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What isn't a good critique?

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Sun Sep 02, 2007 6:00 am
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Snoink says...



It’s funny how we spend so much time on how to write stories, and yet there is hardly any information about how to write a proper critique. It’s kind of sad really, because a critique can be so helpful if written correctly. Every writer knows this from critiques which are given to them. But many writers don’t write critiques themselves.

This is a problem that can affect you a lot. Writing critiques can give you insight on your own story because it forces you to see what is good and correct and what is bad from an outsider’s perspective. How much does this help your story? Let me put it this way: I’ve been to many many writing sites. The best “publishable” writers are those who give others constructive criticism. And let me tell you, some of those writers absolutely make me go open-mouthed with jealousy. They are that good.

So the question remains, what is a good critique?

Strangely enough, before we get into what a good critique is, we have to find out what a bad critique is. Here are some examples of bad criticism:

Omg, that was seriously the best story I read. Write more.


Ah yes, the typical thing said by admiring people who are not quite sure why they like it, but like it nonetheless. And of course, they want to read more. Some writers are tickled pink by these remarks; most of them want more explanation.

So what do you do if you love it and find everything perfect? Describe why you like it. This forces you to look at the story critically and very often, a piece that you didn’t like when you first read it, can suddenly seem better.

Tickle your mind a little bit. Ask yourself these questions:
  • What do you think of the characters?
  • What do you think of the plot?
  • If you were writing this story, what would you do?
  • What do you think is going to happen to the characters and plot? (for novels or long stories)

Then, write out your answers. Tell the writers what exactly you thought about their characters and why you liked them so much. Believe me, this can sometimes be the most helpful thing. Lots of writers are so intimate with their characters that they might accidentally portray the characters in ways that they might not want.

And when you talk about the plot, it can give ideas to writers who are stuck with writer’s block, or are bent on doing one idea only, by giving them more ideas. Brainstorming works so much better with two.

All of these tips will help expose you and the writer to a new level of writing, and both will benefit. By all means, tell the writer that you adore the story, but tell them why and they’ll love you. 

This could be better, but it’s pretty good for your age.


Younger writers generally hate these remarks and most of them consider them an insult. It makes them feel immature and worthless, because they’re not worth having a full critique just because they’re younger.

Age can be deceiving. One writer in particular that I met on the internet had the most amazing stories and poems and ideas that I’ve ever heard, and boy, could she write. And her age? She was eleven. And she is now only getting better.

What can you do if you really think that it is good for their age, but maybe not so good for when they’re older? Tell them that it’s fair, and then go into how they could make it better in simple terms so they might be able to understand them now. Right now, they’re probably just learning what is good and what is bad, and they may not be familiar with the terminology of writing. Explain this patiently and don’t give up on them. Remember, soon they’re going to be critiquing your work and giving you feedback. ;)

And be nice! Later on, when they get older and read their story in disgust, thinking that they were the worst writers ever, they can always look at your supportive comments and feel a little bit happier about their work. A good supportive comment for a crappy piece of work can go a long way the older you get.

Good story, but the grammar was terrible. Let me begin…


I do this a lot, and I end up driving everyone crazy. They want to hear about improvements for their story, and they end up getting a grammar lesson from yours truly. This is a big big mistake.

Nit-picking only goes so far. If you do wish to critique the grammar, remember the story. Grammar, most of the time, can be fixed easily, but unless you plan on publishing it, the main concern should be the style. Saying the story was good just doesn’t cut it.

I hate it.


This is the same level as the “I love it” crowd, but worse since it is derogative. First of all, you don’t say why you hate it. Is it a bad plot? Do you dislike the characters? Instead of insulting the story and the writer, be thorough in addressing the problems of the story.

The plot is shallow and clichéd, the characters are despicable, and I didn’t find it interesting at all.


Some people decide that if you hate it, you have to explain exactly why you hate it. But this is only true to an extent. Writing is an extremely personal art and many people take it extremely seriously. When their writing is insulted, they take it as a mortal insult.

Instead of laying it bluntly, tell them in nice terms what exactly is missing, and then tell them how they can improve them. So instead of saying what is there above, you can easily say:

“The story was okay, but I think the characters could be improved a little bit by making the main character a little bit more likable. And I don’t think that scene that the character was in really developed the story. In fact, I think it may have slowed down the story. If you deleted the scene, I think it might make the story much more fluid and develop the characters a little better.”

It’s much nicer and it gives more of a heads-up on the problem. Remember, a direct insult closes people’s minds, but a gentle nudge can help the person considerably.

So, I hope that helps. I expect to see a lot of awesome critiques here. ^_^
Ubi caritas est vera, Deus ibi est.

"The mark of your ignorance is the depth of your belief in injustice and tragedy. What the caterpillar calls the end of the world, the Master calls the butterfly." ~ Richard Bach

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Sun Sep 02, 2007 6:10 am
Emerson says...



Amen!
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Fri May 02, 2008 7:43 pm
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LoveableLittleSock says...



This is now my bible.
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Sun Sep 28, 2008 9:32 pm
moon jumper says...



I like how you showed all the bad critiques and then told how to write better ones. I'm referring to this any time I write a review. (Like right now!)
Writing once a day keeps the voices away, and I've created a blog all about it: Daily Dose.
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Tue Apr 27, 2010 7:28 am
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Yuriiko says...



Thank you for posting this. I have to admit that I'm not a good critique but with this, hoping it would help me a lot. :D
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Mon Jun 07, 2010 8:00 am
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skutter11 says...



This will help me a lot. Thanks a lot, Snoink!
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Tue Jun 08, 2010 4:46 am
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Snoink says...



No problem! :D
Ubi caritas est vera, Deus ibi est.

"The mark of your ignorance is the depth of your belief in injustice and tragedy. What the caterpillar calls the end of the world, the Master calls the butterfly." ~ Richard Bach

Moth and Myth <- My comic! :D




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Fri Jul 30, 2010 1:59 pm
borntobeawriter says...



Snoink, great post!

I remember when I started how little I wrote because I couldn't figure out what to say. I decided to go through the forums (once i figured out how) and see how other reviewers did it and that helped.

It can be frustrating to review a piece that needs a lot of work and the only other reviewer wrote "I loved it! Keep writing!" because when I tear into it's good and bad parts, I feel long-winded and naggy (is that even a word?)

Anywho, my point was: thank you. I will refer this piece to many people.

Tanya :D




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Sat Oct 23, 2010 2:15 pm
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Tigersprite says...



Nice post. Unfortunately, I've had about three not very helpful comments, and stumbled upon a few more. I sent a PM to one of the offenders, asking him to be more detailed next time. :?

TIGERSPRITE
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Sun Oct 24, 2010 12:43 pm
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Rosey Unicorn says...



TIGERSPRITE wrote:Nice post. Unfortunately, I've had about three not very helpful comments, and stumbled upon a few more. I sent a PM to one of the offenders, asking him to be more detailed next time. :?

TIGERSPRITE


Feel free to report reviews you think could use some polishing up. The mods will take care of it (if there's anything to be taken care of). :)
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Thu Dec 09, 2010 9:29 pm
Abigail_W. says...



I say we all commend this advice by reviewing it! Okay, maybe not ...




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Fri Dec 10, 2010 2:39 am
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IsebellaLynnette says...



Thank you for the excellent guide, Snoink! I second the others' comments. I am so bookmarking this. And let me tell you, I will be using this a lot in the future. :D
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Sun May 27, 2012 4:01 pm
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HorriBliss says...



Thank you very much for this thread, I've been searching for a while for some sort of "tutorial" on how to critique and this was exactly what I needed. Thanks again, and I'll definately re-read this a few times to improve my criticisms - so far I've unfortunately been a part of the: "I love it!" crowd.
"If nothing you say when in love is embedded with common sense,
Then do you really regret when you've shredded your promises?"
- "Love ain't", CunningLynguists