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Mar 8, 2019

Critique Partnerships - A Recipe For Success

By: McKay Mertz.

Writing and helping others write can be as rewarding as a chocolate chip cookie. But what are the steps to a successful critique partnership? Similar to baking an excellent cookie, we will use the same basic recipe to create a successful critique partnership. Obviously, everyone has their own tried and true cookie recipes, but here are some suggestions to help you critique others' writing.

Flour: Every cookie needs flour (or some gluten-free substitute if you're like my wife). Like flour, authors need your gut reactions. Let the author know the emotions or questions you get while you're reading. is perfect for this because you can highlight exact passages to back up what it is you're thinking. This is what authors need the most. Your reactions. Your emotions.
If stories are like cookies, flour is the emotion.

Chocolate Chips: What's the best thing about a chocolate chip cookie? Most people might say the chocolate, right? What is the BEST thing about the author's work? Compliment the author on what they're doing well. What is their greatest strength? Honest, sincere admiration for what an author is doing well helps them know how to play to their strengths.

Salt: A little bit of salt can go a long way when you're baking a treat. Constantly sharing nothing but "constructive criticism" with the author is kind of like adding too much salt to cookie dough. Authors need honest feedback on what they can and should improve, but too much negative feedback can discourage the writer. While it's necessary, most of the time, try to go easy on the salt.

Sugar: There are all kinds of sweeteners you can use to bake cookies. White sugar, brown sugar, maple syrup, honey, or even agave. Avoid offering just one type of positive critique. What's working with their POV? What's great about their character development? How is their world-building? Provide a range of feedback to help authors round out their stories.
(Like sugar and salt, positive AND constructive criticism are both needed—always. However, too much of either is terrible and tastes gross).

Eggs: You don't really taste them in the end, but to make a cookie, eggs are key. Grammar and syntax are like eggs. Helping an author with their grammar allows them to focus more on what's really important—their story. Always, always, always check for basic grammatical issues and different word choices when the meaning is unclear. This will help authors polish their work and make their stories flow much better. Don't forget the eggs!

Distribution: Do they want to bake cookies for themselves to enjoy while watching a few episodes of The Office? Do they want to share them with close friends or family? Or do they eventually want to package them and ship them across the country for cookie lovers everywhere? Knowing what the author plans to do with their work doesn't mean you should change how you critique, but it WILL help you find ways to craft your critiques to match the author's long term goals.


About the Author: McKay Mertz
I'm working on publishing my first novel, a science fiction thriller, through a hybrid publisher Mascot Books. This is the extent of my professional experience as a writer, but I can't wait to see where it takes me. I'm a junior at Utah Valley University, and I'm studying personal finance. Learning about finance is great, but reading and writing have been my lifelong passion. Creating and living in other worlds is an absolute joy. I've recently discovered, through, that I deeply enjoy reading and critiquing other writers' work too. It's a tough, but rewarding process all around. My first book, Reincarnate, is available for pre-orders through Kickstarter
Follow me on Instagram for news and updates @mertzmckay. Or check out my website.