Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Your Role in a Critique Group – Part 2 – What to Look for in Someone Else’s Work

I wrote an earlier post about self-editing and a lot of the same principles apply. It’s actually easier to give a helpful critique of someone else’s work. You don’t have a vested interest, and you aren’t blinded by being too close to a manuscript. Here are some things to look out for.

1)      Does the book grab you right away? If not, why? How can the writer improve their opening? Be specific, but avoid “rewriting” it for them.
2)      Do you get a sense of place? Do the settings seem real? Is there too much description, too little? Some of this is personal preference, but say what you think. The writer will decide in the end, but let them know what is and isn’t working for you as a reader.
3)      Does the plot progress in a well-paced way? Don’t be afraid to suggest changing scenes around or cutting stuff out.
4)      Do the characters hold their own? Are they distinct? They don’t have to all be likeable, but they should feel real. It’s important to mention if you have trouble remembering who is who, or they seem too similar.
5)      Is the dialogue believable? Do characters sound too much alike or have the same voice?
6)      Are you being shown what is happening instead of told? This is one of the big ones people. I have a little trouble, I show and then tell what I just showed, so I’m working on that in my own writing.
7)      Are all the technical bits there? Always be conscience of grammar, spelling and point of view inconsistencies. Always point out typos.

You can give a helpful critique to a story that you don’t like. Not everyone likes the same kinds of books or writing styles. The important thing is to focus on what the writer is trying to accomplish and help them succeed. Remember, it’s not your manuscript, it’s theirs.

Any things I missed? Suggestions?


  1. when you critique someone elses work its good to point out the positive and negative aspects.

  2. Hi Summer, I touched on that a bit yesterday but it is good to remember that a critique isn't all about what you don't like, it's about what works too.

  3. This is very helpful. I’ve always been worried about what to do if/when someone asks me to critique their work.

  4. I found a list of fifty things that you are supposed to look for when you are editing someone else's work. Some of the items can be condensed, but when I get it all squared away (and manageable) I'll send you a link.

  5. This is a great post. I am often asked to review books.

  6. Thank you again for an inspired post! I'm printing this for when I finally get a crit group!

  7. Excellent post! It's always to be reminded of all the ways we can influence another writers work:)

  8. Great post and some great points too.
    I also ask the writer what they expect from the crit--line edits, voice, consistency of plot, etc. It's good to know what they expect before hand.
    Nice to meet you and your blog, btw!