Some Dos and Don’ts For Critiquing The Middle Draft In It To Win It Writer

Do

  • Dig into dialogue, character’s actions and overall consistency of the character. 
  • Check manuscripts of internal consistency with the established sequence of events
  • Audit the overall flow of the manuscript and the small scale flow from scene to scene.
  • Dig into the writer’s chosen language, grammar, style, and phrasing.
  • Overall impressions. How as a reader one enjoys the manuscript or where as a reader the manuscript drags and needs tightening.
  • Tackle anything specific the writer asks for.

Don’t

Nothing is off the table at this point in time the writer is preparing to move out of critique phase and into a professional editorial, a submission, or a publishing phase.  Critique partners should give the writer everything they can (that’s within the bounds of what the writer asks for).

Some Dos and Don’ts For Critiquing The First Draft Sneak Peak Writer

Do

  • Make all the same comments offered for the “share and share alike” writer
  • Evaluate the tone of the work.  Is it consistent?  Does it compliment the story?
  • Along with tone and pacing, now is a good time to start notes on tension.  Is there tension?  What kinds of tension are represented?  Is it well balanced?
  • Evaluate the themes in the manuscript.  Are there any themes, are they obvious?  How are they expressed and do they enhance the story? 
  • Tackle anything specific the writer asks for.

Don’t

  • Dig into grammar.  The specific words and framing will change significantly between now and a final draft.  Grammar edits is a waste of a critique partner’s time at this point.
  • Over focus on awkward phrasing.  Critique partners may wish to begin addressing some passages of awkward phrasing in stronger passages, but if a segment looks as a whole is weak for other reasons, focus on tackling those larger story elements first.
  • Consistency of timeline.  While helpful to make some basic notes regarding the time flow, first drafts are a time to figure out when things should happen in a manuscript.  Keep critique to helping settle the timeline before auditing it’s overall continuity.

Some Dos and Don’ts For Critiquing The Share And Share Alike Writer

Do:

  • Point out what works.  What’s clever, what’s funny, what’s emotional.  Celebrate the wins.
  • Point out areas the manuscript wanders.  Are their places the writer shared too much or dropped in exposition?  Help find alternatives.
  • Identify core components—characters, plot, theme(s), and pacing.  Provide any thoughts one has in regards to their current state and avenues for further development.
  • Tackle anything specific the writer asks for.

Don’t

  • Dig into grammar.  The specific words and framing will change significantly between now and a final draft.  Grammar edits is a waste of a critique partner’s time at this point.
  • Highlight awkward phrasing.  Same reasons as above.
  • Tone.  Same reasons as above.

4 Kinds of Writers’ and When They Share Their Work

When signing up to be a critique partner, it’s important to consider where in process a writer may be and tailor the advice to where they are and what their goals are. Today we’ll go over 4 kinds of writers I’ve discovered and some characteristics that may help us dig deeper into where they are coming from.

The Share and Share A Like Writer

  • In process with a first draft. 
  • May be excited to share something.
  • May be stuck and looking to bounce ideas.
  • May still be working out the characters/concept/elements of the manuscript.
  • Probably has minimal editing or polish—and is not in a place to receive major refining feedback

The First Draft Sneak Peek

  • The manuscript has a beginning, middle, and ending.
  • May have a vague sense of short comings in the work and need help pinning them down.
  • May have an acute sense of short comings in the work and need brainstorming to correct.
  • May be “too close” to the manuscript and seek the distance of fresh eyes.

The Middle Draft In It To Win It

  • The 2nd or the 72nd iteration of a work.  Writers have completed major story building aspects of a manuscript and are working on polish.
  • Major structural edits are complete.  The order of the manuscript and all the major scenes are settled.
  • Character arcs are set and ready for review.

The Hybrid Writer

  • May or may not have a complete manuscript.  
  • The manuscript has some level of polish and revision, but the writer is not able to move on yet, they are in a seeking or consideration process.
  • Most easy to identify this manuscript because of it’s inconsistently applied polished some section will be in progress, others will be a first draft stage, while other sections may appear as a finalized manuscript.

What do you think? Do these groups cover all the different kinds of writers you know? Are there other traits your recognize or other details you think critique partners should look for?

Stay tuned and next week we’ll go further in depth with suggestions for what to critique or not for each of these stages of writing!