Sunday, August 7, 2011

Critiquing 101


My inbox is telling me I’ve got another email. Probably one of those spam emails I’ve been trying to permanently delete for the past month. Oops, better not delete this - it’s a submission from one of my critique partners. This will need special attention.

Belonging to a critique group is a special privilege for a writer. Critique partners help us perfect our novels with input and suggestions. But how do we critique another writers work? There are several steps I take to provide feedback for my critique group. If you don’t use a process for critiquing, these tips might help you create one.

1) Read Through Number One:
When I open the document the first thing I do is read the submission like I would any other novel. I make no notes on the document initially, but at the end I jot down any major problems that caught my attention. This might be head hopping, character inconsistencies, plot holes etc. These are things that I as a reader will notice regardless of whether I’m their critique partner or not.

2) Read Through Number Two:
Now I mark up the submission using my notes from the previous read and go more in depth with minor issues. These can include technical errors, historical inaccuracies, etc. Then I set the manuscript aside for a while and come back to it later when I can look at it afresh for a third time.

3) Read Through Number Three:
I’ll take another look at the submission and re-word my rough notes. I try to make every comment as positive as possible while still remaining constructive. My desire is to help my partners by being both kind and “tough.”

4) Read Through Number Four:
I’ll take a quick look at my comments one last time, making sure I have been thorough and considerate. Once I am sure I press send, then wait with trepidation hoping it is well received on the other end. Occasionally, I receive an email back asking why I said such and such, or informing me they will make certain changes that I noted, as well as saying thank you.

Things To Look For When Critiquing A Manuscript
*Point Of View/ Head Hopping
*Character believability - Does the character’s actions match up with their personality, and the era they live in
*Cheesy dialogue
*Narrative vs. dialogue
*Grammar problems
*Spelling errors (things the spell checker might not pick up like those annoying words like their/there)
*Historical Inaccuracies (This can also apply to contemporary novel such as car models, brand names etc)
*Amount of tension
*Things that don’t line up to what was previously wrote (such as having your heroine have brown hair on page 10 and red hair on page 50)

This list is by no means definitive. Its just a few of the things I look for when critiquing.

Sharing manuscripts, is always something writers worry about. What if they don’t like my work? What if I say something wrong? While this might be the case, the benefits are invaluable. Belonging to a critique group has been one of the most rewarding and inspiring experiences in my career as a writer.

Your Turn- Do you enjoy critiquing? What steps do you take when looking over submissions?

Question for Y’all. Is there any particular topics you’d be interested in me blogging about? I write for you and am open to any and all suggestions!



Tracy Krauss said...

Wow, you're dedicated. I usually only do two 'read-throughs' - the first one, as you said, is a first impression and then I go back for specifics.

Naomi Rawlings said...

So you do have a crit partner. That's great, Amanda.

LOL. I usually only do one read through, which takes about an hour per chapter.

Four is a LOT. But it sounds like you love it. :-)