*Start with the story’s strengths and then move on to what is not working. If you are struggling to find a strength, consider what parts of the story could become strengths with some revision. If you are struggling to find a weakness, consider if you are reading closely enough.
* Try to avoid using “I liked” or “I didn’t like.” Point to concrete examples in the work to make your point, and explain what the piece gains or loses. Focus on elements such as character, conflict, point of view, pacing, setting, imagery, etc. Did the piece keep you engaged? Did you understand the characters’ motivations? Could certains lines and/or plot points be strengthened? Were you left with questions? Were you ever pulled out of the story?
* Don’t rewrite someone’s piece. Suggestions as to how to improve a piece are encouraged, based on the story the writer is trying to tell. For example, if you do not enjoy sports stories, telling the writer to write about a murder instead is not helpful. What would be helpful are comments on character and plot development, story structure, etc.