If you want to be a writer, whether it be for picture books, chapter books, middle grade, young adult or adult novels, whatever the age or genre the best thing you can do for yourself and your craft is to join a critique group. I have been in my critique group for nearly three years now and not only has my own writing changed and improved with time but it has also been a joy to watch the everyone else improve their writing too.
It will always amaze me at how differently everyone sees your own work. How useful it is when errors are spotted that you had not noticed because you have got too close to your work. Putting your manuscript down for a few days, weeks or months can sometimes really help you see your own work with fresh eyes. Sometimes you think you have written the obvious and the bonus of a critique group is that you will get a very good idea as to whether or not you have got your story across clearly.
Critiquing is quite a specific skill and doesn’t necessarily come easily so it is worth reading up a few books or writing blogs about how to do it correctly and most importantly without hurting someone’s feelings.
Here are some tips to help you:
- always start with something positive first – no matter how you feel about the story. It may be the concept, the title, the rhyme, the characters, etc. Find something you liked about it.
- does the title suit the story and give you a clue as to what the story is about – would it make you want to pick the book up from the book shelves?
- is the story a unique idea or an old idea done in a new fresh way?
- does the beginning of the story grab you – do you want to read on?
- can you get a good sense of who the main character is or are there too many main characters and you are getting confused?
- is there an obstacle/problem in the story and is this apparent early on in the storyline (preferably within the first few pages)
- Does the problem get resolved?
- Is the ending satisfying – does it have a surprise twist or does it have an ‘ahh, that’s lovely’ feeling about it?
- is the language used within the manuscript appropriate for the age range that the book is written for?
and the biggest question of all is: would a child ask for your book to be read to them again and again and again, because that is the ultimate compliment and sign of success!
If you would like to join a critique group then contact your nearest Writers Centre or start one of your own!
Here are some links to help you with critiquing your own work or others: