Critiques for Writers

There are various ways of having your work critiqued. Most of the really useful ones you will have to pay for.

The important thing to remember is that a critique will be constructive and given positively. Writers want other writers to do well and negative criticism is a great way of putting people off. If you take the advice negatively you probably need to examine your reasons for writing in the first place.

Taking constructive criticism is not easy, but if you take note of the suggestions made you will see clear improvements to your writing.

What is a critique?

noun

  1. The definition of a critique is a review of something.
    An example of a critique is a professor writing notes about a student’s artwork.

verb

  1. To critique something is to give your opinion and observations.
    An example of ‘to critique’ is to describe a restaurant’s food in a foodie magazine.

http://www.yourdictionary.com

A good critique should point out areas that don’t seem to work to the reader and suggest ways you can rectify or improve this in a positive manner without telling you how to write your story. A good critique will honour your ownership of the story and gently point you in the right direction. You are free to take the advice or not.

A critique is not the same as criticism (well, not quite)

noun

  1. The act of criticizing, especially adversely.
  2. A critical comment or judgment.
  3. a. The practice of analyzing, classifying, interpreting, or evaluating literary or other artistic works.
  4. b. A critical article or essay; a critique.
    c. The investigation of the origin and history of literary documents; textual criticism.

http://www.yourdictionary.com

As you can see from 3.b. there is a similarity, but do you really want critical comments and judgements about your work in the negative sense? While a critique is a critical comment about your work it should be encouraging and positive.

Critique services

A critique service is invaluable if you want to become the best writer you can be. Sending your work to someone who doesn’t know you means it will be more impartial than getting your friends to read it.

A critique service may also offer suggestions for potential markets. If it is a paid service cost will probably vary enormously so you need to investigate what you can afford.

Social media

You could try using social media to find someone to critique your work. The following sites are a good place to start. You’ll need to find out whether you need to pay or not.

Goodreads
A lot of writers use Goodreads to connect with other authors and you can search for those willing to critique the work of others.

Facebook
Try searching Facebook for critique groups.

Twitter
A great place to find other authors and critique groups.

Meetup
A social networking site bringing people together with common interests in your area. Try searching for writing critiques or critique groups. You may not find anyone in your locality but in these days of email it won’t be too difficult to send your work to someone.

Competition critiques

With some competitions (such as Writers’ Forum) you can often pay a little extra for a critique of your work. This can be invaluable, albeit brief. Take the advice you are given.

If you don’t make it to the shortlist you can always rewrite based on the advice you are given and resubmit. Don’t just make a few changes and think that will suffice; it’ll get noticed and rejected (publishers and competition editors have long memories!). A rewrite often means just that – writing the whole thing again. From scratch! Don’t worry about losing those gems of lines you wrote – if they were that good you will remember them.

An example

A critique I once received for a story submitted to a magazine competition read:

Characterisation: This is good, but the head hopping (switching point of view mid scene) is very distracting and takes the reader out of the moment. I would suggest you decide which character is going to be your central point of view person and everything, including the other character, should be seen through the main person’s eyes and observations.”

I found this immensely useful even though a couple of friends who read the story hadn’t got confused and found the story very moving. But not everyone reads the same thing in the same way and I had to bear that in mind. If one person got confused reading it I had failed in some way.

I rewrote the story, resubmitted it to the competition and came second! And won some prize money to boot. I was more pleased with the end result too.

Friends and colleagues

While friends can be sympathetic to your cause as a writer will they really give you honest and unbiased feedback? You might be lucky and find they do. But think about it – how would you react if a friend came to you for feedback on a story they wrote? Would you be honest with them? Would you be able to find the words that would encourage them and make them think about the content and their style? Or would you just be humouring them?

Have you ever had someone critique your work? What was your experience of it? Did you find ways of improving your writing because of it?

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