Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Critiquing the work of fellow writers

Humpty Dumpty always has loads to say about writing
Humpty Dumpty wants to talk today about some ways to effectively critique the work of your fellow writers. As a writer himself, Humpty has learned a few things about being a part of a writer's group.

Humpty Dumpty suggests that the very first thing you as a reader should do when critiquing your fellow writer's work is to ask them the following question:

"What, good sir or madam, was YOUR intention with your piece? Did you intend to frighten or enlighten? Scare or declare?"

What Humpty Dumpty means is that you should ask your fellow writer what sort genre they are attempting to write for. Often times, your fellow writer will be writing for a genre that you are not familiar with, or that you do not like. That's okay. You can still offer useful criticism in these cases.

But it is important to know what your fellow writer intends before you proceed.

If for example, your fellow writer loves Danielle Steel, but you love Tom Clancy, you may be prone to ask of the Danielle Steel fan/writer "Why are there no thermonuclear bombs in the opening pages of your story?"

None of us wants to make such a social gaffe, egads.

But if you ask in advance of your friend the Danielle Steel fan/writer: "What sort of story is this?"

And he/she replies "Why, it's a love story about a heartbroken widow on vacation, attempting to rediscover her zest for life."

Then the Tom Clancy fan knows not to rudely mention thermonuclear missiles, bombs or bullets. And if the Tom Clancy fan is not at all familiar with the works of Danielle Steel, and wants to be of greater service to his/her friend, then the Tom Clancy fan will seek out the works of Danielle Steel and attempt to acquaint himself with them to at least a passing degree before commenting on his/her friends work.

In some cases, your fellow writer will consciously NOT want to write for any pre-existing genre. And that is okay. Then it is your duty to ask the writer to clarify his/her intentions regarding the goals of their piece. Even if NO genre is intended, the writer should still have some clear intentions with their piece, whether it be to entertain, to enlighten, to educate, etc., etc.

Once you have identified the intentions of your fellow writer, you are now ready to begin making observations about whether or not the writer has succeeded in their goals.

Does the Danielle Steel fan/writer manage to evoke a sense of romance, longing for love, healing from emotional wounds, hope for happiness and a better tomorrow?

Does the Tom Clancy fan/writer manage to evoke a sense of action, drama, political intrigue, technological thrills?

Humpty Dumpty suggests that because man is not a machine, but a creature of passion and emotion, that after having fulfilled the first and second steps, that we honor our own personal reactions, no matter how out of line they may be with our fellow writer's piece, and share them. Because this can often times be more useful than the information given above.

Were you bored? Thrilled? Disgusted? Angry? Excited? Repulsed?

Was the piece sad? Funny? Titillating? Dreary? Monotonous? Charming?

This third step is the one that the average reader engages in, and because all writers started out as readers, they can and should make such comments as well.

But only after discovering the intentions of their fellow writer, and making critical observations regarding the success of the writer in accomplishing said intentions.

That is all Humpty Dumpty has to say on this topic today. Please go about your business.


  1. Humpty Dumpty seems to always have some good advice. I totally agree with you on this critiquing.

    BTW, Wow-whee! Thanks for all the amazing comments/stories on my blog. I love everything you wrote. You cracked me up. You helped me stay focused and it's always great to get your opinion on things. It means a lot to me! Thanks again!!!!

  2. Well Humpty is all brain in that egghead of his, so it goes without question.

    You are welcome for the blog comments. Glad you laughed, but more importantly I'm glad my comments help you keep focused. :-)