Thursday, January 3, 2013

Critiquing 101

by Kerri Kokias, SCBWI-WWA Critique Coordinator

The Great Critique, coming up this Monday, January 7, is full!
With so many eager participants, it seems timely to have a brief post on Critiquing 101.

Why Critique? The purpose of a critique is to enable authors/illustrators to further develop their work. Receiving critiques provides authors/illustrators with non-biased feedback, and concrete suggestions for improvement. Giving critiques helps authors and illustrators to develop analytical skills that they can also apply to their own work.

The Job of the Author/Illustrator is to introduce the work and then sit back and listen to feedback without being defensive. It’s useful to take notes on everything, even if a piece of feedback doesn’t initially resonate. Ask questions for clarification. And later, decide which advice to take.

The Job of the Critiquer is to encourage the author/illustrator to do their best work by pointing out what works in a piece, as well as areas for development.

Specifics to consider when critiquing manuscripts….
·     Is the title effective? Does it arouse interest and hint at content?
·     Does the beginning grab and hold attention? Does the story begin at the appropriate time?
·     Is the point of view consistent? Is it the most effective one?
·      Is the material appropriate for the proposed audience?
·      Is the setting (time and place) clear?
·      Is the theme fresh and important?
·      Does the story move with good pacing and transitions?
·      Is the content focused? Does it show, not tell? Are sensory details woven in?
·      Are characters interesting, well-rounded, and believable?
·      Does the plot develop with credibility? Are character’s motivations clear? Is there sufficient conflict and growth?
·      Is the voice fresh, original, compelling and age appropriate?
·      Does the dialogue seem natural? Does it show character and advance the story? Do individual characters have a distinct way of talking?
·      Is word choice effective? Is there clarity, rhythm and power in the language?
·      Do chapter endings make you want to read on? Does the end of the story leave you satisfied?

Specifics to consider when critiquing illustrations:
·      Is the composition strong and interesting?
·      Is the chosen medium the best for the artist and subject?
·      Do the text and illustration support AND supplement each other? (Does the work illustrate the text and then contribute even more?)
·      Is there fluid movement and rhythm in shape and line?
·      Is the point of view effective? Does it vary to avoid monotony?
·      Does the layout contribute to the text?
·      Are characters fully developed? Consistent in appearance throughout?
·      Are the gutters free of important information?
·      Are page breaks effective?
·      Does the work break down into the correct page specifications according to its form (picture book = 24, 32, 40, etc.)?

In summary, critiquing is an essential part of making your work be the best that it can be!
Need a Critique Group? For tips and suggestions, see this recent blog post!

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