Critiquing Guidelines via Edie Hemingway

I blogged recently about the value of receiving critiques as a writer. I then fortunately received the following guidelines from co-Regional Advisor of the Maryland-Delaware-West Virginia Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators, Edie Hemingway, on giving critiques. Edie graciously agreed to let me share these tips in my blog as a follow-up to my last post.

In Edie’s words, “I put these together when I started teaching my own workshops, based on my experiences ‘workshopping’ during my MFA program at Spalding University. I’ll also be using them for the online course I’m teaching this summer for McDaniel College’s graduate certificate program in Writing for Children and Young Adults.”

Edie Hemingway is the author of Road to Tater Hill
(Delacorte Press and Yearling paperback), winner of a 2009 Parents’ Choice Gold Award, and besides writing, teaches several writing workshops. If you’d like to find out more about her and her programs, she can be reached at

This is a great list for those who belong to a critique group or plan on joining one. As Edie suggests, these are also useful during the revision process.


(And for revising your own work)

  1. First, read the work as a “reader”—for the story (or content) itself and for your first impression. What questions do you have?
  2. Go back and read again as a “writer.” Look at the different craft elements the writer has used.
  3. Mark the areas you really like—maybe a particular description, natural dialogue, believable characters, etc.
  4. Are the basic writing skills—grammar, sentence structure, spelling, etc.—correct?
  5. Does the dialogue sound natural? Does it flow? Are there unnecessary words that don’t add to the story?
  6. Are the characters believable? True to their ages, time, and setting?
  7. Does it have a clear setting? Neutral? Specific in time, place, atmosphere? Does it have an emotional setting?
  8. Are the verbs active? Is there too frequent use of helping verbs, such as am, is, are, was?
  9. Are there echoes of specific words (overused) throughout the piece?
  10. Does the author overuse “qualifying” words, such as just, only, maybe, sometimes, etc.?
  11. If the work is fictional, does the plot make sense? Do the scenes drive the plot forward? Is there a climax and resolution?
  12. From what point of view (POV) is the story written? First person? Third person? Is the POV consistent, or does it change back and forth without notice? If the reader is in one character’s head, other characters can show their thoughts only through action and/or dialogue.
  13. When it’s your turn to critique, always start with something positive. What is it that you particularly liked about the work?
  14. Be tactful, but be honest and specific when giving constructive criticism or suggestions. Example: “I notice that there is a change of POV here. Was that intentional?” “I notice frequent use of adverbs. Maybe you could try using stronger verbs, instead.”

*If you, as the author, do not agree with a suggestion, a safe thing to say is, “I’ll think about that.” It’s good to be open to constructive feedback, but remember, this is your work, and you have the final say about revisions!

Thank you, Edie, for sharing your work!


  1. I take all critiques with a grain of salt and I try to use them to make my seorits and writing better.When someone sends me an email saying how great a story was, I always write back and ask about what they didn’t like lol.When someone points out a mistake or something I didn’t do particularly well, I take what they have said and analyze it. Are they right? Often, they are. Sometimes, they are not. Either way, I thank them.My favorite critique came from someone who declared, You know I don’t like you, but I have to say that your book is good. That’s about the highest praise I have ever received and was one instance where I was able to believe the praise without reservation. The thing is .no one opinion counts. A collection of opinions from different people is probably more accurate. If a bunch of people say something is good or bad, it probably is.Learning to take praise properly is just as important as learning to take criticism. We’re all working on those things I think.Splitter

    • Thank you, Splitter, for your excellent comment. I agree that it’s best to listen to both positive AND negative, even if one is harder to hear than the other. Your point is also well taken that a collection of opinions means more. I would encourage people not to stop listening at the first good or bad thoughts. Appreciate you taking the time to share. -Valerie

  2. New blog posting, Critiquing Guidelines via Edie Hemingway – #amwriting #critiques #SCBWI