Is There Any One Right Way to Critique Someone’s Manuscript?

I have seen debate after debate about this on a writing site I belong to. Numerous threads popping up saying pet peeves of the critiques you have. The one that stands out? Not getting thanked for the critiquing. Well, you kind of do get thanked with a little thing called Karma Points so that you can post your own drivel for people to, in turn, critique. Not that I’m saying you shouldn’t give a hearty ‘thank you’ to the person that just spend a good amount of time–that they can never get back–pouring over your puke-riddled baby. Expecting it, however, is akin to you giving a person a gift and expecting one in return or their devoted attention to the awesomeness that is you. Quite frankly, it’s a little selfish. We’re all here to learn, people. No one’s got a magical keyboard that belts out masterpiece after masterpeice.

But what about the critiquing itself? The intimidation factor is real, people. How can a n00b expect to have the experience to give advice if they’re unsure of their own manuscript? Truth is, there’s no right or wrong way. One golden rule to remember is your criticism must be constructive, not just a bashing session. Leave that to the publisher’s editor.

Every critique can be constructive so long as it’s not just filled with inappropriate fellatio or dry humping on how good the story is. Nothing’s perfect. Wait, that’s two golden rules, isn’t it? Drat.

So decide which kind of critter you want to be. I’m sure there’s more than my below samples. Oh do share if you have one!


Sometimes a little whiskey makes it all better.

Sometimes a little whiskey makes it all better.

Grammar Nazi: Beat them about the face and neck on their sentence structure, the use of certain words, or holy crap! What the hell on your syntax?

Punctuation Freak: Spread the love of the comma, period, and correct quotation use. Sucker pace to the em dash!

Story Lover: Dig at the crack of the storyline and it’s consistency, flow, or general plot holes. Best done on the fly, IMO.

Historical Whipmaster: Give a good lashing about proper research. Wild Dingoes don’t eat cranberries, mate!

Show vs Tell Mouth Frother: Well, this one is kind of self-explanatory. ‘He savored the sweetness of the ripe strawberry as the flavor coated his tongue’ sounds a bit better than ‘he ate a strawberry’.

These are just a few and you can certainly be more than one. However, if the author wants specific feedback on one of those elements and it’s not your bag, back away slowly so you don’t look like a cunt. Seriously, would you want someone pointing out things you’re not worried about in that stage of the manuscript? It’s all about several passes because no story is perfect after one pass for the author.

First and foremost, don’t go half-cocked in public forums bitching about a critique you got from some lame-ass punk who doesn’t get you. Because then you really are being a twat.


7 responses

  1. Critiques are hard to give and take. You need some thick skin and a willingness to accept that your manuscript isn’t God’s gift to mankind. Don’t freak out…we can all use some improvement in our writing. 🙂 Love this post.

    • I think its a great learning process that really gives you an education of how it might be when you actually get a contract. I’ve had some pretty tough editors and big slices of humble pie.

      • It really is an important process and, as much as we try to avoid it, it’s necessary to polish our stories. I eat humble pie every time I get my stories back from my critique partners.

  2. What a great post. I giggled most of the the way through it, apart from the moment I recognised my own critiquing style and cringed. Though, it’s interesting to recognise growth. I think I’ve been every type of critiquer over the years. Funny how you get caught up on different writing elements at different times depending on what you’re learning/battling in your own writing.

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