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  • Writer's pictureJennifer Peaslee

Your Guide To Writing Constructive Critiques Like An Expert

It's important to find a community of writers who can help you further your skills. That's why I created The Bleeding Typewriter—to create a community of like-minded writers who want to publish their works.


One reason this is beneficial is because you need to put your work out there and be open to critiques. It is tempting to only share your work with friends and family, but unless your friends and family are writers and/or editors of a literary mag, they are unlikely to be a useful critic.


You must seek feedback from outside sources, and you must give feedback to others. Writing critiques helps hone your skills as much as it helps other writers.


Next week, I'll talk about how to respond to constructive critiques, but this week, I'm going to focus on how to write a good critique.


General Tips For A Constructive Critique

  1. I'm going to start with something that may sound obvious, and yet, may not be: your critique should only be about the writing. It should not be in any way personal. I received a critique that said people with bipolar are destined to live unhappy lives—although my story had elements of bipolar disorder in it, that critique had nothing to do with the actual writing. Stay on topic!

  2. Read the piece before you respond. This is not a hard and fast rule; some people like to respond as they read. My feelings are that you should read the piece once, purely as a reader, without thinking too hard. Then, when you've finished and have the bigger picture in mind, read it again as a critiquer (or "critter").

  3. Point out what works as well as what needs work. Writers can be deeply insecure (it's not just me, right? RIGHT?). We like encouragement. And "critique" does not mean "criticize."

  4. Don't overly focus on the grammar and spelling unless the writer requests it. The primary reason for this suggestion is because grammatical and spelling errors are generally things that get fixed in editing. Caveat: If it's a final draft and still contains errors, you may want to point that out. Second caveat: If the grammatical errors are intentional, instead ask yourself if they are functioning as intended.


Let's Get Specific


Try to avoid simply saying "I liked this" or "I did not like this." That doesn't give the author a lot to work on. Instead, consider the following questions so that you can provide context with your critique:

  1. Consider the thematic impact of the piece. What do you think it's trying to say? Does it communicate its point?

  2. Do you feel grounded in the world? Does the author use all five senses to engage the reader?

  3. Are the characterizations consistent and believable?

  4. Is the dialogue realistic and/or interesting? (One day I'll talk about when to use unrealistic dialogue, and when that day comes, I will fill up the post with GIFs from various Aaron Sorkin shows.)

  5. Do certain parts bore you—why? Or do any parts make you sit up a little straighter? Essentially, how is the emotional impact?

  6. And, of course, how is the prose? Is it sharp, flat, overdramatic, purple, stark? Are the words haphazardly chosen, with adverbs tacked on—or is each word chosen with purpose?

This bears repeating, so I will say it again: keep your personal feelings out of the critique. You are there to focus on the writing.



This is how we all feel about critiques, yes?

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