Critiquing is the one of the fundamental basics when you are part of a writing group. You can learn from both having your own work critiqued, and critiquing other people’s work.
Start by reading the story once all the way through without any critique. Have an open mind, leave any judgements or preconceived ideas behind. Try not to judge on your own personal favourite genres; if you are not into Sci-Fi for instance, try to consider how a person who does like Sci-Fi would view it.
Read it a second time and start the critique. If using Microsoft Word you may find it helpful to select ‘track changes’ in the ‘Review’ menu. You can also add ‘new comments’ as you go.
Highlight any grammatical errors, spelling mistakes, punctuation errors or any sentences which seem to jar. A quick tweak of the wording might make all the difference.
Think about the piece as a whole. Were there any parts when you started to lose interest or found your attention slipping?
- Did the first line hook you into the story?
- In the first paragraph, do you get a good indication of the theme and genre of the story, whilst getting hooked into a character or situation?
- Does the story begin in the right place?
- Are the characters realistic?
- Have stereotypes been avoided?
- Are their motives understandable and believable?
- Does it flow?
- Does it sound naturalistic whilst still concise?
Point of view and tense
- Are they consistent?
- Might the story be better in a different tense eg if in 3rd person how would the story differ if told in 1st person? Would this work?
- If the story is told in from different point of views, are these clearly distinguishable to avoid confusion?
- Does the setting/tone/atmosphere fit the story?
- Is there a clear and consistent voice?
- Is the language clear and understandable?
- Is the voice active, not passive (ie active – ‘she wrote the story’ vs passive – ‘the story was written by her’)?
- Does every scene move the story forward? Can any parts be cut out?
- Are expositional ‘information dumps’ avoided?
- Are adjectives used sparingly?
- Did it have a moral or a point? Did it make you feel something, be it happy, sad, inspired, amused, entertained?
- Have you given a balanced critique, pointing out strengths as well as areas that could be improved?
- Be constructive
- Be supportive
- Be proud to be part of a writing group!
Words by Mel Ciavucco.