Critiquing Tips

I decided to add to my post from yesterday and give you guys some critiquing guidelines.

Over the past few semesters at school I’ve collected some helpful questions to ask while editing; whether it’s your own work or someone else’s.

So, feel free to use these as you wish. They certainly help me.

Critiquing Tips:

1. Does the opening of the story hook you? Do you want to read more?

2. Do you see conflict in the story? Inner conflict happens within the characters in the story and outer conflict is when the will and longings of different people collide.

3. Is the plot clear and believable? Do you get answers to questions that come to mind as you read?

4. Is the setting vividly described? Is there a lot of detail or too many details? Does the author use all five senses (smell, touch, hearing, sight, and taste)?

5. Do you sympathize with the main character? Do you share his/her emotions and care about what happens to him/her? Is he/she believable and seems “alive”? Does the author tell us much about him, her, such as what he/she does for a living, what his/her hobbies are, whether he/she has a family or not, friends or co-workers? What he/she cares about?

6. Is there dialogue in the story? Too much or too little? Is it believable? Can you “hear” it?

7. Does the author use the same tense or does he/she roam between past tense and present tense?

8. What is the point of view (POV) in the story? Is the author consistent in the POV use or does he/she sometimes switch? Do you think the chosen POV is working out well or would the story improve with a different POV?

9. Does the author show you things instead of telling you about them?

10. Do you see any moral message in the story?

11. What’s the strongest part of the story? What’s the weakness part of the story?

12. What’s your general opinion about the story?

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Inspiration Station: Reading A Friend’s Manuscript

Reading a Friends Manuscript

 

How many of you have been asked by your close friend to read their manuscript and give them feedback on it? I’m sure many–if not all–of us have.

My sister Kris writes and we read each other’s stories all the time. Sometimes we read them when they’re finished, other times we read scenes at a time in case we need different opinions in the middle of writing.

When Kris reads my stories, she always has something decent to say about it. When I read her stories, I tell her, “that was good. I want to read more.”

She stares at me blankly expecting more, but I never know what else to say. I’ve never been good at editing, even for my own stories. The very first time I started editing I only looked for typos and such. It was hard for me to look at my plot more deeply, to see how well the characters developed through the story, if everything made sense, etc. I thought it would all kind of work it out in a way all on its own. Well, it actually doesn’t work that way.

It wasn’t until I joined my writing group that I got a deeper understanding of what it really means to edit your novel… and how to help others edit theirs.

So what do you do? What do you say? Certainly not this:

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The picture explains what not to do: Snow White isn’t asking the right question (did you like it, yes or no?) and she’s already getting frustrated. Well, if she’s this fruatrated now then we know she’s not going to handle negative feedback very well which is essential to being a writer. Pinocchio knows this which is why he’s afraid to speak the truth and his nose is giving him away. If he didn’t like the story, what could he say?

Constructive Feedback:

When reading through a manuscript, whether it’s a close friend or someone else, you should always say something positive and something negative. The positive comments will help them see what readers like and what they do well in. The negative comments will help them improve certain areas.

Most of you may have heard of the feedback sandwich. It’d be good for Pinocchio to know that when critiquing, you should start off with a positive comment about the story, the bottom bun of the sandwich. Then go into some negatives; what needs improving, what didn’t seem to work with the story, etc. That’s the middle of the sandwich; hamburger, deli meat, what have you. Then top it off with another bun with more positives about it.

I find that to be the most effective way to do it. Ease in with good and ease out with good.

Writerly Questions:

Let’s look at Snow White’s point of view. It’s never good to get angry with people who are trying to help you. With that being said, she shouldn’t be looking for bland answers to vague questions such as, “did you like my story?” They can say yes or they can say no, but they won’t tell you why.

You need to be specific.

When handing out your manuscript to others, it should always be after you’ve already done an edit. That way you have a good sense of what might need tweaking.

Is your main character taking a different path than intended? Ask your reader if they like the main character. Is he/she enjoyable to read about? Is he/she likable? Do you think the story works with that specific character in charge?

If there’s a plot hole in the story, see if they can find it. Ask them opinions on how to fix it. Is it a big hole or a small one? Can it be overlooked as a loophole? (Because let’s be honest; we all fudge it sometimes.)

In order to get the most out of your beta-readers, you need to tell them how to help you. Ask specific questions and when they read the story, they’ll hopefully have an answer for you.

Critiquing:

Back to Pinocchio. What can you do or say when reading a friend’s manuscript? If the writer didn’t ask specific questions, what kind of aspects of the story can you touch upon?

–Does the opening of the story hook you?
–Is the plot clear and believable?
–Do you share the main character’s emotions and care about what happens to him/her?
–Can you “hear” the dialogue in the story?
–What is the strongest point in the story? What is the weakest?

There are so many aspects of a story that you can look deeper into. One can talk a lot about the main character of a story–both good points and bad about him/her. That could be an entire critique itself.

So, remember: don’t be like Snow White and Pinocchio. When reading and critiquing, remember to be kind and honest. When receiving the critique, have a cool head and remember that ultimately the last decision is yours to make; it’s your story.

Writing Prompt:

Not exactly a writing prompt, but close enough… Take a deeper look at your current work in progress and think of some questions about the story that you feel might need tweaking. Try answering them yourself or tuck them away safely for your future beta-reader.

Related Articles:

5 Keys to Giving Constructive Writing Critiques
Checklist for Critiquing a Novel
How to Critique a Manuscript

Birthday Weekend

Friday: Friday seemed like a long day. I was anxiously awaiting to get out of work not only for the weekend, but so I could get to my friend’s house. My friend had a baby about a month ago and I was just meeting the baby for the first time. It was a good afternoon because I got to hold a baby (it’s been a long time) and I got to see my friend. I haven’t seen her since her baby shower back in November. I have school and work to thank for that.

Friday night I came home and worked on my writing group’s critiques. They were due Saturday morning, so I naturally left them until the last minute. It’s funny how deadlines creep up on you.

Saturday: I had my first writing group meeting. Technically was the second one, but Kris and I missed the first due to a prior commitment. We were nervous, but it went really well. Including the two of us, there’s seven of us total. Small, but I like it that way. It was good to have my work being read and critiqued by others than family. I got great feedback, both positive and negative. The next step is to edit that part again so I can edit the second part and send that for next month.

My cousin had a birthday party to go to so I went with my mom to drop her off and then we were food shopping. For once, we finished shopping in a timely manner and then had an hour to kill while we waited for my cousin’s party to be over. Once we got home, my mom thought it would be a good idea to go out to dinner. Kris and my dad didn’t feel like going, so Mom and I went to Panera. I was barely home on Saturday and wasn’t able to get anything done I originally planned. However, I spent the majority of the day with my mother (and we don’t get a lot of time to do that often) so it was good.

That night we gave my mom her birthday gifts early. We got her a Blu-Ray player and a new iPad. So I think she was pretty content.

Sunday: It was my mother’s birthday, plus Palm Sunday. So we went to church, which was extra long because the service was an extra half hour and then the Sunday school kids had their annual Easter egg hunt. We ended up being at church for an extra hour.

I took my Spanish quiz (that again, I left until the last minute) and then we went out to dinner. There was 11 of us for dinner and the waitress was slow and not very good, so we were there for a little while. We went to The Outback, so I can’t complain–the food is always awesome.

Then we went back to my house for cake for Mom’s birthday.

Overall, it was a great weekend. Busy, but relaxing at the same time.

This Week: I need to outline a bit more for my Camp NaNo novel. Camp starts in two days. With that being said, I need to finish my homework in a timely manner. Plus, I need to work on my Detective Florence manuscript for my writing group.

April is going to be a busy month; especially when it comes to writing. I hope I’m able to get a routine down and stick with it–even if it’s just for the month.

How was your weekend?

Writers Workshop

It’s been an extra long weekend for me. Yesterday (Monday) and today were two more snow days for me. We had another big snowstorm all day yesterday. We may be getting another one Thursday and then yet another one Sunday into Monday… more snow days? We’ll see.

As you can see, my fence is completely buried.
As you can see, my fence is completely buried. Where we’ll put the upcoming snow, I have no idea…

Friday I didn’t do too much. I went to work and finished my homework for the week. It was exciting. Sunday I had church and it was the Superbowl. I’m sure most (if not all) of you watched it. I did not. I know who we were rooting for and I knew who won and that’s about it. I don’t watch it because I don’t understand it, but I heard it was a good game.

Saturday was a fun day for Kris and I. Our dad found an event at our local library called “Writers Workshop.” He thought we would like it, so he told us about it and we went.

Remember a few weeks ago I posted Writers Group Wanted? Well, completely by accident my father found one for me. We all get together, swap manuscripts, give each other feedback, etc.

I know I said I wanted an online one, but you take what you can get, right? Plus, all the people seem really nice. There was about 20 of us there; it was a big turnout. So, the guy who’s running it decided to split it into two groups. Kris and I are going to be in the Saturday group because Wednesday nights are school nights for me and I’m in my pajamas at the time they’ll be meeting.

So, we’ll swap our pieces through e-mail by the 15th of every month and then we’ll critique each other. We’re going to meet the fourth Saturday of every month and discuss our work and critiques. It’ll be a good experience.

With that being said, I still may or may not try to do something on the Internet for me and my WordPress friends (yes, you). As I mentioned in the post above, I was thinking of starting one myself online. I still haven’t decided, but it’s still a thought.

Yesterday and today, as mentioned, are snow days so I plan on doing nothing. Maybe get some homework done, do some writing… but nothing major. I have to take these days while I can.

How was your weekend?

Writers Group Wanted

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For a long time now I have been wanting to join a writers group. You know, have other writers read and critique my work and I’ll read and critique their work in return.

I found a site called Critique Circle a while ago and it was great. I posted a short story on there and the people who gave me feedback were helpful and informative. However, the thrill of the site ended fairly quickly for me.

I wanted feedback on my stories and the way to do that was to earn credits. You need to earn credits by critiquing others. That’s fine; especially since you don’t want people on there posting story after story and never giving back to anyone else. It makes sense and I agree with that.

The thing is, it can be a long process. Some people are obviously more helpful than others and your story is only posted there for a week. Sometimes people don’t start critiquing it until there’s only one day left for it to be critiqued. In which case, you don’t get a good amount of people looking at your story.

I found another website (the name escapes me at the moment), but I didn’t even bother signing up. You need to pay. Um, no.

So, this is why I’m coming to you all of you guys out there:

–I want to join a writing group to meet other writers like myself
–I would like it to be online (due to my work/school schedule) where we can swap manuscripts and give them back to each other in a certain period of time
–It would be nice to have a small group of five or so people so we can all get to know each other and each other’s writing styles… but it would also be nice to have a large community to get other people’s opinions as well if needed

I know it seems like a lot to ask for and I probably sound extremely picky. I don’t know if any writing groups out there exist like that. I thought I would ask because Google hasn’t been helping on that front.

I’m also asking because, as stated, I’ve been wanting this for a while and my professor for my creative writing class last semester tried to get us to start one. I tried offering different ways we could set a group up, different websites we could use, etc. Three people replied saying, “Sounds good to me” or “Let me know the details and I’ll join.”

In other words, they didn’t seem enthusiastic about it. If they’re not enthusiastic about it, then how can I trust them to be committed and give me structured critique on my work?

So, if anyone knows any good writing group sites or would be willing to even start one up with me, that’d be awesome.

Thanks for the help in advance!

Update This And Update That

I Have Important Things To Say….

 

I have no idea where to start! I have a lot to say and I don’t know if I’m going to remember it all. I had Starbucks today and I am extremely wired! Seriously, ask my sister…and my mother…I was bothering them both. Singing, dancing, making weird noises, walking funny, yelling, laughing, falling on the floor, being loud…true story.

ANYWAY, I have three things to talk about…at least that’s all I can remember that I had to talk about…

First, Spilled Ink is back up for business. About two years ago, my sister and I started a writing website. Life got in the way and we kind of let it die. However, we wanted to get back into it so we made a new website for it. We came up with some new ideas for it, kept some old ideas and scrapped the rest of the old ideas. We hope the website grows a lot and is very successful.

Let me tell you a little about it: There are prompts, tips, writing races, co-authoring, and a role-playing section. There’s a place where members can review and discuss books they have read. Also, each member has their own board where they can post their own stories and other people can review the stories. You know, give feedback and critique. The link is on the Come Find Me page of this blog, but here it is again: Spilled Ink. Please go check it out and if you like, go ahead and join. We’d love to have you. 🙂

Next, I was thinking of adding more to this blog. My sister gave me this idea a while ago and I have been thinking of doing it ever since. I just never got the chance to actually do it. I was thinking about it more today and I think I’m going to really do it. However, I want to get your opinions anyway. So, if you don’t mind, please comment on whether you would enjoy this and want me to do this: once a month, I was thinking of doing a volg (video blog, for those of you who don’t know). So, once a month instead of posting words, you’d get to hear it straight from my loud mouth. Wouldn’t that be awesome? I don’t know when I would actually start doing this, but I thought I would throw it out there and see if you guys would like that or not. Of course, if the majority of you say no I may do it anyway. 😀

Third, I guess I should update about my actual writing, huh? I have been writing bit by bit each day since my last post. Since my last post I have written 7,659 words on Take Over. I plan on writing a little more tonight, but I probably won’t get the chance to update this later tonight and tell you all how wonderful I have been doing with my writing! I’ve been a good girl lately. 😀

I guess I do have more to talk about…fourth, my sister and I went to Barnes and Noble today (hence the Starbucks). We were looking at writing books when we were supposed to be writing. I have been thinking a lot about my future lately and I decided that it’s time that I really start looking for publishers. I have two children’s books written and ready to leave the nest. So I found one of those books that lists publishing companies, agencies, magazines, etc. I wrote down a few publishing companies that represent picture books. So, while I finish Take Over, edit Hunter and Diary of a Lover, and write Saving Each Other for Camp NaNoWriMo, I’ll be sending my two picture books off to publishers.

Also, Writer’s Digest sent me a thing in the mail about their annual writing contest. I’ve done it before (and lost, obviously), but that was two or three years ago. I think I’m going to try to do it again this year. I think I’m going to send in a poem. I don’t write poems often, although I would like to. I wasn’t going to bother with the contest again this year, but the other day, in math class of all places, I thought of a poem idea. I think that was my inner muse saying, “Do the Writer’s Digest contest!” Because seriously, when do I come up with poem ideas?

Anyway, that’s that. Send my picture books to publishers, polish off my young adult novels, prepare for Camp NaNo, finish Take Over, do the contest…I have a lot on my plate right now. But I like it. I have wanted to be an author since I was ten and I finally want to get started on it. Meanwhile, I’m going to promote myself as much as possible. So follow me on here, on Twitter (the link is also on the Come Find Me page), and on my other Spilled Ink website. Then sit back and watch me succeed. Because I’m going to make it no matter what. 🙂

 

2013: 72,855/365,000 Words Written
2013: 1,749/18,250 Pages Read