Why exchange critiques?
For over seven years, I’ve been exchanging critiques and it is the best way to improve your craft.
A good critique has these three characteristics
For me, at they very least, a good critique should be objective, generous and actionable.
While the first may appear obvious, it’s crucial for the critiquer to remember this is not a customer is always right scenario. The purpose should be to give the writer an insight into how the piece works in that reader’s head and not to get the writer to change something.
For a critique to be objective, a good critiquer knows how to take a step back first, and then, take in the piece.
A useful critique should be objective, generous and actionable.
Generosity in a critique is that effort to see beyond the current state of the piece and hone in on the positives.
Asking for critique places the writer in a very vulnerable position. Highlighting the strengths of a piece allows the writer to know what to keep.
Generous praise can keep a great future story from ending in the waste basket.
It’s all well and good getting feedback, but it’s not critique if it can’t be put to use.
This is where a fellow writer or an experienced reader can shine as a critiquer. They must give a description of the weaknesses of the piece, and not prescribe the solutions. It’s better to be kind than try to be clever.
In the writing groups, what started out with monthly meetings and exchanged print-outs, and then emailed documents, evolved into a shared Google Drive folder, with a feedback form, a neat pdf creation plugin and a lively WhatsApp group.
I learned a lot about what works and what doesn’t.
But all these forms had their drawbacks. The biggest being turnaround on critiques.
I started to build the Critique Wheel in March 2021. I’ve tried to capture the three crucial characteristics and integrate them into an accessible online tool.
The Critique Wheel Beta version went live on August 8th 2021. It’s is open to any fiction writers who want to improve their craft.