Tuesday, September 6, 2011
How to Win Friends and Critique Writing
copyright 2011 by Ron Adams
A friend of mine and I were discussing the various critiques we had done recently when he made the most remarkable revelation.
“I have a terrible confession,” he said. “I have three other books written by friends I am supposed to be reviewing as well. I have had them all for more than a month how. They are approximately 200 pages each. I have read 42 pages of one, 20 of another, and only 2 from the third. They suck and I just can't bring myself to continue, though I know I will.”
There it is in a nutshell. As writers we have all offered to trade critiques with others, hoping for the favorable review that will build our confidence and propel a promising career forward. And as we settle in to read the other person’s work…we don’t like it. The plot was too convoluted, the characters were unbelievable, the mechanics were a complete mess. So now they are waiting for your “honest opinion.” Great.
This is my approach. First, find the positive. In the past I have told the writer that I enjoyed and appreciated the effort, and have often complimented them on an outstanding story concept. Interesting ideas should always be encouraged. I might also comment on the period, if it is
appropriate, especially since some period pieces can be very entertaining, especially since I am a fan of the hard-boiled detective genre. The point is to always lead with the positive.
And here there be monsters. I try to stay as objective as possible when offering any negative criticism. Grammar and spelling notwithstanding, certain other elements of good writing are essential to the readers. I personally look for overused words, over used or inappropriate similes or metaphors, consistent character development, and a plot line that makes sense to the intent of the story. It is not appropriate to show the writer how clever YOU are, but to offer your own perspective on the things you saw as flawed. Always critique the writing, never the writer. The Golden Rule does come into play here – even a negative critique can be a positive experience if done in the spirit of assistance in the growth and development of both the reviewed and the reviewer.
Posted by Ron Adams at Tuesday, September 06, 2011