Ever read somebody’s work and failed to write a critique, because you didn’t know what to say? That’s why we’ve brought in the Guide! In this entry, you'll find a bunch of suggestions on how to write your critiques. hundakleptisis and I put this together with works of fiction mainly in mind, but the information here can be applied to critiquing poetry and nonfiction, as well. I'll be putting this under the community's memories, so everybody has easy access to it in the future.
A successful critique does NOT need to be long. It should touch on positive aspects of a piece as well as the areas where improvement is needed. When you talk about the flaws in somebody’s work, remember to always offer suggestions on how to improve.
You should never lie on a critique. Some pieces it will be hard to find something good to say amidst all the corrections. Don't be tempted to avoid critique, and just leave your comment as a congratulations or well done. Find one or two of the most serious problems and note them, and then find something good (it’s hard but there is always something good) to say about it too. False encouragement will never help a writer improve their skill.
Avoid personal attacks due to the content. If you don’t like to read about rape in a story, then don't critique on that aspect (or move on to another piece of writing you feel more comfortable with). Or, if you feel the rape scene is inappropriate for the piece at this point in the plot, then say why. Deal similarly with other touchy subjects such as drugs, homosexuality, politics, religion, feminism, and so on. We are critiquing a written work, not the person behind it.
Similiarly, when you receive a critique, take into account that the critique is an assessment of your work, not a condemnation of your own personality. Accept all opinions gracefully and thank the person for taking the time to look over your work.
Remember that critique benefits everybody involved - the critic as well as the writer! It will help people identify the problems in their own work and how to overcome them. So, the more you give other writers critique, the more you'll learn about your own writing. Everybody wins!
What points can I include in my critique?
• Immediate Reaction: How did you feel about the piece initially? Like it? Why/ why not? What jumped out at you in particular? Did your opinion change as you completed your reading?
•Flow: Did the work flow? Did you read through it effortlessly, or were there sentences or paragraphs you stumbled over? Did the pace of the piece suit the content (for example, if you were reading about somebody drowning, then the writing would most often be fast-paced, with short, choppy sentences)? Was the pace too fast at any point? Too slow? How could this be improved?
•Characterisation: Did you connect with the characters? Did you feel they were well-drawn and realistic (charismatic, believable)?
•Grammar/ Spelling: Were there any recurring errors? Any words or phrases that popped up too often? Were there any words used inappropriately (saying one thing but meaning something else)? Or, was the grammar and spelling particularly solid?
•Sentence/ Line Structure: Was the sentence structure awkward at any point? If so, why? Was the meaning of the sentences clear?
•Word choice: Did you like the writer’s choice of words? Was the meaning clear? Any particularly good phrases? How about bad ones – clunky phrases, clichés?
•Imagery: Did the writer make good use of imagery – if so, was it original, and was it powerful? Or was it cliché (quiet as a mouse, out of the blue, a stroke of luck, etc)?
•Tone: Did the tone of the piece suit the content/ setting, and was it consistent throughout the piece? If there were changes in tone, did these changes work?
•Description: Were you able to visualize the scene that the author had written or did they describe it in too much detail? Where could they add or subtract description?
•Dialogue: Did the dialogue sound real or stilted? Could you imagine overhearing this kind of conversation in real life? If an accent is used is it consistent throughout the piece? Was any of the speech particularly cliché or over the top. (e.g. using the f*** word five times in one sentence generally detracts from the writing.) Was the dialogue appropriate for the character's age (if you've ever read a five year old talking like a physics professor you'd understand this one well! :D)
Did the piece make you stop and think? Did it stir an emotional reaction from you/ were you moved by the piece? Did you get bored at any point? Are there any published works you can think of that deal with similar content - or are written in a similar style - that might be of interest to the writer whose work you're critiquing?