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Guidelines for Writing a Critique
evaluation of a written work by a person who, through experience and
knowledge of the marketplace, has acquired expertise to judge it
objectively. Valuable criticism comes from editors and writers skilled
in pointing out strengths and weaknesses in fiction and nonfiction
technique. A part of receiving criticism is tied up with being able to
distinguish between helpful comments from professionals, and
well-meaning but useless or possibly harmful comments from other people
who may read the manuscript -- and in using the significant remarks
good critique benefits both the writer and the critiquer. The benefits
to the writer receiving the critique should be obvious. There is no
place for derision or ridicule of either the work or the writer within a
critique. The writer submitting his work for critique has placed his
intellectual child in the hands of his critiquer expecting his work to
the work of others helps you become a better writer. There is no mystery
to writing a good critique. The following pointers may help improve your
skills with this important element of the craft.
the submission. Read the submission. This redundancy is intended, not a
typo. Read it at least twice to be sure you have not misread or
misunderstood any part of it.
it the first time as a reader. After your first reading write down your
general impression from a reader's perspective. Did it makes sense? Did
you enjoy it? What kind of reader would enjoy this piece?
second time through, read as a writer. Begin making notes to yourself.
with the main focus of your critique. Remember that your purpose is to
give feedback on what needs changing and how to make it
better. A "that's nice" or "enjoyable read" comment
alone is not constructive. The writer has submitted this work for
critique because he believes there is room for improvement. If he had
wanted an "atta boy--that's nice" comment, he would have asked
his mother to read it. Such comments are nice to hear but do not serve
the reason for the critique. Praising the writer when you have enjoyed
the work is appropriate, when done separately from the critique.
your notes with something you really liked about the piece. Describe for
yourself why you liked it. The more specific you can be, the more it
will help the writer, and the more it may help your own writing.
on what you don't like about a piece is usually a dead end. It annoys
the writer. It is perceived as an attempt to make the critiquer appear
superior. Superiority is something a good writer can rarely afford to
feel, without doing violence to his/her own writing. Honesty without
compassion is cruelty. 3
sometimes think his critical judgment is so exquisite it leaves as
nothing to admire except his opinion." Christopher Fry, "The
Lady's Not For Burning" (1948), Act 1.
whose writing is whose. If you find yourself saying "I wouldn't
have written..." remember that you didn't. The writer submitted
this work for critique, not a hatchet job or proof reading. Separate, as
best you can, your own preferences and choices from your attempt at an
unbiased critique of the work at hand. Each writer strives diligently to
use their own unique writing voice. Do not expect them to use your
voice. Respect the courage each writer has shown in laying the work bare
for your inspection, while still unfinished. Admire what there is to
admire first, and from that basis, begin to offer comments and
suggestions about what seems to be missing, what doesn't quite flow,
what remains puzzling about the work.
to imagine to understand the person that did want to write the piece the
way it's written. Try to understand your fellow writer's goals,
interests, and quirks, and why the work is in the shape it's in. With
some degree of empathy you may then hope to offer something truly useful
to your fellow writer, and gain a useful shift in perspective for
yourself as well.
critique should include information about the following points.