What to look for in Critiques

I wrote an blog on 21st November 2010 wondering how to select reviewers, because I was confused after receiving a critique from a reviewer, not a review.

I analysed the problem a bit more and have come up with a breakdown of reviews and critiques that help me. Hope it helps you, too.

There are three main groups of people I need to comment on my books and they are broken down further, grouping different types.

Reviewers Knowledge Genres Comments Questions
Beta Readers Writers Same
Craft and Story What bored you?
What confused you?
What interested you?
What character did you empathise with?
Non Writers (Readers) Same
Story What bored you?
What confused you?
What interested you?
What character did you empathise with?
Technical Specialists Technology Technical What was wrong?
How to fix it?
Reviewers Readers Same
Say anything they like Accept comments, good or bad, and move on

Now I have that sorted, I know who to pick to comment on my stories, and what type of comments I can expect from each group of readers.

I also need to keep in mind that the beta readers, if writers, will want their novels read by me (in return for them reading and commenting on my novels) and it would be better to select partners to critique, who wrote in the same genre as me or, at least, a genre I enjoy reading.

Imagine if I had to critique a romance or a vampire story for a beta reader who volunteered to critique my science fiction novel or mystery short story? I would have to park my thoughts on those genres on a back burner and only comment on craft, leaving the comments on story for others who actually enjoy reading romance or vampire stories.

After getting the above groups correct in my mind, I can now recognise which group or subgroup each beta reader is, and fix problems each raised according to why they found the problems, not exactly what they commented on.

I can now proceed with either joining a critique group or starting my own critique group with local writers.

I can now respond to what a fellow writer, who volunteered to write a review but actually wrote a three page critique, meant with her comments, because she questioned craft, and story, and technology, and did not write a review.

Mind you, the comments were good. Most I can solve by further explaining each of the laws of science as they stand (both on earth and in space and on other planets) and that will help those readers who do not understand physics or technology as well as I do.

I now understand, as Holly Lisle pointed out, that my theme is mine, my content is mine, but I can fix any confusing or boring scenes so others can enjoy the story as much as I do.

Reviews will come, good or bad, and I have no control over them, but I can use even parts of bad ones as front or back matter reviews, when my ebook is published.

So, I now know what I am looking for in critiques I receive and now know what I need to comment on for critiques I do for other writers.

Can you think of more sub groupings of beta readers? Or other questions you would ask beta readers to comment on?


7 comments so far

  1. Tanja on

    I think it’s really good to break it down the way you did. It helps us to see more clearly what it is we want and what to expect.

    I think you’re spot on about choosing partners that write what you enjoy reading.

    Thanks for sharing!

    • djmills on

      Thanks. I am trying to understand one part at a time, but I will eventually get there, understanding all the business side of writing.

      • Tanja on

        It’s a lot to learn but that’s part of the fun I think. There’s always the next thing to sink your teeth in.I’m having a blast doing it 😀

  2. Texanne on

    Verry interesting. Good that you were able to use the “review” that was actually a critique. Many people don’t understand the difference, including some reviewers who work for newspapers or other publications, so you are ahead of the game here. Good going!

    • djmills on

      Thanks. Yes, the critique was eye opening. Most of the comments fall into a need to ‘tell not show’ or ‘repeat key clues because they were missed first time’. The rest fall under the umbrella of not understanding science fiction. So, never be scared of critiques, or reviews. It is like painting a picture, only one person needs to like it for it to sell. The rest are entitled to their opinions. 🙂

      I also learnt that bad reviews are also good. One indie author said he had one review that his book was ‘bad and read like a game book’ but it attracted a different group of readers (gamers), which was good for his sales.

  3. Angela/Curiocat on

    Hey, Diane. I really like how you broke down the difference between a review and a critique. I’d never really thought about it before. Your chart is phenomenal. Good job. You might add, was there a character or anything you really disliked in the story?

    • djmills on

      Thanks. Good suggestion on disliking character question, especially if I wrote a character that was unlikable. 🙂

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