So you find a group (or start one on your own), but are unsure of the ins and outs of critiquing. Here’s the best advice I’ve ever heard and given away…
Don’t sweat it!
Give your honest opinion, and do it openly.
And last, but not least, always back it up with something positive.
Most established groups will request that you make several critiques before you can send in a sub yourself. That is to let you get a feel of the group and also to see how others critique. Seeing is the best example, I’ve found. When you are new to critiquing it can seem overwhelming and a bit scary. I’m mean here you are looking over someone elses work and you’re expected to let them know what you think about it.
When I first began critiquing I would look over the story as a whole and see if it grabbed my attention and made me either think about something or would remember the story a week or a month from now. As I got more comfortable, I began looking over the structure of sentences, making sure things flowed together. Then I stepped into plot, character developement, subplots… on and on.
By giving someone an honest look and response, you help them see things that they cannot see themselves. That’s what happens when we work on something for a while. It all runs together. ***haha*** BUT I’m not saying to totally tear the persons work apart either. That is called ‘flaming’. Think of burning something up, which is exactly how that person feels when they receive a critique that is totally negative. ***and you would too!*** Back everything up with something positive. Let them know that you’ve taken the time to give thought to what you are saying.
I found that as you grow as a critiquer, your own work begins to grow in depth also. You find yourself looking at your stories more objectionable. So there is another benefit of critique groups and doing the work.
Not everyone goes this route. But I have found that having an extra pair of eyes VERY, EXTREMELY benefitfull!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! OH, there’s another benefit too. You’ll find some very good friends along the way.