By: Cassandra Robbins
When asked to review something, a person can face the dilemma of balancing between what is nice to say and what needs to be said about a work. On one hand, if a person showers the first draft in compliments, they really aren’t doing the task they were given; but if they are too harsh, their comments might not be taken seriously and it could reflect badly on the critic. They just don’t know what they’re talking about. So, where’s the middle ground? How can a critic not be hated?
Focus on the craft.
Craft is where a writer needs the most help. People have this natural tendency to create stories on their own. The difference between uncle Gregg’s war stories and a publishable piece is the craft. A writer will commonly find the story on their own.
Know the big words and how to use them.
These vary from genre to genre, but for prose, they are terms like setting, dialogue, character, the point of view, voice, crisis… the list goes on. Poetry and nonfiction have their own lists. A critic should know these terms and be able to use them freely.
Suggestions are the worst form of criticism a writer can encounter. It’s as if to say, here, you can’t write this so let me do this for you! It also takes away from the adventure in writing. Do not take this mysticism away from a writer. And besides, if a writer does decide to take a suggestion, a critic doesn’t get credit for it anyway, so why bother?
Personal objections won’t help.
This piece reminded me of that time my brother and I rode a tandem bike and crashed into the lake isn’t a helpful comment for the author. I don’t like this character is another, but if you can point to why, this character is a stereotype, then it can be criticism an author can use. Let’s break it down like this: if the work isn’t the subject of the sentence, it doesn’t really need to be said.
don’t be afraid to give positive feedback as well. Positive feedback is just as helpful as negative and lets the writer know where they are doing the best work. With this information, the writer can raise all of their pieces to that level of writing.
Above all, remember that you’re helping someone when you critique their work. Do the same for them as you would want for someone to do for you. We’re all after pretty similar goals, and we can all use help getting there. We just have to learn to work together.