Critiquing With Confidence

I’m part of an all female writing group, called The Mermaids. But, from what I now know about writing groups this is in fact, a critique group. We submit our work via e mail and then meet up once a month to give critiques. This months meeting is on the 14th and I have a whole folder of stuff I have to read and use the red pen on lol

I read a post a couple of weeks ago over at 4am Writer entitled The Power of a Critique which has prompted this post πŸ™‚

I use to hate critiquing…..all I ever use to write on my fellow writers work was “really liked this well done” lol. Probably because (a) I didn’t want to upset them, put them off writing or come across as, oh, what’s the word? Superior? Especially when (IMO) my writing was probably worse. And (b) because really, I didn’t know how to critique.

That all changed when I started attending classes at The Write Place where Elaine gave us slips of paper to use when we critique. The slips contained a list of questions to apply to the work we were critiquing and now, I use this set of questions all the time. I hope they’re helpful to any of you who struggle (as I did) when asked to critique a fellow writers work πŸ™‚

(1) Did the title grab you?
(2) How about the opening paragraphs?
(3) Characters: Were they believable?
(4) Was there a strong plot?
(5) How about the ending, was it satisfying?
(6) Does it suit the market that the writer is aiming for?

I’d also like to add my own one that’s not on Elaine’s list……
(7) Did the dialogue work?

We use these questions in class to critique short stories, so I’m not sure how they would relate to a novel, or one chapter of a novel.


How do you feel about critiquing? Love it? Hate it? Muddle through? πŸ˜‰

As a side note…..yesterday I read on Clarbojahn’s Blog about the OREO method of critiquing. Some good advice *nods in agreement* πŸ™‚

33 thoughts on “Critiquing With Confidence

  1. I’ve attended quite a few creative writing classes and sat through hours of critiquing—my own work, and others. I’m not sure it’s the most helpful way to do things, but some people live for it. I always found that I was resistant to suggestions made by others—possibly because I thought I was better and they just didn’t “get” me. But the kind of writing improvements I think those classes aim for are only realistic after years of writing and personal growth. No matter what you want to do, you’re only going to be able to write as well as you’re mature. It’s kind of a weird concept I guess, but if you’re immature as a person, inexperienced in reading or writing or the world, your writing is going to suffer. And that was sort of what I was running up against in those classes. But, those were college classes, so maybe the demographic was necessarily a bit skewed.

    Do you find the critiques you receive in your group are instructive? Do you feel like your writing has improved because of it? Or do you generally just nod and smile until the suggestions are over and you move on to the next person? I think these opportunities definitely have the potential to improve, but it’s so difficult to be receptive enough to understand what you’re hearing from others, and to not be offended, which you sort of mentioned.

    Good for you for being proactive though! That’s the key to being successful, in my opinion. Just out of curiosity, what made you join an all-female writer’s group?


    • I totally agree hon, it’s not ideal, but, is there a good alternative?

      I feel that the critiques I receive are useful (mostly) but I don’t think my writing has improved because if it. The piece that is being critiqued might improve though πŸ˜‰

      The only reason I’m part of an all female group is because that’s the one in my area. It is called a Writing Group, but, I’d perhaps like to find another one to see what the differences are….we don’t I any actual writing lol.

      The thing that I don’t like about critiquing is that most of the things people pick out in your work (the things they say you should change) are usually more to do with them, than you. If you change things because someone told you use of another word sounds better you kinda lose your own voice, especially if it’s something you would never dream of adding yourself 😦



  2. I’m okay with it. At first I hated it, but it’s growing on me. If someone asks for critique, I’ve gotten better at giving. Though I have held back some of my opinion on things as not to hurt someone’s feelings too much (I know how I can be when someone redlines my whole paper. I’m a fan of sandwiching criticism between compliments. Start with a compliment, criticism, then compliment again. Keeps spirits up while still giving valuable input.


    • That’s definitely a good idea, sandwiching positives and negatives together πŸ™‚

      It’s hard though isn’t it. When you read someone’s work and really, you’re thinking, this person really cannot write…..what do you say? 😦



  3. I find that I don’t like critiquing stories for people that I know well for some reason. It is sometimes harder for me to be objective. But I find it fun to look at a chapter or two for someone that requests a beta reader.

    I like the oreo method of critiquing.


  4. Critiquing is an improtant part of the writing process. The questions listed here ase okay, but it’s possible to go much deeper. Maybe to comment on tematic content, viewpoint, narrative construction etc.


  5. I enjoy critiquing and have been asked to crit many whole books as a result, but I’m not sure I want that responsibility.

    An invaluable aspect of critiquing is how one’s own work improves as a result. So even if the writer takes no notice of what you have said, you come out of it a better writer, with a more in-depth knowledge of the process.


  6. It is a little bit school isn’t it? It is good to teach you to evaluate your work and to take the same from others, to help you improve, but I do like a bit of that human element. The bit where there is lots of good things but maybe something not quite right. It is like the story with a duff title but turns out to be something good. The title might have sent you the wrong way so the story was a bigger surprise. Sometimes the faults give you a little more.

    That said something with too many faults is just rubbish!


  7. I really enjoy the process, but I’ve learned you have to be really open and willing to give and receive comments. I joined last year and it was an incredible experience. I learned how to give critiques that are honest and helpful without being hurtful, (as long as the writer is willing and able to handle someone picking apart their work.). I found that critiquing someone else’s work really helped me look at my own work with a new perspective as well. πŸ™‚


  8. Great topic!
    When I first started critiquing, I was really scaredβ€”since who am I to stomp all over someone’s manuscript!? So I stepped lightly, but soon discovered ways to constructively phrase my thoughts and reactions. Turns out I really love critiquing, as it feels like a natural extension of reading, but now I get to provide my reactions to the author. I try to tailor my comments to what the writer is looking for, and stay out of the way of what I perceive to be their artistic vision.
    I do think I have become a better critic of my own work as a result.
    The only problem? I am horribly intimidated about putting my own work up for review! I’ll get there, I hope. πŸ™‚


    • Oh, I totally agree, there’s no way I want to rain on their parade (ie artistic vision) which is why I’ve flu d the whole thing quite difficult 😦

      Yes, I’ve had about 4 of my stories critiqued now, and it was agonising lol



  9. Thanks so much for the mention. I’m also happy that my post inspired this great, helpful post! I think those are great starter questions that give a strong idea of what to look for in someone’s writing. As you do more and more critiquing, you’ll pick things up on your own and develop your own style of critiquing. Luv “Mermaids”, that’s such a fun name!


    • You’re welcome πŸ™‚

      I had this post in mind when I read yours πŸ™‚

      I’m hoping I’m gunna become more confident as time goes on, but I think there will always be a little part of me that doesn’t like it lol πŸ˜‰

      Lol, yeah, it is isn’t it πŸ™‚ Which is why we definitely can have any men lol



  10. I think not only do most people fear critique because of the chance we hurt someone’s feelings, I think – at least in my case – it may be fear of exposing OUR lack of knowledge (or perceived lack). I look back at critiques I gave a year ago and cringe because they were not helpful at all.

    Giving two positive to one negative like Clarbojahn says in the link you posted is a good way to do it. With the positive comments, the negative ones will be more in context and may actually help the writer figure out a way to fix any issues in the work.

    Great post Vikki.


  11. I believe in Elmore Leonard’s rules for writing.
    Never open a book with weather.
    Avoid prologues.
    Never use a verb other than “said” to carry dialogue.
    Never use an adverb to modify the verb “said”…he admonished gravely.
    Keep your exclamation points under control. You are allowed no more than two or three per 100,000 words of prose.
    Never use the words “suddenly” or “all hell broke loose.”
    Use regional dialect, patois, sparingly.
    Avoid detailed descriptions of characters.
    Don’t go into great detail describing places and things.
    Try to leave out the part that readers tend to skip.
    I really like this last rule.


  12. I love critiquing, but sometime have trouble remembering to touch on each of these aspects. What a nice, simple, easy-to-use list!

    Love your blog BTW, new follower!


  13. Pingback: The To Do List 16th to 22nd | The View Outside

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