Toolbox Tuesday: Giving a Good Critique

Welcome to this week's Toolbox Tuesday! Today, I would like to talk about how any reader can leave a good, constructive critique for an author or writer, which will serve to help them actually improve their writing in the future. Let's get started!

I have found that using a more third person approach rather than a first person one makes a critique more credible, and makes it seem less like pointing fingers. For example:

Your characters are flat.


The characters seem a little flat. Character A is a very stereotypical cheerleader with her blonde hair and snarkiness, while Character B is a stereotypical football player with his 4-hour, 7-days-a-week workout and his ability to charm teachers.

The second critique gives an observation the reader has made, and then backs it up by giving supporting evidence. The first critique merely states the observation and points fingers at the author, which can invoke defensiveness and the author may miss out on very valuable advice.

As hinted above, when observations are made, they need to be backed up. Simply saying "there were a few spelling and grammar errors" will not do. When some have given me critiques saying this, I asked them kindly to go find those mistakes, and the reviewers did so only to find that they could not find any. Making false statements, or even true statements without backing evidence is not very helpful to a writer, and the extra effort to explain an observation does go a long way.

When mistakes are found or observations are made, the next logical step is to offer ways for the author to fix the problem. If a simple spelling or grammar mistake is found, simply point it out to the author, who will most likely take that suggestion. (This applies more to unpublished work.) If it's a conceptual issue, point it out. For example:

The timing of the birthing scene that takes place at the end of the chapter does not coincide with the amount of time it usually takes for a person to give birth. It is unlikely that a heavily pregnant woman who is about to have her water break has the capability to walk around Wal-Mart without any trouble, especially if she is a teenager and it is her first pregnancy. Most likely, she will be too tired to move much, and will be engaging in activities that are less strenuous. Some mothers are able to do this, but not all. It might be good to consider if having Character A's water break at Wal-Mart is the most logical and wisest scene to have before the birthing scene.
Secondly, births usually have a three-step process, and average around 12 hours to finish. A 30-minute birthing scene is not realistic, especially for a teenage mom who is giving birth for the first time. Try talking to men and women who have been present during birthing scenes for some of their thoughts, feelings, and other miscellaneous research for a more realistic scene.

The above critique is much better than the following:

This is an unrealistic birthing scene. Rewrite it.

Of course, everyone writes their critiques differently and explains things in their own way, but this is just a good idea of how to critique to start out, or to improve upon critique skills that already exist.

Hope this is helpful! Any critique tips of your own to give? Please share!

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