If you are a writer, you have already faced criticism. Criticism can generally be of three types: fair and nice, fair and harsh, and unfair and stupid. Learning how to deal with these types is a great thing for every writer; however, today I am going to talk not about how to accept criticism, but how to criticize the work of other writers.
For some reason, many writers hate being criticized, but enjoy criticizing other people. Realizing it is unlikely they will change, I wrote short recommendations for how to criticize nicely.
- Read thoroughly.
- Take notes.
- Be constructive.
- Praise, but don’t overdo it.
- Do not be nitpicky.
- Be honest, but don’t be brutal.
- Suggest alternatives.
This is the number one rule for any critic. There’s a special place in hell for people who race through your work superficially, understand almost nothing, but nevertheless criticize your writing for not being clear, and so on. It is okay, however, to not understand something if you’re not reading thoroughly.
While reading, you can run into fragments you did not like for one reason or another. Whenever it happens, take a note, briefly record the context, and state what exactly you did not like in one-two sentences. This will help you observe the next rule, which is:
By constructive critique, I mean a critique that uncovers existing problems instead of creating new ones. An example of constructive critique: “This storyline has too many branches that lead nowhere, so in the end, there is a bunch of characters with dangling finales.” An example of a stupid critique: “I don’t like the main character—he is too manly and rude.”
Every writer likes to hear something good about his or her writing; if you insert positive and encouraging comments from time to time, the person who you criticize will most likely be grateful. However, if you sugarcoat your critique, the effect can be the opposite.
Generally, this means you should not mentally destroy the author you criticize for him or her misplacing a comma, for instance.
This is a mistake a lot of people make. Being honest (“I did not like your work, because there was not enough action scenes, and I like action most of all”) and rude (“Your novel is boring—you are a bad writer”) is not the same.
Do not destroy a writer’s castle by criticizing, but help him or her rebuild it by suggesting possible alternatives that this author could use to make his or her work better.
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