Critiquing Guidelines

Hello friends! It’s Friday the 13th!

Thanks to Edie Hemingway, our wonderful Co-RA, it is our lucky day. As many of you know, Edie periodically teaches workshops at her lovely Misty Lodge in Frederick, MD:

I told you it was lovely!

Edie has generously shared with us the guidelines she uses in her workshops. This is an invaluable list, because many of us belong to a critique group or plan on joining one. As she suggests, these are also useful during the revision process.


(And for revising your own work)

  1. First, read the work as a “reader”—for the story (or content) itself and for your first impression.  What questions do you have?
  2. Go back and read again as a “writer.”  Look at the different craft elements the writer has used.
  3. Mark the areas you really like—maybe a particular description, natural dialogue, believable characters, etc.
  4. Are the basic writing skills—grammar, sentence structure, spelling, etc.—correct?
  5. Does the dialogue sound natural?  Does it flow?  Are there unnecessary words that don’t add to the story?
  6. Are the characters believable?  True to their ages, time, and setting?
  7. Does it have a clear setting?  Neutral?  Specific in time, place, atmosphere?  Does it have an emotional setting?
  8. Are the verbs active?  Is there too frequent use of helping verbs, such as am, is, are, was?
  9. Are there echoes of specific words (overused) throughout the piece?
  10. Does the author overuse “qualifying” words, such as just, only, maybe, sometimes, etc.?
  11. If the work is fictional, does the plot make sense?  Do the scenes drive the plot forward?  Is there a climax and resolution?
  12. From what point of view (POV) is the story written?  First person?  Third person?  Is the POV consistent, or does it change back and forth without notice?  If the reader is in one character’s head, other characters can show their thoughts only through action and/or dialogue.
  13. When it’s your turn to critique, always start with something positive.  What is it that you particularly liked about the work?
  14. Be tactful, but be honest and specific when giving constructive criticism or suggestions.  Example: “I notice that there is a change of POV here.  Was that intentional?”  “I notice frequent use of adverbs.  Maybe you could try using stronger verbs, instead.”

*If you, as the author, do not agree with a suggestion, a safe thing to say is, “I’ll think about that.”  It’s good to be open to constructive feedback, but remember, this is your work, and you have the final say about revisions! 

There you have it! Fourteen tips for Friday the 13th. I don’t know about you, but I plan to keep them close at hand from now on. Thanks so much, Edie!

Have a great weekend!!

About Susan Mannix

Susan worked as a biomedical research editor for the Department of the Navy for fourteen years and has been a member of SCBWI since 2007. She writes young adult and middle grade novels. When she isn’t writing, she spends her time doing all things horses, including attending her teenaged daughters’ many competitions. Susan lives in Maryland on a small farm with her husband, two children, an adorable black lab, two cats, and three horses.
This entry was posted in Author/Illustrator Events, Critique Group Tips & Info. Bookmark the permalink.

3 Responses to Critiquing Guidelines

  1. karadhya says:

    Thanks for these great tips, Edie! Like Susan, I will be keeping these close at hand…and sharing them with my critique group at our next meeting!

  2. Pingback: Critique Groups « As the Eraser Burns

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