At our February meeting, we discussed what to look for when critiquing a piece of short fiction. Here are the points we discussed:
- What does/doesn’t engage you?
- What is the hook? At what point did you feel drawn in?
- Was there a point at which you lost interest?
- Is s/he clearly defined?
- Is s/he sympathetic (this doesn’t mean your character has to be likeable!)
- Do we care about her/his journey?
- Is there one?
- Is s/he clearly drawn?
- Can you understand what her/his motivations are? And are they believable?
- Does the pace feel appropriate to the piece?
- Are there any sections that feel rushed or sluggish?
- Are there instances of info-dumping/too much “telling”?
- Is there a definable climax?
- Does the climax come at the highest point in the story?
- Are you left with a feeling of satisfaction, even after a story with a somewhat open ending?
- Is the ending overexplained? Unclear?
- What is this story about? What themes does it explore?
- How complete does it feel?
It may also help to read this post about plotting, to see if the story you are critiquing has the elements needed, or if anything is missing.
It may be worth telling your critique partner about areas you suspect need work, but are not sure how to deal with them; this may be best done after the initial read-through to avoid colouring your reviewer’s judgement.
Remember when critiquing another writers’ work, to be honest, respectful, clear, and kind. When having your work critiqued, separate your work from yourself and take the criticisms as they are intended. Take on the points that resonate with you; put aside those that don’t.