We had an epic mess of a meeting that started with Metro Coffee House dropping off the face of the planet in the pouring rain and ending with us playing musical tables in order to find a power hook-up for Tammy’s laptop. My tea was also four freaking dollars. AND HAD NO BUBBLES. And it had a shot of caffeine since it came from Starbucks which means I was passing out on the way home (yeah, caffeine puts me to sleep…seriously. Part of why I avoid soda is because it knocks me out!)
A few of us did eventually fall back to B&N aka The Arctic and got through our critiques but didn’t get to our topic of the night, how to critique. I made up an outline of what I usually look for because I’ve been getting feedback that I critique well, yay! It’s tough to outline it though because I’ve developed so much over the years that I write what I notice, I don’t actually go by a work sheet.
A good suggestion Sheila made was that we make a list of the main points of the critique so we can keep organized, move quickly, and give something to focus on so we don’t get overwhelmed with the little details.
Below is my worksheet.
#1 – ALWAYS find something positive to say! Comment on what works just as much as what doesn’t work—authors need to know what to keep too, sandwich principal (start and end with something positive = tasty)
Explaining WHY something doesn’t work is more helpful than just saying it doesn’t work
When explaining your critique to someone while a group is present, focus on issues that may be beneficial for others to hear (for the most part, no need to comment on grammar/punctuation as those will be in the hard copy critique and are self-explanatory) *sometimes the situation calls for it…. we had a great discussion today passive voice and on the punctuation for “and the amount of chores they asked him to do was ridiculous” – “and the amount of chores they asked him to do, ridiculous” “do–ridiculous” “they asked him to do? Ridiculous.”
Is the author effectively showing or telling?
Is the tension natural and exciting?
Is anything redundant? Authors like words but less is more!
Is the POV clear? This seems to be a pet peev of enough agents that it’s something to be very careful of. Some don’t like ANY point of view switches
Tune out your personal bias – instead focus on what works or doesn’t work given the author’s choices. What could make their choices more effective?
Balance – is there too much or too little of any element? Dialog?
Narrative? Romance? Even action can be dull if there’s too much
Texture – is the author invoking the five senses? Or are we only getting visuals?
Pacing – does the tension pull you forward? Do you have questions that urge you to read on to find out the answers?
Logical structure – do the events make sense, is the movement of the plot natural?
Chronology – does the flow of time make sense in relation to the events that happen? Character reactions over time?
Is it clear when and where we are?
Is the setting meaningful to the character? – tying the setting to specifics the character knows, feelings, memories, etc can help make it meaningful
Are there traits we can relate to or can you at least understand the character’s motivations?
Defined appearance – is there something really memorable about the character?
Logical character arcs – let the plot help the character grow
Vivid traits – do we want to read about this character compared to any other person who could be in this situation?
Is there subtext?
Are these conversations exciting enough you’d want to eavesdrop on them?
Does it move the plot forward? – even character building can be mixed with plot to create a balanced story
Is there conflict? – each character has their own opinions, goals and perceptions about the other
Does it show characterization? Are dialog lines interchangeable or are they so unique to the character that you don’t need tags to distinguish who is speaking?