As a writer, you hear talk about having your work critiqued and having it edited. Do you the know difference between two tasks?
Critiques are reviews of works; your assessment of what an author has penned. It generally includes an evaluation of good points as well as bad. I use ‘generally’ because there are reviewers/critiquers who only focus on the good elements in a work.
No matter what level your writing is at, I think you can benefit from a well thought out critique. Critique groups are a great place (if the group is a good fit for you) to learn how to improve your writing, as well as how to build your own ability to critique a piece of writing.
When you agree to critique a piece of work, you are saying you will give the piece the attention it needs and think about feedback that will be useful to the author. There is always something good to say about a piece of writing, but it’s usually easiest to identify what doesn’t work.
I feel comfortable saying that most writers are readers, and therefore know when a story works and when it doesn’t. The challenge in critiques is to highlight what works well so that the writer can adapt and fix the parts that may not work quite as well.
In an earlier post, I talked about the different types of editing. Different skill sets are required for the various types of editing. As examples: proofreading is not as comprehensive as a content edit, but both are needed when you are polishing a manuscript. A proofreader focuses on the technical aspects of writing. A content editor encompasses the entire piece and is more creative in regard to making sure all the details are consistent throughout the piece.
Critiques and edits
If you’re critiquing a piece and notice a typo, it would be hard to overlook it – at least it is for me. But knowing that pointing out a spelling error is not the focus of a critique will start you on your way to being able to give useful feedback to the writer.
Remember the sandwich: point out what works, give suggestions for what isn’t working, follow up with more comments on what works.
An edit is akin to surgery, implemented to fix what needs repairing. A critique is an overall evaluation of the body of work before surgery is undertaken.
Lisa J. Jackson is an editor, author, book coach, consultant, Big Sister, cat owner, and chocolate lover. She’s addicted to Sudoku, cafés, coffee ice cream, and words. She writes fiction as Lisa Haselton, has a blog for book reviews and author interviews, and is on the staff of The Writer’s Chatroom where she gets to chat with writing professionals on a weekly basis — and you can too! ©Lisa J. Jackson, 2010