Monday, September 17, 2012


Never judge a work of art by its defects

SNARKY RESPONSE: Yeah, everyone's a critic and you know what they say about opinions.

Never judge a work of art by its defects.

This fortune cookie made me think about critique groups.

Are you in a critique group or have a critique partner? In my humble opinion, writers can benefit greatly from a well-chosen critique group. I've been blessed to have discovered two wonderful groups. They've taught me a lot about my writing, but also they've taught me a lot about doing a good critique.

Being part of a critique group means that you offer and receive constructive criticism of each other's work. It's neither easy to hear nor easy to offer. However, if you're in a group, it's important that you take part and that you understand the key word is "constructive." To simply say that something doesn't work for you is not enough. You need to be able to explain why and hopefully offer a suggestion or two of what you feel would make it better. This is not to say that you will dictate how another person writes, you can only share what you feel would help. You are not there to write their story for them, simply to let them know if you see anything that needs work.

That's where our fortune cookie comes into play. Do not "judge" their work by any "defects" or mistakes, help them improve it. Offer suggestions for changes, give examples, and pose questions if something is unclear to you. Finally, and something that often gets lost in the mix, remember to comment upon what you liked, what you enjoyed, what you felt was done particularly well.

I would suggest you use the "Oreo cookie" method. I don't know precisely where I heard this used first, but I think it was at work. I've always understood it to mean to place a hard criticism between two compliments. I suppose if you're going to take the cookie analogy literally, you might be squeezing one compliment between two hard criticisms, but I prefer the first method when possible.

So remember, when offering critiques, read with a positive eye and critique with a positive tone. You wouldn't want your writing judged purely on its defects, would you?


  1. Great post! I totally agree with you. It is a reciprocal relationship that requires trust and an understanding that the critique only provides suggestions. It's the author's story and the reader is there only to help.

  2. Thank you for stopping in, Tina! Being a good critique partner is an acquired skill and requires much more than just knowledge of grammar. You're spot on with the fact that it is a relationship and requires respect of the author's voice. Hope to see you soon!