I have done a lot of critiquing, and I have had some work critiqued. I like reading other peoples work, and as a result of critiquing (and proofreading) I have found a new appreciation for literature. But I have to wonder, if I am being too critical of the work I am critiquing because I am a writer.
What I mean by this is – I write because I want people to read it. I read because I enjoy a story. I often read and critique as I go, so that I get an idea of the story, therefore most of my comments are more about the flow of the story or spelling errors, or something that isn’t quite right. I try not to be nitpicky about issues (unless it is a word that occurs a lot – like ‘then’) because it might also be a fault that I myself have.
Having had some work done through a critiquing site, I have often found that my work is seriously dressed down (done in the nicest possible way, of course!). They tell me what is wrong with my story and why I need to change it. Often it is only one or two people out of the ten to twenty who will read it, but I wonder if they are missing the bigger picture. Are they reading the story for enjoyment, or are they ripping it apart because they see their own faults in it, or because they are jealous that my story is better than their writing?
That’s a hard one to answer, and when I first started formulating this article, I wondered if perhaps I was too critical in my critiquing. I don’t read other published stories and pick holes in it (there is a blog out there, totally involved in critiquing the entire Harry Potter series – obviously someone with nothing else to do!) Once a story is published, it is there to be read, not ripped to pieces and all the faults pointed out. If the yarn is good enough, you won’t notice the faults.
I have recently given a story to a friend who is an English Teacher and asked her if she would read over it, critique it if you will. She agreed. She kept telling me how much she enjoyed reading it, and how she liked the story, the only fault was the timing of the story (which is something that does admittedly need work). I wonder what my writing friends will think? Will they view the story as a whole and work on that, or will they find fault with it because they are a writer?
So here is some food for thought. If you are asked to critique a story, consider it as a whole first. Are you judging this story as a writer or as a reader?