Award-winning author Mary Robinette Kowal shares excellent tips for both offering and getting critique in a constructive way. Because we think they are amazing and wanted them easily referenced (and they are hard to find on her website) here they are.
When you begin your comments on stories you critique, keep the following tips in mind:
A – These comments flag anything that you felt was truly AWESOME about the story – things that made it stick in your memory, things that are wonderful, unique, and unlike other stories you’ve read.
B – These comments flag parts of the story where you’re BORED as a reader – places where the story is dragging, where the author is dumping too much information without enough of the character’s point of view giving it flavor and keeping it interesting.
C – These comments flag places where you’re CONFUSED by what’s going on. While there will often be places in a story where you’re wondering what’s happening or why a character is acting in a particular way, being totally Confused is different, and it’s helpful to let the author know this.
D – These comments flag those things in the story that you simply DISBELIEVE, the items that have stretched your ability to suspend your disbelief to its breaking point, and thrown you out of the story.
E – These comments identify places where you form EXPECTATIONS about where the story is going, regardless of whether or not those Expectations are ever satisfied (in the best stories, the author will often end up taking you in a completely different direction!). These are pure reader-reactions, and don’t necessarily indicate any change required, but it can be helpful to the author if everyone is figuring out their villain’s scheme ahead of time or anticipating the unlikely hero-heroine getting together.
You may also find Mary’s short video about “Training your Internal Editor” to be of great help. Visit http://maryrobinettekowal.com/journal/video-train-internal-editor/