Critiques Are Hard

We started workshops this week in my Creative Writing: Nonfiction class. This is what I’ve been looking forward to all semester and it’s finally here. I’ll be critiquing nonfiction stories by my classmates and they’ll critique one of mine.

Four people were due to post their stories this week so everyone else is due to critique these four stories.

Only read and give feedback to four stories… not bad homework, huh? Of course it can be tedious depending on how long and how well written the story is.

Hence, critiquing is hard.

I’ve never written an actual critique to anyone before. I don’t even know what I’m doing when I edit my own novels half the time.

This is my second class doing a workshop. So I’ve gotten feedback from professors and classmates before. However, there are some classmates who see it as what it is: homework. In other words, you may or may not be getting the most out of your classmates because in the end, it is homework.

With my first real life critique group coming up at the end of the month, I really want to nail my critiques for my classmates. I see it as more than homework and I’m sure some, if not all, of my classmates do as well. I want to help them by giving structured feedback and I want them to do the same for me when I share my story.

I’ve done two of the four so far and both took me at least an hour to do.

Last night I pulled Kris away from whatever she was doing and asked her to read my critique. I wanted to make sure it made sense, I didn’t sound mean, and that they were valuable points to mention.

The thing is you can’t critique a critique.

Everyone has their own preferences. Everyone reads differently and understands what they read differently. What I liked about the story, another classmate might have thought it didn’t work. What I didn’t enjoy about the story, another classmate might absolutely love.

A critique is a matter of opinion. After much consideration and looking through all the critiques, in the end the only opinion that matters is the writer’s.

15 thoughts on “Critiques Are Hard

  1. I’ve only done critiques for a creative writing class for fiction, so this was interesting for me to read. I agree with you: it’s hard, and you want to do a good job not just for the person and their work but also yourself as a reader and writer. Hope it goes well!

  2. Critiques are indeed tough to get right, but in the end, it’s really about the reader’s opinions and takeaways. Of course, the most important thing is how the writer chooses to implement the reader’s thoughts, but in order to do that, the critique has to be well-structured and informed, yes? It’s a hard job!

    • It is a hard job. I hope to have critiques that the writer can really look at and say, “Hm, she has a point.” If they implement it or not, that’s up to them. But it would be nice to know that they stop to think about it.

  3. Critiques are hard, and I’m still working on mine. I tend to come across as harsh. I don’t mean to, but I do. It’s lost me several beta readers because when we do exchanges, they don’t like what I have to say and feel I’m stomping all over their work.

    I’ve completely changed the way I critique because of it, but now everyone who’s read my critiques feel I’m not actually “critiquing”. Ah! It’s a fine line.

    • Everyone takes critique differently–some have an open mind, others… not so much. When it comes to critiquing, you don’t want to be harsh, but you don’t want to sound like it’s all sunshine and rainbows either. No matter how you think you sound, the other person might feel differently and take it the wrong way.

        • I think the main thing to remember is that whether we’re getting a critique or receiving one we’re all in the same boat. We’re all trying to figure out this thing called writing together.

  4. Great post, I think critiques are important Ive been thinking and writing about them a lot recently, the thing is, like you say, it is ultimately what the writer thinks, but so often a critique can completely crush someone and prevent them from carrying on. I think generally speaking though, if a critique is polite, fair but honest it tends to be appreciated. 🙂

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