|Photo credit: Nic's events on Flickr|
You see, while receiving critiques is essential to the learning process for writers, giving critiques is just as important, because giving critiques teaches you to pay attention to things that do and don't work in other people's writing. As a bonus, what you've learned from the critiquing experience you can then apply to your own writing, so in a way you're teaching yourself how to improve your craft.
Before you delve into the realm of giving critiques however, it's important that you remember a few things so that you give a fair and constructive critique.
- Establish the rules first. Not all critiques are created equal. Sometimes the writer is looking for more of a polish or copyedit—and in those cases you want to pay more attention to sentence structure, word choice, etc. Other times it's about the plot, or character development, or pacing, and in those cases it's more important to pay attention to the overall story rather than honing in on the misplaced commas. Before you start the critique, talk to your CP about what kind of critique they're looking for, so that you know how you can be the most helpful.
- Read carefully. Reading for a critique is different than reading for pleasure. That's not to say that you can't enjoy the writing while you critique (and in fact, I hope that you do enjoy it), but it's important that you pay attention to whatever the writer wanted feedback on.
- Search for the good and bad. A good critique is balanced—it's not helpful if all you do is tell the writer how wonderful their writing is, but neither is it constructive if all you do is rip their work apart without mentioning a single redeeming quality. Remember: they're critiquing your work, too (or at least, they probably will be in the future), and if you want this partnership to continue, both of you need to be fair in your critiques.
- Be kind. Don't misunderstand me—by "be kind" I don't mean "don't talk about the bad stuff." Your number one goal is to give a fair critique that talks about the beautiful and ugly bits of the writing. By "be nice" I'm referring less to what you say and more to how you say it. Regardless of whether or not you know your CP in person, there's a writer on the receiving end of your critique—an actual person with feelings who is probably just as anxious to see what you have to say as you are to read their critique of your writing. In short, what I'm saying is don't be a jerk. Talk about what needs improvement, but don't bash their work. There's a difference between a tough and constructive critique and a mean one.
So those are my tips on giving critiques—now it's your turn: what tips do you have on giving fair critiques?