Do you need help putting the finishing touches on your masterpiece?
Are you stuck on a chapter and need some advice?
All authors need a second set of eyes on their work. Someone that will give honest feedback and check for errors. If they ask for your help, they trust you and value your opinion. They are depending on your skills to make their story better.
Below are the top ten tips to providing a helpful critique.
Remember, if this isn’t your favorite type of story, let the author know. However, don’t be afraid to critique something if you’re not familiar with the genre. While reading, consider the target audience before making suggestions. An honest evaluation is critical for any author.
1. Begin by reading the piece.
Don’t make any corrections or judgments until you have read the complete work. This will give you a feel of the story and tone the author is using.
2. Write down your thoughts as a reader.
After you have finished the initial reading let the author know what you thought about his work. Tell her what worked for you and what you believe needs changing.
3. Suggest feedback on what could be changed including grammar and spelling.
If you don’t like the description, give an alternative. For example, “The ride was boring.” You think it would be better is the author used “The ride dragged on for ten hours and all you could see from the window were cornfields for miles.”
4. Give praise if you liked something but never criticize the author personally.
This is important for the author. If something made you smile, touched you in any way, or made you hate the villain, let the author know. This feedback will help the author make corrections to that work as well as in composing future writings. If you didn’t like something, don’t attack the author directly. Suggest an alternative. Let the author know that passage didn’t work and why, and then suggest an alternative.
5. Does the opening draw you in?
Most readers judge a book in the opening few pages. If the opening doesn’t grab you, most likely it won’t grab the reader. Let the author know why you didn’t like it. Give her a suggestion to make it better.
6. Does the story flow logically?
Tell the author if there are holes in the plot. For example; if you are in a hospital and want information on a non-relative patient, you wouldn’t be able to go ask the doctor or see the information regarding that patient in the computer. Also, you cannot know something just because you need it to advance the plot. The story needs to get there logically.
7. Is the setting detailed enough to ground the reader?
Give the reader subtle clues as to where you are. You can use nurses, doctors, and the operating room to set the scene in the hospital without saying you are in a hospital.
8. Are the characters well rounded or one note?
Give the reader information about the characters in casual conversation or in small amounts in narration. The reader doesn’t want to read an entire chapter describing what a character looks like and does for a living. And remember—even villains have some redeemable quality, so factor that into your descriptions.
9. Does the author switch point of view?
Did the author stray from the current character point of view to another point of view? Does she head hop? If you are telling a story from the man’s point of view, you cannot have a paragraph from the woman’s point of view.
Max spied the redhead sitting alone at the bar. She was tiny, had red hair, and a beautiful smile. Max hoped she would notice him.
At first, Fiona just played with her drink, stirring it with the tiny straw. Finally, she looked up and locked eyes with Max. Her heart pounded with excitement.
In this example, the POV character is Max. That means the second paragraph is out of POV (or there was head-hopping) because it’s not from Max’s perspective, but rather is from Fiona’s. This is distracting to readers and should be avoided.
10. Show. Don’t tell.
For example; he was angry.
This sentence tells us the man was angry. To show us the man was angry, try this instead:
John stomped across the room, tackled Ralph , and pinned him to the ground. While down, he repeatedly punched him, beating him until his face was unrecognizable.
The critique process is vital to producing a well-crafted novel. But remember, critiques are only suggestions by your critique partners and you don’t need to follow every suggestion. So find someone you trust and start a working critique relationship.
There you have it. The top ten tips to becoming a good critique partner. Do you have any other tips to add? Let’s talk about it.