How To Give A Great Critique

hate critiquing! There, i said it…but do you know why? Not because i can’t be arsed. Not because i’m far too busy, and not because i don’t want to be helpful to my fellow writers. No, the reason i hate critiquing is because i don’t really know how to critique lol

I can point out the odd spelling mistake, the need for a comma (I’m comma happy so thats not always a good indication lol), the fact that the tenses are all over the place. But so often i find myself saying “Really enjoyed this.” or “Well done, can’t wait to find out what happens.” PAH! Thats not exactly helpful is it? lol.

Im currently doing the Start Writing Fiction course on the Future Learn website. Its run by the Open University (so its got some pretty well known writers involved) and this week they gave us a pdf entitled “Commenting on the work of fellow writers” which in my case, was much needed 😉

Do go give the article a read, but, if you haven’t got time…heres a brief outline:

  1. If you’re asked to focus on a specific issue, don’t forget to address it.
  2. If you think an aspect of the writing works well try to analyse why, but also look for its faults.
  3. If you think an aspect doesn’t work, again, analyse why, but also look for the parts that are working better. Focus on positive aspects.
  4. Always comment on the idea and its implememtation.
  5. Bear in mind that its probably a WIP. Assess where it might go and what tactics could be used in its development.
  6. Show evidence of any claims you make, the part of the writing you are talking about.
  7. Suggest there may be other opinions “I wonder if anyone else thinks this?”
  8. Think about how well the writing is geared to the target readers.
  9. Be honest, but not dismissive.
  10. Point out the good bits! 🙂

So when i sat down yesterday afternoon to do the critiques for my writing group with my red pen (it has to be a red pen doesn’t it?) i felt much more confident (having the OU sheet next to me), but I’m not promising i’ll ever be able to give a detailed analysis 😉








Are you confident when it comes to giving critiques?



53 thoughts on “How To Give A Great Critique

  1. Great info thanks! I find I tend to be very…thorough. I also have a hard time ignoring grammar issues. I think sometimes my feedback surprises people who haven’t had many honest critiques. I work really hard to bring out the positives but I’m not going to ignore issues either because that won’t make them any better as a writer. Anyway thanks for post!


      • It’s really what’s helped me become a better writer, being challenged by good critique people, even though it was a bit hard at first 🙂 now I’m just like bring it on!! But only if they’re being constructive of course 🙂 happy writing!


  2. It’s funny reading your blog post today because my post is a writing book I recently read and what I picked out was about Beta readers and the need to be specific in what you’re asking them to look for. So I think it’s a two way street with this process. Those asking for a critique need to be specific in what they want you to look at and then it helps you work through your great list. I’m considering that course. How are you finding it?

    And welcome back! Lovely to see you 🙂


    • Hi Rebecca 🙂

      Yeah, i think its much better if you have something specific you’re looking at, but most of the ones i have to do for my writing group are short stories (or chapters from a novel) and just “what do you think?” type critiques.

      Really enjoying the course actually, but not taking part in the discussions, taken some great notes…this week (week 3) is about editing so should be interesting lol

      Awwww, thanks honey, its good to be back!



  3. I hate writing critiques, for one my grammar is dreadful so I’m of no use there! But on the upside I think I do have a decent eye for spotting typos and potholes, just not in my own work! Lol


  4. I love doing critiques. Although I do get worried that I have no right to give advice on someone else’s work which does make me hold back. I’ll definately check out teh pdf though.
    I like teh new banner too. Such beautiful notebooks.


  5. I find it hard to give critiques too – on my Masters course we have to ‘workshop’ each others writing and it’s very hard to go beyond what you like, or what doesn’t quite work. Finding reasons why something doesn’t work – or indeed, reasons why something does – really helps you to understand your own writing, which is why I think critiquing works so well. It’s more for the benefit of the person giving it than the person receiving it!

    Great to hear you’re doing the Start Writing Fiction course – I did that one when the OU were offering it as a 10 credit unit, and it is brilliant. And lovely to have you back, Vikki. x


  6. Great that you are sharing this aspect of the course with others. I hope the ladies in our group are also taking notes. Critiquing work by others and by ourselves is how we grow into better writers. Thanks Vikki.
    love Sue X


  7. I’m glad to see you’re still writing after the A-Z challenge. I feel the same about critiquing others work. It can be a bit personal sometimes, after all you can only say what you liked and what worked for you, it might be something completely different for someone else.


    • Thanks Rachel 🙂

      Oh definitely! I often find myself critiquing and thinking “no, that should be written like that..” and then i realise thats how I would write it lol…tricky xx


  8. I’m sure you’ll make a great job of it from now on but it is a bit scary having o point out any negatives to friends. Still, as long as you’re making a point of mentioning all the positives, friends shouldn’t mind too much.
    xxx Massive Hugs Vikki. xxx


  9. I find I critique differently for different audiences. I am a member of one critique group where we generally comment on grammar and word choice as well as character and story development. In another one of my groups, we tend to comment only on how the story is working, character development, and more global issues. That group only comments on the sentence level if there is a glaring problem or a particularly wonderful passage.
    The more I critique other people’s work, the more comfortable I am doing it. One thing I have noticed is that it takes me a few critique rounds to get to know someone’s style and be able to help them stay true to that style.


  10. I became more confident in critiquing after I joined a ‘critique group’ – just four of us who met every other week and read our chapters out loud, then looked them over on paper and…critiqued. We were tough but fair. And each of us wrote in a different genre, so we had to understand that genre and not critique according to what OUR genre demanded. Besides helping each other out, we learned a lot about different kinds of writing.


  11. This post came at a great time. I’ve been asked to critique a fellow writer’s work and I have the same feelings you do about it. Noooo! And it’s all because I didn’t know how to do it. So, thanks for the guidelines!



  12. I’ve also taking the same course. I haven’t gotten to that part yet, but I do give critiques at Critique Circle. Mostly, I don’t do it often because of time. But when I do, I’ll be happy to critique.


  13. I learned a lot about how to critique on critique It’s a community where writers and readers come together to offer constructive criticism on multiple genres of writing. Not only do you learn how to give effective critiques, but you learn how do so diplomatically. In addition, you learn how to handle a critique of your writing (which is almost as hard as writing critiques!). 🙂


  14. I’d also like to suggest adding something like: “This is only one persons opinion and if I’ve suggested anything that doesn’t meet your vision or goal for the story I encourage you to ignore what I’ve said, and go with your gut.”

    When I look for a crit, I’m hoping for what a reader liked or didn’t like. I don’t need analysis, or justification. Your opinion is good enough for me. Some writers would prefer more, but that is not all of us.

    I’ve been know to write: “I loved it and unfortunately have no suggestions to improve your work except get submitting.” It does happen. 🙂

    Anna from Shout with Emaginette


  15. Now that you know how to do it – feel free to critique mine. The on line writing group I sometimes participate in is great for learning how to critique. I do great critiques!


  16. Pingback: To Edit or not To Edit | jean's writing

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