Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Asking advice on critiquing something good

I finished Smokin' Seventeen last night and I finally got my copy of A Dance With Dragons by George R.R. Martin. Oh, I've been waiting years for this. In terms of fantasy, grit, world building, characterization, and breaking all the rules, Martin is my idol.

I have to set the book aside for the moment and focus on critiquing a few short stories for my writer's group. We're meeting this Saturday. Sometimes it's hard to critique stories. I'll find a few technical errors, but the story is sound. I offer my compliments. Then that's it. I feel like I'm not doing my job as a critique partner. Yet I don't know what else to say! Any advice?

I got one of my short zombie stories short listed yesterday. It's a medieval zombie story from a zombie's point of view. It would be cool to get published.


  1. I remember that zombie story! It'll be awesome if we both get into the same anthology again.

    It can be hard to critique something that's good already, but any little bit can help and be the difference between acceptance and rejection.

  2. I have tough time with it too. Unless the writing is so awkard that I have to read the same thing two or three times, I tend to let it go - I don't want to ruin the author's voice.

    Things I do point out: Plot holes and unintended technical mistakes

  3. I just started critiquing others recently. I tend to notice the technical issues first as well. But look for areas of confusion or dilogue that doesn't ring true - whatever makes you pause, even for a moment.

  4. If you as a reader were satisfied with the story you were critiquing, why would you want to go out of your way to find things to criticize? You should just give your honest impression and not try to pick it apart.

  5. I'm reading George for the first time - Game of Thrones - and loving it.

    I've been in a group for years now, the little stuff is great on final drafts. Look at the bigger picture - flow, how the story is structured, are the characters always in character, places to show not tell, redundancies and reptition, way a sentence / paragraph flows is awkward, plot flaw, is the logic of everything sound, are things in the right order, etc ... Could they use more description, characterization, character, plot, drama, conflict ... less.

  6. Sweetheart you are not doing anyone any good by only complimenting them. If all you find are, ahem, clerical errors, but like the story say so. But if you find a place where you are suddenly comtemplating long walks or the baby needs a diaper change, say that too. My writing partner and I are looking for another partner only because we are so tough with each other. We never hurt each other's feelings, but padding egos does more harm in the long run.

    Now rip apart my comment for errors.

    Thanks for finding my blog.

  7. I think looking at bigger, storytelling issues it pretty hard to do because you have to think about what's wrong with a pretty good story. If your group keeps putting out stories you don't think can be improved on very much then you should start telling them they need to push themselves by trying something more experimental. They might be writing in their comfort zone.

    The goal, afterall, is to improve. I can barely write my name and address without a few grammatical errors though. It's my curse.

    Good luck with the Zombie story - I want to read it already. Great premise.


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