The following questions are part of the Critique Gold Form used at SCBWI Conferences when we ask industry professionals–editors, agents, and PAL writers–to provide written critiques.
1) What are the positive aspects of this work?
– Plot arc / story line clear?
– Character arc: goals, motivations, and conflicts clearly revealed and
– Satisfying ending, all conflicts satisfactorily resolved or explained?
– Free of unimportant details and unanswered questions?
– Correct common format: present tense, third person?
3) Opening Scenes
– Does author give a sense of setting, time, and place, setting the tone of the
story without intrusive detail?
– Story begins with an interesting hook?
– Story begins in the correct place?
– Good introduction of the protagonist and his/her goals, motivations &
4) Plot (within Manuscript) and Pacing
– Plausible, unique, avoid clichés/common story lines?
– Compelling events, enough conflict (internal and external) to sustain the
– Forward movement of main plot?
– Use of hooks?
– No overuse of backstory?
– Sequencing: presented in easy-to-follow order, appropriate to story and age
– Show vs. Tell?
– Clear POV at all times – Appropriate POV for scene/story?
– Effective character development
– Distinguishable characters
– Believable, multidimensional, appropriate, not cliché/interesting flaws
– Sympathetic, interesting? Would you root for them? Know what motivates
– Understandable motivations?
– Secondary characters developed, well defined, necessary, and non-
– Necessary to story/scene, effective balance between narrative and
– Believable, read naturally, for the time, and reveal the voices of the
– Mimicking a child/teenager’s POV & dialogue?
– Proper use of tags
– Reveal characterization, move the story and/or relationships forward
– Effective use of these components, enough/too much sensory details
– Sentence structure, punctuation, grammar, typos?
– Children, Middle Grade, YA Elements?
– Written at level of intended audience (language, sentence structure and
– Story, content and plot, age-appropriate? Would a child/teen really care
about the conflict?
– Does the protagonist succeed or fail as a result of his/her own efforts,
without the interference or safety net of an adult?
– Are the main characters children/teens with adult characters relegated to
(Kind thanks to SCBWI Carolinas for giving us permission to share this with CenCal members.)