Monday, June 18, 2018

Guidelines for a Productive Critique

Here are some guidelines for reading and doing the workshop letters. Best, Amy
Fall Novel Writing Workshop with Amy Parker, 2012.

Writers: When you submit your work, please make sure it’s in 12-point font and double spaced.  Number the pages so we can refer to them in discussion.  Please include a synopsis for context if the pages you submit are from the middle of the manuscript.

Readers: read the material twice. First go through with a “magazine read”, reading as you would if you just picked the story up and were reading for pleasure.  What’s your first impression? Read like a reader. On the second read, read like a writer. Go through the story and mark up the manuscript—mark passages that delight you, things that confuse you, areas where you have questions. Write comments in the margins. 

The letter: write a letter to the author, about a page. The letter should do the following:

First, describe the story. On the most basic level, what happens? (We do this so the author gets a sense of what the reader understands. It may seem obvious, but sometimes readers pick up on things the author didn’t intend, and the author should investigate why). Where do you think the story is going? 

Next, note what the story does well. What do you admire? What moved you? What worked and why?  Be specific. Quote as necessary. (Few things are more pleasurable than having one’s work quoted.)

Finally, what confused you? Where does the story need developing or clarifying? Are there gaps, inconsistencies? Is the language unclear? Are there scenes that could be compressed, or summaries that need to be amplified? What questions do you have about the material?