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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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References:

  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

Guide for a Good Manuscript Critique

Guide for a Good Manuscript Critique by Joan Y. Edwards

How can you give a good manuscript critique? When you critique a manuscript, you want to do a good job. You want the writer to be able to tell easily what you think. You want to give them both ways to correct and ways to enhance the manuscript. Here are ways that will guide you and insure you give a good critique.

When you critique a manuscript, make your notes stand out:

  • Highlight in blue or 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.
  • Highlight in yellow or put in red text, and/or cross out words you believe should be deleted like this.
  • Use a different color font for your remarks from the one the writer used.
  • Use all caps for your input. WHAT A STRONG BEGINNING!
  • Note punctuation and grammar errors.
  • Point out where the writer needs to show, not tell. SHOW, DON’T TELL.
  • Write questions in the manuscript when you think of them.
  • Or do your own thing. Be creative.

Write the following questions 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. If you’re the author, ask yourself these questions about one of your own manuscripts. When you ask another person to critique your work, you can highlight questions for special emphasis.

23 Questions for a Critique

After reading a manuscript, answer these questions.

  1. Do you know what main character wants?
  2. What was he willing to do to get it?
  3. What kept the main character from getting what he wanted?
  4. Does he get what he wants? How?
  5. What are the mistakes that the main character makes?
  6. What are his flaws? (He’s got to have flaws.)
  7. What is the lowest point in the story?
  8. Did the main character change? How?
  9. What does the main character learn about life from his experiences in this story?
  10. Do you know what each main character wants?
  11. Does each main character a distinct voice of his own?
  12. Can you tell when a different character is talking?
  13. What do you want to know that the writer is not telling you?
  14. Does it make sense? If not, note in the manuscript which parts that don’t make sense.
  15. Does the main character face his conflict or run away?
  16. Does the main character save himself by human means or is he saved with unbelievable circumstances that seems like magic?
  17. Did you mark where writer needs to show, don’t tell.
  18. Can you write a short summary of the story? Do it.
  19. What are three main errors main punctuation and grammar errors for the author to correct?
  20. Point out any pet words that the author uses over and over again? A thesaurus might have other words to use in place of them.
  21. What are three Blue Ribbon passages?
  22. What questions come to mind as you read the manuscript?
  23. After reading the story, can you write a short (25-100 word) summary? Do so. If not, tell the parts you can and explain the parts of the story that are missing.

I wish you great success in your writing career. Thanks for reading this blog post. You honor me with your presence.

May I count you as a Pub Subber? Pub Subbers submit one or more of their quality works on the third Friday (or any other day) of the month to critique groups, editors, agents, or contests.

Please leave a message in the comment area. I’d love to hear your ideas on how to give a good critique.

Never Give Up
Joan Y. Edwards

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Copyright 2012 © Joan Y. Edwards