On being Critique and being Critqued

Question : What is critical friendship? 

Basically, a friend or friends that critique our written work.

The answers is so simple but in the same breadth prodigious and complicated.  As writers the hardest thing to do is to share our labor of love, one that is bound to us not only on the page to which we pour our creativity but to our very psyche.

The psychological impact of critical feedback can be uplifting and spurring to the creative soul or cause a drastic turn and not so much offend, but rather block the creativity of the critiqued.

Our personalities are our embedded signature and arguably makes us the writerly-self that we are, understanding that we are all diverse helps evaluate that each critique/critiquing that we offer will be distinct.

A university professor once gave me the best advice about how to offer critical feedback to your critical friends.  The thing to remember is to offer a  “critical sandwich  – a positive, followed by an honest remark, followed by a positive.”

If a golden rule were to be cast then so let it be known that never directly attack the writer themselves. Evidently, they are asking you to “read” and “review” what they have written so in essence the result they seek is valuable input not slander.  Holly Lisle’s“Schrodinger’s Rules of Critiquing”, first point says the exact same but the crucial point is that the critique is being critiqued by the right person and within their genre.

Importantly the things to ask when critiquing a manuscript are, does it embrace or captivate you and transport you to where the writer wants? Do you see what the writer wants you to see? Is it descriptive enough? Do the characters have personality and so on? Who would this style of writing appeal too? These questions are essential and paramount if we want to be critique.

Are weaknesses evident, if so where are they? At the same point, look for strengths in the manuscript.  Identify these weaknesses and strengths and give positive, practical feedback and advice as to what would strengthen it. Above all be willing to talk about these ideas and expand if necessary, this is what a critical friend is all about.

Commend the writer for the positive attributes in their work, it is vital, no body wants to walk away feeling they have just wrestled with a pack of lions. It is much more pleasant and rewarding to feel you have given solid feedback which they can cultivate.

In summary a critique should be constructive and not prejudice even if it isn’t so to speak, “your cup of tea”, you are after all critiquing.  Be professional and diplomatic about your approach to any writers work.

© 2011 Efthalia Pegios


3 comments on “On being Critique and being Critqued

  1. How true – constructive criticism is so important and works both ways in a good critique partner relationship. Trust and sensitivity to the other’s creative “baby” are paramount while it is also so important to know that the feedback you receive is well-thought out and fair. We can learn much from a good CP relationship. 🙂

  2. Efthalia,
    I think critiqueing is very difficult, as you say, it is important to be both encouraging and ‘critical’ (i detest the emotional overtones of that word…), but like most things, luckily, it can be learned. A good critique partner is a gem.

  3. Pingback: Critique Groups are Supposed to Help, Not Hurt « susansheehey

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