Writing Tip: Critiques are Essential

Having been a moderator of a children's writing critique group and a reviewer for multiple genre as well as an editor and ghostwriter, I read a number of manuscripts and books. Reading both well written books and books that lack polish, it's easy to tell which authors haven't bothered to have their work critiqued or edited.

Seeing the unnecessary and unprofessional mistakes of writers publishing unpolished work, I always stress the importance of belonging to a critique group. Even experienced authors depend on the unique perspective and extra eyes that each critique member provides.

The critique group can catch a number of potential problems with your manuscript, such as:

1. Grammatical errors
2. Holes in your story
3. Unclear sentences, paragraphs, or dialogue
4. The forward movement of the story
5. Overuse of a particular word, adjectives, and adverbs
6. Unnecessary words to eliminate for a tight story
7. Unnecessary or excessive scenes that should be eliminated to ensure a tight story
8. Character continuity
9. Manuscript formatting
10. Head hopping

The list goes on and on. And, there are even more potential problems to be watched out for when writing for children. It's near impossible for even an experienced writer to catch all of his or her own errors.

Your critique partners will also provide suggestions and guidance. Note here, it is up to you whether to heed those suggestion and comments, but if all the members of your group suggest you rewrite a particular sentence for clarity, hopefully a light will go off and you'll pay attention.

Along with having those extras sets of eyes to help you along, you will begin to see your own writing improve. You will also be able to find your own errors and those of others much quicker. This will help you become a better and more confident writer.

Now, while the critique group does not take the place of an editor, they do help you get to the point where you think you're ready for submission. At this point, it is always advisable to seek an editor to catch what you and your critique group missed. And, believe me, there will be something in your manuscript that wasn't picked up on.

When looking into joining a critique group, be sure the group has both new and experienced writers. The experienced writers will help you hone your craft through their critiques of your work.

If you haven’t already, join a critique group today.

Karen Cioffi is an award-winning children’s author and children's ghostwriter. She is also an author/writer online platform instructor with WOW! Women on Writing.

You can check out Karen’s e-classes through WOW! at:

And, be sure to connect with Karen at:


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Heidiwriter said...

I second your advice! My critique groups have been invaluable to me on my journey to getting published!

Karen Cioffi said...

Heidi, same here. They are so helpful and a must for all authors.

Magdalena Ball said...

One more thing a good critique group can do is to keep you writing - that encouragement (and soft deadline) is invaluable.

Karen Cioffi said...

Maggie, great point!

Mary Jo Guglielmo said...

I find my critique group really helps me keep writing also Maggie. I think a critique group is great for editing but also, just for letting a writer know what is not working in a story.

Karen Cioffi said...

Mary Jo, that's another good one that should be added to the benefits of a critique group!

Anne Duguid Knol said...

I did have a critique group online which was very helpful--I still writhe under some scathing crits from the past--but sadly I was unable to keep up with the chapter a week rule as I work very slowly and like to have things as perfect as can be before submitting for crits. Think I shall not rejoin a group until a book is in my eyes finished :-)

Margaret Fieland said...

I heartily agree about the "keep writing" thing. I have a writing partner, and we exchange a chapter a week. I'd be slacking off right now if not for her.

Karen Cioffi said...

Annie, I hear you about the time element. Depending on the genre and then number of critique members it can be time consuming.

Margaret, that's one of the benefits of a writing partner and even critique members - you have to produce content. It's so easy to get sidetracked with marketing and life, and it seems writing can be left for 'later.' I find myself struggling with this lately - in my case my fiction writing.

Linda Wilson said...

I agree on the importance of critiquing, Karen. This coming week end I'm taking 10 pages to a new writer's group I found through SCBWI. In the '90s I belonged to several groups; each one critiqued in a different way. My new group prefers to take about 10 minutes of a ms and have someone in the group read it while the author listens, then the author can take notes on what is said. This will be a new approach for me and I'm looking forward to trying it out.

Karen Cioffi said...

Linda, is this an in-person groups? I never belonged to an in-person writing group. I think I'd like it though.

I found my first children's writing critique group through SCBWI.

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