Critiquing Others’ Work

In order to be a good writer, you have to read a lot. That goes without saying, and it’s something I’ve stressed on this blog before. If you want to create movies, watch a lot of movies. If you want to be a basketball star, watch some basketball games… etc.

I think that rule goes for critiquing as well. Critiquing others’ work helps you to find the flaws in your own work. If you read plenty of published books, both good and bad, classic fiction and genre fiction, mysteries and romances, you’ll start to see what works and what doesn’t work.

Then, when you critique someone else’s fiction, you’ll know when something seems “off” to you or when something just isn’t working right in the story. You’ll be better equipped to point out flaws. It’s hard to get the right “balance” when you’re writing: is there too much description, or too much dialogue, is the setting too vague? Maybe this writer has great dialogue, but there’s no description and you feel like the characters are talking in a white room. Maybe they have paragraphs and paragraphs of beautifully written description, but no character development. Perhaps they’re trying to write a thriller, but there isn’t enough suspense… etc.

Not all flaws are that obvious, though. Sometimes you’ll find something that you know is wrong, but you’re not able to put your finger on exactly what it is that’s wrong. That happens to me quite often when I’m critiquing my own work, and others’ work. I usually come back to it later and can then figure out why that part didn’t work well for me. Let your subconscious mind work on it for you!

Basically, the more you critique, the better you will get at it. So keep on reading!

8 thoughts on “Critiquing Others’ Work

  1. I think you’re right. You get so close to your own work, when you look at someone elses you can see flaws that you missed in your writing. Plus you can tell what really engages you or what can be improved. Practice makes perfect! Hopefully 🙂

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  2. I have often said to new writers that one of the very best ways to learn the craft is by joining a site where you can publicly critique others’ work. Yes, you can learn by doing so in private, but when you do it publicly, you are by far more likely to really think it through before putting it out there with your name on it. My own writing really took off when I joined such a community a number of years ago. The confidence you build through this process is priceless, the tricks of the trade you pick up invaluable, and the traps you learn about by seeing them in someone else’s work cannot be learned from “how to write” books. It is this public, and practical experience that lights you up.

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  3. i accept it’s evolving and its one of English’s strengths. But all the same why should the perfectly good established sense of ‘critique’ be turned into a dodo by evolution in this way? I would love to be able still to see a Dodo doing what a Dodo does, unique and well adapted to its environment. What seems to be happening, faster and faster, is that we are ending up with more and more synonyms. It’s a poor language where seventeen words mean the virtually same thing (through regular misuse and misappropriation). To me it’s like thinking 3 is the same as 11 – it just isn’t, and soon one cannot add up accurately!

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    1. That’s because all those “synonyms” really have subtly different meanings that we ignore – and eventually the subtleties are lost and all the words end up meaning basically the same thing. In a way, it’s disappointing, but I guess that’s just the nature of the beast… English will always change.

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