Wednesday, 18 April 2012

P is for Positive Critique

You don't want to see anyone walk away from a critique session thinking they should bin their manuscript do you? So what's the best way to offer positive feedback on someones work?

This is a short list of things I keep in mind when offering critique.

  • Begin by saying what you enjoyed about the piece. Remember, no one produces totally bad work.
  • Speak in a caring voice when pointing out errors. You are there to support each other, so be kind.
  • Don't repeat criticism that has already been mentioned - once the point has been made drop it!
  • Suggest ways to improve the writing, and try to offer different suggestions and ideas. 
  • Let the writer know you have confidence in them, that they can fix the piece.

And here is a short list of things to do when you're work is being critiqued

  • Shut up and listen - Don't get defensive or emotional. 
  • Don't argue, time on your manuscript is limited, and you want as much feedback as possible.
  • If lots of people are nodding when someone makes a point - take note! It probably needs work.
  • Learn to be objective, but not now. Rest the piece down for a while, then revisit with an open mind.
  • Don't forget, critique is only peoples opinion, its your choice if you choose to take it or leave it.

Prepare for awkward silences, but don't worry about it when they happen. Learn to embrace feedback and you'll learn how to improve your writing by listening.

Don't come to the meeting empty handed though, do offer critique to your fellow writers otherwise you will irritate them if you only turn up to receive every time. 


  1. Those are some great observations. I'm not part of a group. Instead I usually exchange work one-on-one, so I always hope that the other person seeks out more than one opinion on the work as well. I'd hate to be the sole critiquer giving them advice on their writing. What if I'm wrong!?

  2. I find I learn more by listening, but when they're slaughtering your children it's hard not to comment! I also learn by examning other's work and seeing what works and what doesn't. It's amazing how much my writing has improved by attending critiques.

  3. This is really great advice. Giving and reciecing critique is often one of the hardest thins for a writer to learn to do!

  4. Positive Critique is important to build up confidence in the writer. Something I am sorely missing.

    I find myself usually waiting for the negative stuff though. Sometimes I'm pretty dismayed that it doesn't come.

    Visiting from AtoZ
    Von L
    The Growing Writer

  5. Good points there Maria, which I think can be used in other life situations and relationships too!

    This is me, Duncan D. Horne, visiting you from the A-Z challenge, wishing you all the best throughout April and beyond.

    Duncan In Kuantan

  6. Its important to listen and not say anything, or as little as possible. I love critiques because I know its going to help me become a better writer.

  7. Excellent advice. Like the clear, concise, bullet point style it is written in.

  8. L. G. Smith - I also have a writing buddy, and we swap a piece of work each week via mail. We both find it very useful.

    Bethie - I agree, if you're brave enough to read your work out to like minded folk you get better. I've seen it happen times in my own group. It gives you so much confidence and guidance too.

    mmshaunakelley - Well worth it though!

    Von L Cid - I understand, I had a similar situation. People commented my work was 'nice' and that was it! I moved group, and found people who gave honest fair feedback.

    Duncan - You are correct, it's good to review other areas in your life from time to time.

    Stephen - Listening is very important, sadly A few writers struggle to grasp the skill.

    Jack - Thank you, my aim was to make it easy to read.

  9. Excellent advice Maria, as always. My group is good for offering positive feedback, and it is important to give as well as receive.

  10. Sounds equivalent to the accused sitting before a panel of judges, waiting for the verdict...
    Really good points.
    I'm visiting from the challenge circuit. Enjoy the rest of A to Z!

  11. I'm not part of a critique group, but have been in the past and these are very wise, very helpful suggestions.

  12. Hi, Maria!

    Great advice!

    I try to apply them and they are very beneficial tips! They work if you apply them!

    Leaving my website for bloggers to check out also!

  13. Great tips and the Phoenix group has been great at helping me with these things. Hope I'm slowly growing able to do the same. ^_^


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