By Erica Verrillo on Published to Death site:
Like any other art form, writing is essentially a solitary pursuit. However, the end product can be greatly enhanced by feedback. For a writer, getting critiques is an essential part of the writing process.
Critiquing can be considered an art form unto itself. In order to write a good critique, you have to understand the elements of fiction: characterization, character development, plot, story structure, pacing, conflict, descriptive writing, scene structure.
There are also larger editorial considerations, such as whether the characters’ motivations make sense, if plot points seem natural or contrived, and if the internal logic is consistent.
There are no hard and fast rules for any of these things (and it would be a mistake to utilize a checklist of “writing rules,” because the best writing ignores them), but simply keep these points in mind when something makes your “eyes stop.” If you are tempted to stop reading, it’s usually because the author has hit a snag. It’s up to the person writing the critique to figure out exactly what that snag is.
The object of the critique is not simply to point out flaws, but to suggest how those flaws can be addressed. The whole purpose of a critique is to make a work better, and to bring out the best in the writing, not drag it down.
Here are some critique groups that have been of benefit to both aspiring and professional authors. Several have been in existence for over twenty years, which means they have earned the trust of writers.