Critiquing your story is the process of getting advice on the story. Knowing how to hear advice and how to give it is key to improving the story. I think it’s important to get this advice from another writer and save your readers for the last pass before submitting or publishing.
Why critiquing? Why not just editing?
The purpose of the critique is to get feedback on the craft of writing. This is sometimes called story editing. The general term for editing seems to have come to mean line-editing. When someone goes through and finds problems at the level of sentence and word.
Step one, finding a partner
There are different ways to critique work. I have been involved with a group that reads and critiques chapters, or pages, of work. I changed to having someone look at the whole story rather than just pieces.
Your first step in getting advice is to find a critiquing partner or group that works for you. I think you need to test out a few ways before you find what works for you. Look online, or to local writer’s groups for help.
Critiquing is about the story not about you
If you only take one thing from this post, this is it. Whether you are giving a critique or getting one, it’s always about improving the work. If you start to feel like it’s a critique of you, find a new group/partner.
Critiquing needs to deal with things that need to be fixed. That means you’ll hear about what’s wrong much more than what’s right. You need to be thick skinned enough to hear what people are saying.
You don’t need to agree, but you need to listen.
Language in critiquing that can help
Three tips for how to express your advice when giving critiques – I also try to hear this no matter what words are used.
- When X happened in the story I didn’t feel it was supported earlier. This replaces ‘you didn’t set up this event’
- The character doesn’t seem to feel enough emotion, which meant I couldn’t connect. The replaces ‘your characters are two dimensional’
- The ending came out of the blue. This replaces ‘you didn’t build the climax strongly enough’
See how taking the YOU out of the words removes the personal attack.
Critiquing – the final tip
The interesting thing about critiquing is that you don’t need to change anything. It is your story, and you know what you are trying to do with the characters, setting, and plot.
I will often just put aside the information until I can digest it. In most cases, what my critique partner has found is valid, but their suggestion for fixing it is off the mark. I write mystery/thrillers and I do want to have misdirection, so when I hear ‘I was surprised that X happened’ it’s a validation of what I was trying to do.
I have learned most of my craft through the process of writing and critiquing. I learn almost as much from critiquing other authors as I do from receiving critiques.