I’ve signed up for a couple of online writing critique groups. I’m not ready to submit anything yet, but I thought it would be a good thing to try. It’s a lot more work than I thought it would be! If you think reading 5,000 words from someone else and writing a constructive criticism is easy, think again.
The hardest part is being positive while still being helpful. I’m well aware of how fragile a writer’s ego is, so it feels like walking on egg shells. You want to say, “Wow, this is the greatest thing I’ve ever read!” But, well, it’s usually not. There’s always something that can be improved (I know this from my own writing). But you can’t exactly say, “Wow, this is terrible. Don’t quit your day job.” Because that’s probably what they’re telling themselves.
So you have to find specific things to mention. Not just, “I didn’t like this part.” You have to say, “This part didn’t work for me because I don’t think it’s realistic for a watermelon to fit into a shoe.” Anyway, it gives one a new respect for editors. What a thankless job. :)