Wednesday, May 28, 2014

Critiquing Pet Peeves: Are You Committing Any of These Faux Pas?

I’ve been blogging about critique partners for the past few months. In January I discussed where to find critique partners, in February I covered what types of critique partners to look for and last month I blogged about how to give good critiques. This month, I’m going to address the opposite and discuss some common critiquing pet peeves; otherwise knows as: how to make sure I’ll never ask you to read for me again.

Let me preface this by saying my critique partners do not do any of these thing, which is why they are wonderful and amazing and will earn acknowledgments in all of my books.

That said, I have had a lot of people read for me and there are definite things that always pushed my buttons, despite the fact that I was grateful for the time and energy they put into reading for me.If you are planning to critique for anyone in the future, you make want to take care to avoid:

Only pointing out the bad.

Yes, I asked for a critical eye on my work and I desperately want to know what isn’t working, so I can fix it. But toss a girl a bone! It’s also incredibly helpful for me to know what is working so I don’t accidentally cut it. Help me make my manuscript better—versus worse—by pointing out the things you like, whether it be a character name that fits the traits of the person well, a line that made you laugh, or a subplot that left you breathless. 

Not giving me any notes.

As much as it thrills me to know that you loved every word of my messy first draft, I’m going to have a hard time believing it. I’m relying on you to be fresh eyes for me on something I’m too involved with to see objectively. I appreciate that you took the time to read, but you’ve somewhat wasted mine in not offering any thoughts for improvement because I now have to track down another reader to point me in the right direction.

And this last one really makes me grind my teeth:

Rewriting my manuscript.

I once had someone read for me who made giant x’s on full pages of my manuscript and took it upon herself to delete a whole chapter in track changes. She also rewrote a ton of paragraphs, including the entire opening. I’m perfectly fine with a suggestion to “think about improving pacing by cutting this chapter” or “Show us this in a scene versus telling us in backstory” but it really grated my nerves that she went in and did it for me. In fact it bothered me so much that I now refuse to delete a single word from a CPs manuscript unless it’s a typo. I mark it in comments instead. Good CPs will say, “Here are my thoughts. Take any that resonate with you and ignore the rest!” and let the author decide for herself whether the suggestion is in line with her vision for the book or not. You might have clear ideas for how you could make this book sooo much better, but in the end you’ll be more valuable as a CP by recognizing that it’s only your opinion to offer and not your story to write.

What about you? Share your horror stories here or tell us what really pushes your buttons on the receiving end of a critique.


  1. I don't think I've been as bad as any of those - especially rewriting, that's just not okay - but I can't help but feel like I'm being overly harsh whenever I critique someone. I try to be as nice as possible, and it's sometimes hard for me to say what I think needs to change.

  2. Wow, rewriting your manuscript? I barely have enough time to write my own stuff so I wouldn't have the time (or gall) to rewrite someone's work. The only horror story I have is a well-meaning friend who decided to write a critique of my work after it was published. Not so helpful then...

  3. Rewriting someone's manuscript seems like so much extra work! Thankfully I've had good experiences where the person usually just comments instead of rewrites, but I've definitely been in that situation where all the negatives were pointed out without any actual suggestions about how to improve. It's frustrating. No critique is ever BAD critique, but sometimes it isn't always as helpful as other times.

  4. Rewriting portions is definitely not cool. I had a beta reader who only said negative things about my manuscript, so I thought she hated it. Later on, I found out that she did actually like it, but how was I supposed to know without hearing good feedback too?