If you’re a writer, you’ll likely critique someone else’s writing eventually.
I do critiques for my writing partner, for my friends, and for my critique tier patrons on Patreon.
I broke my general process into 6 steps.
- I ask the author if there’s any specific feedback they’re looking for. Sometimes writers are unsure about certain parts or they’ll want feedback on specific things like pacing, dialogue, arc, whatever. This way, you’ll be giving the most constructive feedback for the writer.
- I’ll read it once and give my gut reaction. You might go back and change your mind about comments you made in the first round, but I like to leave them there and specify it was my first reaction. Knowing a reader’s first assumptions and thoughts is often helpful. I’ll also mark lines I thought were really good, parts that made me angry, sad, laugh–as a writer, it’s helpful to know if you’re eliciting the emotions you meant to.
- I’ll read over the story again, more carefully, and I’ll start marking up for line edits–I check sentence structure, word use, spelling, grammar, and flow.
- I do my write-up. This is a couple of paragraphs, usually. First, I’ll tell them what I thought were the strongest parts. Always start with positivity, because there’s something good in everything and receiving feedback is stressful for most people.
- I’ll tell them what didn’t work for me and if I have ideas for how to fix those things, I’ll make suggestions.
- I’ll read it over one final time to make sure I caught all the line edits and to see if I have any new thoughts. Then I send it back to them with lots of happy emojis in the email, because critique is hard and a lot of the stories I read are from new writers. The last thing you want to do is discourage someone who’s learning.
Most people don’t do this part, and you absolutely don’t have to, but after I send the feedback, I let the writer respond with questions and comments, then I’ll do another critique of their revised piece.
My biggest tips are to keep in mind what would be most helpful to them–for this story and in their future writing–and be respectful of what they’re trying to do with it. Don’t impose your own ideas on their story.