Thanks for all the feedback on how people see their role as a critiquer.
I’d say there’s near universal agreement on the main issues.
Find out what kind of feedback/criticism is wanted.
Everyone seems to tailor their critique to the perceived skill level of the individual concerned, but the areas covered were everything from basic grammar to overall plot and continuity.
While no one believes in pulling their punches (if someone wants a cheerleader, they shouldn’t ask for a critique), the goal is to provide constructive feedback eg: ‘In my opinion, this bit doesn’t work because… and here’s how I think it can be fixed.’
Don’t be a snitty-snoot pants ie: critique the writing, respect the writer.
Be an encourager.
Be honest in our feedback, but tactful.
Point out the bad stuff, but find something to praise too.
Not surprisingly, people seem to have little time for Prima Donnas, or those who pick faults for the sake of it.
I’d like to add a couple of other suggestions.
Assuming the goal of the writer is to get published, give feedback on the title, opening sentence/paragraph and that all-important first page.
From what I understand, slush readers often make a ‘no’ decision without ever getting to the second page of an ms. Even in these days of e-submissions, I think the metaphorical logic still applies.
If that’s the case, I think it’s helpful to give feedback on the story title (a bad one might not hurt, but I imagine a good one helps). Did the opening sentence grab you by the eye-balls, or was it a long non-active description? How about that first page? When you reached the bottom, did you know what was going on? Did you care?
Then there’s the ending. Did it bring a smile to your face? Did you feel satisfied?
Of course, all these opinions are subjective, but I think that sort of feedback can really help too.
How about you? Do you give specific feedback on the title/opening line/first page/ story ending?
Is there anything not covered above?