Tag Archives: critique

Giving Feedback On Creative Projects

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1. The SKS Model

What should I stop doing?

What should I keep doing?

What should I start doing?

(no more than 3 bullet points under each)


2. The ‘Strictly Objective’ Critique Partner

I’m not sure there’s any such thing as ‘strictly objective’ when it comes to assessing creative work, but I think these questions might be good for coming somewhere close:

The SOCP doesn’t give you opinions about your story and how it could be improved. He or she doesn’t even point out weak areas. All he or she does is tell you what you have. The SOCP just finishes these sentences:

“The main conflict of your story is…”
“A basic summary of your story is…”
“At its core, your story is really about…”
“The major characters of your story are…”

Read more about this technique at YA Highway. Because sometimes it’s worth finding out if readers understand what you’re writing about let alone absorb its nuances, figurative language and its profound impact on society.


It can be argued that there are only four questions you need to ask yourself when learning something new.

  • What have you done?
  • Why?
  • What might you do differently next time?
  • What must you do now?

These same questions can be applied to your own creative projects.


In his book Making Ideas Happen, Scott Belsky explains that Walt Disney was a very enthusiastic creative person, but he knew how to put his abundance of wacky ideas to the test. Making use of Disney’s technique might be helpful at the idea generation stage of a project, though I can see potential for it to be used at later stages, too. As Belksy recounts it, Disney made use of three different rooms. Of course, Disney had the luxury of lots of actual rooms. The rooms we use may be metaphorical instead:

ROOM ONE: Brainstorming

  • Rampant idea generation allowed
  • No restraints
  • No doubts expressed

ROOM TWO: Aggregation

  • Crazy ideas aggregated
  • Storyboard produced
  • General sketches of characters

ROOM THREE: ‘The Sweat Box’

  • The project is critically reviewed.
  • Entire creative team is involved.
  • Criticism is never directed at one person, since the project has already been changed up in the process of aggregation.
While it’s not at all uncommon to make use of the brainstorming session followed by a critical analysis, I think it’s important to implement step two. This may make the difference between a successful project and an unsuccessful; between validated team members and those who feel resentful after their ideas are immediately scuppered.

Also Worth A Thought:

Do you get ‘annual performance’ reviews? Are they useful to you?

After believing in annual reviews for most of my career, I don’t really believe in them anymore. Not timely enough, demoralizing in general (everyone thinks they’re above average), and just a hell of a lot of work for everyone.

– from a Quora comment thread answering the question: ‘How should startups handle performance reviews?’

Do you know of any other models for giving and receiving critique? Do you think critique is always necessary?


You won’t benefit from anonymous criticism from Seth Godin

8 Urban Myths To Squelch During Story Critiques from PV

http://stevelaube.com/how-many-critiques-spoil-the-broth/? from Steve Laube

Various ideas for critiquing a work of art

Critiquing A Story You Don’t Like

In writing groups there seem to be two schools of thought on this issue:

1. Since critiquing is good for the critiquer, and since any critique is better than no critique (for the writer of a piece), all members of a writing group should offer opinion on anything served by another.

2. There are some genres, storylines and themes that an individual could never like, no matter how well done, and asking that individual to like a work in progress is a hopeless exercise, because a critique from this person can have nothing of value to offer the writer.

Ecology offers some useful terminology to describe such relationships:

MUTUALISTS — organisms which both benefit from and benefit us

COMMENSALS — benefit from us but don’t otherwise affect us

PATHOGENS — benefit from us at our expense

Naturally, we’re aiming for a mutualist arrangement in our writing groups, or commensal at the least. But when someone is critiquing our work, despite the fact  they know they don’t like the genre, or can’t be doing with foul language, or don’t abide religious stories… or whatever… sometimes we need to ask what benefit they are taking by offering their heavy criticism. Perhaps they are critiquing to an audience; perhaps they are finding catharsis in complaint; perhaps they use critique as a way to wind down after a bad day.

I used to belong to the first school of thought — critique everything — but am now more inclined to go for the second. I’ve simply not received useful critique from people who did not like the sort of thing I write.

There is a caveat, however:

Providing the reader is engaged (ie. that their eyes haven’t entirely glazed over) there are still some surface-level comments which can be offered by a critiquer who doesn’t like the genre/plot/theme in question:

1. line edits (spelling, punctuation, formatting errors)

2. contradictions

3. repetitions

4. errors of logic

5. factual errors

and anything else of that nature.

That’s why I think that if you’re critiquing a genre that you have never really liked in the past, it pays to say so. As a disclaimer, not as part of a larger rant.


Mark Twain On Assembling A Critique Group

Critique Groups Must Die from The Red Pen Of Doom

If you can’t be bothered interacting with people, there’s always the automated critique. I haven’t used it, so I can’t guarantee that it’s the slightest bit better than spell check in Word.

Whose advice to listen to?

from Mark Twain

Related Link: Some advice on advice.