Saturday, May 23, 2009

The Different Types of Critiquers

I am always grateful to anyone who offers to critique my work. But have you noticed the different types of critiquers out there?

Here's the ones I've found so far:

First are the Adoring Non-Critquers. These are your friends/family members/adoring fans who can't find anything wrong with your manuscript. These people are perfect for those days when you just need some ego-stroking, but they really aren't helpful at all when it comes to the actual manuscript.

Next are the Line Critiquers. These are the people who find my typos and tell me a period is missing on page 37 or I should have used an em-dash instead of parentheses on page 63. These people are most helpful when I have polished a manuscript and want someone to gloss over it right before I send if off on submissions. They usually are not at all helpful when I'm still working from a first draft. And sometimes I find these people annoying, because they will try to fix any and all grammical "errors," even if I have used the error on purpose for stylistic reasons. They only have eyes for the grammar. They are not at all concerned about the storytelling.

Third are the Research Critiquers. These are the people who check every single reference in your book to make sure they match. They are the ones who tell you on page 12 your MC has red hair but on page 94 the hair color has changed to brown. Or they are the ones that, for example, will tell you that your main character's father could not have been killed while driving a John Deere tractor because John Deere did not sell tractors until three years after the dad's death. These critiquers are concerned about the story only in its plausibility. These people are indespensible, but can also be truly annoying (only because they can unravel your well-constructed manuscript in seconds). I try to get my RCs to read my second draft, which is when the story is coherent but not polished. That way I haven't done a lot of work on something that may need to be changed because it isn't plausible.

Fourth, and by far the most valuable, are the Global Critiquers. These are the people who can see the whole picture and can point out where the story is dragging, or where the characters are a little flat, or where things get a bit muddled and need to be revised for clarity. They are the ones who focus on the storytelling. These are the people I trust with my first draft, and every draft thereafter. And, in my limited experience, this is where the professionals are.

And last, though I hate to mention them, are the Non-believers. These are the critiquers who can't find any redeeming value in your book, who think you are wasting your time, and who have nothing postive to say about your work. Luckily you can usually avoid these kinds of people, since they don't normally go around offering to critique manuscripts, but they are out there. They are bitter individuals and I recommend steering clear if you find one. And if you happen to get one, I'm really truly sorry.

Have I missed any? Let me know if you've found any other species of critiquers.


  1. Wow! So far I've had the Adoring Non-Critiquer, the Global Critiquer, and the Non-Believer (a coworker, ugh). Now I'm going to have to scare up the other two.

  2. Oh, I have more than enough Line Critiquers. I'd gladly share. But chances are if you have a Global Critiquer, that person doubles as a Line Critiquer (and sometimes as a Research Critiquer). The RCs are the hardest to find but the most interesting. My RC (I only have one really good one) and I get in huge arguments about who is right. I, of course, always lose (and that means my RC is doing her job well).