How to write a critique


How to write an honest critique

By Janice Seagraves


The first publisher I worked with suggest that I work with a critique group to help improve my writing. Since then, I’ve been working on critiques nearly every couple of weeks for the last ten years. And in that time, I’ve gone through five critique groups and I even took a workshop on critiquing.

Here are some things to consider if you have been asked to do a critique or are doing critiques or possibly beta reading someone’s work.

Please keep in mind that this is someone’s baby.

They most probably have slaved away at this manuscript for months if not years.

So be kind.

They may not have ever had any feed back on their work before this.

Say nice things about the pages or manuscript you’re working on.

If you find misspelled words, simply correct it within the pages and move on, or leave a comment in a comment bubble: “I think you mean this word.” Everyone at some point will have problems misspelling a word or using a word that spelled just a little different than the word that they mean to use. Or maybe it’s a typo. We all have those brain fart moments. Don’t make a big deal about it. Just correct the spelling and move on.

One of the moderators for a critique group I work with likes to say, “Sugar and spice. Mark what you like as well as what needs work.”

If nothing else, compliment the genre they chose to write their story in.

I find that if you compliment the writer first, then they are more likely to consideration the changes you are suggesting.

And remember, it’s suggestions. You are producing a critique and they didn’t hire you to be an editor.

All critiques should be in the body of the pages you’re working on.

Use the comment bubbles in edit format.

I always go through the story first before I write a note at the start of the pages.

The note will usually start with why I like their story.

For example: Vampires stories are a very popular right now. Or I love your characters. I can totally picture them. Or this scene was very exciting and really grabbed  me.

Next, I’ll drop down to a new paragraph and write: Good Job. 😊

And then I’ll start another paragraph that usually begins with: and now for the critique.

Sometimes I’ll write that their pages were well written, and I only needed to mark a few things here and there. That will relax and ease your critique partner. Up to his point they might be really tense.

And then I’ll go to things I noticed.

Things to watch out for.

Maybe it was: You used look and looked a lot so I highlighted all I could find.

And then I’ll finish the note with this disclaimer: This is my opinion only. Please take it with a grain of salt. Use what works and toss the rest. And with every critique your mileage will vary.



Editing your work

Normally, editors want your work to be as polished as you can make it, before they set eyes on it. 

That means: No typos. No grammar mistakes. Correct word usage. And they especially don’t want to see a first draft.

Then they find what you miss, but they can’t write the book for you. They just don’t have the time for that.

To get your work as polished as possible, I suggest a critique group, beta reader, or critique partner. 

Critique groups are great for finding: Grammar mistakes. Wrong word usage. And making suggestions on improving your work.

What they can’t do is see the bigger picture, because they get it one piece at a time. 

If you want someone to see the whole thing, then you need a beta reader or a critique partner. 

Beta readers: Read the entire MS and make suggest for the plot and such. They can also point out continuity errors. 

But they don’t fix grammar problems. 

Critique partners: You trade work. They will take a chapter of yours for a chapter of their’s to do a critique on. Some people prefer this approach to polishing their work.

For more help on what an editor does, check out these links:


There is no hard and fast rule to writing a book. However, you need to make your manuscript as professional as possible before you let an publisher see it. 

Another suggestion is to take classes online. There are even classes to help you work on your manuscript. 

Some free online classes:

Some of these you have to pay for: