These pointers are designed for a group session.
1. SAY SOMETHING NICE FIRST. Remember what an accomplishment it is to get something in a form you can show anyone.
2. Take a few minutes to arrange your ideas into a tactful, organized critique that includes the positive as well as the negative. Consider these questions:
What is the main idea of the piece? Try to state it for the writer in one sentence.
Are the characters believable and consistent? Is their dialogue believable?
Is there a recognizable, meaningful conflict? Is enough at stake for us to care about the outcome?
Is there a good balance between showing and telling (action and explanation)?
Is the point of view established early and maintained consistently?
Are the details specific enough? Would you prefer more or less description?
How is the piece organized? Are there flashbacks or is it told chronologically? Is the organization effective?
How’s the opening: slow, too quick, confusing, dull? Does it grab you?
Is the title working? Can you suggest a better one?
What is the tone of the piece: comic, serious, tragic, formal, informal, satairic? Does it appear to be logical and true to the writer’s intent?
Is the style clear and easy to read or does it come between you and the content? Is it free of major grammatical errors?
3. Phrase your responses to the above questions provisionally: “I think,””It seems to me,””In my opinion….” It is more valuable to the writer to hear observations than evaluations.
4. Don’t argue. State and write down your points clearly and briefly but don’t try to rewrite the story. Be specific, pinpoint problems, offer suggestions, if possible. Don’t show your superiority. Edit in colored ink to be easily noticed.
5. If something offends you, remember that taste is subjective. We do not set moral standards. Free expression is the right of a writer.
6. 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 good points. Write down your positive or negative reaction to certain scenes or dramatic moments.
7. Don’t interrupt another critiquer. Write down the points you want to make and save them until your turn or until all others have had a turn.
8. Sum up overall affect of the story: did you like the characters? Were all the scenes important to the story? Did the plot continue to move at an acceptable pace? Is the conflict evident? Close with something encouraging.
9. Write down line edits, don’t verbalize them.To indicate:
lower case, use a slash (/) over the capital letter
upper case, draw 3 lines under lower case letter
leave as it was, use “stet”
insert a comma, use ^ with a comma under it
insert a word or letter, use ^ with the new word or letter above it
insert a period, put a circle around a period
possible spelling error, use <sp>
insert a space, use #
transpose words, use a sideways “S” under the first word and over the second word
delete a word, draw line through it trailing into a written letter “e”
begin new paragraph, use a capital “P” with a parallel line before the “P”
no new paragraph, use a sideways “S” to connect the end of the first paragraph with the beginning of the next one