The Wednesday Writing Worktable: Critique-ette Part 2

What happens if your critique partner(CP) starts off by saying, "Don't take it personal, but this needs a lot of work."? How do you handle a situation when your CP tells you that you should trash the novel? What do you say to a CP, whose work is better than you could ever write? How should you critique someone's work when you can't even finish reading it? It's time to apply your critique-ette.

Last week, we talked about 5 things not to do when receiving a critique. If you missed it, no fear. Read it HERE

This week is all about what not to do when giving critiques. (Of course, I'm going to follow-up with what to do in these situations.) I know I haven't yet discussed how to actually write a good critique. It's coming, I assure you. But would you go to a big, fancy dinner, where they have a thousand utencils and several glasses, without first knowing good etiquette? Maybe you would, but you might look like Pretty Woman, letting the poor snail soar through the air. It would be embarrassing for you and most likely the host. Chances are you wouldn't be invited to another dinner.

Same with a critique partner. If you want to be able to send other works to him, you need to develop a good rapport. Thus, you need to know critique-ette before you jump into the nitty gritty.

First, let's get the definition of criticism clear when an author asks for it. Today's society, it tends to mean only negative, but that's not the original or the definition any author means. It's this:

Criticism= noun. the analysis and judgment of the merits and faults of a literary or artistic work.

Now, with that in mind...

5 things not to do when giving a critique:

1.   What to do if...

You can't even get through the book you're supposed to be reading for your critique partner.


Tell them that or tell them it's awful.


Remember in what not to do when receiving a critique when the crit partner told you it stinks worse than elephant poo, it hurts. This is someone's hard work. Be honest. Don't lie, but be kind.

You should remember this: Start and End your critique on positive notes. Your partner couldn't have done everything wrong. Think of the things he did right. Focus on that. On the parts of the story you did read, what was good about it? Start small. Show the author that. Give advice on how to make what you did read right. Encourage them to continue that throughout the story. If there are places, where he is suffering whether on plot structure, characterization, etc, lead him to websites, books, etc. that helped you become a better writer. Chances are he'll redo the story and send you back something much more digestible.

2.   What to do if...

Your critique partner is a much better writer than you.


Tell them you can't critique it. 


Give him the praise that he deserves. You still have a lot you can learn from each other. At some point, he wasn't as good of a writer. He can help you get better, and you can still help them with theirs. Maybe more from a reader's perspective. Focus on story and characterization. Being a writer generally means you're a great reader, help them make it the best story for a reader. If his story structure and characterization is flawless, nitpick his grammar. Help to perfect it.

3.   What to do if...

You're overwhelmed by critiquing an entire book.


Put it off.


Take it slow, but be prompt. It's tempting to put it off--to procrastinate, but this usually leads to it never getting done. Take it chapter by chapter. Next post, I'll share a critiquing guide. It'll give you things to look for to help you. If you put it off and never do it, you'll lose a critique partner forever. Don't do that. Remember just like you're waiting for your work, he's waiting for his. 

4.   What to do if...

You laughed at a certain line, shocked by a scene, and/or cried with the character.


Ignore it and only focus on what's wrong in the piece.


Tell him something made you laugh, sit on the edge of your seat, and/or cry. You have to share the good, the bad, and the ugly. Let him know what he is doing right. Don't just harp on the negative. Even if you're kind about the negativity, having nothing good to say will make the writer feel like he didn't do anything right. It'll bring your partner down. Don't forget to tell him the good.

5.   What to do if...

Your partner is unhappy about the critique you gave him.


Curse him out and write a nasty email.


Ask him why he didn't like your critique. Look at what you gave him. Make sure you didn't give him a four line critique. Make sure you were kind, honest, and thorough. Did you explain your suggestions? Encourage him? Help him? If so, then maybe the two of you are just not compatible.

If you do these things, your critique partner should have no cause for complaints:
  • Open on a positive note
  • Be honest
  • But be kind
  • Show the good along with what needs work
  • Explain yourself
  • Be prompt
  • Encourage
  • Thank him for trusting you with his work
Every writer wants to be the best they can be. The best way to learn is through writing and editing. Critiquing has something in it for everyone involved. :)

Lots of <3,

No comments:

Post a Comment