The Critique Process with a Focus on Fiction

“Every writer needs two critics: one who gives only praise, and another who never, ever lies. The praiser will be someone who loves you madly: your mother, probably, or your baby brother. The truth-teller should be someone whose taste in literature mirrors yours, who reads widely, who respects you enough to tell you when something’s not working.”

– Monica Wood, The Pocket Muse


Some Critiquing Guidelines:

Once you have completed your rough draft of your story, you will find it helpful to get genuine and important feedback from your peers, not just praise. You will want to know not only what works in the piece you have written but also what can be altered, added or omitted to make your piece better.

Important Attitude for Those Being Critiqued–

What you write is your own to do with as you like. You are under no obligation to accept the criticisms you hear. You should, however, listen carefully to the comments of your group members and when you start your revision, consider the merits of each critique. If one person has trouble with some aspect of your writing, you may have a problem, and if two or three people find fault with the same aspect, you are highly likely to have a problem. It is hard for us to be an objective audience to our own writing, and this is where the value of WGOT critique groups lie.

Important Attitude for Those Critiquing–

When you are critiquing another member’s work, first notice what is good.  Tell the writer the best things about the manuscript and stay on task. As critiquers of literature, WGOT writers should objectively consider the essential elements of good fiction: character and character development, plot, setting, conflict, dialogue,  point of view, and theme. What are the strong points? Point out well-written passages.

Then ask yourself what you think could be more effectively written. Is the plot clear? And clearly developed? Is the character development suitable to the story? Is the setting clearly defined? Is there a conflict which is clearly defined and appropriate to age or reader/listener? Is the dialogue true to life? Is the point of view consistent? Does the ending contain a satisfactory resolution? Are there any questions raised by the story that are not answered?

Be honest about your peer’s writing, but do so tactfully, gently, kindly. Avoid value judgments such as “amateurish,” “boring,” “pointless,” etc., which reflect your taste. Deal with the specific strengths and weaknesses found within the manuscript. Make your criticism constructive, not destructive.

Peer group review can be invaluable in improving your writing.  Equally as important is meeting regularly with a great group of people who have been down the same road you are now embarked upon.