How to Make Helpful Critiques

“How to Make Helpful Critiques” by Joan Y. Edwards

Are you in a critique group? Are you floundering for ideas of the best ways to offer your suggestions for improvement? Do you make sure you give positive feedback as well as changes that might need to be made? Good for you. These simple steps will help you.

How to give a good manuscript critique?

When you have someone critique your own work, ask them five of the following questions.

When you critique a manuscript, do a good job. Ask the author to choose 3 questions from the list below that they would like for you to answer. Choose 2 or 3 of your own questions.

If you don’t know the writer’s wishes, choose five of the following questions and write them at the beginning of the manuscript you’re about to critique. It will help you focus on the story’s strengths, as well as give the author places that need enrichment.

In your critique, make your opinions clear so that the author is able to tell what you think. Tell the author both ways to correct the manuscript and ideas to enhance the manuscript. Here are ideas to guide you and ensure you give a good critique.

25 Questions for a Critique

After reading a manuscript, answer these questions.

  1. What are three Blue Ribbon passages (great paragraphs)?
  2. Write down any questions that come to mind as you read the manuscript. Share them with the author.
  3. Point out any pet words that the author uses over and over again? A thesaurus might have synonyms to use in place of them.
  4. What are three main errors in punctuation and grammar the author needs to correct?
  5. Point out where the writer needs to show, not tell. SHOW, DON’T TELL.
  6. Mark examples of passive voice so that the author can change them to active voice.
  7. Use quotes from the story to support your idea. Point out passages that show the author’s meaning as it unfolds.
  8. After reading the story, can you write a short (25-100 word) summary telling the beginning, middle, and end? Do so. If not, tell the parts you can and explain the parts of the story that are missing.
  9. Explain where the story hooks you and why?
  10. What is the setting (time and place) and how does it influence the story? Would a different time and place enhance the story?
  11. What is the point of view? Through whose eyes do you see this story?
  12. What does the main character) want?
  13. What is the main character) willing to do to get what he wants?
  14. What is the conflict that keeps the  (main character) from getting what he wants?
  15. Does the hero get what he wants? How?
  16. What are the mistakes that the main character makes?
  17. What are the main character’s flaws? (He’s got to have flaws.)
  18. What is the lowest point in the story when the main character felt like giving up or he feels that his situation was hopeless?
  19. Did the main character change? How? If the main character doesn’t change, who does or what does change. Someone or something has to change in a story or there is no story.
  20. What does the main character learn about life from his experiences in this story? (Theme)
  21. Name the characters in the story and what each one wants.
  22. In the dialogue, does each character have a distinct voice of his own? In the descriptions, can you tell which character is on the page?
  23. What do you want to know about the characters that the author didn’t tell you?
  24. Does the story make sense? If not, note in the manuscript which parts that don’t make sense.
  25. Does the ending satisfy you as a reader? If not, why not?

Ways to Make Your Critique Notes Stand Out:

  1. Use a separate piece of paper for your notes. Copy noteworthy passages there.
  2. Do critique on actual pages of manuscript.
  3. Put in blue text at least three Blue Ribbon passages – my name for words, sentences, phrases, paragraphs, or scenes that are especially well-written. In this particular manuscript, these parts win First Prize – the Blue Ribbon.
  4. Highlight in yellow or put in red text, and/or cross out words. like this.
  5. Use all caps for your input. WHAT A STRONG BEGINNING!
  6. Or do your own thing. Be creative.

I wish you great success in your writing career. Thanks for reading my blog post. You honor me with your presence. I’d love to hear your ideas on how to give a good critique. Tell me about the best critique you’ve ever received. References are below my signature.

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Joan Y. Edwards
Copyright © 2012-2018 Joan Y. Edwards
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  1. Sheryll Clark. “How to Critique a Short Story:” 
  2. Montgomery Kentucky Schools. “Guidelines to Writing a Short Story Critique:”

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