you know these two posts are actually shorter than a lot of my others

Tips on giving critique

Giving critique can be just as daunting as receiving critique, but learning how to give feedback teaches writers how to read critically and identify issues and state them poignantly. This helps us look at our own stuff with a more critical eye and become better writers.

The key when starting out is to look at what other people say in their critiques, as this helps to sharpen the senses when reading critically. Sometimes certain issues are easy to identify, such as flow, consistency, transitions, and so forth. Some things are more conceptual or require a bit of deeper thought. Whatever the case may be, there’s going to be a definite learning curve.

Here are some tips on giving critique:

Ask what the writer is looking for. Some writers will want you to take an axe to what they wrote. Some writers will want you to critique the story and not the narrative. It depends on the writer and it depends on what stage of the revision process they’re on. If you’re on a forum or a writing website, the author may have prefaced their story with thoughts or questions, so make sure to check that out first.

Start out offering smaller critiques if you’re nervous. Writing forums and websites are perfect for this, and then you can see how other reviewers think about the same story/passage you read. It’s also helpful to pay attention to how the writer responds to their reviewers.

Don’t piggyback. At these writing communities, it’s easy to take whatever another reviewer said and say, “Yeah, that.” It’s fine to agree with other reviewers, because then the writer will know that more than one of their readers had the same issue, but it’s crucial that you think of something else to add.

Be positive, but don’t hold back. Unless a writer specifically says all they want is the cold, hard critique, then throw in comments about what you enjoyed. Positive reinforcement is a good thing, but don’t let that keep you from giving honest feedback. Holding back on your critique can only hurt the writer.

Be precise. “I didn’t like the way you said this.” That doesn’t help the writer. “The way you said this isn’t consistent with your character’s overall voice and here are some examples.” That can help the writer. State the issue you had and find concrete examples to support it.

Sometimes vague happens too. Sometimes something bothers us and we’re not sure what it is. All we can do is try to explain what our feelings are about a particular part of the story and how it didn’t work, but we can’t explain why. “I didn’t like how the characters interacted here.” That doesn’t help the writer. “I’m not sure why, but the way the characters interacted here didn’t feel natural because…” That might help the writer. Make sure you explain this as clearly as you can, because the writer might take it to another critique partner who’ll say, “Oh! I know why!”

Be objective. You’ll have your own personal preferences, especially when it comes to style. When you think you’re giving good critique, you might just be telling the writer to change their style so it’s more like your own. “I liked the way you described this, but I think it could be better if you did it THIS way instead.” Don’t do this.

You might have tics that aren’t necessarily wrong. I personally loathe the semicolon; to me, there’s nothing worse than a sentence that is both and neither something; I’ll work my magic to try and woo a writer against using it; ultimately, however, the decision is stylistic and completely up to the writer. Be aware of this, offer your suggestion, and don’t let yourself get frustrated or worked up by it.

Don’t be a jerk. No one likes a jerk. Sometimes you think you’re giving honest feedback that the writer needs to hear in order to become a better writer. You might not be. You might be phrasing your feedback so it sounds like, “I’m a better authority on this than you are, so I’m going to tell you that you did this particular thing totally wrong, and I’ll talk down to you as well.” This sort of tone sets up the writer to ignore any possible feedback you have to give, whether helpful or not.

Don’t be a jerk. So nice, you say it twice.

Make good on promises. Creative types don’t often work well with hard deadlines, but if you make a commitment, then you have to hold up your end. Know how you work and set realistic goals for yourself to read so much per day if you have to, but whatever you do, don’t wait until the writer comes to you like “???” and then shove all the reading into one night. You’re cheating the writer of the best critique you can give.

All critique is biased. Even yours. The writer might receive critique from someone else that completely contradicts some feedback that you gave. Fear not. You’ve done your job as fully and honestly as you could, and it’s up to the writer now.

(Also read tips on taking critique!)

What she says: I’m fine. 

What she means: I’m still not over how they treated Pam in The Office finale. Jim gets to thank the doc crew for giving him the ability to watch himself become a husband and a father. Pam says that she didn’t watch the whole documentary because it was “too painful” and talks about how “I spent so many years being less happy than I could have been. Jim was 5 feet from my desk and it took me four years to get to him.” She even says she would like if other people would learn from her own mistakes in not finding happiness earlier. 

I’m sorry, (and I love Jim and Pam together as much as anyone, maybe more) but can we talk about what actually happened here??? 

Jim and Pam had a mutual crush while she was engaged. The end of Season 2 is the first time that Jim says “I love you” and he’s kind of a jerk when she says “I can’t.” Instead of giving her space to process what he’s said, Jim then kisses her without permission and the next (day? week?) leaves town to work at a different branch. He is the one who starts dating Karen and then says that Karen should move to Scranton with him so they can continue to date even though he knows that Pam called off the wedding.   

Pam makes a move in asking Jim out for coffee after he moves back. She backs off when she finds out he’s dating Karen (it’s called being respectful) Pam dates Roy again but breaks up with him for attacking Jim right in front of her. Jim is really rude when Pam says she was stupid for dating Roy again “Yeah we’ll see.” He had just been attacked, but come on.

After the coal walk Pam gives a speech and tells Jim she called off wedding because of him but doesn’t try to break up him and Karen. She is the one who took that big leap to confess her feelings and unlike Jim she doesn’t immediately transfer to a new branch when he stays with Karen. 

So Jim leaves Karen for Pam and they are together in about one year from when Jim first said “I love you.” That’s not being stupid for four years. That’s relationships being messy and hard. 

Pam and Jim have a really solid relationship from first dating, through an unexpected pregnancy, getting married, and another kid. It’s not until Jim keeps taking a new job a secret from Pam that they start to waiver. Even then she supports him, and they both continue to make big romantic gestures for each other.

They’re ok until Pam lies about having trouble at home to protect Jim and Jim plans for them to move to Philadelphia without telling Pam. They both get worse at communication and start feeling overwhelmed (Like the writers were so aware of this that as the relationship gets rocky, the opening sequence shortens to just a kiss between Jim and Pam to reassure us that they’re going to be okay).

The miscommunication culminates when the sound guy mentions that Pam has been crying and Jim feels threatened. Pam is the one who says “I want you to stay and I want to fight” when Jim is just going to go back to Philly on Valentines day. She is the one who took that step towards saving their relationship. They go to counciling and even though Pam is really “blocked up” emotionally, Jim is able to reach through to her. He gives up his dream job for Pam. When she gets worried that he’ll resent her down the road for it, he doesn’t blame her or say she’s crazy.  He finds a way to show her that she means more to him than everything else with some help from the doc crew and the letter from the teapot he gave her before they even started dating (but, may I add, changed his mind about giving it to her back then. Something that might have brought them together sooner than the “four years” Pam took).

I guess the writer’s differed in opinion though, because the one that wrote the finale included questions at the documentary panel that completely blamed Pam for her reactions. “We’d all love to know, Pam, what romantic thing did you do to pay Jim back for leaving Athlead?” and  “Everyone watching sees how much you love each other and how you’re soul mates. So, Pam, how could you doubt that when Jim moved to Philadelphia?”

Jim takes some of the blame and is supportive, but it just feels like the writers want to play up him being the “nice guy.” Later in the finale we find out that Pam got an offer to sell the house as a surprise for Jim so that they can all move to Austin and he can work his dream job after all. It’s a great romantic gesture, but she certainly didn’t “owe” Jim anything and we didn’t need to have her attacked in the panel to believe that she just might be ready to move now when she wasn’t before.

Which brings me back to the ending comments and Pam being so hard on herself for something that she and Jim took equal steps backwards and towards throughout their years together. They could have kept the lines at the end without all the bullcrap about wasting time and being unable to see love right in front of her.  

“…it would just…just make my heart soar if someone out there saw this and she said to herself ‘be strong, trust yourself, love yourself. Conquer your fears. Just go after what you want and act fast, because life just isn’t that long.’”

This is exactly what Pam Beesly actually did. Pam is an important character to me. So I take this line and reject the rest.