Let's say you've found a critique group. How, exactly, do you critique the work of other writers? I have some suggestions...
- Generally, it's better to address comments to "the author" rather than "you". In other words separate the author from the work's characters, narrators, etc.
- Always be specific rather than vague. "I liked this." is less helpful than "The main character here was sympathetic and funny." To help with specificity, focus on writerly concepts such as dialogue, characterization, descriptions, similes, metaphors, plotting, word choice, etc.
- Begin with positive comments before getting into constructive criticism. This is psychology 101: if you're negative right off the bat, fellow writers will raise barriers and become defensive.
- Note any confusion or problems you have with the piece, and, if possible, give specific suggestions for improvement.
- Tell the writer what made you curious, what questions were raised, what you want to know in the future. (But don't expect to get answers right away--authors need to stay quiet during critique.)
- Comment on the words on the page in front of you. Do not comment on what you think it means, or what you think the author meant, or what your personal opinions are on the subject.
- Feel free to suggest a craft book or novel that you think would help the writer.
- Write your comments on spelling, grammar, etc. on the document. You don't need to go over them verbally during critique group unless the writer has a particular pattern.
- Try not to verbally repeat points that others have made. Feel free to mark on the manuscript if you agree or disagree with comments of other critiquers.
- Generally, you don't want to comment on what is written; rather, focus on how it's written. All fiction involves some kind of suspension of disbelief.
- If you are unfamiliar with the genre in question, feel free to say so and refrain from comment.
- End on a positive note. It is a brave act to submit your work for critique.
- Your suggestion here.