It takes an army to build a book. Yes, you are the one who writes it, but you can’t do everything. Before you start working toward publication, it would be best to have as many eyes on your manuscript as possible. And no, I’m not talking about your mom. I’m talking about critique partners, beta readers, and editors. They will see things that you are blind to when it comes to your book baby.
Likewise, you will see things in your writer friend’s work that they don’t see on their own. That’s why critique groups and partnerships are so important. But we have to consider how we go about critiquing each other.
1) Be kind
Critique is hard to take regardless of how nice it sounds. Soften the blow by finding a couple of things to praise in each passage of work. Pay attention to your wording. Just because you suggest a change or point out a problem doesn’t mean they are required to change it. In the end, it is their story, not yours.
2) Remember who they are
Your partner, your friend, your literary compatriot has asked for you to help them. Words tend to either unite people behind them or tear them apart. Unite with your friend behind their manuscript. Aid them in giving it its best shot in the world.
3) Pick your battles
If the work you’re critiquing is an early draft, narrow your critique. A potential problem with the plot should be addressed as soon as possible. Not every critique will have plot issues, however, which means you will probably have a handful or two of potential minor problems. Will you focus on passive voice, syntax errors, or wordiness? Will you correct their grammar now, or wait ‘til a later edit? This isn’t to say you can’t mention multiple types or levels of issues, but you don’t want to overwhelm your friend with critiques and edit suggestions. Usually, there will be a certain error (especially in early edits) that pops up a lot and needs to be addressed.
4) Be honest
Don’t be their mother. There will be times where you don’t want to tell them the truth or bring up an issue. Bring it up anyway. That’s why you’re there. Praise is good, but it’s called a critique for a reason.