- Start with what works. Let the writer know what you see as the story’s strengths and how they might capitalize on them.
- What keeps you from connecting with the story? What don’t you understand? Sometimes the most useful thing you can give someone is a brief synopsis of what you think is going on in the story, because it may not match their intent.
- Critique big ticket items, not little nitpicks.
- It’s more important to point out what’s broken than to make suggestions how to fix it, because that fix will differ radically from writer to writer.
- How do the beginning and ending work together to create a satisfying story? Is the story that’s provided the one the one promised in the beginning? Is the ending set up in a satisfying way? Is it the result of character actions?
- What’s missing? What don’t you understand?
- What seems extraneous, unneeded or distracting?
- What’s the pacing like? Where does the story drag and where does it skip too quickly through details?
- Where are the info-dumps and how can that information be spread out?
- How well does the title work? If not well, what possible better titles can be drawn from the story?
- Are the characters likeable?
- Are the characters acting or reacting?
- Does the character have a point of identification with the reader, such as a problem, situation or want that both of them hold?
- Where can we go deeper into the character’s head? Does the reader know what the character wants? Where don’t we understand what the character is doing?
- Are there too many characters? Can any be combined?
- Is the dialogue interesting and informative of character?
- Is the point of view consistent?
- Is the world clear? Does the reader know where they are?
- Does it feel generic? (Is it?) How can it be made more specific and evocative?
- Does it make sense?
- How important is the science of it? Are the facts right?
- Where should we know more?
- Where can the world come forward more?
- Where can more sensory detail be worked in?
- Is the culture interesting and also make sense?