How to Critique Creative Writing

Imagine writing a piece that you think is just pure gold. Maybe it took you a long time to write it or maybe it was a piece that just flowed from your mind to your hand to the paper/computer. It’s the best you’ve ever written and you’re super proud. Off to the editing department, whether it’s a friendly fellow writer or your English class peers. You’re hoping they see a masterpiece just as you do, but they don’t — and they intently and passionately let you know. You’ve just been critiqued without sympathy.

Many of my English classes were critiquing sessions where the students would read over other student’s work. In doing so, students would butcher essays and other literary assignments. Their criticisms were more so what they would have written if it was their words. Their critiques would always come out extremely harsh and instead of giving advice to make the writer and their work much better, they would actually end up doing the opposite. Their opinions would cut down the writer’s confidence and their piece would never improve. Thus, another writer who will never see his true potential because their ego and emotions were shot to hell.

As a community we have to do better. We should empower one another and offer constructive criticism. Everyone doesn’t write like you, nor should they. Below I offer my suggestions of how to prevent a blow to someone’s self-esteem. I hope these next steps could prevent those things from happening and making sure you use your critiques to uplift the writer, not tear him down.

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  1. Read the Entire Piece First
    Read over the whole piece before marking anything. I’m actually a slow reader at times and I have a bad attention span. At times I’ll have to read a piece twice. Also, I’ll make notes as I go along just to keep my interest in the story. Taking notes is a great way to keep my attention span going.
  2. Summarize It
    After reading I’ll make a summary of everything I’ve read along with my opinion of the work. I’ll point out the parts that kept my interest and the parts that lost my attention.
  3. Offer Suggestions, Not Opinions
    I’ll make additional marks if needed to make the dialogue stronger and the plot thicker. I’ll also suggest keywords or give ideas to help move the story along faster.
  4. Stay Positive
    Above all stay as positive as possible. People put their entire emotions into their writing. Any glimpse of harshness will be seen as an attack on the writer’s emotions. Remember, you’re just giving a suggestion. Your goal is not to attack them personally, but to give him the best advice possible. Staying positive is the best way to improve their writing and avoid emotional attacks.
  5. Be Open for Growth
    Lastly, find ways to improve your writing. Sometimes when I look at a person’s writing as a way to improve my own writing, I grow and learn from it.


I hope that helps you in your future critiques. Please leave a comment below and share with your friends. Let me know in the discussion area if you’ve had any horror critiques.

Categories: Writing Advice