Getting Good Crit

Two weeks out from the end of the summer semester. Mamma wants some down time! I guess I should have figured six weeks in which you taught a class, oriented a new group of students, presented to the board, added a level on another campus, and interviewed and hired for a new teaching position would be a little busy, huh? Didn’t even see that coming.


All right, world. I *think* that’s the last of the Hercules books out to kind people who helped me out with the book. I think next up I need to be thinking about a contest. Here. With amazing Morty Moose tokens. And mythology stuff. Look for something soon. In July. When the semester is over.


Before I move on to the next exciting installment in my series of writing process, you need to take a look at these two links:

Maggie Stiefvater Revises.

Maurissa Guibord on the qualities of a good critique group.


All right. So you’ve got this manuscript in your hands. What do you do with the darned thing? That’s a question if you’re both a writer and a reader.

Let’s start with the writer then. I know that, as you wipe your brow from the concerted effort of writing your work, that you think your job is over. Guess again, writer san (sorry. Bryon’s been building a tori in the garage, and he just had me out to see it) You must continue to be active. There is no passive in writing.

Remember our detachment from yesterday? This is your place to ask questions of your readers. Look over your story. Pin down any issues you might have with:

1. Plot and story
2. Characters
3. Pacing
4. Description
5. Wordiness

I could do the numbering thing all day.

As you progress as a writer, you’ll get much more familiar with those pitfalls that plague your work, although every story you write will have some different areas you want your reader to look at.

Once you’ve asked your readers to look in the way you want them to look, listen and/or read their advice thoroughly. Take notes. If you need clarification, ask for it. If you need ideas or references on what they have in mind, ask for examples. Be an active seeker of knowledge.

If your reader isn’t as helpful as all that, well, get a better one. Realize too that not all readers will be equal, and as useful on every story. One of the best reviews I ever received on Mark Twain’s Daughter was from a guy who totally didn’t get Crystal Vision. That doesn’t change his value as a reviewer. It meant that I had to go with feedback from another reviewer for the other story.

Something to pay attention to: In the end, it’s your story, init? You can choose or not choose to take the advice. That said, if several people are saying the same thing, you might pay attention. This is exactly why I’m slaying the POV octopus in my current work.

Summing up: Ask questions. Know yourself as a writer. Listen. Take notes. Be active. Ask for clarification. Seek triangulation. Work with people who get your story. Go with your gut.

Don’t assume that your story is perfect, and readers will find nothing. Your goal is to want to improve, and you want readers who have something to say. We can all improve. That’s part of the reason writing is a process.

Next: Tips on giving good crit.


Author: Catherine Schaff-Stump

Catherine Schaff-Stump writes fiction for children and young adults. Her most recent book, The Vessel of Ra, is the first book in the Klaereon Scroll series. She is currently working on its sequel, as well as penning the middle grade adventures of Abigail Rath, monster hunter.

2 thoughts on “Getting Good Crit”

  1. I can’t wait for this. I can think of a dozen kids who will love it.

  2. One of the best sources on critiques I’ve found is The Complete Idiot’s Guide to Publishing Science Fiction by Cory Doctorow and Karl Schroeder.

    The chapter on critiques actually caused me to change the way my group functions.

    Unfortunately, it’s out of print and rare.

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