Online Writing Workshop for Science Fiction, Fantasy and Horror

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By author, SFFWA member, and original Del Rey workshop member Linda Dunn

There is only one real rule in critiquing: Under the right set of circumstances, everything I tell you can be wrong. Guidelines are a different animal, and here are some that I've gathered over the years from other workshops:

1. When you read a critique, remember it's the story, not the author, that's critiqued. The same rule holds true when writing a critique.

2. There is a simple method for determining if you should revise or not: If you would have done what the person suggested if you'd thought of it, do it. If it doesn't fit the view you have of where you want the story to go, say "thank you" and go on.

3. For more complicated cases of whether to revise, use the litmus test: If the majority of the people offering critiques cite the same problem, the problem is legit.

4. If a person proclaims himself/herself an expert on biology and informs you that the average person has one heart, not three, check the books and other sources to confirm. If two people proclaim themselves experts and claim the same thing, then you need to change the story.

5. Left fields happen. Critiques occasionally come from this area. Resist temptation and do not say, "Are you certain you read my story?"

6. Never engage in a battle of wit with an unarmed opponent.