Some thoughts on critiquing other writers’ works

Writing can be such an incredibly subjective endeavor that sometimes it makes me want to pull my hair out. Did I do this right? Did I do this wrong? Who knows?!

The subjectivity also makes me a little insecure when I’m critiquing other writers’ work. Every story and every writer’s style is so different, so what do I know about how someone else’s story should be written?

256px-Text-x-generic-highlight-red-marker-round.svgA good writer has a unique style, and when I critique sometimes I worry I’m going to overly criticize their style rather than the real issues. It’s also possible that I’m giving them a hard time because their genre is not one I like, or read very much, and so I don’t understand it very well.

It helps to remember that although I may still be muddling through this whole writing thing, I’ve been a reader since I was tiny. I’ve read more books than I can remember. I’ve loved books more than I’ve loved certain members of my family. (Kidding! Mostly.) I know what feels right on the page, and what feels off.

So I try to read as a reader first. I take note of what jumps out at me, what I loved, what I didn’t love so much, how engaged I was with the characters, and where the story flowed and where it stuttered. Once I’ve gone through it once as a reader, I look at it as a writer and editor. I consider things like point of view, tense, word choice, and grammar.

Hopefully in the end, I’ll come up with a critique that addresses the technical writing issues, but also lets the author know how a reader might feel about the work. Because that’s who we’re really writing for: the readers.

Image by The Tango! Desktop Project (Contributors; FAQ); Derivative work by User:朝彦 (Asahiko) [Public domain or Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

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