Linda Maye Adams

Rule Q – Always ask Questions when you critique


Linda’s Rules of Writing

Pink tulips in full bloom.

Spring tulips at the American History Museum in Washington, DC

We’re onto the letter Q in Linda’s Rules of Writing of the A to Z Challenge, and always ask Questions when you critique.

Critiquing someone else’s work can be a special challenge, and it’s not always easy to do.  I always feel acutely aware that I could send someone who isn’t ready for the critique into failure mode because I find things that need work.

Earlier this year, I took an Odyssey online class, which distributed a worksheet of items to critique.  During the class the instructor Barbara mentioned that you should ask questions about when doing the critique.

Like, “If this cabin is supposed to be well-hidden, why is in on well-trodden path?”

Or, “How come John happened to show up here at this moment?  It seems coincidental that he would be here.”

Or, “Why is Jane following Mary around?  Mary seems like the kind of person who would take advantage of Jane.”

It’s a different way of thinking when it comes to critiques, and I’ve found it to be a powerful tool at hitting what might not be working with a manuscript.

What methods do you use to critique?

Caption: A to Z Challenge Logo

6 Comments

  1. This is perhaps the wisest, most respectful, most helpful technique for critiquing that I’ve ever encountered. I’m a storyteller, and I’ve noticed that the storytelling coaches I admire most begin a coaching session with a question that resembles: “What kind of feedback are you looking for today?” Spoken word is different than written word, but similar, too, in so many ways.

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  2. I use questions too–every one that comes to mind. When starting a critique I find it’s important to ask if there’s anything particular the writer would like me to watch for. Sometimes they don’t want to hear the full critique, but just want to focus on one or two aspects in their writing.

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  3. Great tip. It is difficult when critiquing someone’s work, I’m always worried about how they’ll take it. I try wording things as nicely as possible, with questions sometimes. And when I find something I particularly enjoy, I make sure to note it because it helps deal with all that needs work when we see we’ve done at least a few things right.

    Have fun with a-z.

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    • It sure is hard doing critiques, Jessica. You never know what the writer’s expectations are. Some people say they want feedback, but even they may not realize they’re actually looking for critiques. Even the nicest of critiques can turn into a meltdown where the critiquer is wondering “What did I say?”

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  4. Critiques are just as important in the art world, too. I like the questions rather than pointing out faults. It allows the creator the opportunity to see where the story was breaking down. Wonderful blog and post!

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