This week I sent my first novel for a professional critique, a costly venture and Deborah Rickard, a writer from Bristol,, has asked if professional critiques are worth the cost.The short answer is yes. I retain my critique reports as a valuable reference library.

Although I will not have my novel critique for four to six weeks I have, in the past, purchased professional critiques on some of my short stories. The reports were detailed and helpful; all of them led to revisions and to success. All of them provided tools for becoming a better writer. 

Critiques by the Victorian Writers’ Centre (in Australia)

Commentary was offered on plot, language and style, pace, voice, character names, manuscript presentation, story length, synopsis, and readership and marketing possibilities.

'The Garramoda’, a short story of 2,300 words, is a fantasy piece and one of the character names I had chosen, was jarring the reader. I select names with care now and always read my stories aloud. I had been guilty of telling rather than showing. The assessor made suggestions on how to improve this and following revisions ‘The Garramoda’ was shortlisted for the Writers’ Village Best Writing 2009 Award.

           'Cry of The Plover’, a short story of 2,100 words, is a dramatic, emotionally charged piece and the motif I had chosen, the plover, had been repeated throughout the story, losing some of the weight it deserved. In other attempts to create dramatic imagery I had unwittingly become repetitive, expressing the same idea in different ways. Much was also noted regarding the plot.

           I learned to be sparing with story motifs, to be on guard for repetition and to show the reader rather than tell them. ‘Cry of the Plover’ was revised and was shortlisted for the Writers’ Village Best Writing 2009 Award. It has subsequently been published by Ether Books on the Ether App for iPhone.


Critique by Alison Laurent of Write Voice

          ‘Get Teddy’ is a dramatic, contemporary short story of 2,000 words. Alison’s critique covered all the topics the VWC covered in the two examples above but gave more detailed guidance on how to revise the story. Alison also commented on what she liked about it. Her view was balanced and informative.  The revised ‘Get Teddy’ was First Prize Winner in the Eastwood/Hills Literary Awards 2011 – Short Story Section.

Critiques with Competition Entries

            Some writing competitions offer critiques for only a small cost additional to the entry fee, or in rare cases for no additional cost at all. I recommend writers take advantage of these. Some are more detailed than others but all add to the writer’s skills and to a better understanding of how readers perceive our work. A few of these affordable critiques are listed below but this is by no means an exhaustive list.

WOW! Women on Writing
WOW! Run a quarterly flash fiction competition. Currently $10US in addition to the entry fee of $10US with purchase a critique of your story, issued after the judging of the competition.

The Stringy Bark Awards
The Stringy Bark Awards run a number of competitions throughout the year and currently offer feedback for $10AU additional to the entry fee.

Writer’s Village
Writer’s Village currently offers a free critique for every entry to its writing competition.

What's your experience with critiques?