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Story critiques: the good and the bad

Here are the categories of critique that are valuable to a writer:

1. “Given what you appear to be trying to accomplish, here are some things that are working well to achieve that goal, and why they work well.”

2. “Given what you appear to be trying to accomplish, here are some things that are not working well to achieve that goal, and why they don’t. Here are some suggestions for improvement.“

3. “Here is something ambitious and interesting that this work could try to accomplish, that maybe you haven’t thought of.“

4. ”Here are some existing references (fiction or nonfiction) that may be useful in realizing your ambitions for this work.”

5. “Here are some social, cultural, ethical, or political ramifications of this work that you might not have considered. To the extent that these may be harmful to the work, here are some suggestions for improvement.“

6. “Here are some markets/editors who I think would find this work attractive.“


By contrast, the following critiques fall in the category of lazy, narcissistic, useless, or just plain stupid:

A. “I disagree with your entire project here, and therefore I have nothing useful to say about it.”

B. “I dislike this genre/style/character/device/technique, and that’s all I have to say.“

C. “Here are some funny things I can say to ridicule the work.“

D. “I didn’t enjoy this, and that’s all I have to say.“

E. “Here is the story I would have written; you should write that one instead.“ (Compare to (3), above.)

F. “Another work has already done what you are trying to do, and therefore you should stop.“ (Compare to (4), above.)

G. “This work is socially/culturally/ethically/politically evil, and therefore you should burn it.” (Compare to (5), above.)

H. “You don’t know enough about this topic, and therefore you should stop writing about it.“ (Compare to (4), above.)

I. “Here are the results of my 10-minute Wikipedia search on this topic.” (Compare to (4), above.)

I am on the fence about the critique that says, “I love everything about this work; just submit it as-is.“ On the one hand, some drafts are nearly perfect and could be marred by further revision. On the other hand, such a critique can be an excuse for not really thinking about the work.

Categories: Uncategorized

kenschneyer

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