How to Critique a Piece of Writing (Art)

by Carmen Ferreiro-Esteban

The following is the best advice I ever read about giving and receiving criticism.

I found it at the Eastern PA chapter of the Society of Children Book Writers and Illustrators website (http://www.scbwiepa.org/critiques.html).

I think it is perfect as it is, so, without further discussion, here it is.

GIVING CRITICISM

Criticism should be constructive not destructive. “I didn’t like the way you wrote (or illustrated) that” is never valid criticism. It always helps a fellow writer or artist to know the strengths of a manuscript or illustration as well as the weaknesses. A compliment offered first softens a “constructive” negative to follow. Try to tell your fellow writer or artist why something doesn’t work for you and offer possibilities for change. Always be encouraging. Not everyone will respond to a manuscript or illustration in the same way. Those receiving criticism should remember that any suggestion offered can be accepted or rejected. The author or artist has the final word on what stays.

Remember that you are in a critique group to get feedback. Often, your words or pictures can surround you so you can’t see flaws in your work. Try not to be too defensive when you’re criticized; be good-natured about it. All creators feel protective about their “children”.
A critique group can remain strong only when the sanctity of that group is respected. Thus, it is never okay to use the ideas or the research done by another member, to impose upon their contacts in the publishing world, or to reveal to others outside of the critique group the work-in-progress without the author’s or illustrator’s express permission.



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