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Mar 26, 2021

3 Tips on Giving a Helpful Critique

By: Kiefer Nunez

Have you ever received a critique on your writing that leaves you scratching your head? You read and reread all the comments, and you’re still left dumbfounded because of how vague they are. It’s like when a friend says, “I hate politics.”

You ask, “Why?” 

They respond, “It’s not for me.” 

The response inclines you to ask follow-up questions or forces you to assume the answer. Being vague isn’t helpful. So below, I’ve listed three tips to write helpful critiques. 

First Impressions—Just like in life, a first impression is one of the most important things to share in a critique. By pointing out your first impressions, you are essentially helping the writer understand where to place exposition. Narrative exposition is the insertion of background information within a story. Exposition includes building the setting, characters’ backstories, prior plot events, etc. When exposition isn’t included or misplaced in a story, it makes the narrative very difficult to follow without the reader making assumptions. A first impression would then come in handy, because it would be the indicator for where to include such details needed to clarify the situation in the narrative. Of course, some first impressions could be harsh, which is why it’s always important to go back and read your comments before submitting them. 

Suggestions— A great suggestion can help an author rephrase a sentence or paragraph to give it more clarity. The goal for the critique partner is to help create the best version of the narrative they are reading. Not all suggestions have to be great, but hopefully, they trigger something in the writer’s mind to create something great. Always remember it doesn’t hurt to offer suggestions; worst-case scenario, the writer ignores it. I don’t condone suggesting an author to change their voice or story. It’s not the critique partner’s job to alter the style of writing. 

For example: Sally ran across the football field. 

A great suggestion would be: Sally’s cleats tore the rubber off the Chicago Bears football field as she sprinted across. This can inspire the author to write something more descriptive.

A bad example: Sally ran across the castle’s hallway. This alters the setting of the story.

Honesty— An honest critique partner reaches out and admits when they aren’t right for the job. Honest feedback also helps an author understand what they may have to improve, by explaining why something worked or didn’t. Keep in mind, taking criticism isn’t always easy, so a critique partner must be careful with their words. In fact, I learn more from negative feedback than positive. It’s no surprise that people learn from failure. Honest feedback plays a huge role in that, because it engraves itself into your mind. The wisest will learn from their mistakes and work harder to prevent them in the future. 

Finally, always keep in mind that the stories you’re critiquing are the authors’ children. So be kind, respectful, and avoid writing anything you wouldn’t want to read about your own narrative.

About the Author: Kiefer Nunez
Currently residing in Concord, NC originally from North Bergen, NJ. I’m a former film and animations major transitioning into literature as a full-time career, while also working as a developmental editor. I self-published my first book this year, under the pen name, Ethan Vonday. I’m working to publish my second book within the next month. I’m a lover of art in all forms. In my free time, I’m an avid gamer who’s addicted to leveling up.