Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Critiquing Using the 5 Things Method

Those of you reading this are probably wondering "What is the 5 things method?" The 5 things method is a method of critiquing that I have developed myself as both a writer and a reader. The purpose of this method is to find 5 things that you like or found that the writer has done well, and 5 things that you didn't like or found that were not done well.

So why would I develop such a method? This explanation goes along with my experience writing. I found it frustrating to read a review of my work in which the person did nothing but give me paragraph long explanations about what I needed to fix or what they didn't find favorable. If something positive was said, than it was a simple footnote, a line, of minute praise. Then there is the opposite when all I would get was praise, but not a note of what needed improvement. This method was developed by me to force myself to never slant myself too far in either direction.

Now, I know that there are limitations and bias that can still be shown by using this method. For example, sometimes a work will be absolutely atrocious (or phenomenal), and it will be difficult to find 5 things on either end to state. This is where the reviewer can get creative. If the writing is bad, find a name or a line of dialogue that you enjoy. If the writing is good, the same goes. Find something that you may not absolutely be in love with, and suggest a change or point it out. 

I know that liking of loving something is only the first stage of critique, so that brings me to the next point. Explain your choices. Even if  your explanation is something like, "It just seems awkward to me," go ahead and put it down. A simple explanation can be better than nothing. Depending on whose work is being critiqued, they may take a second look at what you have said even though it wasn't specific. You would be surprised at what makes people double take.

This method may still seem to be a little underdeveloped, but I can assure you that it works. Not only does it help the other person to improve on their own work, but it also assists you, the reviewer and reader, into spotting things besides grammatical and spelling errors as well as generalizations about plot and character development. When it is harder to fit a specification than you work harder to fill it.

Trust me, try it.