I was working on a critique for one of my Inkpop swaps today and suddenly I was like, Wow, I’m a darn good critiquer. I’m full of myself, I know, but I can’t help it. I’ve heard horror stories of swaps never returned or those dreaded one-liner comments. That hasn’t really happened to me – not one-liners anyway – but there have been a couple of bad ones.
They’re usually two or three lines long and they say a generic sentence: “Wow, this was so good! The description was great and the characters were so relatable. You have a great story going here, keep up the good work!”
I mean, for real? You could type that up about any book on the planet. If you put that little bit of effort into it, obviously you don’t care whether or not you’re telling the truth. If you’ve even read the book at all. Of course, a critique of a short poem can only be so long.
Anyway, that’s all besides the point. The point is, the average critique I see on Inkpop is around 100-300 words. Lately, mine have been topping 700. I’m going to be boring for a minute and say that editing is a boatload of fun. It’s difficult sometimes because I tend to zoom in on the stuff that needs work and my mind blocks out all the good stuff.
I think something that’s helped me a lot in critiquing other people’s work is, believe it or not, gymnastics. I’ve been watching gymnastics coaches since I was eighteen months old. It’s the coach’s responsibility to keep the gymnast safe, motivated, but cautious, all at once. They have to pick apart every single move and tell the gymnast what they did wrong, what they did right, what they can do to make it better.
Editing is kind of like that. I get to offer my humble opinion (don’t laugh!) on what I think the writer did wrong, what they did right, what I think they can work harder on, what I think they can change. And I have to do it all tactfully enough that they’ll get what I’m trying to say but won’t break down and quit writing or get so stuck up their writing all goes South.
Coaches have it easy. At least they know the gymnasts.