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All about giving and receiving critiques

3 answers

You don't have to be an expert on literature or to be able to use complicated language to write a critique. All you need is the ability to read and express your opinion.

The most important thing to keep in mind is the golden rule: Write a critique that you would like to receive yourself.

A critique is meant to help, not hurt, and the difference between the two often lies simply in the choice of words.

Start by reading the author's notes. These reflect the things the author is looking for in your critique. Then read the story completely through, for the global impression it has on you as a reader. Then, read it again, and this time look at the details. General impressions can be written in the 'closing comments'. Details are best written in-line.

If you tell the author that you think something should be changed, tell him/her why. Be objective and bring examples. It doesn't hurt to stress that this is all your humble opinion.

Don't forget to tell the author about the positive things, what he's doing well. It's just as important to know what you're doing right as what you're not doing so well, to know what works and what doesn't.

Keep this in mind:

  • Does the story hold your interest? 
  • Do you care about the characters? 
  • Do you understand the text easily or do you sometimes have to read a paragraph (or more) several times before you make sense of it? 
  • Are the conversations natural, do they "flow"? 
  • Is the plot believable or do you get the feeling that the author "cheats"? 

We emphasize that critiques should be objective, honest, polite and constructive. That they help people improve their writings. The critiques shouldn't contain personal remarks about the author, the critique is to be aimed at the text alone.

A destructive critique can cause the author to give up. That's not the kind of critique we want here. 

Just because we stress the importance of constructive critiques doesn't mean we don't want honesty. You can easily be honest and constructive at the same time. It's all a question of phrasing. "Your plot sucks!" or "I think your plot needs some work" — similar messages, but one is destructive, the other is constructive.

Comments meant for the Critique Circle and its administrators have no place in critiques.

When you're done with your critique ask yourself: Is this a critique I would like to receive myself?

Administrators and Moderators review all critiques and if there is a problem they will discuss it with the writer. 

If you have a problem with a critique you have received, please contact us and we'll look into it.

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Critique Circle has several different ways to find a story to critique. Here are some of them:

- Click on Stories: View Stories. Choose a genre and go down the list.

- Click on Stories: Story Queue. There you are able to scroll down a list by queue: Newbie, General, Fantasy, etc.

- Use the Tit for Tat list. You can access this list by clicking on your username in the upper right corner, then choose Tit for Tat list. There, you will see a list of members that have given you critiques. After their name, they might have an upcoming story or story up for review right now that you can critique.

- Click on Community: Member List or Community: Top Members and find a given member’s stories. Choosing a top critiquer to critique, assuming you do a good job, gives you a good chance of getting a well-written critique back.

Each way of finding a story to critique is different and useful. To find your first story to critique you may want to find one in a genre that you feel comfortable with. When others have already critiqued one or more of your stories, it is important to watch your Tit for Tat list so that they don’t feel slighted.

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  1. Choose a Story to Critique.
  2. When the story opens click on Critique this story or Write Critique (in blue letters on the upper right).
  3. The critique writing screen will let you put in opening comments: perhaps something about who you are, or why you chose to critique this story.
  4. Under the section for opening comments you will find author notes. We encourage you to read these carefully. They might include what kind of critique the author is looking for, some 'where we are so far' regarding the story, or other important items. You don't help the author if your critique doesn't address these issues.
  5. Then you will get to read the story. As you get to each paragraph you can click on it and a box will open under that paragraph where you can make comments on that paragraph. These are called 'in-line comments'.
  6. At the very bottom of the screen, under all the text, there may be author notes: usually things the author would like you to answer now you have read the whole thing.
  7. And under that a box for you to answer those questions, and to make any closing comments about what you have just read.
  8. When you're all good (feel free to go back up and change anything you've written), click the Review and Submit button.
  9. Having done that you will have another chance to edit your critique, to indicate if you liked the story, and then… Send.
  10. Then you should be told how many credits you got for this review. Please note a review needs to be at least 300 words to get full credit.
  11. There, you've submitted your first critique! Go celebrate. (Or, better, submit another one!)

We recommend you watch our tutorial video on how to critique a story on CC:

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Giving Critiques

4 answers

Inline critiques offer the ability to add comments inside the story text in an easy and intuitive fashion.

Simply click on the text you would like to add your critique to. A yellow message box will appear where you can write your inline critique and use the icons below if you want.

Inline critique box:

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The Classic critique offers you complete flexibility in structuring your critique as there is no framework as with the other critique types. It’s particularly useful for critiques that look at the bigger picture and comment on plot, characterization, overall use of language etc.

When you choose Classic critique, you will see a text box above a copy of the story you are critiquing. You can decide on the structure and the content of your critique. Use the text box to tell the writer what you thought of the story. Don’t forget to be specific about why you liked or didn’t like particular things in the story and try to offer ideas for how the writer might make the story better. If you want to quote bits from the story, use the Story function to copy and paste sections of the text into your critique. The quotes will stand out in a different color text and make it easy for the writer to tell the difference between the original story and your comments.

Once you have said everything you want to say about the story, you can preview your critique to make sure everything looks OK. If you want to make any changes, just click on Edit to go back to your critique. When you’re happy with everything, send it to the writer.

The Classic critique is perfect if you like to prepare your critiques off-line. You can simply copy your critique from your word processor and paste it into the text box for submission.

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For the author: When your critiquer has used the Story formatting option in marking the excerpts from your story he or she has referred to, that text is pale. If the critiquer has given you a Classic (as opposed to Inline) critique, you can change both color and size of that text, and you can also choose to eliminate the story text altogether, leaving only the critiquer's words. This may be handy when your critiquer has referenced a lot of the original story in his or her Classic critique.

For the critiquer: Choose what text you want to quote in your critique and use copy/paste to move it from the story to your critique. When that's done, highlight the text and click Story snipped. You should now see tags around the text and when you preview your crit you can see that the quoted text is now pale grey.

You find Story snipped (purple circle around it) on the right side, next to bold.

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Critiquing is not a question about talent, but practice! If you feel you don't know how to crit, read the instructions HERE.

You just do your best and with time you will be able to give crits that are both invaluable and useful for the author who uses them to improve his text.

Remember to be constructive, the crits are meant to help the author, not tear him down!

It can be very helpful to read other people's crits (see here)

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Receiving Critiques

4 answers

You should only submit material that you've worked on as well as you can. Don't send first drafts and don't submit material that you haven't looked over with regards to spelling and language. This is for your own good — you'll get better feedback if people see you are making an effort to send in "clean" material.

Let readers know if there is anything in particular that you want them to keep in mind while reading your story.

It can be hard to accept criticism. Don't argue with the critic, but if there is anything in your crit that you don't understand, by all means, ask him about it.

Bear in mind that the crit is only one person's opinion. He isn't necessarily right, but his views are examples of how readers might see and interpret your story. That is useful to you, whether you agree with his opinions or not.

Be critical about what you want to use of the critique you receive. Remember, you are the author and this is your story, your style. You decide, others suggest. Some authors get lost trying to please everyone. Don't let that happen to you 

Gradually, people learn to view a critique as helpful suggestions and not as a personal attack — even if the comments are negative. Be prepared for a rough start, just keep in mind that with time you learn to accept criticism, use what you see as valid points, and throw away the rest.

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You rate a critique so that the critic knows how he's doing, how useful his crits are to other authors. The grade shows him where he's doing well and what he can improve.

There are seven questions and you rate each on a five point scale, from strongly agree to strongly disagree.

The critique was worded in a constructive manner.

Did you feel the critic was respectful of your work and tried to word his crit both helpfully and politely?

The critic had helpful ideas.

Do you think you can use the critic's suggestions and ideas?

The critic could have explained himself better.

Do you have difficulties in understanding what exactly the critic meant? Was something unclear?

The critic pointed out many things I hadn't noticed myself.

Do you feel you gained new insight?

The critique could have been more detailed.

Do you feel that the crit could have been more detailed than it is?

I find the critique useful.

Did the critique have some good ideas and suggestions that you will use when re-writing your story?

On the whole, I'm satisfied with the critique.

Do you feel the critic put considerable work into pointing out to you what you could improve and what he liked in your story? Is this a good crit?

Remember that the point of the crit is to help you improve your story and point out both its strong and weak points. The point of the rating-system is to help the critic improve his crits, tell him what he's doing well and what he isn't doing so well.

At the bottom of the rating-box is another box, meant for a message to the critic, where you thank him for his time and effort. It's considered common courtesy to thank the critic for this, he could just as well have critted another story but he chose yours.

This message has nothing to do with rating.

The critic doesn't know how a specific crit was rated. He only sees his average grade and that is calculate on a five rated critique basis. Therefore, it's impossible for him to know how you rated his critique, something that should help you to be completely honest when rating the crit.

Crits under 150 words cannot be rated.

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You may want to take a moment to think about why you are offended. It can be painful to hear criticism of something you have written, but does it seem that the critter is trying to point out something to improve upon, even if it's a bit bluntly? Most critters' intentions are to help the writer by pointing out the flaws, not to hurt your feelings. This learning process can sometimes bruise your ego, but usually improves your writing skills by pointing out weak spots.

One other thing to remember, a critique is nothing more than an opinion. Sometimes this is based on knowledge, such as spelling, punctuation, and grammar, and sometimes it is based on the type of writing that critter likes to read.

Is it because the critter seemed intentionally cruel or hurtful? Critique Circle does not condone this behavior, and you should contact the administrators to assess the situation.

If you receive a story where a user 'pads' the critique with unrelated story material, nonsense words or rambles about personal details that have nothing to do with the story, please let us know. Padding to gain credits for critiques is not acceptable here at CC.

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If for whatever reason you don't want to receive more crits on your story, you can click on "No More Crits".

You find this option if you go to your story and scroll down a bit. On the right side, you find Author Options where you can choose No More Crits.

If another member is already in the process of writing a critique on this story, they will be able to finish their critique but they will receive a message stating that the author of this story no longer wishes to receive crits for this story.

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My Critiques

5 answers

No. Once you've sent off your critique, it can't be removed, any more than you can delete email you've already sent out.

If you and the author that you have sent the crit to both agree to delete it, you can send a message to moderator, but you should consider your crit the joint property of you and the person that you critted once you've sent it out.

Likewise, the person receiving the crit cannot delete or hide the crits she/he has received.

If you want to delete a critique in progress, go to Stories, click on My Critiques and then choose Critiques in progress. On this page you can abandon your crits in progress.

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Almost all critiques are accepted — if it's not, you'll be notified.

Critiques are only unacceptable if they contain padded or irrelevant text, something offending or have zero content — often sent in by trolls.

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If you quote the story in your critique, this word count will be deducted from the total critique word count through a heuristic feature applied to the text which tries to dig out segments which are a part of the story rather than a part of the critique.

For example, if the story contains the segment "Once in a blue moon I would go out and hunt mice" and your crit has the segment "sometimes during a full moon I would go out and party" the logic might infer that "moon I would go out and" is a part of the story and not the crit and would automatically deduct 6 words from the crit.

If you are around the 150/300 word boundary (which is the only thing that really matters in regards to this), and find that you've been unduly penalized, please send us a message and we'll look into it.

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No, it doesn't.

It's not possible to hide critiques but we point out the possibility of making your critiques anonymous except to the author of the story.

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You might see a certain number of critiques listed next to your story and fewer actual critiques when you click on the story.

This is because a member's first critique has to be approved by the Moderators/Administrators before it becomes available. This process does not judge the quality of the crit as such but is meant to weed out padding, inflammatory and rude crits.

The reason the actual number shows up on the Queue page is that other members have to be able to see the real number of crits a given story has received so that they can direct their efforts to stories which have actually received fewer crits than others.

If you experience this just wait a bit and the crit will usually become visible within 24 hours.

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Archived Critiques

2 answers

As soon as a story leaves the active review period you can see the critiques it received by clicking on Older Stories near the top of the Story Queue page and then on the story title in the relevant queue.

You may need to use the numbers at the bottom right of each queue to page through the submissions for the one you want.

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You can read other people's crits after the stories have been critiqued, i.e in Older Stories.

The reason why you can't read crits on stories that are being critted, is that they might colour your own critique.

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7 answers

Each time you send a critique, the author is asked to rate it. When you have completed at least five critiques, you will be able to see your overall Critique Grade on My Page. By clicking on your grade you can see your average score against each of the seven statements. You will not see how an individual author rated your critique but the average grade will help you to see whether there are areas of your critiques that you might be able to strengthen.

Your grade will be updated each time you have five more critiques graded by authors. By default, the grade shown is calculated on the last cumulative multiple of five — for example, if you have 12 critiques graded by authors then you see a grade calculated on 10 critiques. You can see how your grade has changed over time by choosing a different number from the drop-down box — for example, the first 10 critiques or the first 25 critiques.

The grade scale is from 1 to 5 stars.

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The message "Return the favour" appears in your reminder box on the front page and indicates that an author that has critiqued your story now has a story himself in the the queue.

If you click on "Return the favour" you should be taken to his story so that you can critique it.

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A Super Critter is someone who makes an outstanding contribution to CC through their critiquing activity. You will see them marked in their member page and in the Story Queue with a star.

To become a Super Critter you must write at least 12,000 words in critiques in a single month. Once you achieve this you will get a Super Critter star next to your name until the end of the next month (this means that if you reach the threshold in the middle of the month you will have the star for one and a half months).

On your dashboard you can see your Super Critter progress.

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Autosaving is a feature on CC which automatically saves your critique every 30 seconds, but only if something has been written in that time. This feature is turned on by default and should always be used unless there are some technical reasons not to.

When autosave is on, you will see the text Autosaving is enabled above your critique window when you start a crit and the autosave icon is light blue.

Saved critiques are stored in your Critiques in Progress page and are accessible any time so that you can continue writing your critique at any time.

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Padding is when the critter adds extended unrelated commentary, nonsensical words/phrases, cut and pasted material from other sources that has no bearing on the story or pontificates excessive flattery with the sole purpose of 'adding' to word count in order to gain credits.

A short greeting or explanation of a critting style is not padding. However, a standard, 'cut and paste' extended greeting or breakdown of critique style in the opening notes will be consider padding if it does not accompany standard helpful feedback that is of an expected critique length.

Padding is not allowed at CC, and critiques will be rejected (and credits removed) in all cases.

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It is possible for a story author to hide a critique, choose the critique you want to hide by going to Stories: My Critiques and find the critique you want to hide. On the critique page there is a box on the right side, marked Story Author. One of the option is to Hide Crit.

If you have already hidden the critique but want to unhide it, go to the same box and this time choose Unhide crit.

In case you do not see the critique you want to unhide when you go to Stories: My Critiques, please click on hidden crits (picture below). By clicking on this option, you are able to see hidden crits as well.

Note: If you receive destructive or inappropriate critique, please notify the Moderators by using the Report crit button on the critique page.

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The best way to get critiques is to critique actively. It's common practice to return the crit if someone crits you, and although not everyone return all crits, many people do. The best way to establish critique partners where both of you consistently critique each other's work is to search for authors whose writing and critiquing style fits your own, and then to consistently critique their stories by providing meaningful crits.

Soliciting critiques in the forums (e.g. posting a link to your story and asking other members to crit it) is not permitted. This is to prevent the forums from being inundated with threads of that nature.

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