What to Expect When You Are Critiqued

The feedback a writer receives will depend on the type of group and the level of comfort within that group.

Normally, when you get critiqued you can expect that people will say something nice at first, anything that is true about your piece.  They may like your voice or your use of words or a phrase that describes a scene perfectly. 

Then comes the real critiquing: questions that arise, what isn’t working, awkward sentences, transitions that don’t work, words that seem out of place.  Is the story starting where it should? Is there sufficient action?

The critiquers are looking for anything that inhibits your piece from being perfect. 

Most groups suggest ending a critique with a word of encouragement.  The critique must never be personal.

In a group of strangers I would suggest the critiquers lean toward kind and gentle and the writer lean to silence. As the critique remember, you don’t know anything about each other, it’s probably best to tread lightly. Do your best to see what is good and what could be improved.

A critique needs to be honest enough to make the writer better, but not so honest that the writer never writes again. You’re here to help the writer and the work, not to destroy either. Occasionally that means telling, in a gentle way, that a piece of writing isn’t working for you and suggesting ways of improving it.

I have never been told: “Gosh, Gwen that piece is just perfect.” That’s not the purpose of a critique group.

As my husband says, “Friends don’t let friends write bullshit.”


~ by Gwen Dandridge on July 24, 2010.

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