Elissa Cruz (elissacruz) wrote,
Elissa Cruz

The Different Types of Critiquers

I am always grateful to anyone who offers to critique my work.  But have you noticed the different types of critiquers out there? 

First are the Adoring Non-Critquers.  These are your friends/family members/adoring fans who can't find anything wrong with your manuscript.  These people are perfect for those days when you just need some ego-stroking, but they really aren't helpful at all when it comes to the actual manuscript.

Next are the Line Critiquers.  These are the people who find my typos and tell me a period is missing on page 37 or I should have used an em-dash instead of parentheses on page 63.  These people are most helpful when I have polished a manuscript and want someone to gloss over it right before I send it off on submissions.  They usually are not at all helpful when I'm still working from a first draft.  And sometimes I find these people annoying, because they will try to fix any and all grammical "errors," even if I have used the error on purpose for stylistic reasons.  They only have eyes for the grammar.  They are not at all concerned about the storytelling.

Third are the Research Critiquers.  These are the people who check every single reference in your book to make sure they match.  They are the ones who tell you on page 12 your MC has red hair but on page 94 the hair color has changed to brown.  Or they are the ones that, for example, will tell you that your main character's father could not have been killed while driving a John Deere tractor because John Deere did not sell tractors until three years after the dad's death.  These critiquers are concerned about the story only in its plausibility.  These people are indespensible, but can also be truly annoying (only because they can unravel your well-constructed manuscript in seconds).  I try to get my RCs to read my second draft, which is when the story is coherent but not polished.  That way I haven't done a lot of work on something that may need to be changed because it isn't plausible. 

Fourth, and by far the most valuable, are the Global Critiquers. These are the people who can see the whole picture and can point out where the story is dragging, or where the characters are a little flat, or where things get a bit muddled and need to be revised for clarity.  They are the ones who focus on the storytelling.  These are the people I trust with my first draft, and every draft thereafter.  And, in my limited experience, this is where the professionals are.

And last, though I hate to mention them, are the Non-believers.  These are the critiquers who can't find any redeeming value in your book, who think you are wasting your time, and who have nothing postive to say about your work.  Luckily you can usually avoid these kinds of people, since they don't normally go around offering to critique manuscripts, but they are out there.  They are bitter individuals and I recommend steering clear if you find one.  And if you happen to get one, I'm really truly sorry.

Have I missed any?  Let me know if you've found any other species of critiquers.

Marina has added The Remodeler to my list.  She says, "The remodeller thinks your story is good, but if you just changed your prince to a pauper, or the brutal murderer to a fairy godmother, or completely rewrote the ending or changed the whole point of the story--well, then it would be just perfect!

"They don't critique the story you wrote but suggest ways to change it to the story they would have written.

"At first this frustrated me, but after a while I came to see it was actually a good thing.  It meant that they could find nothing wrong with your story, it just wasn't exactly to their taste."

And ocotillo_dawn has added The Reactionist (my name for this type).  "They essentially give you their reactions.  They tell you who the characters are as they go along (were they jerks, suspicious, sympathetic?, and not just at the end) and they tell me what their visceral reaction to sections are.  So little notes: "my eyes were rolling", "haha", "yawn", "give me a break", "wha???", "guh", "yay!". The like. That sounds a little like the global, and there is overlap, but its much more sequential and gut first reactions.  They do not comment on plot, structure, story arct, etc.  HIGHLY VALUABLE, and anyone can do it (and be asked/trained to do it), no writing/English lit experience necessary.  I've written characters that I thought were sympathetic, I get a couple comments that say "What a spoiled brat" and I know I've gone over the top with his whining."

Thanks for chiming in, Marina and ocotillo_dawn!

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