I credit the marvelous process of critique with helping me get published, and continue to be published. And just as my fabulous CPs help me, I help them. There’s a compelling reason to give our best efforts with every critique: the better critiquers we are, the better writers we become.
Many of us have suffered from or heard about nightmare critiques with back-handed comments and thinly veiled insults, and we want to make sure our critiques are both encouraging and helpful. One way to ensure this is to avoid excessive compliments and vague comments.
Here are some critique comments I’ve read over the years in critique groups, along with comments about how to make them more useful to your CPs.
Loved it!! This will trigger a sense of relief from the submitting writer, but not much more. Was it the opening that was strong, or the dialogue? Or just the hunky hero? Include detail so the writer knows what, specifically, worked.
Couldn’t stop turning the pages! One hopes that means the tension remained high throughout, with enough drama that the reader was anxious to know what happened next – instead of the possibility that you were just in a hurry to finish the critique and get on with your own writing.
This is perfect as is. I wouldn’t change a thing. We all want to receive a critique like this! When backed up by specifics, this is a gem of a critique I’d copy, put in 60 point Times Roman, bold, and print out for the front of my computer. Without accompanying comments, though, I’d still wonder if some parts might need work and the critiquer was just being generous. But then, we writers have been known to be neurotic.
I don’t like your protagonist. This is crushing for a writer to receive. Though it may be true, it’s brutal. Being writers, we can find gentler ways to say this. One bit of wisdom I’ve learned over years of critique is: “Don’t send a critique if you’re short for time.” Whenever I have, I realize I’m more likely to be abrupt, and when abrupt, a sense of uncaring and overly critical-sounding comments erupt that I later regret when I re-read it at a time I’m *not* so rushed. As a critiquer, you’re walking in a field of priceless human emotions. Even multi-published authors hardened by years of rejections and reviews can be hurt by abrupt comments. Always take your time. Better to be a little late with the critique than to cause unintended harm.
Characters aren’t convincing. Don’t shirk from giving or receiving this comment. This is a gem of an observation, so useful -- if accompanied by specifics. Is the character the ruthless head of an international corporation yet continually shown in scenes as indecisive or unaware of his industry’s jargon? Or perhaps the character is a prostitute but acts naive in this particular excerpt.
I hope you love your critique partners as much as I love mine, and I wish you many positive comments in your future critiques. My next blog will offer more insights on your CPs’ comments.