What are you really saying when you critique?

November 19, 2015 hollie8985 In my opinionWriting Adventures

Many of you know, a while ago I did the Before You Hit Send Workshop, Angela James, runs, she is a beautiful lady, very patient and I would recommend anyone, writer or editor to sign up. You may be surprised how much you can learn from her knowledge and experience.

One of the many subjects covered is author voice, and how an editor or critique partner should not push their own voice into the author’s work. At first I didn’t see why it was such a major problem, make a few suggestions how an author can move their words around to make them flow better, or not their choice.

But, now I can see how it can be from the other side of that equation. It can feel like being told, well you have a good idea, but you’re not good enough to write it, do it this way. It’s possible to say my reaction was extreme because being sick is making me emotional at the moment, but I don’t think so, I’m upset. Your critique is the first review, yes it is with the eye to improve and polish, but also the first chance for someone to say, wow I love this.

We all know a thousand different stories can be written for a single nugget of an idea, a word, an object, the same can be said about the opening paragraph of a story. I seem to have gone from an unedited paranormal romance needing work to speed up the action, to a fantasy spy thriller in the first chapter. There are three small problems with that, first the rest of the story is still a paranormal needing work, the second, I don’t like spies or thrillers. The biggest problem, however, is, while I’m positive there’s lots of information there that could help me polish the chapter. How do I know what needs to be changed because it is wrong in some way, and what could simply be a better story if I wrote it this way? I am certain from some of the comments that I have failed to make some things clear, and that needs to be approached. I am also sure that there is a level of language difficulty, I think I allowed too much Yorkshire slang to slip into conversations. So by no means has this been totally negative, I have picked up a lot, just by the questions asked in the cover email, questions mostly answered in conversation.  There is always positives to be gained from a situation.

Before you enter your words into another’s work, think about what it is you’re really saying, in many cases to a friend. You could possibly just make a comment to say, this paragraph doesn’t work for me because… Or as with the previous sentences you could mark the words that can be removed. If you feel that an area is a real problem, offer to help. There are many ways to help each other to move forward in this industry, re-writing each other’s stories, shouldn’t be one of them. Give your partner as many positives as you can to work with.

Angela JamesBefore you hit sendCritiqueEditingParanormal RomanceYorkshire

2 Responses to “What are you really saying when you critique?”

  • This is very good advice. Thanks.

    I am still getting the hang of critiquing but it is hard hard work. Normally I just focus on the emotions, how the characters speak to me and the flow of the whole scene rather than the nitty gritty details on the grammar and how exactly to make it sound better (sometimes I do but not often).

    Or maybe that is what makes me more of a reviewer rather than a critiquer or beta reader.

    • hollie8985 says:

      Sometimes, that is all that is needed. If the overall flow doesn’t work, or the emotions are somewhere they shouldn’t be, the whole scene needs looking at not a single line.


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