Saturday 29 August 2015


This summer the Parisot Writing Group met up for some critiquing sessions.  The idea was to keep to a 1,000 word limit and to circulate our pieces a week before the date to allow people time to read each other’s work.  I found the sessions extremely helpful.  It seemed to work better when the group was smaller (six instead of ten for example). Furthermore, at the first session everyone spoke at once and this made it difficult to take on board all the comments.   At subsequent sessions we adopted a different strategy and each member of the group took it in turns to speak.  This seemed to work a lot better.

Critiquing is difficult to get right – it takes time to build trust and some people are better at giving/receiving criticism than others.  I think it's one of those things that improves with practice.  On my Open University course when we critiqued each other’s work we were told to imagine we were creating a “praise sandwich” by doing the following:-

  • Firstly, try to acknowledge what works overall.
  • Follow it with an objective criticism, commenting on why the piece might not pull you in, why the voice might not be realistic or engaging, whether anything is over the top or underdeveloped.  As long as the criticism is objective, it can be useful to speak your mind. 
  • Lastly, add a comment on any touches of the writer’s style that you particularly liked and state why.

For me, I think the most important thing is to be encouraging.   After all, it’s very easy to say what doesn’t work, but it takes more time and effort to say what does.