I’ve worked with a number of critique partners and can tell you skill level varies widely. Some provide little feedback and some too much, but I’ve found that too little always makes me feel like my time has been wasted. In the case of critiquing another’s work more is always more!
The characteristics of great critique partners that I always strive to emulate:
1. Be frank but not hurtful. Suggest how the author’s manuscript can be improved but never say that it sucks.
2. Comment on a variety of areas – setting, character development, plot, dialogue. Writers need to know where they’re excelling and where they could use some help.
3. Be mindful of the work’s genre and don’t let it affect your comments. If you hate YA novels you are going to hate them even if what you’ve been handed is the next great American novel. But good writers can spot good (and bad) writing and provide feedback on it even if they hate the story.
4. Line edit, if possible. If there are glaring errors or misspellings be a pal and point them out to the writer.
5. Write a quick one-sentence review. This isn’t something I’ve seen done a lot, but when it is it is helpful. Letting a writer know your overall impressions, in a brief snippet, is always welcome.
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