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Critiquing and Peer Editing

Whether you are critiquing poetry or fiction in a creative writing course, or peer editing argumentative essays for your college composition class, there are some universal ideas (in my opinion) that will help you make the most of the critiquing experience. 
 
What to look for in your peer’s writing: 
 
A poem uses imagery, stanzas, line breaks, subtext and other literary tools to paint a picture with words. Fiction uses paragraphs, dialog, subtext, metaphor, and other literary devices to tell a story. An essay uses a thesis, supporting evidence, and rhetorical devices to make an argument, explain a theory, or analyze a text. Each of these should be easy to understand and smooth to read aloud. However, each one has a very different audience that will affect what type of language you might use. 
 
Your job as a critic or peer editor is to help a fellow writer when their work does not yet fulfill above statements. 
 
When reading the writing, look to your syllabus if it is an essay. Does it include everything the professor requires? For instance, if it is a persuasive essay, does it make an arguable claim? Making a statement that can’t be argued (just stating a fact) doesn’t work! If it is an expository essay, it shouldn’t make an argument; it should state facts from science or history, for example.
 
Peer editing creative writing will be a little different.
 
When reading a poem or story look for:
-intriguing words and phrases 
-detailed descriptions (using as many senses as possible)
-emotions, depth and content
-word efficiency (short stories have word limits and so do some types of poems)
-engaging literary devices
 
Word craft is one of the key features of poetry and creative writing, but it has its place in academic writing as well! Good use of clever phrasing and word combinations is always desirable. Think of it like this: your words are like various colors of paint - you can use them creatively by mixing or blending them on your canvas to achieve a desired result.  
 
Detailed descriptions help put "meat" on the "bones" of a poem and make your essay more clear, especially if it is an expository essay or if the intended audience is expected not to know much about the topic. Well placed imagery and good descriptive language can transform a pair of stick figures into the Sistine Chapel ceiling.
 
Although word craft and descriptions are very important, a poem will connect better with readers when it's more than surface beauty. A poem with some dynamic and relatable meaning will be a stronger piece than one that's just a bunch of pretty words. In academic writing, this is where you bring rhetorical devices (ethos, logos, and pathos) into the essay to strengthen the argument or make the expository essay more meaningful to your audience. 
 
"Tightening up" a poem by eliminating words, phrases, lines or entire stanzas that don't add content, depth or meaning to the poem can add a lot of potency to the necessary words that are left. If you can paint a picture that's just as beautiful and emotive with one less bottle of paint, why not do it? In academic writing, you are often limited to a certain page or word count. If you waste too many of those words in a digression that doesn’t help your argument (or by writing a circular argument), your argument will be much less effective. 
 
Literary tools ("literary devices") like meter, rhyme, alliteration, metaphor and personification  can add both beauty and depth to your creative writing. Parallelism, allusion, simile, and anaphora can add interest and depth to your academic writing . These can be overused or underused, just like the rest of the above features. The trick is to find a balance between them! 
 
On to your suggestions: 
 
You can offer the writer suggestions and praise based on how successfully you think they met the required criteria (or the aforementioned criteria if the assignment was open-ended). This is not to say that this is a definitive list or absolute truth. These are my guidelines, written by a-most-certainly-fallible 23 year old. I'm still learning too! 
 
We can’t forget flow, spelling or grammar, now can we? A poem or essay that meets the above criteria could be chock-full of syntax errors or be terribly choppy and difficult to follow. You will want to read the poem or essay aloud whenever possible to help you check the flow of the piece and keep a dictionary or thesaurus (online options work well!) to help you as well. Remember, the workshop environment is not here for you to become someone’s personal spell-checker, but it doesn’t (or shouldn’t!) hurt to mention it if you notice a typo, especially if the writing is for a grade!
 
 
You can use proofreading marks like these (http://www.chicagomanualofstyle.org/tools_proof.html), write longer comments on the back or in the margins, highlighting, underlining, whatever feels best for you (on Neopoet you can use all kinds of spacing, symbols like arrows --> or the Advanced Formatting function, which I know I explained somewhere once upon a time). 
 
Don’t forget to talk with your peer when you are done and explain what you meant in your critique. Don’t forget to praise what they did well. Our successes give us the confidence and determination to fix our mistakes and improve ourselves! 
 
--
 
PS: I found all my old educational blogs for Neopoet. This is one of them and I will be sporadically adding the rest so as to not flood the stream. Hope this blog helps! I was but a wee lass of 18 years old when I wrote it.

Comments

We are actively trying to put together a resources section that your pieces and Ian's A-Z would form the initial body of. By all means continue to post these as blogs but when Andrew gives us the technical base and we find someone to commit to running it it will become, I think, an invaluable tool for poets.

Thank you so much for giving so much, you are the best we have.
AND DON'T FUCKING BURN OUT!
When you get dissatisfied, bored or frustrated let us know. We will do everything we possibly can to fix it.
Much love, gratitude and

cheers,
Jess
Neopoet Managing Directors, with Richard (themoonman)

I found them all! I just thought they had been aavwd under one Gmail account when they had actually been with the other. I logged in to it, and right in front of me was the Writing folder I had been looking for all along. I switch between the two all the time, don't know how I didn't notice.

Kels

Advocates Coordinator

Critique, don't comment.

To see our learning resources, click the "Curated Resources" link under the Resources tab in the top menu bar.

www.kelsey-burroughs.weebly.com

author comment

If you are in touch with Andrew about the Resources section at this time, I think a copy of the Idea Gallery or the Technical Forum should work just fine for the base. I checked them out today for the first time in a while, and I don't see why one of those formats or the other wouldn't be perfect. Just would need to restrict who can post and decide which categories to divide it into. I'm sure technically speaking that's not as easy as my words make it out to be, but I certainly don't want Andrew to feel like he has to reinvent the wheel.

Just as long as it has it's own spot on the top menu up beside the workshops and contests (make the least amount of clicks possible for people to get to it).

Kelsey

Advocates Coordinator

Critique, don't comment.

To see our learning resources, click the "Curated Resources" link under the Resources tab in the top menu bar.

www.kelsey-burroughs.weebly.com

author comment

"Just would need to restrict who can post", and a few other things, we've been there, talked about that. Apparently it's like putting an extra storey on a building, but not on top, in the middle.
I'll have another look and see if we can muddle on, I'd forgotten, Geezer volunteered to take it on, but if we lost everything when the Resources section proper went up it would be very dispiriting.

cheers,
Jess
Neopoet Managing Directors, with Richard (themoonman)

Since all the existing resources are either in blogs or technical forum posts, what if we made a tagging feature? It might not be perfect, but what if all the resources were just still made as blogs, wtih all the existing and future given tags? All resource blogs would need to be tagged as #resources and then the specific category.
Then the main Resources page would be the hub of all the organized tags for members to peruse on their own

Or instead of tags it might be the same function as the workshop drop-down menu in the poem submission. I may be wrong, but I thought only people added to the workshop by the moderator will see that workshop in their drop-down menu. If we used the workshop as the base, the moderators would be the people who compile and organize the Resources, no time limit, and only specific people can contribute, etc.

Maybe the rub there would be attaching the drop-down feature to blogs or making the workshop base look good for Resources. I don't know, maybe it would be fine as is, the comment space would be for people to give thanks, ask for new additions, or ask questions about existing resources. Maybe just hide the date, participants, and other unneeded parts and add in what we need.

Advocates Coordinator

Critique, don't comment.

To see our learning resources, click the "Curated Resources" link under the Resources tab in the top menu bar.

www.kelsey-burroughs.weebly.com

author comment

directly to Andrew. You have his Neopoet email address? If not I will PM it to you.

cheers,
Jess
Neopoet Managing Directors, with Richard (themoonman)

Has it ever changed? If not, I have it.

Kelsey

Advocates Coordinator

Critique, don't comment.

To see our learning resources, click the "Curated Resources" link under the Resources tab in the top menu bar.

www.kelsey-burroughs.weebly.com

author comment

He and I have talked about this before but it doesn't hurt to remind him of that or repeating information he has received before. He gets so many requests to do so many things on Neopoet it's amazing he can even keep the site running. Poor bugger. If I won Lotto one of the first things I would do is start a smear campaign to get him sacked from his job then hire him full-time for Neopoet. [grins]
May I offer a suggestion, and please don't be offended, try to be concise? You never waste words but remember his time is precious.

cheers,
Jess
Neopoet Managing Directors, with Richard (themoonman)

Yes, it needs to be put in context and yes, it needs to be concise.

cheers,
Jess
Neopoet Managing Directors, with Richard (themoonman)

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