Critique Cheat Sheet

I had planned to write this morning, but my house is full of noisy teenagers. Better luck tomorrow. My second thought was looking over my critiques from this week. Afterwards, I always feel like I’ve been slapped by an English teacher. The pain only lasts for a moment, but the lessons learned last longer (hopefully).


A few helpful posts online:

Tips for Critiquing Other Writers’ Work

How to Critique Creative Writing

Proofreading Marks

Passive Verbs: Avoid Them and Breathe New Life Into Your Fiction-

I’m having issues with links, please forgive me.

This is the first Critique Group I’ve been a part of, locally. I can say it has helped my writing more than anything. Each person brings their experience, pet peeves and strengths. This is a list of things to look for in a manuscripts. This is for me as well as for my readers. Hopefully, I can use this when I edit my work, in hopes of a cleaner manuscript. This is not a complete list, more of where to begin.

  1. Blue highlights- Telling. This weakens the writing and can translate as lazy. Words like: see, felt, smell, etc. Instead, describe what the character sees, smells, or hears.
  2. Orange highlights- Adverbs. Words ending in “ly” are a form of telling and are lazy.
  3. Yellow highlights- Be verbs. Such as : to be, was, were, is . Some of these are needed. But when the MS is covered in be verbs the voice is passive. Passive voice is also a tad lazy and should be avoided.
  4. Pink highlights- “And“. I love the linking word and. I use it all the time. Usually in the form of a run-on sentence. Don’t do that. If you are using the word and to link two thoughts, actions, or ideas remember that the two actions MUST be accomplished at the same time. Example: I picked up my purse and keys. (correct)  I played the trumpet and drove to the zoo. (Not correct- driving while playing the trumpet is not possible. Okay it is, but you will crash.)
  5. Green highlights- throw away or crutch words. Words that we use in combination with other words that aren’t necessary. Such as “A tear slid down her face.” Down is not needed. The sentence could be reworded to make the sentence stronger. Other words include: went, actually, could, would, should, quite, really, truly, so, literally, etc… I have several lists, acquired from critique group, that I try to use when writing.

Beyond highlights there are other issues you should look for:

  1. Hook– each new chapter should have some sort of hook to keep you reading. Not as “large” as the initial hook in the beginning of the book. But it should grab the reader. If not, make a note of where in the text your attention was grabbed. Even if it is four pages in. The writer needs to know. The same is true for areas that are dull.
  2. Plot holes–  Sometimes the writer doesn’t see holes in their own MS. For instance, in Mermaid, I never explained why Beau was desperate. Why was he in need of money? That’s actually important to the story. Make notes in the margins when holes pop up. That’s what margins are for.
  3. Writing Issues– This covers a multitude of sins. Cliche, choppy text, trite dialogue, repetitive words, wordy narrative. Anything that pulls you out of the story or causes you to stumble. Chances are it threw someone else as well.
  4. Word Choice– In the frenzy of writing, we don’t always use the best or correct word. Sometimes we lean on our favorite words without even knowing it. Mark ’em and write a different word.
  5. POV shifts– If you notice a change in point of view, mark it. Make a note in the beginning who the narrator is and whose head you are in. If it chances pay attention.
  6. Historical inconsistencies– This is only a small group of writers. But if you are writing about an earlier time period (real or imagined). Do your research.  Phrases, technology, clothing, etc… All of these change with time.
  7. Character Issues– If a character is flat, two dimensional, or acts out of character- the writer needs to know.
  8. Formatting Issues– New writers especially may not know the proper way to format. This includes dialogue and chapter structure. Help the writer out and tell them.

This is a good start. There are many more issues.

What’s your pet peeve when critiquing?


One thought on “Critique Cheat Sheet

  1. These are some good tips. I have yet had anyone to ask me to look over their work, but these are some good things to know.


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