- 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?
Enjoy this writing advice and want more content like it? Check out the classes Cat gives via the Rambo Academy for Wayward Writers, which offers both on-demand and live online writing classes for fantasy and science fiction writers from Cat and other authors, including Ann Leckie, Seanan McGuire, Fran Wilde and other talents! All classes include three free slots.