Tip#1If you’re unsure, google it. If you’re pretty sure, google it.
There’s nothing worse that offering bad advice based on your own mistakes. Actually there is: finding out a week later when another critic corrects you. If you’re unsure, it’s best to either admit you’re uncertain or look it up – learn for next time so that your advice is the one to trust.
Tip#2Think of it as an opportunity to learn.
We often don’t realise our blind spots until it comes to critiquing others. Don’t think of it as a chore or something that means you’ll get fewer reads, think of it as a way of practicing before editing your own work.
Tip#3Work out why you don’t like something they’ve done.
‘That bit could be better’ isn’t really helpful. The writer will most likely ignore you because they don’t know what to do with that comment. If you try to point out exactly what it wrong with the sentence (e.g. repetition of the word ‘caramel’ sounds funny) then not only are you more helpful, but it could help you become more aware of your own errors.
Tip#4Respect what the writer is trying to achieve.
Maybe that simile sounds stupid to you, but then if it sounds terrible, why would they do it? It’s often because they’re focusing on something else. A simile about being as strong as a tiger might sound cliché, but maybe it’s because they’re trying to build up the image of being a jungle warrior. Instead of telling them to delete the line, you may decide to tell them to cater for the specific reason you didn’t like it and still achieve the intended effect. If a writer feels you understand their writing, they’re more likely to listen and respect you.
Tip#5Critique at their level.
If the writer is unable to use basic punctuation, then it’s probably better not to lecture them about character development. The idea isn’t to rip someone’s work apart if they don’t have the tools to glue it back together. This leads well into my next point:
Tip#6Dilute your evilness with a few niceties.
Lots of critics boast about being ‘harsh’, which I don’t agree with at all. Don’t be harsh; be fair. It’s very easy to pick out flaws if you’re looking for them (even in published books). Instead, inspire them to write by picking out a few strengths too. After all, your intentions should never be to beat their spirit to the ground, even if they’ve just done that to you.
Hope these are helpful in some way. Happy critiquing!