A well-rounded critique can be an invaluable tool for any writer who seeks publication. Often, it takes the keen eyes of a peer group to see the strengths and weaknesses of a manuscript. However, the beginning writer may feel inadequate or unprepared to view another’s work from a critical standpoint.
Balanced critiques create a stimulating environment of clarity and growth for all critique partners involved in the process. The following guidelines for fiction critiques should add a flexible degree of structure for those who are new to the forum.
A. Appropriate Genre Guidelines
1. Is the title both appealing and compelling?
2. Is the subject matter age and genre appropriate?
3. Is the word count in compliance with guidelines?
1. Are there grammar or structure problems?
2. Are sentence structures varied? (too long, too short, awkward)
3. Are there smooth transitions between thoughts, paragraphs, and scenes?
4. Does the tone of the story match the intensity of the story’s conflict?
5. Do the five senses play on the reader’s imagination/emotions?
(see, taste, hear, smell, feel)
1. Is the setting clear in each scene?
2. Does the setting come alive for the reader?
D. Point of View
1. Is the POV choice effective for the story?
2. Is the POV consistent throughout the narrative?
3. Would the story be more interesting from another POV?
E. Hooks and Cliffhangers
1. Does the opening hook sell the book or the story?
2. Does the story/chapter opening catch the reader’s attention?
3. Does every chapter end with a cliffhanger?
1. Is there a beginning, middle, and end?
2. Is the plot unique and interesting?
3. Is the conflict clear to the reader?
4. Does the story begin at the right moment?
(too much pre-story/too far into the action)
5. Does every event move the story forward?
6. Is the action credible and age appropriate for the characters?
7. Does the pace feel comfortable?
(moves too slow or too fast/sags in the middle)
8. Is the ending a natural progression of character growth and plot development? (makes sense, satisfying, falls short, an unrealistic surprise)
1. Is the main character (MC) clear to the reader?
2. Does the MC grow by end of the story?
3. Does the MC resolve the story’s conflict?
4. Are the traits of each character balanced and believable?
5. Are the character names appropriate or distracting?
1. Does the dialogue flow smoothly?
2. Is the dialogue essential to the plot?
3. Does the narration add to the dialogue or merely reiterate?
4. Is there a good balance between narration and dialogue?
5. Does the dialogue and action fit each character’s profile?
1. What are the strengths of the manuscript?
2. What are the weaknesses of the manuscript?
3. Can you offer suggestions to strengthen the story?
NOTE: This is a reprint of an article by Charise Floyd for Writer's Moon in 1999. Although she showed such talent and promise, she has dropped off the grid. If anyone knows a current e-mail, facebook or other contact method for Charisse, please let me know, so that I can send her a link. Thank you!