Friday, March 4, 2011

Do You Know Your Critiquing Strengths?

One of my crit partners is really good at writing queries (thank goodness!) and another one always notices when my novel world is inconsistent (yay!). But I'm not sure I know what my strengths are in the critiques I write. Here are a couple of things I think I'm good at noticing:

Age-related inconsistencies. I can often point out when the writing for the viewpoint character seems inconsistent with their age, e.g., using expressions or slang that seems too old for them, dialogue that doesn't seem like what a kid would say.

Making space for the reader. I also notice when the writing seems to spell things out too much, and doesn't leave enough space for the reader to think and figure out things for themselves.

I wonder if the qualities you bring to your critiques reflect strengths in your own work. What do you think? What are you good at noticing when you give critiques?


  1. That's a good questions. I think what we can spot in critiques might possibly be a strength in our own writing but not always. Critiquing and then editing our own work are two very different things!

  2. I don't think I'm very good at critiquing - I always think everything is great until someone else points out a problem and then I see they may be right. I think I'm too easy to please or not discerning enough. Not sure what that means for my own writing... :)

  3. Hmmm, I'm not sure. I think I'm pretty good at spotting thinly-veiled info-dumps in dialogue, etc.--information that was pushed into the manuscript, but doesn't really flow well. I love critique partners because they ALWAYS catch stuff that gives me a "Doh!" moment. Seriously, until you get another set of eyes, it's so easy to miss little things, even if you read your manuscript ten times. Great post!

  4. Love this. I'm good at catching ticky words and phrases (we all have and use to often) and helping with creating tension. I'm also getting better at finding subtle POV slips.

  5. Laura, it's true that critiquing and writing are very different. But I like to think that as my writing improves, my critiquing does too.

    Susanna, it sounds like you have a very positive perspective, which I'm sure could really help encourage a critique buddy who is floundering. Your advice is probably more useful than you realize.

    Jess, that happens to me all the time. It really is important to have critique partners, because you just can't see everything.

    Brooke, I hope that learning to catch those phrases in critiques (something I'm thinking more about lately) will help me to eliminate some of them in my own writing!!

  6. I've been at this novel critiquing business for four years now, but before that, as a writing teacher, all I did was critique. I just didn't call it that.
    :-) What I found when I made the transition between these two worlds was that the system I'd developed for students was perfect to use with my critique partners.

    Getting the BIG picture is what comes first. I read without comment. I read with an eye to just understanding and enjoying. But I put a small tic next to anything that causes me to stop or go back and reread--especially the really good lines or ideas. My next read I put on my editor hat and look for anything that would cause me, as that editor, to reject this manuscript or give it a D.

    I guess that system is my strongest suit because it seems to give my partners what helps them with their rewrites. I hope so anyway, but they'd tell me if I was steering them wrong. They don't hold back on telling me when my ms (excuse the term) sucks!

    Great post.

  7. I think the big picture stuff is what is hardest for me to know if I have right as a writer. I always really appreciate critiques that address issues (though the detail ones are good too). When I'm critiquing, it's easier to pick out word or sentence level elements that could be fixed.


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