Critiquing others’ work is hard. You have to walk a fine line between making sure you catch any errors that could be potentially damaging to their writing while not looking like a total asshole douchebag bitch.
That line is practically nonexistent when the writing is absolutely terrible.
I try to give people I’m not familiar with the benefit of the doubt. Maybe they’re new to writing. Maybe they’re young, maybe they haven’t learned all the rules yet, maybe they’re dyslexic…I don’t know. Still, there comes a point where you have to bear down and be an ass. You have to rip their work to shreds, because if they ever try to send it out to an editor or an agent or a publisher it will get ripped to shreds anyway.
At first, you feel horrible for making so many red marks on the paper (or, if using a word processing program, adding so many red comments in the margins). Then, you find yourself scrolling back up time and time again to verify that the plot hole you just noticed was not something you overlooked. Nope, it’s a plot hole. Scroll back down, add another comment.
This is also where being the Grammar Police is both a blessing and a curse. You see all the mistakes–so many mistakes–but you feel like a jerk for pointing out every single one, especially when it’s the same mistake over and over again. Still, if you don’t point out repeated mistakes and make suggestions on how to fix them, the writer may not see them and may continue to make said mistakes. Over and over again. The same goes for punctuation.
I read and critiqued some really terrible writing yesterday. Does it have the potential to be a good story? Well, I’ve only seen the first two chapters, so I’ll have to reserve judgment on that. As is, the story moves at too fast of a pace and is highly implausible even for a fictional story. I tried to be nice and tell the writer that even in fiction, the characters’ thoughts have to have some realism to them; otherwise, the readers aren’t going to get caught up in the story. Even in a fictional setting, the story has to make some kind of sense.
Hopefully I didn’t offend the person too much when they got my critique back in their inbox. That certainly wasn’t my intent. The whole point of the critiquing process is to make a work better, and you just can’t do that by pulling punches.