Wednesday, January 23, 2008

Hints for Critiquing Fiction Submissions

Critiquing Technique: Thoroughly read the submitted pieces prior to arriving at the workshop. Mark up the piece as this will help with your verbal comments and provide the author with tangible points to consider later. Type or write up your comments (sign your name). This will help you, the critiquer, to organize your thoughts about the story for the three-minute limit that you have to speak. Do not be afraid to point out the faults of a story (do not be harsh!). Sometimes it is hard to make negative criticism, but pointing out weaknesses is the purpose of a writer’s workshop. If you recognize a fault or problem, suggest a solution, or offer an idea to help. Experience or expertise is always appreciated. Before you offer criticisms on word usage, make sure that you know what the word means, or have looked up the meaning of the word in a good dictionary. Same for grammar. It is one thing to point out flaws, it is another to solve them. When you see a problem, suggest ways to resolve it. This approach is easier on the receiver, and it will improve your writing skills at the same time. Sometimes it will even clarify your train of thought. As a writer, recognize that suggestions do not have to be used; it is after all, the writer’s story. Remember, if an author chooses to espouse an unpopular idea, or a value system that is not yours – leave it alone. Ideas are beyond criticism; only the craft of the writing or factual information that calls the story’s verisimilitude into question is fair game. Each reviewer will take a turn and have the floor (two minutes – no more than five minutes); others present will be courteous and not interrupt. They will have their turn and will likewise not be interrupted. The author will remain silent, except to ask for a point of clarification while the reviewers give their comments. Do NOT take story criticism personally. The first time your work is critiqued, it can be difficult – even painful. If you are still learning on how to offer comments, critique in a tactful manner – no points given for taking scalps. Do mention those points that you enjoyed. Be gentle with your comments, and always keep in mind the difference between constructive and destructive criticism. Personal criticism is unwanted, unneeded, and will be rejected. After the reviewers have had their say (short, sweet and to the point), the author has the opportunity to comment upon the reviews, explain what was intended or ask for ideas. Author’s limit is five minutes. Remember, once you learn to accept criticism and how to use it, then your writing can and will improve. Recognize that good critiquing comes with careful analysis and solid knowledge of what constitutes good writing. Remember, the first rule of writing is... Write!

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