Responsibility of a Critique Partner

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This is by far the scariest critique.  We are in essence giving our work to people who can easily spot our errors, but this is also one of the most effective reviews you can have done.

Who is a Critique Partner? A person practicing the writing craft.

Why use a Critique Partner:  They know the craft and can use the lingo.

How many Critique Partners should I have:  2-3 per manuscript

How long should I give my Critique Partner to critique my work: About 1 month

How should I give my Critique Partner my manuscript: Ask them what they prefer (paper, Word Doc, Google Doc, both a paper and electronic copy).  I like to send paper copies along with a few fun office supplies like highlighter, sticky notes, and gel pens.

How can I thank my Critique Partner:  Offer to do a critique for them, send a thank you card, maybe a gift card (Starbucks/Amazon/Writer’s Digest) or something sentimental to show your appreciation.

What should a Critique Partner Not Address:

  1. Spelling/Punctuation (unless they see a glaring error…lie/lay/laid/lain)
  2. Avoid line editing because most likely the entire manuscript will change after the critique

What should I do when I get my manuscript back from my Critique Partner?

  1. Wait until all critiques are back before opening them.  (Give your Critique Partner’s a gentle nudge a week before the deadline.  We are all busy.  If you sent a paper manuscript maybe send a self-addressed stamped envelope SASE to them.)
  2. Go through your manuscript page by page with the critiques in hand.  Make notes but don’t make edits.
  3. Walk away for a week and think about their suggestions.  Remember, it is your work so don’t make changes you aren’t comfortable with, but if all of your critiques address similar issues, those may be things that need attention.
  4. Send out your thank-you’s and edit your manuscript.

What should a Critique Partner Address:

Conflict/Tension

  1. Is tension created at the outset of the book?  What is the conflict?
  2. Is there an overarching conflict that grows to the climax and is addressed in the resolution?
  3. Do the conflicts increase, making the character work harder as the story progresses?  Does the reader care about if the character succeeds?
  4. Is there too little or too much conflict, and is that conflict relevant to the overall story?
  5. Are there any scenes left adeptly hanging?
  6. What elements/clues/details propel the story forward and invoke tension?

Plot

  1. Does the overall plot come across clearly?
  2. Is the plot interesting and engaging?
  3. Does the plot resolve?
  4. Do the subplots work well with the overall plot and are these plots all resolved?
  5. Is it easy to follow the passage of time from scene to scene?

Pacing

  1. Are there any spots that drag?
  2. How is the writing?  Is it over-wordy, vague, sentences too long, too short?
  3. Are there scenes that could use trimming?
  4. Does the pace in the different scenes either speed up or slow down accordingly?

Setting

  1. Is the setting believable?  Is it described well, under-described or overly described?
  2. Does the setting fit the mood and serve the plot?
  3. Are there too many or not enough settings?
  4. Are there boring settings?
  5. How is the setting presented?  From the character’s POV or is it in a flat narrative?

Point of View (POV)

  1. Is the overall POV consistent?
  2. Is there only one POV character in each scene?
  3. Are there some places where a different POV might be better?
  4. How well does the author get into the head of the character?  Does that character sound authentic?
  5. Are the readers able to feel what the character is feeling or is the author telling the reader how to feel?

Voice

  1. Is the writing fresh and original?
  2. How well does the overall tone work for the story?
  3. Does the writing have too many cliches?
  4. Are there words or sentences that seem out of place, too complex or simple for the story?

Character Development

  1. Is the protagonist (main character) clearly presented?
  2. Does the protagonist behave and speak consistent with their backgrounds & upbringing?  Do they have depth?
  3. Does the protagonist have a clear arc that shows growth/change/decision/resolution?
  4. Do the secondary characters enhance and enrich the protagonist’s story?
  5. Is there too much or not enough description of the characters?
  6. Are there too many characters or too much time spent on a secondary character?

Dialogue

  1. Does each character speak differently?
  2. Is there too much, not enough?
  3. Is the dialogue stiff, uninteresting, too wordy?
  4. Does the dialogue sound natural?
  5. Are there places where dialogue could be added or removed?  Is there an info dump happening?

Overall Feel

  1. Does the book work? Does it hold together? Does it make sense and hold the reader?
  2. Is the idea original enough?
  3. Does the book feel too long or too short?  Are there missing scenes?
  4. Is the overall theme well delivered?
  5. Is the theme brought out well in the title and opening and closing chapters?
  6. Is there a sense of completion or resolution?
  7. Is the writing clear as to what audience the author is attempting to reach? (i.e. YA with thoughts overly sophisticated, too much sex or violence that might be inappropriate)
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