"I read my story to my grandchildren and they loved it."

OUCH! You've heard that one before. Then it gets worse.

"Will you critique it for me?"

Now, you're between a rock and hard place. Do you give this person an honest critique, offer your opinion, crush their fragile ego into a pile of rubble? Or do you smile, say, "Your story is wonderful," and crawl back into your hole? The answer is YES...

...and NO.

First, consider...


Webster's Collegiate Dictionary defines critique as : a critical estimate or discussion.

Critical meaning: a careful judicious evaluation.

When you offer to critique, you are entering into a contract of sorts. You are agreeing to read the work with a critical eye, a helpful mind, and a heart toward serving your fellow writer.

One way to define what a good critique is, is to define what a good critique is not.


  1. 1.A PADDLE No spanking allowed! No matter how awful you feel the writing is, you must consider the person behind the work. Be a gentle taskmaster and never undermine or belittle. Remember 'the golden rule'. Someday, you may be on the receiving end.

  1. 2.A FAN CLUB If you honestly feel the work is wonderful, please let the writer know why. A gushy 'I loved it' does nothing for the author. Tell her why you loved it. What worked for you. What you felt were the strong points of the work.

  1. 3.A SOAP BOX The writing is good, but you do not agree with the opinions expressed by the author. Too bad, baby! A critique is not the place for your personal views on politics, religion, or child rearing. You are to critique the writing, the presentation of the subject, only the things which pertain to the writing process. If you feel that your bias will not allow you to be fair minded, decline from critiquing the piece.

  1. 4.A STAGE You may be a ham -- but this is not Hamlet! No showing off. Even if your writing skills are far more advanced than the writer you are critiquing, DO NOT rewrite the piece. Offer suggestions that lead the author onto the path of stronger writing. After all, a critique should help a fellow writer learn and grow. Give him the opportunity to edit and rewrite his own work.

In the end, helping a fellow writer to make her piece the best it can be will have its rewards for both of you. You can learn a lot from critiquing another's work. As you sharpen your critiquing skills, your writing skills become stronger.

Next time someone says, "I read this story to my grandchildren and they loved it!" tell them that is a great first step. Then dig in together on a thoughtful, inspiring critique. Maybe next time you see this author she'll have even better news....

..."An editor read my story and she loved it!"


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