“Elements of Critique” Review

3.5 star rating

(cover image)

It’s important to understand what David Williamson’s short book is and what it is not. It is not, and readers should not expect it to be, a complete or exhaustive guide to how to effectively critique another writer’s work. It’s clear Williamson never intended it to be that.

Instead, the book is a collection of 26 slightly revised blog posts, plus three additional articles, that provide brief discussions of some critique topics and techniques. Because the original posts—running in alphabetical order from “Appearance” to “Zaftig”—were short, Williamson could only scratch the surface, touching on a few topics each time.

In general, he does a reasonable job with the space he has available. There are a few places where his suggestions miss the mark, however. In his chapter on point of view, he seems to be OK with head-hopping, that is, shifting from one point of view character to another within a scene or chapter without any sort of break, like a scene break. This goes against the general guidance for writers that there should be only one viewpoint character per scene.

In his chapter on verb tenses, he fails to address transitions into and out of flashbacks, where the verb tense must naturally shift.

Finally, in several chapters, Williamson inserts elements of his faith. This is inappropriate in a book that has nothing to do with religion or faith.

These problems pull what would have been a 4-star rating for its target audience down a half star (although most places where this review will be posted don’t allow half-star ratings).

Elements of Critique can serve as a basic introduction to critiquing for a writer who’s just getting started at it, but it is not appropriate for a more experienced critiquer.

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