Critique Vs. Edit

Critique Versus Edit

Happy New Year, everyone! I know it has been a while since I’ve shared anything new with you, and that’s because I’ve had some exciting changes. I’m back on the editorial side of things again, where my heart lives, and where I can get my hands all wordy (and nerdy). You can find me at HeatherAlexanderEditorial.com for more information about that.

I have done critiques for many of you at conferences, retreats, and through KidLit College. And some of you have been wondering, what is the difference between a critique and an edit. Here is my attempt to explain.

A thoughtful critique will quickly help the author focus on the essentials of writing: Character, plot, pacing, dialogue, and any inconsistencies the reader comes across. A critique is an honest commentary on what is and isn’t working. It may offer a little feedback on how to improve, but doesn’t necessarily focus on the big, structural or thematic stuff.

An edit, however, takes the plunge. A good editor will go beyond the surface issues and offer suggestions when she can to improve the overall work. It will have margin notes to identify themes, help develop voice, pinpoint specific places that can be developed or eliminated, ways to reconstruct the plot, call out characters that might be superfluous, all accompanied by a big, fat letter to communicate all of these things.

Imagine it this way. You’ve just seen a movie with your best friend. On the way out of the theater, you both mention things you liked and didn’t like about the movie. The conversation may last until you’ve ordered dinner, but then you move on to other topics. That’s critique.

The edit is the 4 page New Yorker review of the same movie. (This analogy doesn’t totally hold up, since the author of the New Yorker review isn’t asking the filmmakers to revise, but in terms of depth of analysis, I think it’s pretty accurate.)

Or maybe it’s like House Hunters: Critique is when the couple is walking through a house, hating the countertops and cabinets, but loving the finished basement. Editing is when they begin tearing down walls to make the perfect home.