Children's Writer's Guild Forum » Writing and Literature

What are the elements of a thorough critique?

(10 posts)
  • Started 6 years ago by Sheila
  • Latest reply from Marvin in Tyler
  1. Sheila

    Hi, Everyone!

    Welcome to our new NJCWG writing and literature discussion forum! I am curious to know what readers consider a thorough critique. I have many thoughts on this subject, but I would like to hear yours first. So... if you had a wish list for receiving feedback on your work, what would it include?

    Posted 6 years ago #
  2. Patricia Koelmel

    For starters, a thorough critique would would ask the following questions:
    -Is there a good balance between dialogue, physical action (show vs tell), and narrative?
    -Does the story immediately pull you in? And are there hooks to keep you interested?
    -Is information missing and/or are there areas difficult to understand?
    -Is the story character driven and does it present a problem to solve or conflict (internal and/or external) to overcome?
    -Does the story include sensory details (taste, touch, smell, sight, sound)?
    -Does the story contain a twist and an unpredictable ending or were you left unsatisfied and confused?

    Posted 6 years ago #
  3. Sheila

    GREAT points, Pat!

    Posted 6 years ago #
  4. Lois

    OK..this is just a test.

    A thorough critique brings out which elements work (i.e.location, language) and which elements don't (i.e. length, under-developed characters).


    Posted 6 years ago #
  5. Fernando

    Everything above is great. If I can throw two cents in: I find a critique more helpful if any comments negative or positive are backed up with reason. Saying that a passage does not work or is the greatest thing since sliced bread doewn't help much unless I know why the ctit-ter stumbled or got excited in the narrative.

    Just a thought.


    Posted 6 years ago #
  6. Sheila

    You're advise is worth a lot more than two cents, Fernando!

    The "why" is so important!!!

    Posted 6 years ago #
  7. Anonymous

    I like these criteria and look forward to using them. Sheila, I sent Group 2 a plot summary of my proposed book, and Fernando has responded with helpful suggestions. So then I sent him a sample chapter. I really appreciate going first, and I'm looking forward to hearing from the rest of the group. I do think we should share all critiques with each other, because we can learn so much from each other's feedback.

    Posted 6 years ago #
  8. Sheila

    Yes, I agree Janet.

    Having our own work critiqued can be a valuable learning experience, but we benefit also from critiquing the work of others and sharing critiques within a group. Critiquing builds editorial skills, and becoming a better editor means becoming a better writer. By sharing critiques, we share editorial strengths and individual perspectives that can be illuminating.

    So glad to hear that you are already receiving feedback on your work!

    Posted 6 years ago #
  9. Sheila

    A careful reading of a manuscript is one of the most important elements of a critique. I like to read a work at least three times (length and time permitting, and not necessarily at the same sitting), and live with it for a few days. I am always struck by ideas that come to me after some time away from the initial reading. The mind needs to "digest" what it has read, and is then better able to make creative connections, observations, etc.

    I approach a manuscript in three basic steps: I look first at its overall structural development (are the ideas consistent and flowing?), then I approach it line-by-line (are the sentences sound grammatically, and how well do they relate to one another), and finally, copyediting (are words spelled correctly, punctuation correct, and facts accurate?).

    While my approach to critiquing a manuscript is not a strict 1,2,3 approach, but oftentimes, more like an organic blend of the three, it's still good to think in terms of these steps because they are the basic elements of a thorough critique.

    Though it is good to start out with pen in hand to mark a manuscript with whatever first impressions catch the eye, always read a
    work more than once for the kind of insight that produces a valuable critique.

    Posted 6 years ago #
  10. Greetings fellow writers! Now that I have found this "tag" on what creates a good critique, I can join in on the discussion. I like what everyone else has had to say, and each one is bound to be helpful to the writer. For me, first impressions rank very high. I want to see if the story "speaks" to me. I'm most interested in the over all story and how it unfolds. I can't help but recall the central theme all of our instructors have repeated at our various workshops and seminars; good writing will get the attention of the publisher. If I like what I am reading, then I go back and check for consistency, both chronologically and in how the characters and events "flow." After that, I check for mechanics - spelling, sentence structure, vocabulary for the targeted audience, punctuation, etc. I hope this isn't too condescending or naive, but that's the way I evaluate manuscripts, including my own.

    Posted 6 years ago #


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