Critiquing - Giving and Receiving

Okay so I know that this has been covered several times before and there is some very good advice on this thread here.

I wanted to give a bit of my personal take and experience about feedback and critique. I have been doing some form of creative work most of my life. From Band to Track to Art to Webcomics to Books, I’ve had my fair share of receiving and giving feedback and critique.

So lets start with the giving side of the house.

The way I approach a person I have no rapport (no previous association) with:


  • I find a story/artwork/comic page that I overall like.
  • My first comments/feedback are usually about how much I like the work, things I find done well, and in general sincere praise.
  • If the creator returns a comment I will continue to build rapport by continuing with things I like. (If they don’t I stay at the second bullet)
  • Once I feel rapport has been achieved, I will then approach the creator in a non-critical way by saying something like, “I really like your work. There are a few suggestions I have about x,y,z if you’re interested in hearing them.”
  • Only if the creator says yes will I offer my advice. It is CRITICAL that a person doing critiques not only tell them what they feel needs to improve, but give them suggestions on how to go about doing so. Give tips, tutorial links, examples. There is nothing worse than someone saying “That stinks” without ever giving a why and a how to fix it.
  • I always state that these are my opinions and they are welcome to take or leave them at their discretion (this creator owes me nothing… that’s right… they don’t have to take a lick of my advice. It will not hurt my feelings.)
  • The “Praise sandwich,” as corny as it sounds, WORKS. It will be a very rare occasion where the creator will take such an effort poorly.*

Exceptions to this rule are (for me) someone requesting critique of their work, whether in a forum or a author’s note and someone with which I already have a long standing rapport with, and whom expects me not to sugar-coat my thoughts

I will still be sure to praise sandwich my stuff, give some good with the Needs Improvement, because no one wants to hear nothing but bad about their babies.

I try never to come from a “better than thou” angle. Yes I know some things, but I am aware that I don’t know everything, that I am still picking up things from on line sources, fellow writers, and books as I go. When I phrase my advice its “I’ve been doing this…” if it’s something from online, I’ll say, “I’m including this resource that might help…” or “one way I learned to do this is…”

I don’t want to make another creator feel small. It’s been done to me, and it doesn’t feel good.

So Let’s talk about the other side of the coin, RECEIVING FEEDBACK and CRITIQUE

Let’s face it, even the most expected, well-intentioned critique can SUCK. These are my BABIES!! How dare someone tell me that it’s not perfect (/sarcasm because I am not perfect by any stretch of the imagination.) A crit can make me anxious, upset. It can make me cry. It can make me feel like I’m a lousy creator and I should stop what I’m doing.

So my biggest piece of advice: Feedback and Critique is the person’s OPINION! Remember that.

Of course, take any solid grammatical, punctuation, or flow suggestions for action. But if a critique tells me to get rid of a character, change the genre of fiction I’m writing, or some other such negative inflammatory nonsense, I DON’T have to take it aboard.

Next piece of advice: Don’t respond or react to the initial reading.

Even my best of friends, who I ASK to give me feedback and Crit, sometimes say things I don’t want to hear. They upset me. And the emotional thing to do would be to respond with a reaction rather than a well thought out, perspective-seeing mind.

So, what I do? I read it (usually multiple times) and then I close out that email/line edit/discord chat. I ruminate on what is being said and even the intent behind it. Once I get past my emotional response to what they’ve said I can better see the VALUE of the advice I’ve been given.

Even advice you feel is a dumpster fire CAN contain a kernel of something you can use to improve. It may highlight a blind spot in your research, it may bring up a question you hadn’t thought of before. If you only wait until your emotions can be set aside.

THANK Your Commenter!!

Good Gracious PLEASE thank the person who took the time out of their day to share some things they’re struggling with regarding a creation!
For those who are well-intentioned, this will keep them coming back and reading.
For the trolls in life, it will deprive them of a emotional reaction they desire to hear as result of their harsh words (then ban them :stuck_out_tongue: ).

Such is my experience. I feel like I had more to say?

I hope you find a kernel of something you can use in the essay…lol! See you all around the forums.


Bumping the thread because I would love to hear how you guys give and receive critique.

Will respond later.

I’ve seen too many times people complain about unsolicited advice so I no longer give it if it’s not asked for.

If it is, I also try the sandwich method because I know how easily good intentions can come off too critical. We can’t write the same thing we’d say. The written medium needs a lot more care to get the tone right.

One little comment can send someone into an overthinking/stressing spiral. As an example, once I received a comment “he sounds too girly” which made me question absolutely everything I’ve ever written. I can’t help it. I over analyze. I keep that example in mind when I critique others. That and one sarcastic comment I made that I’ll regret to the end of my days.

I try to gauge the writer’s craft level and chosen style. I’m not going to point out missing commas if the sentence structure is completely wrong. You know, you shouldn’t vacuum your living room if the house is on fire.

I focus on the big picture first - does the part I read WORK? What did it make me feel? Was I surprised? In a good way or bad way?

If there is a lot of negative feedback I could give, I only pick the most important of it.

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I don’t give feedback unless asked or expected (e.g. in a R4R), but I try to give everyone the same level of feedback. I tend to err on being nice—perhaps too nice, TBH—and focus more on commenting on the quality of the prose instead of the plot. If I’m saying anything negative, I try to phrase it constructively, and if something is “good enough,” I leave it at that instead of trying to be too nitpicky. I think it’s an unhealthy mindset as a writer to be over-sensitive to critique, and consequently I don’t want to pressure people into fretting about something that gets the job done adequately. That’s also a mindset I try to instill in my students, too: perfection has a margin of error.

I am crass and an ass, but I KNOW that if I want reciprocity, I’ve got to sugarcoat some things, so I try to find something good to say first.

If I comment out of nowhere, it’s usually on something where another person has done lost it already.

But what I wish people would get is that although I can help you improve something and you can help me with the same, I am NOT the end-all of what will find an audience. So you take my complaints about characters and how you portray them with a MUCH BIGGER grain of salt than when you misspell gestalt.

Yeah the written word is already hard for being sure we’re coming across right, and then we add the added stressor of talking about their baby in less than glowing terms. So that’s where I was coming from with the “step away and digest” phase of getting critique. That way I’m not blowing my cool for anxiety making, “I noticed that the paragraph uses coming four times” into “OMG what the hell are you saying!” HEH!

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Yeah I am coming to realize this with some of the things I’m reading, got to start macro and start working the micro (I love your analogy btw)


It’s hard not to, because the writing is that creator’s baby. I’m just as guilty as anyone else. Which is why I try to step back from it before I try to respond or apply the advice (or in some cases disregard the advice.). I have completely misread or misinterpreted feedback before in the heat of the moment.

Its funnier than that.

There’s kitchen on fire and burning down the house.

I will not even touch some things, they are that bad.


It’s hard for me sometimes to turn off the editor, because of my job as a teacher though. I want everyone I work with to write better. But I also find that sometimes, creators aren’t ready for the fine tuning.

I’ve got one right now that is borderline. She needs to sit down with a teacher.

I had a judging thing come up and I’d like to try to read more of it, as she’s got a fan base, but I’m going to have to leave it at currently ghosting her or telling why I can’t hang.

I had one that was a R4R situation that I had to tell “I cannot continue trying to help you,” but it was because they dismissed everything I suggested and my level of experience and knowledge. So hey what good could I be to them?

Their apologies weren’t exactly apologies either. Given with one sentence taken away with the next. So I just stopped replying.

I’m probably going to DM her tomorrow. She did ask for a R4R but she’s not started, so not a big loss, but she does need to know that the technical side is subpar.

It’s fun, for me, as a Cajun. I catch myself repeating words and placing the adjectives behind its subject because of the heavy French influence.

There are several languages that do that too… My students are Hispanic and do that sort of thing alot.

I live around Bayou Blue, Bayou Black, Bayous Terrebonne and Lafource. But outside my area, the song songs about Blue Bayou and I’m all weirded out.

I agree with a lot that has been said here. Outside of book clubs and constructive reading swaps, I wouldn’t leave anything but reader comments on someone’s story unless I know them from those previous environments and know how they react to my feedback and that they’d find it helpful. I might ask the occasional question if I’m confused by the plot or character motivation which may signal there’s a logic issue, but I try to limit those.

For critiques, like @Kamiccola I look at the level of writing. If they’re a brand new writer, I go a lot easier on them and focus on what I think they could manage as well as what would most benefit the story. If the story has a cliched wake-up-and-go-to-school opening with zero tension and minimum character development, I may point out some ways I think they could up the tension, spots to develop the character through setting details or even a later point in the story where it really starts and the may have more success grabbing the reader. I’m not going to go off about dialogue punctuation or word repetition since there are bigger issues at hand.

If the person has more writing or critique experience and I do notice multiple points for improvement, I may save some of the reoccurring issues for a final comment in a second, third or later chapter to avoid overwhelming them right at the start. I’ll focus on what the biggest issues are for that chapter and when I’ve already touched on something and mentioned it’s a reoccurring issue, I try not to hammer on it too much.

Like @Darwin I also try to go in with the opinion mindset. I use softening words like ‘could’ instead of ‘should’ or I’ll phrase it like ‘If you want the scene/character to come across like Z you could do Y’ because while I can guess the writer’s goals, I don’t know them with certainty. I’ll also say things like ‘To me’ or ‘I think’ because I know that my reaction or issue might not apply to others.

I’ll also start with the writer strengths and my reactions/analysis of the character and plot and usually finish up with some predictions and positive points if I’m doing a longer final comment.

Waiting to reply to critiques is such good advice. I’ve seen so many knee-jerk defensive responses to critiques and I get that impulse myself to defend my baby, but try not to act on it. If I absolutely don’t agree, I’ll usually thank them for the feedback and leave it at that. At times, I may defend a choice that I’ve made but I try to keep it respectful. Sometimes I’ll ask follow-up questions and it turns into a really helpful discussion. That’s the best outcome. I think I’ve only had one random troll tell me my story was terrible or they hated it in a short comment so I told them that the great part about wattpad was that there are so many different stories and genres to explore so they could hopefully find something they enjoyed more.

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