When you’re critiquing someone else’s writing, you might quickly find that it’s hard to be nice sometimes. You really wanna say, “What the HECK is going on here FOOL? WHY is this important, IDIOT?”
Contain your inner lion and keep those comments to yourself. What if someone gave you a critique like that? You wouldn’t feel very good, would you?
Now, I’m not entirely sure if there’s a universal way to critique people’s stories.
I tried a Google Search on “how to critique other people’s writing” but the only good enough website that I could find was this site. They mention that you need to critique how you want to be critiqued and I think that’s what I do when I critique other people’s writing.
But no one taught me how. No writing class ever talked about how to critique. I had to learn through being critiqued and listening to how others critiqued me or other people. I then went on to develop my own style of critiquing which is basically a critique I would want.
Maybe some of you new to critiquing will find this structure helpful 🙂
The 5 Part Structure for a Friendly Critique
1 Friendly Hello
2 Briefly Explain Critique Structure
3 The Critique
4 Overall Thoughts
5 Friendly Goodbye
Okay, let’s break it down.
1. Friendly Hello
I find it nice when the critique starts with a friendly hello. “Hi, this is my part of the critique swap :)” “Hi, sorry for the long wait, here’s my critique :)” “Hi, so here’s my critique of *insert story here*’s first chapter.” or any variation depending on the situation.
2. Briefly Explain Critique Structure
I only do this because I often critique as I’m reading the story. Sometimes I might point out grammatical errors that the author may have caught or may not have caught. Sometimes I write a whole paragraph of a suggestion for a certain part in the story. I don’t want the writer to feel “oh, here’s a suggestion wait, WAIT, why are they PICKING on my grammar, idiots” and go on the defense.
When a writer is on the defense, especially those who are not used to being critiqued, they may not want to listen to anything else you have to say.
To avoid that I say,
“Okay so the way my review works is that I will first point out small things that I caught and then go into detail about the story itself. At the end, I’ll give my overall thoughts.”
“Okay so the way my review works is that I’ll be pointing out things and giving suggestions as I read and at the end, give you my overall thoughts.”
depending on the situation. Typically for Wattpad, it’s the second one. Sometimes I will add, “Sometimes I might sound a little blunt but I’m really just trying to be of help :)”
I started to say this in Wattpad because it seems that not many people get lengthy reviews/critiques on their writing. It’s a lot of short immediate reactions. I wanted to avoid the writer being on the defense.
3. The Critique
Typically I will make comments as I go along. But here are some things I always do in no particular order:
When addressing a grammatical error, be nice about it.
“This is just a little thing but I noticed that…” “So you had *grammatical error here* after *insert word* and I think you meant *insert correct grammar*?” Sometimes I add “you seem to do this often so I would suggest to reread this chapter :)”.
When saying something harsh-sounding,
add a smiley or talk about your own experiences.
“Character A is reading a book and talking to Character B. How can this be happen? I thought they were both asleep? Maybe you rewrote it and forgot to change this part? I do that, too 😛 It happens when editing.”
The reason I do this is so the writer doesn’t sound attacked. I’m not saying, “Why the heck is this happening, idiot?” I’m saying, “I thought it was THIS but did you mean THAT? I do it, too, so chill. Everyone makes mistakes :)”
Smilies are gold. Use them to create a good relationship between you and the writer 🙂 But don’t overuse them.
When a problem arises, give a solution. ALWAYS.
Even if it’s far out there, at least you tried to help.
Say, “This just my suggestion so, you had *something confusing* in the second paragraph but I was a bit confused because *REASON*. Maybe you could…”
DON’T SAY, “This is just my suggestion BUT you had”. “But” means that “this is my suggestion. You don’t HAVE to listen to it BUT I really really really want you to. Actually, definitely take my suggestion because I KNOW BEST.”
DON’T SAY, “You should change it to *this*” make it softer. Say “Maybe” or “Perhaps”.
In the end, whose story is this? Yes, the writer, not your’s.
If you have an idea for a rewrite of an entire scene, write it down. But always say, “This is just my idea. You take from it whatever you want :)”
Don’t put two or more question marks at the end of your question sentence.
“Is Character A going to the hospital???”
“Is Character A going to the hospital?”
Which sounds more annoyed?
Yep, the first one.
Remember, you aren’t just pointing out all their problems. You’re also gonna mention those moments you liked or thought were very clever.
“*clever sentence here* I really liked this sentence *STATE REASON*”
Reasons can be anything from “I wish I had thought of that” (boosts originality ego), “You made me laugh XD” “So funny XD” “lol XD” (boosts comedian ego), “Great description!” (boosts creativity ego), “A nice touch, a little teary” (boosts emotion description ego) etc.
4. Overall Thoughts
State what you liked about the story at the end of your critique. If it wasn’t your cup of tea, tell them. But also find something (a scene or even just a description or a name of a character) that you did like.
Overall, this was an interesting story. But I didn’t like it.
Overall, although this kind of story isn’t typically my cup of tea, it still was an interesting story. I really liked that part where you said, *something*. I can relate/It reminds me of/It made me laugh/It made me cry/ STATE YOUR REASON.
Whenever I get a review or critique and someone just says, “I liked it. It was good.” I always scream at my computer, “What did you like? Why do you like it? Tell me your reasons! Tell me what you thought! That’s what I wanna hear, idiots!”
Always, ALWAYS give your reasons. Reasons matter.
5. Friendly Goodbye
I always end it with “Happy Writing!” to end on a friendly note. You can also say, “Keep up the good work”, “Keep it up!”, “Great job :D” “Have a nice day”.
I do this because I want the writer not to think I just came to attack them. I’m a nice person who just wants to be of help in any way.
And remember, critique how you want to be critiqued.