Giving Good Crit

Last entry, we talked about being active when you received crit. Now, how can you get good karma points as a reader?

I actually do a lecture on this with my students, because we have to do some peer edit training at the beginning of the semester. There are a couple of pitfalls that peer editors don’t avoid.

“Your paper is good. I wouldn’t change a thing.” There are two reasons that I see this happen in the classroom: 1. The student doesn’t know enough about writing to make any suggestions, and sees the writing as so much better than something they can do that they really believe the paper is unchangeable. 2. The student doesn’t want to take the time to crit the paper.

In theory, in a writing group, number 2 isn’t going to be our option. If it is, get out of that writing group! Number 1 can be a problem, which is why it’s important to be in with a group of your peers. There are ways to teach people about writing so they can help each other crit. I usually model anonymous student papers with the class. Perhaps a way to get on the same page is to critique a story that isn’t from one of the writers in the group, and give people some common ground.

What about those rare instances where a paper/story/novel really is good? It *can* happen. My suggestions at this time are for complimenting readers to substantiate what the writer is doing well by telling them the specifics that work, if no other reason that you don’t want a writer accidentally get rid of good stuff when they inevitably do some tweaking.

The other pitfall? When I give the speech about being too nice, perhaps the pendulum swings the other way.

“This paper sucks.”

Continue reading “Giving Good Crit”

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.

Continue reading “Getting Good Crit”

Critique: Part 1–The Need To and the How To

Once a writer has a first draft, this is the point where things get interesting.

For many writers, the idea of showing drafted work to someone initially is very hard. I tell my students from day one that they have to get over that. The benefits of getting feedback on any piece of writing far outweigh the negatives. I know that creative writing can feel very personal, and a bad feedback session makes a writer feel small. The best advice I can give you is this:


When you are drafting, you want to care. A lot. You want to have fun and play. You want to explore. When you show your draft to other people, you have to put the draft outside of you. Outside of your ego. Outside of your emotions. What’s being examined are the words on the page, not you or your writing process, or your multiple hours (years? decades?) of work.

Someone is doing you a favor by looking your work over for you. They deserve a kind and courteous response from you for doing so. Even if you don’t agree with a blessed word they say.

I know that all peer editors are not created equal. Writers want to find someone that will give both positive feedback and constructive criticism. If a critique is only negative, and not helpful, I doubt that it’s helpful to you as a writer to go back to that person for a reading in the future. Similarly, someone who strokes the writer’s ego, but doesn’t substantiate that praise, or doesn’t give you anything to chew on as revisions occur, might not be the best person to read your work.

Another factor to consider when asking someone to critique is getting a writer at the skill level as you are currently. A more experienced writer can teach, but really can’t give a less experienced writer the same kind of feedback as a peer can. I think you need both kinds of feedback.

Writing is viewed as a solitary occupation. Where can you, writing in Cherokee Scream, Texas (population 614) find someone to read your work that knows something about writing? Glad you asked.

Not all of these methods have proven successful for everyone, but they have for someone, so I’m listing them here.

Continue reading “Critique: Part 1–The Need To and the How To”