Learning the skill of critique in our po-mo (post modern) world is handier than a grave digger learning how to sharpen a shovel. Bitching and moaning has become a competitive sport and a matter of pride. Without spending more than a few seconds considering this statement, it’s the only thing that unites every generation from youngest to oldest.
But sadly, most people think genuine critique is as simple as farting his or her gut’s first-churnings onto paper or into the digital aethers. Not so. Today we will deal with the first rule of courteous critique:
Compliment someone, stupid!
Match your slash and burn with at least an equal amount of praise. This might sound one of two ways to you. If you’re a big teddy bear, this might sound obvious or even insufficient. To that I say, most of society’s woes are you’re fault, Mr. and Mrs. Never Spank!
This is critique we’re talking about after all. And when compliments get more than a few deep, they start to fester. How are naughty writers ever going to learn the difference between active and passive verbs if we as a community don’t take responsibility for each other. “You dangle another participle Mr., and I’ll spangle your hide!”
But, if you are more like me (a pedantic jerk), then matching compliment per complaint might sound like both an empty exercise and impossible task. To that I say, get over yourself and learn a new skill. You might even find you like it, you gnarled old pontificator! (I mean, what a wonderful sweater you’re wearing.)
Lastly, when applying the compliment per complaint technique in your critique, always remember to prime with compliment and finish with complaint. Compliments cover over all sorts of rough spots, moldy stains and greasy surfaces. When a writer is appropriately rubbed down with compliments, you’ll discover that your complaints tend to stick and have a much longer lasting effect.
Don’t worry. You can do it. I too am one of those people who sees all the glaring deficiencies first. But If I can learn to take a second look for the bright spots in a work, so can you.