The one thing to always remember when giving and receiving critiques is that we are here to encourage each other.
We do words all day everyday, but sometimes, I need a reminder of what their true meaning is. (Definition props go to Google.)
Encourage: give support and advice to someone so they will continue to do it; help or stimulate to develop; give support, confidence, or hope to someone.
Critique: (n) a detailed analysis and assessment of something; (v) evaluate in a detailed and analytical way.
Constructive Criticism: technique intended to identify problems and find solutions in a positive way.
Edit: prepare for publication by correcting, condensing, or otherwise modifying it.
Suggestion: an idea or plan to put forward for consideration.
Comment: a verbal or written remark expressing an opinion or reaction.
At North Texas Writers, we want it all!
We all have different opinions. Someone may not like the way a character behaves or the way a conversation goes, sometimes it's a matter of preference. We all read different books, have different friends, wear different clothes. BUT, if multiple people have the same opinion, the opinion may just be a fact. And if two very different people have the same opinion, chances are it is. ALSO BUT, if you're getting both positive and negative feedback on the same issue, think of your reader. Still don't know? Writer takes the tie!
Checkmarks, "LOL," "hahaha," "so sweet," heart emoji--they're all great! And necessary. We want to know when we do something right. We want to know our jokes landed, that you like this part, that the goal we were after hit home. Without the positive feedback, a critique is just an insult.
We want to be great writers. We want our books in readers' hands. We want to be best-selling authors. So we need to know what we're doing wrong. We need technical feedback, contextual feedback, emotional-response feedback. Because we do not want to publish crap.
While critiquing, it may be frustrating to see the same person make the same mistakes again and again. No one wants to make mistakes on purpose. Chances are, that person is confused or doesn't know they're doing something wrong at all. Rather than adding or deleting commas over and over again, take the time to explain the rule. Point out a time when they did it right. Tell them what to look up. People who go to critique groups go because they want to learn. That being said, sometimes we do know the rule, and we just made a mistake. Catch it for us. :) Also to be said on that note, we are not editors. We will miss stuff. We will be wrong sometimes. We will get swept away in the story and choose to write content notes. Do not rely on us to make your book print-ready.
“I was bored.” The comment isn't constructive. Not only is it insulting, it's not constructive. It could mean: the scene ran too long; the dialogue was flat; there was too much dialogue; you talked about that one leaf forever; the plot isn’t moving forward; I don’t connect with your character; your sentence structure is repetitive; etc.
But what we likely hear is, “Quit writing.”
Point out the good.
All the red pen in the world can't make a good writer. What makes a good writer is finding the the thing we do well and make it better. It is just as, if not more, important to throw props when their due than it is to tell someone what they're doing wrong.
Besides, we're sensitive.
Say something. Anything.
Maybe the piece is polished. Maybe you got so caught up in the story, you forgot to make notes. Maybe you missed a few weeks and are lost. Maybe you feel like your opinions don't matter. (They do, by the way.) Still, say something. Make a general note, underline parts you like, indicate which parts confused you--anything. When you don't write notes, you may be trying to tell the writer that it was so fantastic there weren't any notes to give. But what they're likely hearing is, "Quit writing."
Have questions ready.
Maybe no is feeling chatty. Maybe everyone's writing comments furiously. Maybe it was just a nice scene. But for whatever reason, sometimes the group doesn't have much to say aloud. Use this time to make sure you're getting what you need from us. You know what you're insecure about, what you struggled with, what you're trying to say. Ask us specific questions to help you with specific problems.
And don't forget, we are here to encourage each other.