Marcella Kampman

Author of Inanna, Goddess of Love: Great Myths and Legends from Sumer


Critical Critiques

Posted by marcellakampman on May 8, 2012 at 2:15 PM

When I finally finish a writing project, I love to get feedback. Following is a checklist which I like to give to my "first readers", people whom I know to have an interest in the particular subject upon which I have just written. These particular questions aid them in how to think critically, and the answers aid me in giving me a clearer direction in what I need to fix. I hope this checklist can help you, too.

Following is my list of suggested questions for my First Readers:

1. Title: Did you find the title of the book suitable or intriguing? After reading the story, return to this question. What do you think of the title now? Can you suggest another one?

2. Beginning: Does the beginning of the story have a good “hook”? Does it present you with enough “questions” to make you continue reading?

3. Middle: Does the middle sag or does it maintain momentum? Is the plot exciting enough to hold your interest through to the end?

4. End: Is there a good resolution? Do you feel satisfied with the ending? Were any story questions that may have been presented in the story answered?

5. Is this story ‘driven’ by the plot or by the interaction of the characters?

6. Were you ever bored? Did you find your mind wondering? Where in the story did this happen? Mark down the places where you lost interest. (This is crucial.)

7. What did you think of the main character(s)? Did you like him/her? Hate him/her? Or did you keep on forgetting who he/she was?

8. Did any of the story events or actions taken by the characters seem contrived? Did anything just happen because the author wanted or needed something to happen at that moment, but that action taken was not true to what a particular character would really do in that situation?

9. Was there anything you didn’t understand? Was there a section you had to read twice to get what was happening? Are there any parts of the story where you got confused? (Again, this is crucial.)

10. Was there anything you didn’t believe? Any time you said, “Oh, come on! Get real.” Even in a fantasy the story should be believable? Is the ‘story world’ believable?

11. What is good, bad, or unique about this story?

12. Is this a good story? If you were recommending it to a friend, what would you say?

13. Did you find the author’s style of writing entertaining? Did you like the ‘voice’? If not, what did you not like? Was it too ‘wordy’? Sentences too long, too short, not varied enough? Was there too much repetition of words or concepts?

14. Finally, what comments would you give that would help to make this a better, stronger, tighter, more interesting story?

Note for First Readers – when giving a critique think “Sandwich”. In addition to any main questions (such as the above questions) which you may or may not have answered, also give the author your own personal feedback in a critique sandwich. This means find something to praise (something which you genuinely liked) then give the negative comments (and you should find something you didn't like as nothing is perfect) and then end with praise (again something you found appealing from the characters to the author's writing style). Always end with a positive comment and then end your critique right there on that feel good note.


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