Continuing my critiquing series I had going before my book launch on Tuesday, I wanted to finish up with some notes on how to critique properly.
I spent most of my blog posts talking about what sort of content you should be focusing on, but I failed to bring up the method to do so.
First off, the main thing to remember is that you are criquing the content, not the author. You are directing your critical eye at the story, it's characters, their motivations, and the emotional/plot flow of the story. You aren't directing it at the writer.
It's easy for writers to invest a lot of their raw emotions into their stories, and as-such it's sometimes easy for the writer to mistake critical eye at the work as a personal attack on them. Keep this in mind when delivering your critique.
I prefer to just have it laid out in front of me. I'm a big-boy; I can handle critique. I'm not some special-snowflake author that can't handle being told my story isn't the greatest gift to mankind. I'm treating my writing as a business, but not everyone does this.
Secondly, find good things to talk about! It's so easy to get in the weeds with all the things wrong, but don't forget to find the witty, endearing, and funny parts. Point out the brilliant world-building, descriptions, and plot points. This helps foster trust between you two and keep discouragement at a minimum.
This is why I recommend you join a writer's group so that you can get to know the other authors in the group. Everyone is going to respond to different things in different ways, and learning those by building trust is the best way to handle things.
In my own groups, (yes, I'm in two of them, plus a couple other groups that meet haphazardly,) I try to tailor my critiques for the individual. I know some can only handle a certain level of critique, and I don't ever want to be the cause of a writer to quit their craft in frustration…though I will have some things to talk about in this manner later…
Above all, remember we're all learning. We're all at different phases in life, writing, and publishing. Try to keep in mind these things while delivering your critique.