humble opinion, they are awesome. They are wonderful, because even after I proofread and proofread, they still catch the things I always, always miss.

For instance, I have a terrible habit of repeating a word, such as "then," "and," and "but." It's almost like I get addicted to a certain word, and just have to use and use and use it... rather like "use" in this sentence.

Another bad habit of mine is my overuse of commas. Sometimes I catch myself, and then I have shocking lack of commas. I always do one or the other. As I said, it's a bad habit. Or habits.

Me, the biggest thing I look for is readability. If a story doesn't flow, I can't read it properly until I've edited it and made a sentence flow more cleanly into the next. That's the one thing that niggles me the most when I critique. Flow is so important to me. What's the most important story element that you HAVE to correct when you're critiquing someone's story?

When I send a story to my friends, the biggest thing I hope they give me is their honesty. I don't want praise (though that can be balm to the writer's soul). What I want are their honest opinions and suggestions that will make my story that much better.

How about you? What's your critiquing attack?


  1. Am I allowed to answer this since I'm in your critique group? I'm going to anyway. For me, honesty is key. Like you said, praise is nice, but critique partners should be helpful by offering constructive criticism. A good critique partner will point out things you need to fix in order to make your writing the best it can be. I never feel bad when I get a harsh critique because I know it will make me a better writer in the end. And besides, I'd rather have a critique partner point out my weaknesses than an editor or agent!

    When I critique I look for several things. I check for words or phrases that are overused. I tend to repeat things in my own writing, so I look for it in the writing of others, too. I also check for plot holes. Everything needs to flow and makes sense. Along the same lines, I make sure the voice is consistent throughout. And finally, as an English major and grammar lover (yes, I know it's weird to love grammar) I check for grammatical errors.

  2. I don't critique much, as the receiver.....I'm always looking for COMPLETE honesty. Good read, by the way.

  3. I'm in a very good writers' group too. I want to hear if my intention for a scene, or for the overarching story is not clear.

  4. What do I want out of a critique? Well, honesty, of course, and I love it when a critiquer points out ways to make my work better, whether it's bringing out more of the story or suggestions on the technical side. It brings out the giddy writer geek in me. :)

    When I critique, I tend to focus on depth. Most writers don't go deep enough with their stories or characters--going deep into our stories and characters often means we need to go deep into ourselves and that's difficult. Even scary. :) So I look for places where the story or character can go deeper, where the end result is a stronger connection to the reader. Sometimes better mechanics is needed for that, but other times the story or character just needs *more*.

  5. I want to know what doesn't work! I hate critiques that point out what works. I know what works! As painful as it is to be criticized, it challenges me to become a better writer. After all, isn't that the real goal.

  6. When I critique I look at the flow and order of the story, scene building, character building and I point out places that I stop reading and why. Grammar issues etc. I hope that my critique partners would do the same for me.

  7. I actually still need to break into the whole 'critique' thing. :-) But yes, please be honest with me...I wont get upsetd. Promise! :-)

  8. I have an awesome critique group, too. HONESTY is a high priority. I prefer feedback on whether characters are relatable, if the world-building (I write paranormal/fantasy) is believable, plot holes, tension/conflict, dialogue, and of course grammar. Boy, that's a big list. My poor critique partners.

    I think critiquing others makes me a better writer.

  9. Kelly, of course you can comment! Even if you're one of my awesome critique partners, jump in anytime. :-* (Love your comment about loving grammar. It can be FUN, can't it? Embrace those periods!)

    Rob, complete honesty is a must. I mean, praise is all well and good. Sometimes it soothes the wounded soul, but I prefer honesty. "What do you love? What do you hate?"

    Catherine, good point. I love it when my critique partners say whether or not a scene, or a sentence, worked for them.

    Tabitha, SO TRUE! I love to take my character, push 'em to the edge, and think how much further I can go with them. If they topple, will they still survive?

  10. Raisingmarshmallows, your comment gave me a giggle. I could totally see me on the other side of this computer, jumping up and down and shouting, "I know THAT works! What I want to know is, why doesn't THIS work?!!"

    LM Preston, your critique method sounds a lot like mine. Readability always, always, always comes first for me. If I can't read it easily, I can't critique it. I have to correct the flow first.

    Critiquing is FUN, Amy! Really. Cross my heart. It gives you such insight to the whole writing thing. :-)

    Writesbymoonlight (love your name!) I empathize. I'm a huge fantasy fan myself, and all my critique buddies are part of a fantasy/mystery critique group. We're all world-building freaks! LOL. I agree with you. Critiquing others' writing makes me a better writer too.

    Thanks for the comments, youse all!

  11. Constructive criticism is always nice...Especially when it's tactful. :)

  12. Hi, Cat! I came over from YALit. I crit for pacing and believability mainly. Then I check out sentence structure and overuse of words, that type of thing. The grammar is minor compared to the overall feel. If the characters' dialogue is stiff or boring, I can't get into the story. So these are things I look for in others' work, and things I hope my partners pick out in mine. Showing vs. telling is another big one.

    Nice to meet you! :)

  13. Nice to meet you too, Pk!

    Showing/telling is an absolute needful bit of storytelling that I love my critique people to point out. I was reading a book today, and I was sitting on the couch thinking, "Wow, this guy does nothing but tell tell tell!" :-)

  14. I agree that telling me what works and is good, isn't helpful for me. I need to know what sucks and what is awful. Yeah, maybe a bit of a icing at the end, but in general, just give me the fix.


See my comment box? Want to know a secret?

*whispers* It's actually a TARDIS comment box! If you write long enough, you'll see... it's bigger on the inside!

Isn't that cool?

Now that you know that, aren't you going to throw a comment in there? You KNOW you want to. :)

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...