I have been part of a writing group for over ten years now, and during this time, I have published a novel, dozens of articles, and several short stories. My writing group has been instrumental in honing my skills and improving my writing by providing valid critiques and even line edits.
Through this process, I learned how to critique other people’s work, especially fiction. I made a lot of mistakes, and I haven’t always been a good feedback giver.
Here are some of my tips on how to gracefully critique other writers’ work:
- Always start with the positive. Mention the things that you enjoyed the most about the work. If it’s a chapter from a novel in progress, say things along the line of “I enjoyed the humor” or “This chapter read very quickly.”
- Dive slowly into the critique. Writers put a lot of blood, sweat, and tears into their work, so measure your words. You can start your review by mentioning the things that didn’t work for you. Make it more about you and how you absorbed the art, rather than the writer and what they did and didn’t do.
- Don’t make generic, broad statements like “You have cartoonish characters” or “Your language is too flowery.”
- Don’t nitpick and go on a rant about grammar and spacing.
- Write down your critique and Email it to them. You will do them a favor as they would want to go back to your notes when they are revising.
Remember that no writer is an island. You need other writers as much as they need you. Critique with kindness, and do unto others as you would have them do unto you.