A critique group can make or break your writing.
Choose the wrong one and their bad advice can ruin everything you did right in your story. Or worse, a bad critique can kill your confidence and make you want to quit writing altogether.
More than a few critique groups have killed a promising writer’s confidence before his career got started.
Choose the right critique group, though, and something magical happens. Great feedback. Guidance. Deadlines that keeps you writing. Knowing with certainty when your story translates well on the page. If it affects your reader the way you want it to.
Yes, writing critique groups can be invaluable.
But it all comes down to the critique. How you approach it. What you say about each other’s work, and how you say it.
Here’s how I approach critiques. This method helps me give balanced and constructive feedback in a way that gives the writer something to reference while she’s revising.
Got that deer in headlights feeling during critique group meetings? (Eh, it happens.)
With the tools inside this free Writing Critique Packet—like its checklist of what to note and what to ignore in your friend’s writing, blueprint of an impressive critique, and an easy to use worksheet to walk you through the steps—you’ll always know exactly what to say.
This Writing Critique Method is for Serious Critiquers
First, a quick note. This approach to the writing critique isn’t for everyone.
For some, this approach feels like homework. They’d rather skim the page. They’re only comfortable making general statements like “I liked it” or “I didn’t.”
This approach goes deeper.
It requires you to fully engage with and consider the writer’s work and provide practical, actionable feedback. For some writers, this is the only way to give a critique that’s worth the time you spent on it.
This approach works especially well for the introvert. If you’re like me, you need time alone to process your thoughts about somebody’s work. If I attempt to give my thoughts while I’m thinking them, while I’m reading or right after, they come out garbled and don’t really help the writer.
And writing it down instead of speaking it out provides the writer with a tool she can refer back to as she revises her work.
Read the anatomy of a balanced writing critique next, and be sure to download your free writing critique template below.
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The Anatomy of a Balanced Writing Critique
Everything you need to include in your writing group critiques.
#1 Basic Information
Include the name of the work you’re critiquing (if it has one). That way the writer knows which feedback goes with which of her writing projects.
Include your name and contact information too. It’s helps the writer to know who provided which critique, so she can keep your comments in context.
Bonus: It also makes it easy to contact you with follow up questions.
#2 What Worked
This is where you tell the writer what she excelled at. Focus on the positive here.
This section matters because writers need to know as much what they did right as what they can improve.
It also keeps your review from feeling like an attack. We can’t learn when we’re feeling defensive. So this section helps to keep your critique constructive.
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#3 Opportunities to Improve
Here you’ll share what didn’t work for you. Was the pacing off? Did it feel like summary? This is where to mention that.
State your issues plainly and in neutral language. It’s a waste of time to cushion your statements with phrases like “it’s just my opinion that” and “not that I know everything about writing, but…” It’s clear that this critique is just your opinion, because it’s your critique.
But that doesn’t make it okay to be insensitive either. For example, you might say that a particular paragraph dragged or that you found you wanted to skim a particular section, instead of calling it “boring.”
The goal is to offer feedback in a way that doesn’t make the writer feel like she shouldn’t be writing.
Found any great articles or books that help solve the issues you identified in step three? Provide the links or the titles of those resources here.
#5 On-Page Notes
Include on-page notes as well. If a particular passage made you laugh, note it in the margin. If a sentence was awkward, underline that sentence and make a note in the margin. Powerful turn-of-phrase? Yep, say so in the margin.
Free Writing Critique Packet—The Blueprint, Checklist, and Worksheet You Need to Write a Seriously Impressive Critique
Where should I send it?
Hey, I bet I missed something important about this topic. Help us out with your insights in the comments.
Thanks, Mandy. This will be a great help. Most of the advise is so logical, but it’s great to have it all together on paper!
Glad the way is clear for you, Ben. These tips aren’t always obvious to everyone. That’s why we help each other out with ideas 🙂
Jeanne Felfe says
Thanks. I’ve downloaded and will share with my two awesome novel critique groups.
Awesome, Jeanne! And thanks for stopping by 🙂
This is just what I was searching for my critique group. Thanks for sharing.
Mandy Wallace says
Glad to know it was helpful, Anita!
Dorcas Ann says
How would I find a critique group?
You might try searching for writing groups near you. And failing that, there are uncounted critique groups that meet online. Try a quick Google search for both.
Nancy Bramlett says
I really, really want to get your Free Writing Critique Packet—The Blueprint, Checklist, and Worksheet You Need to Write a Seriously Impressive Critique, but I have tried twice and struck out.
M Wallace says
Thank you for letting me know. I’ll look into the problem. In the meantime, please use the message form on the contact page to request a copy and I’ll email it to you.
It appears I have the same issue as Nancy–I have tried twice to get the Free Writing Critique Packet and have not received it. I do get a “High Five, check your email” message, but I have still not received anything. I have refreshed and checked my folders, but still to no avail. Can you send it directly?
Thank you for this. I have just recently joined a critique group and I value this particular group. It is important to me to become an asset to them as well. I need all the help I can get!
M Wallace says
Sorry that happened. I’m working to fix it. In the meantime, please use the message form on the contact page to request a copy and I’ll email it to you.
Hey! Love your tips and I would love the critique packet also. I’ve tried on this page twice, and I went to your contact page and filled in the little form on that page also, but I haven’t gotten anything. I’ve waited several hours and checked my spam folder. 🙂 Is there any way to get this critique packet? I think it would be perfect for the little group I’m heading up in January! Thanks for everything!
jinx mage says
you can use the message form on the contact page to request a copy–that should work
M Wallace says
Thanks for asking, Jessica. The site needs some love. For now, you can just download the critique packet here.