To Critique or Not to Critique… (cont’d)

Critiquing – a few hints and tips

How do you tell someone their work sucks?

You don’t.


OK, so you don’t like your Critique Partner’s characters. Tell your CP that you don’t connect with their hero/heroine. Say why. e.g. actions don’t equate with words, thoughts or emotions (the character says one thing, their behaviour reflects the opposite). Or they’ve done something that really turned you off. Perhaps they’re acting in a way contrary to what the situation demands.

In one of my stories I had a rather invasive operation performed on the heroine (for the better) without her permission and she just accepted it. My fabulous CP pointed out that that would not be the case – especially after what she had so recently endured. This was an instance of me getting on with the story and not paying enough attention to each and every scene. My bad. My lazy bad. Definitely deserve a slap for that one.

You also need to be aware of what genre your CP is writing. There are certain standards that must be met for each form of work. Novellas have a different structure to novels. The Happy Ever After in a Romance doesn’t happen until the end. Erotica doesn’t have to have a HEA, etc.

Keep an eye open for practical mistakes such as:

  • Driving on the correct/wrong side of the road in whatever country the book is set.
  • That technology/syntax/mannerisms are current for the era.
  • That a hurricane is a hurricane and not a cyclone. (Probably a bit picky, but that’s me, a stickler for detail)
  • That a piece of equipment is capable of performing as described. (e.g. A Vespa really can’t do 200kph without some serious tinkering or outside influence)
Be alert for continuity. If a character is sitting relaxed in a chair make sure they don’t suddenly appear in the next room without explanation. Or they were married and suddenly they’re single. Or they loose a foot in height over a few chapters. Or change species.
Or that this:

doesn’t morph into this (at least not without a darn good explanation): 🙂

You get the idea.


Be conscious you don’t push your CP to imitate your writing. I often find the easiest way to get my point across is to provide an example. My CP is well aware that this is my way of illustrating a point and I am not telling her it should be this way.

Using ‘Track Changes’ and ‘Comments’ is an excellent way to keep note of your suggestions/comments. Try not to be too blunt when making comments. My CP and I live over 500 kilometres apart, so when critiquing we cheat. 🙂 We Skype and have an online meeting.

Keep in mind that all rules are not cast in stone. Australian Romantic Suspense author and 2011 R*by winner, Helene Young has often quoted Douglas Bader “Rules are for the obedience of fools and the guidance of wise men”. Having said that you should point out any overuse or inappropriate use of ‘broken’ rules such as passive voice.

In conclusion, having a CP is not for everyone.

On the other hand having a CP can be one of the most beneficial things you could ever do for your writing. It has been for me. 🙂


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6 Responses to “To Critique or Not to Critique… (cont’d)”

  1. Helene Says:

    And the good wisdom continues 🙂

    And to think Douglas Bader is one of my all time heroes and I didn’t know I was quoting him! I have lost count of the number of times I’ve read Reach for the Sky!

  2. sandra Says:

    Thanks, Helene. Glad to be of service 🙂

  3. Eleni Konstantine Says:

    I am lucky I have really good critique partners and beta readers. It has to work for both parties, and there has to definitely be respect for the other person and their work.

  4. sandra Says:

    So very true, Eleni. A good CP can really bring out the best in your writing. Hope the design course is going well. 🙂

  5. C.T. Green Says:

    Excellent post! You have some great points – I think a lot of us have had the CP partner from hell or worried we may not be critiquing the right way.
    I can’t count the number of times a potential CP has said to me: You are prepared for criticism, aren’t you? Having encountered people who take offence (not my current CP’s, who are lovely people) in the past, I can now understand why they asked that question. Personally I’d rather have a CP ‘friend’ tell me what’s wrong than get a rejection letter and never know the reason why my book didn’t make the grade…

  6. sandra Says:

    Thanks, C.T. I’m comfortable critiquing my CP’s work because it’s very good. I get all a-dither though when asked to critique someone else’s that doesn’t rise to her standard. Usually I run to her asking ‘How do I say this?’ Agh! The work I’ve been asked to critique needs vast improvement. However I so agree with your last point. If someone is brave enough to be out there pitching and keeps receiving uninformative rejections letters I feel it’s my job as part of the writing community to give a respectful critique. 🙂

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