What to look for when you critique

For my new writing group, I offered some critiquing exercises last night. To be honest the extracts I chose had an awful lot wrong with them, so it wasn’t too difficult to spot the mistakes. But I hope, never the less, it was a worthwhile endeavour.  So now for this month I intend to share something that’s not bad and see if we can refine some of those instincts and awareness about what to look for. If you can see it in someone else’s work, you then need to turn to your own and look for the same things.

Here are some of the things to look out for when you start to critique:

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How do you know what to look for?


  1. How compelling is the story telling and did you lose yourself in it?
  2. Does the ‘voice’ work – as in who and how the story is told? Are there places where you didn’t believe the voice, is it consistent? What kind of phrases does the narrator use?
  3. What tense is used and is it maintained?
  4. What person is used – first, second, third? Is it maintained?
  5. Who is telling the story and is the viewpoint maintained, i.e. no head-hopping?
  6. Is it told with an active or passive voice?
  7. Do you get into the action quickly, does it grip you?
  8. Do you want to read more?
  9. Is the plot credible? Any continuity issues in the plot?
  10. Are the characters rounded? Do you know what/who/when/what’s at stake and what conflict is driving the story?


Nitty Gritty


  1. Is the formatting correct? Indents for new paragraphs and speakers (and reaction by speakers?).
  2. Is grammar correct?
  3. Are there lots of typos?
  4. Is it telling or showing?
  5. Are there words or phrases that repeat, overused?
  6. Is information repeated?
  7. Are there clichés?
  8. Are some expressions or phrases overwritten?
  9. How is exposition handled? (i.e. back story, factual information needed for the story). Is the pacing right?
  10. Does the narrative flow well, is dialogue natural and does it use action and reaction?


Of course there is more to it than this, but hopefully this will get some of you started…

The Canvey Writers in groups discussing their critiques...

The Canvey Writers in groups discussing their critiques…


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