Pretend you are the judge of a contest. You will choose 1st, 2nd, and 3rd place of your favorite books or stories of all time. What ARE your favorite books/stories?
First, you’ll have to re-read them. As you read them, write notes to yourself. What kind of notes?
What do you love about this story? Be specific. What grabs you? What holds you and doesn’t let you go? Does the author do a great job with word choice, setting, character or suspense? Make you laugh? Let you feel like you are the character?
Along with what you love, you must be honest and realize there may be something the author might be missing. What does the story lack? Anything? Or is it almost perfect? What could be better?
After you’ve read your stories and made your notes, it’s time to evaluate.
Which story stands out as the best? You don’t know? They all are great? Re-read your notes. Does that help? If not, you’ll have to read your stories again or ask for another judge’s opinion. You’ll need to discuss your notes with the other judge. You may debate!
This is similar to what we do as judges in the California Young Writers Contest. Trust me, it isn’t easy. When you are faced with a stack of terrific writing, it’s tough choosing only three.
The process continues.
And as you read for pleasure, practice your critiquing skills. These will help you grow as a writer so that you’ll be able to critique your own work better. You will grow as a writer too.