These guidelines have grown from our original "Critiquing Etiquette" formulated
by Maggie Bishop in 1995. They are intended to reflect what seems to be working and not working about our current critiquing
practices. Please do contribute to making this process work.
90 minutes for critique sessions; all other business must be complete within
1. Contact the Critique Coordinator; don’t ask anyone to critique
your work unless you want truthful comments.
2. Submit only the allowed number of pages or make special arrangements
for more (approximately 20 double spaced pages maximum). If pages are mid-novel, provide a one-page synopsis to bring
reader to current scene. If you want specific questions answered, provide on cover sheet. Email copies to the
webmaster; bring hard copies for those who have so requested.
Be prepared to offer
a 1-2 minute introduction prior to the start of the critique.
3. Don’t argue. Accept all comments graciously. If the point is not
clear to someone, it isn’t. Listen to all comments
from critiquers without comment unless required to provide essential clarification, and then respond at the conclusion
of all critiquers’ comments.
4. Question the critiquer if you need clarification, but don’t waste
time trying to convince her/him. Even if the critiquer’s conclusions are "wrong," a problem has been identified.
5. Note criticism under the critiquer’s name as some comments are
more valuable than others. If three or more people identify a problem in a particular area, even if they don’t agree
what it is, you probably need to take a hard look at that point in the story or that aspect. Make use of the suggestions that
make sense to you and forget the rest.
6. Have an open mind. The words are fresh to the reader and the writer
is often too close to the material. The purpose of a critique is to have someone look for weaknesses in your work.
7. Keep the discussion on your story to save time.
8. Develop a thick skin. You are not your story.
9. Remember: It’s a draft.
10. Members must participate in at least three critiques before they
can have their manuscripts critiqued.
CRITIQUER (Only HCW members will be allowed to
1. SAY SOMETHING NICE FIRST. Remember what an accomplishment it is to get
something in a form you can show anyone.
2. Take a few minutes to arrange your ideas into a tactful, organized critique
that includes the positive as well as the negative. Consider these questions:
What is the main idea of the piece? Try to state it for the writer in one
Are the characters believable and consistent? Is their dialogue believable?
Is there a recognizable, meaningful conflict? Is enough at stake for us
to care about the outcome?
Is there a good balance between showing and telling (action and explanation)?
Is the point of view established early and maintained consistently?
Are the details specific enough? Would you prefer more or less description?
How is the piece organized? Are there flashbacks or is it told chronologically?
Is the organization effective?
How’s the opening: slow, too quick, confusing, dull? Does it grab
Is the title working? Can you suggest a better one?
What is the tone of the piece: comic, serious, tragic, formal, informal,
satairic? Does it appear to be logical and true to the writer’s intent?
Is the style clear and easy to read or does it come between you and the
content? Is it free of major grammatical errors?
3. Phrase your responses to the above questions provisionally: "I think,""It
seems to me,""In my opinion...." It is more valuable to the writer to hear observations than evaluations.
4. Don’t argue. State and write down your points clearly and briefly
but don’t try to rewrite the story. Be specific, pinpoint problems, offer suggestions, if possible. Don’t show
your superiority. Edit in colored ink to be easily noticed.
5. If something offends you, remember that taste is subjective. We do not
set moral standards. Free expression is the right of a writer.
6. Don’t monopolize the conversation. Add only additional points
or agreements/disagreements on points already made. Simply pass if you have nothing to add. Commend the writer on good points.
Write down your positive or negative reaction to certain scenes or dramatic moments.
7. Don’t interrupt another critiquer. Write down the points you want
to make and save them until your turn or until all others have had a turn.
8. Sum up overall affect of the story: did you like the characters? Were
all the scenes important to the story? Did the plot continue to move at an acceptable pace? Is the conflict evident? Close
with something encouraging.
9. Submit your written comments at the end of the session.
Write down line edits, don’t verbalize them.To indicate:
lower case, use a slash (/) over the capital letter
upper case, draw 3 lines under lower case letter
leave as it was, use "stet"
insert a comma, use ^ with a comma under it
insert a word or letter, use ^ with the new word or letter
insert a period, put a circle around a period
possible spelling error, use <sp>
insert a space, use #
transpose words, use a sideways "S" under the first word
and over the second word
delete a word, draw line through it trailing into a written
begin new paragraph, use a capital "P" with a parallel line
before the "P"
no new paragraph, use a sideways "S" to connect the end
of the first paragraph with the beginning of the next one