The Art of Literary Critique

According to the dictionary, to critique something is to give your opinion and observations. If you are a member of a writing group that offers critiques, you can expect to hear a variety of opinions about your work.

This is a good thing, as you want to know how readers are reacting to your writing.

What you should not expect, however, is an edit of your writing. I have heard writers complain about critique groups because the members of the group did not understand what critique meant.

Sometimes when a person is asked to critique a chapter, that person thinks he or she is expected to edit for grammar, spelling, and punctuation.

Other times the critique comes back as a completely negative commentary, taking the word critique and thinking it means critical.

I have had people tell me that they dislike doing critiques because it is sometimes hard to find something wrong with the piece.

“A well-written manuscript deserves a positive commentary.”

Of course, a critique is also an observation, so if there are many mechanical and/or structural errors in the manuscript, mention it, but not as a line-by-line edit.

A simple statement something like this will do:

“The overall theme of the manuscript is clearly identified; however there are several grammatical errors on page three that can be easily fixed with a line edit.”

This technique, called cushioning, starts out with a positive comment, followed by a constructive comment.

You can also surround the constructive comment with positive statements, thereby creating a sandwich effect in your observation.

The Art of Literary Critique

Read the whole article here.


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