1. Listen carefully. If something is unclear or the person reads too fast, ask the writer to slow down or re-read the passage.
2. Arrange your ideas into a tactful, organized critique that includes the positive as well as the negative. Start and end with the positive.
3. React as a reader. Was it logical and unified or disjointed or rambling. Tell how and where if you can. Were you pulled into the story, are the characters realistic, did you feel tension, was the dialogue realistic and individualized? Mention only the important points.
4. Address basic grammar errors in writing by noting “dangling participle on the first page” instead of “You’d better learn grammar!”
5. Be calm and don’t argue. State your points clearly and briefly but don’t try to rewrite the story. Don’t show your superiority. Your goal is to help them improve, not to crush their ego. Act as a mentor, not a competitor.
6. Be sensitive to the writer’s feelings and where they are in the learning curve inherent in the craft. Use “in my opinion, that last stretch of narrative slows the pace. Maybe you could tighten it” instead of “boy, was that boring!”
7. If something offends you, remember that it is subjective. We do not set moral standards. Free expression is the right of a writer.
8. Stay on point and don’t monopolize the conversation. Add only additional points or agreements/disagreements on points already made. Simply pass if you have nothing to add. Commend the writer on the good points.
9. Respect others and don’t interrupt another critiquer; wait your turn. Write down the points you want to make. Critiquing others sharpens your skill in self-editing.
10. Treat the writer as you would like to be treated. Applaud their courage in facing you.
What other points do you suggest?
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