Tag Archives: critique

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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Never Give Up
Joan Y. Edwards
Copyright © 2012-2018 Joan Y. Edwards
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  1. Sheryll Clark. “How to Critique a Short Story:” https://www.ebooks4writers.com/2011/04/how-to-critique-a-short-story/ 
  2. Montgomery Kentucky Schools. “Guidelines to Writing a Short Story Critique:” http://www.montgomery.k12.ky.us/userfiles/1501/Classes/686/shortStorycritique.pdf

A Critique Is a Gift – It Contains Choices and Possibilities

“A Critique Is a Gift-It Contains Choices and Possibilities” by Joan Y. Edwards

A critique is a gift. It contains choices and possibilities for you to consider. Not – YOU HAVE TO BELIEVE THIS AND DO THIS OR ELSE your story will not survive. Use your critiques to empower you to improve your manuscript and take it to a higher level.

Sometimes you don’t ask the person who critiques your work enough questions. If you can get them to interact with you back and forth after the critique, it would be helpful. You as a writer are brave. Ask questions. Many times you are lucky to have gotten the critique and there’s no way of communicating with that person again. Having the right thoughts going through your mind when you’re reading your critique will help you accept it as the gift it is and use it to your advantage.

Don’t be afraid of what a critique says. You’re afraid probably because you’ve received countless rejections. Hundreds of rejections that stack up from the floor to the ceiling. This may cause you to doubt yourself as a writer. You may believe rejection means you are not a good writer. Actually, rejection doesn’t mean anything about your writing except that the person reading it didn’t have a passion for what you wrote like you do. It didn’t “call” them.”

I challenge you to change your thinking. Accept in your mind that it’s all right if they like it. And it’s all right if they don’t like it. Once you get to that point, you’re able to really listen to what they are saying. As long as you like your story and believe it will be published, and you’ve visualized it in its final form with cover and binding and people purchasing it. You’ll see that a critique is either your pathway to growth or the pathway to giving up. It’s your choice.

There is another very real possibility. It could be that the person who critiqued your work likes your work and is trying to help you make it better. Or they missed part of your plan for your story. They don’t understand parts of your plot. If possible, ask them questions.

Ask questions. Suppose 3 different people tell you to start at three different places in your story.

If someone tells you that you’re starting your story at the wrong place, ask them to tell you more.

  1. Where do you think it should start and why?
  2. Why do you think I wrote this story? What did you learn from it?
  3. Is there a better place to start the story? What is it? Why?
  4. Is the emotion missing?
  5. Do I give action, reaction, and dialogue for each scene?
  6. Give me possible what ifs for my story.
  • What if your main character did this?
  • What if the setting was in a different place, like _______.
  • If such and such happened, what would be the new set of chain reactions for the main character? If the main character does this, then the villain would do what?
  • What if the main character’s problem was even more difficult, steeper, harder for him to handle, like ______________?

Before you use any of the information in a critique, make sure you agree 100 per cent with any changes you make. Make those changes you agree with as quickly as you can. Send it out. Submit it again.

If there are parts of the critique you don’t agree with, you have two choices – delete them and never think about them again or let the manuscript hibernate in a drawer or in a folder in your computer for 1-4 weeks-no longer than that. Then take it out and read the critique again. Read your manuscript again with new eyes. Pretend this is the first time you’ve ever read it. Pretend you’re a potential buyer of your book in a store. You open it up to the first page. You read it. What do you think? If you still are not 100 per cent sure you want to use the questionable advice in this critique. Let it go. Delete it. Say a prayer. Relax. Believe in your manuscript. It will be published. You will know the changes to make. Studying the craft books that are in this area will help. Trust yourself and your story.

Accept in your mind that your beginning might be the best or another beginning might be best. Either is okay with you in your mind. Now allow yourself to choose the right place to start your story. You are the writer of this story. Believe that you can choose the right place. Other people’s opinions are possibilities. Other people’s opinions are choices. They are not facts. They are opinions. They give you something you never thought about. They give you possibilities. What a gift! Rejoice! Remember it’s your choice, your story. Believe that these critiques are not going to stop you from reaching your goal. They are steps to make your story better. To get it in top-notch shape for publication.

Be happy and rejoice with every critique you receive. Delete any ideas and suggestions that you don’t agree with 100 per cent after you’ve studied it and given good consideration of the possibilities given. It’s your story. You are the author. You will decide great things for your story. Now revise your manuscript with high energy and a good feeling and thankfulness for the critique.

Summarizing above:

Receive the critique.

Use what you agree with 100 per cent right away. Change the manuscript and submit again.

Put the questionable advice and the manuscript in a drawer. Wait from 1-4 weeks. Then read the critique and the manuscript again with new eyes. Make a decision. Use the advice or delete it. Then go forward.

Believe in your manuscript. Believe in you and your story.

Do something fun to celebrate you today!
Never Give Up

Joan Y. Edwards