I enjoy reading the numerous questions via Yahoo Answers on the subject of books and writing. I wish the site offered areas dedicated to just writing, or at the very least, move all the Twilight fans to their own section, but instead, the questions on books, authors, and writing all get meshed into a long line of questions for all sorts of readers and writers.
I offer what I can in feedback for the writers offering a piece of their work for feedback. Unfortunately, too often I see other answers insisting their work is great, that they should get it published, and to finish the work. I say unfortunate because I can see the glaring mistakes of not just spelling and grammar, but sentence structure and primarily the complete lack of conflict to their story.
Almost immediately you realize the writing is from a teenager dreaming of becoming the next Stephanie Myers or JK Rowling. Giving a thumbs up to what they offer now does a huge disservice to a writer, when you’re given an opportunity to help them improve towards their goal.
I’m not brutal. I don’t bring out the red pen to slash their dreams into a messy puddle. I most certainly do not tell them they are terrible writers. Instead, I offer constructive criticism to help them understand what makes a story and how they adjust their style to accommodate that.
Whenever giving feedback on a piece of writing, consider the following:
Characters– Can you see them clearly in your head? Do they seem real to you? Are their personalities illustrated through manner and description? Are they well rounded, having both flaws and goals to achieve?
Conflict– Every story must have a conflict. Is the conflict foreshadowed or revealed in the piece of writing? Can you guess, already, what the character must do in order to resolve the conflict?
Style of writing- Does the author have a unique Voice to their writing, such as colorful, dry, concise, or uses metaphor? Are they clear without being boring? Is the writing too heavy with descriptive words? Should there be more, or less, of a style?
Grammar and punctuation- I’m surprised how often I see glaring mistakes in writing, even my own, that writers tend to overlook. Don’t hold back when critiquing writing that shows many mistakes. A good writer needs to understand to capitalize, use periods, spell correctly, and form proper sentences, otherwise its too difficult to read.
Do not be cruel, but also don’t hold back to give praise and constructive criticism. Remember, your critique can provide valuable tips to the writer to improve and thereby achieve their goals.