Monday, May 20, 2013

Giving a good critique

So on Wednesday I talked about being emotionally prepared for a professional edit. But here's something equally important: being able to give one.

As a professional writer, you'll probably, at some point, be asked to critique someone else's work. Especially if you're successful.

But it's also terrifying. Will you offend them? You want to be honest. Is being honest the same thing as being blunt? How blunt is too blunt? Should you be offended if your advice gets ignored?

I've blogged tips on editing before. But I think RJ Blain really gets to the core of the matter with her post "RJ's Guide to Improving Editorial and Critiquing Skills." Here's a short excerpt:

Your opinion is valuable--even if the writer doesn't agree with you
The beauty of writing critiques and editing is that your opinion is valuable, even if the writer doesn't agree with you. Every time you write a comment or note that was done honestly and thoroughly, the writer has to think about what you've said. They have to justify what they did versus your recommendation. This lets them see their work in a new light, even they don’t use your opinions.
They don't need to use your opinion. They don't even need to seriously consider using them. You just need to say what you think in an honest and serious fashion, without being condescending to the writer. You might think you're a better writer than the person you're editing… that doesn't mean you are. It doesn't even mean your ego is welcome. It really isn't. Help the writer because you want to help them and yourself. Your opinion is valuable, but it's only valuable because you took the time to say it. By taking the time to point out a mistake in their writing, you can start to see these same mistakes in your writing.
It absolutely does not matter what the writer does with your opinion after you've given it. It isn't any of your business, anyway. What happens after you've given your opinion isn't important, with the exception of providing a clarification if the writer asks it of you. After all, it is their story, not yours.
I hoard editors instead
of princesses or gold.

I'd check out the rest of her post, too. It's easy to forget the purpose of editing, and the etiquette is tricky. But this will help you navigate those waters a with more confidence. It'll also show you how to give a good edit in terms of content--what to comment on, and how to comment.

Trust me when I say good editors are a treasure. If skills had weight, editing skills would be worth their weight in gold.

What's one piece of good advice you've gotten from a critique?


  1. Cut extra POVs- you get a sense of their characters without them. Keep the use of the video game as a symbol to a bare minimum. The epilogue made the ending unsatisfactory, it needs a true ending. Your end just trails off into the void...These were all valid points, points that I had, on more than one occasion, considered editing. But this person's caring for me as a writer and person (she sought me out during our writing group and lavished praise on me and she also seeks out my opinion in said groups because she knows I am shy, I never say anything) and her incredible wit, writing sense, etc made me think longer and harder about what she said. This makes me want to seek out her opinion more often. Caring makes a great critique partners.

    And thanks for stopping by my blog! It's great to see some action on there. LOL. :-)

    Sorry for the link bomb. Don't know how else to do this!

    1. So true! That's why I love my writer-friends--they love me enough not to cater to my ego when editing, because they know how vital serious feedback is, but they also care about me as a person and will go the extra step to give me emotional support to keep going and keep motivated, even (or especially) when the edits hurt. Thanks for dropping by! :D

  2. Oh and I subscribed to you in FeedDemon, my favorite feed reader. I look forward to your posts!