Monday, February 22, 2010

To crit or not to crit: a short series

What kind of critter are you?

Many writers find an online writing workshop to help them improve their craft. I’m active on Critique Circle {CC}. We pay ‘credits’ to post a story, and we earn credits by critiquing {critting} other stories. In giving crits, receiving crits, and reading posts about crits, I’ve come to several conclusions about the process. While I don’t know everything, I’ve been thanked repeatedly for the style of my crits and I was recently a ‘star critter’. That just means the people I critted for in a given period really liked what I said.

It’s clear that critiquing can be a hot button issue. My goal, when I give crits, is to be a bunny rabbit critter, not a shark.

Smokey, Grizzles, Claude and Miss Mousie are the bunnies who share my life. I like rabbits for a lot of reasons, among them being the fact that what you see is what you get. Like dogs, they don’t have agendas. Well, except for Grizzles, who’s always hoping you’ll hand him something to eat. Rabbits will show you in plain body language when they’re happy and when they’re scared. Happiness is stretched out, chin flat on floor, eyes closed while absorbing the body strokes or head scratches you’re bestowing. When they’re unsure or angry, they will thump: hit the floor - hard - with their big back feet. My bunnies do not bite people.

I have a standard disclaimer I give to everybody I crit for the first couple of times. I tell them my intent is to help not harm, but if I do say anything offensive, to let me know.

When you crit, it’s easy to say ‘this phrase doesn’t make sense’ or ‘that character wouldn’t say that.’ I skim a story before I crit, if I don’t know the writer. If it looks like there are a bunch of grammar mistakes, spelling gaffes, and clichés, I may skip critting it. Doing a thorough crit on a story like that can easily take two or three hours, and is mentally tiring. It’s hard on the eyes. I know I’m not alone in sometimes deciding to skip a crit. You can message the writer to say something like what I did in this post. That lets them know {without you being a shark} that they need to fix basic things. If they decide to fix and resubmit, they may ask you to crit the revised version; you’ll get credits, the writer will like you because you were honest without being a jerk, and you’ll both be happy.

This will be continued in two more posts, plus a final one on what the critter can learn from doing.


  1. Hmmm...I'm afraid I might be an untrained bunny. I bite people.
    While not being immensely critical, I aint soft, and I've had my share of 'I hated your crit' type messages.

  2. There will always be people you can't please.

    Critting may not be your strong point right now but I'll bet you can improve.

    Bunnies are capable of learning, Spammy. They're very intelligent.