According to the dictionary, to critique something is to give your opinion and observations. If you are a member of a writing group that offers critiques, you can expect to hear a variety of opinions about your work.
This is a good thing, as you want to know how readers are reacting to your writing.
What you should not expect, however, is an edit of your writing. I have heard writers complain about critique groups because the members of the group did not understand what critique meant.
Sometimes when a person is asked to critique a chapter, that person thinks he or she is expected to edit for grammar, spelling, and punctuation.
Other times the critique comes back as a completely negative commentary, taking the word critique and thinking it means critical.
I have had people tell me that they dislike doing critiques because it is sometimes hard to find something wrong with the piece.
“A well-written manuscript deserves a positive commentary.”
Of course, a critique is also an observation, so if there are many mechanical and/or structural errors in the manuscript, mention it, but not as a line-by-line edit.
A simple statement something like this will do:
“The overall theme of the manuscript is clearly identified; however there are several grammatical errors on page three that can be easily fixed with a line edit.”
This technique, called cushioning, starts out with a positive comment, followed by a constructive comment.
You can also surround the constructive comment with positive statements, thereby creating a sandwich effect in your observation.
“Just do not edit the work.” An example of this technique is: “Although the characters appear to be very real to the reader, the typos and other spelling errors throughout the manuscript detract from the readability of the otherwise well-developed story.”
“The point of a critique is to gain an understanding of how readers will react to the story and to help the writer recognize areas to make improvements as well as passages that will draw the reader in.”
There should be at least a balance of opinion in the critique, and the person providing the critique needs to contain his or her observations to the manuscript and not carry them over to the writer.
This is not an opportunity to attack anyone personally. On the other hand, the writer must also not take the critique as a personal attack, but rather as an opportunity to learn something and even improve his or her writing.
I have known writers who are so thin-skinned that they take any constructive observation of their writing personally and become insulted when someone does not like their work. That is not how to deliver or receive a critique.
Think of a critique as an opportunity to teach and/or learn something.
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