How does one go about the actual work of critiquing someone else's writing? What kinds of things do we look for first? Then next? And next?
I haven't had much experience critiquing for others. Earlier in the year my 6th grade son asked me to look over his first long report (the kind needing note cards, bibliography, and all that technical stuff). Being the good mom (and writer) that I am, I went through it carefully and marked it up. Little did I know, my generous advice would bring my son to near tears!
I learned a lesson through the experience. I'm not on a fault-finding mission. Rather I need to first discover the good and report back on that, then I can give feedback on the most crucial corrections. We grow in small steps and so pointing out every deficiency at once leads to discouragement.
Thankfully, I didn't destroy my son's ego. He came to me again recently with a story he'd written for a children's writing competition. This time before I pulled out my red pen I asked him how detailed he wanted me to be. Then I proceeded first to find the many things he'd done right before I inked up the things he needed to change.
Lady Glamis had an excellent post yesterday about critiquing in layers. I'm still trying to digest exactly how to do that. But my take away was this: we have different layers of the writing craft to analyze from basics like grammar and sentence structure, to characterization/POV issues, to plot/action, and then the deeper layers of symbolism and themes. We keep peeling away as we critique. Maybe we won't make it past the basics for some stories we critique, but maybe we'll make it much deeper with others.
Critiquing for others can be a sensitive issue. We don't aim to discourage our writing friends, but we often do so unintentionally (like I did with my son). My advice: Ask your Faithful friend how detailed your critique should be and what specific things they want you to look for, then make sure to find the positive first and negatives second.
What is your advice for critiquing? Do you have a specific method or way of editing? Since I'm inexperienced at this, I would love to hear your words of wisdom!
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