Wednesday Writers Wisdom: Critique by Emma T. Gitani

Wednesday Writers Wisdom: Critique by Emma T. Gitani
January 13, 2016 4 Comments Writing Emma T. Gitani

What is Wednesday Writers Wisdom?

I’m glad you asked. I originally started this series to share writing advice with other writers, especially beginning writers. I know when I first started writing again in 2010, I needed a lot of help. So, thus WWW was born. You can expect to find writing advice shared by me, other #ourwriteside authors, and guest authors. Our emails are always available for question suggestions as well. I’d like to start the conversation and answer those questions you must have answers to. After all, this isn’t just OUR Write Side, but it’s Yours, too.

Our Wednesday Writers Wisdom comes to you today from our newest staff member, Emma T. Gitani. We met Emma in a critique group and became fast friends. Her role as our assistant social media manager has been a great asset, and today she shares her experience doing honest and thorough critics with you.

Critique Cheat Sheet

McLac2000 / Pixabay

It’s a scary thing to put your words out there for others to read and judge. So let’s make sure we put out our best. To do that, we need each other’s help, our peers to read and guide us, finding things that we missed, or never even thought of. There are three ways to do this; critique, beta read, and review.

I’ll add the definitions of all three but today’s focus is on Critiquing.

Critique – A detailed analysis and assessment of something, especially a literary, philosophical, or political theory. {source – Wikipedia} (Usually this is done on small excerpts and the writer uses this information to search for the same issues throughout the rest of the story).

Beta Reader – Beta readers are not explicitly proofreaders or editors, but can serve in that context. Elements highlighted by beta readers encompass things such as plot holes, problems with continuity, characterization or believability in fiction and non-fiction, The beta might also assist the author with fact-checking. {source – Wikipedia *made spelling corrections*}

Book Review – A book review is a form of literary criticism in which a book is analyzed based on content, style, and merit. A book review can be a primary source opinion piece, summary review or scholarly review. {source – Wikipedia}

To get us started I thought I would put together a list of things I may look at in performing a critique. Followed by a critique example below.

The first thing I do is ask the basics from the writer (if I don’t know their style once you know someone’s writing it’s easier).

  • What is the Genre?
  • What is the tense?
  • What POV?
  • What do you want from the critique? (This is because there are different stages of writing and critiquing. One writer may be looking for something specific such as if a character’s voice is coming through? Another might be looking for grammar help. I always try to address what the writer is looking for in a critique)

Plot:

  • Is it cohesive and believable?
  • Did the opening grab your attention?
  • Did the main characters solve their opening problem?
  • Are there subplots? Do they move the story forward?
  • Did the ending make sense and tie up the loose ends? Or
  • Did it leave unanswered questions?

Setting:

  • Were you in the time and setting?
  • Was it described well? Overdone? Not enough information?
  • Did the characters adhere to the times? (example: clothes, speech, jobs…)

Pacing:

  • Did the plot move fast enough?
  • Did you lose your reader’s attention or find yourself wandering in sections?
  • Was it too fast and you had to read something twice to get it?

Dialogue:

  • Did the dialogue work for the setting and time?
  • Does each character have their own voice?
  • Were the character’s voices consistent?

Characters:

  • Did the MCs achieve their goal?
  • Did you connect with them?
  • Understand their motives?
  • Were they consistent?

Grammar:

  • This is just as important as the other points, and they interconnect. (example – Overuse of passive voice can slow down the pacing.)
  • Passive voice, Adverbs, Cliche’s
  • Show vs Tell
  • Repeats (Repeated sentence structure, word phrases, overused, sentence starts)

This list could go on forever… Just point out what you catch. This is a critique and not meant to do the job of an editor.

Personally, I like and use the sandwich method.
Start out with something you like.
Point out the problems, and try to give an example of what will work instead. Point out what does work and why you liked it. Point out grammar issues.
Finish with an encouraging remark, to get the writer excited to update their story.

Thank you,

Emma T. Gitani

Critique Example

Opening scenes for, “While We Were Sleeping” by Stephanie Ayers
Critique comments in blue by Emma T. Gitani
Issues highlighted in pink by Emma T. Gitani

Stephanie, it takes guts to share your work for critique. Allowing me to use it as an example takes courage. You’re doing both. Thank you!

A green mist hovered over everything, but that was our doing. As paranormal investigators, this was our third time visiting this school. It was the first time we stayed overnight, and our night vision lights turned the school green.

Nice opening paragraph and hook.

We chose the dank gym for several reasons. First, because it was the largest room in the entire building other than the cafeteria, (delete comma not needed) where black mold and mice ran amok. Second, it hosted the most frequent sightings. A legend circulated through the town of a bullied basketball player who hanged himself from the rim. His ghost haunted the gym seeking his tormentors. Strange occurrences frequented the school after that.

The worst events occurred in the gym during basketball season. When an entire visiting team died within a week after the meet, eyebrows rose, and the administration canceled the remaining home games. When the basketball post fell and killed a cheerleader during a pep rally, they closed the gym permanently. Rumors of ghosts walking the halls began. Parents stopped sending their children, and the school board closed the facility.

That happened forty years ago and earlier attempts to investigate failed. We had a full moon and the anniversary to work with this time. If ghosts roamed these halls, we believed they’d show themselves this particular night. (I’d reword and just say *tonight*.)

Four hours in, and two of the four of us slept, (I had to read this a couple times before I understood, may need an update.) assured that our sensors would alert us to movement beyond the gym’s walls. We set up cameras in key locations, but nothing but empty halls and classrooms lit our screens. (I think this line should be it’s own paragraph) >> Morning came without incident, so we packed our gear in and headed back to our office, disappointed.

~*~*~*~

Noah’s voice interrupted the nothing that occupied my attention. “Hey, Mike, remember that high school we spent the night at a week ago?”

Good Transition

Yeah. What about it?” (Why is the narrator not named yet?) *Now I see Mike’s name in the dialogue above and instead of removing my comment, I’ve left it to show we all make mistakes. *

We never studied the videos.”

I shrugged. “Nothing happened.”

Noah’s lips tightened. (Personally, I’d like a bit more to feel his tension. Example only: lips tightened and he pushed up from the chair. Or maybe I just need some patience.)

“Why?”

Something hasn’t sat right with me since the gym.” Noah’s eyes studied the linoleum beneath his size 14 shoe. “I’ve been getting these strange urges. I can’t even explain them.”


Noah was right. I had experienced strange urges to rip my staff to pieces with my bare hands and envisioned their blood painting the white office walls crimson.
(I think this line should start a new paragraph) >> Chills rippled through me like a blast of freon. “Let’s take a look. Should I gather the team?”

Wow! Yeah, patience…

Stephanie, Great job! I want to know what happened. I’m ready to critique the next section if you are… (hurry please!)

Thanks again,
Emma T. Gitani

Tags
Emma T. Gitani Emma T. Gitani is a mother and Nonna, Italian for that dreaded g- word, living in South Florida. Starting out her career as a technical writer and editor, she then moved to systems testing to fulfill her desire to 'break things'. She finally settled down to use her BA in Education writing stories for children and young adults. In October 2014, tragedy struck and her cousin passed away. Annie had always been her cheerleader, encouraging Emma to go for it and write a book. In her honor, Emma is now writing fiction with a purpose to share, working hard to get that book finished.
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  1. 4 Comments

    Stephanie Ayers

    This is fantastic, What a great article to introduce yourself to our readers with!

    Reply
  2. 4 Comments

    Cyndi Lord

    Fantastic article. From an author’s and editor’s perspective, I haven’t seen an article on critique this concise and complete. Well done, Emma.

    Reply
    1. 4 Comments

      Emma T. Gitani

      Thank you Cyndi Lord, coming from you it’s a great compliment!

      Reply
  3. 4 Comments

    Tracy

    Love it Emma! Thank you! So much good information.

    Reply

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