The Wednesday Writing Worktable: A Thoroughly Thorough Critique

You've found a partner willing to exchange manuscripts or WIPs (works-in-progress) for critiques. You know what not to do in giving and receiving critiques. Still, your hands tremble as they hover over the keyboard. What do you write? What do you look for?

I prefer receiving thorough critiques, and unless told differently that's what I give. Some writers prefer tackling one thing at a time (i.e. story structure or plot or characters alone), but it's hard for the reader to keep re-reading the same story. Things tend to get overlooked when you've read it six times already. But if that's what they want, that's fine. Just be sure to know what your critique partner is looking for beforehand. Some people suggest not to critique grammar if you're critiquing a first draft. I try really hard, but I was an English teacher, it's not something I can turn off easily. So I say that's your call.

I'm not going to talk about the etiquette of critique writing. I did that last week. If you missed it, have no fear, go HERE. To read this series from the beginning, go HERE.

This is about the nuts and bolts of writing a thorough critique when asked for.

5 Ways to make your critique Thoroughly Thorough:

1.  Do an inline critique.

What does this mean?  It means whether in Word or pdf or another editing site (I personally don't like google docs for the fact that the most you can do is comment and highlight. It is tedious to explain things when you can't delete or show the editing inline.), you actually edit the original document. Show as you go the things you'd change or work on. Be sure to know the difference between offering suggestions on how to rewrite what they wrote and actually rewriting someone's work. You don't want to rewrite their work. It should be in their voice. In their style.

2.  Show your reader reactions.

What does this mean? As I read someone's work, I show my reactions inline. For instance, if I find something funny, I write lol next to it. If it's sad, I say so. If I want to kick the antagonist in the groin, I say that, too. If they do something really well, I let them know. This helps a writer to see if readers are responding to situations as they intended or if something is not translating well.

3.  Write down questions you develop as a reader.

What does this mean? For instance, if a chapter ends with a character having to face a tough situation like whether to go through the wormhole or not, write it down. At the end of your critique, answer all the questions you accumulated. Any left unanswered address with your critique partner. These are loose ends that possibly need tying up in the book.

4.  Examine the parts of the story

What does this mean? This is where I detail my findings throughout the story. I explain any struggles or strengths within the opening, plot, setting, characterization, dialogue, POV, show vs. tell, format, grammar, etc. I developed a rubric of sorts from some websites that I looked to when I first started critiquing novels. It has questions to answer to make sure you cover the bases. I even have a short version that is useful as a beta reader or when asked for a basic critique. Here's the LINK.

5.  Answer any Follow-up questions and offer help.

What does this mean? If your critique partner doesn't understand something, clarify your critique. If they ask for help to rehash a certain part, help them, but only if they ask. This is a huge honor. It means they trust your opinion. 

Just to recap on how to give a thoroughly thorough critique:

1.  Do an inline critique.
2.  Show your reader reactions.
3.  Write down questions you develop as a reader.
4.  Examine the parts of a story
5.  Answer any Follow-up questions and offer help

Now, go write your own thoroughly thorough critiques.

The last and final post on critiquing will be next week. It'll be how I digest a Thoroughly Thorough Critique. It can be overwhelming on first glance, but when digested in pieces, you may prefer it.

Lots of <3,

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