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Jan
18
2015

A Critique On Critics -- by Jessica Salmonson

A few thoughts:

How an author words their critique is very important. Just like how only the right word in your book will do, the same applies with a critique. If a critic doesn't choose their words carefully and focus on the work itself, than everything they say will be ignored. Emotions tie heavily into writing and this fact cannot be ignored when offering up a critique. Being brutal isn't being kind or helpful it's another word for cruel. People seem a little mixed up lately, with going on about given harsh critics for the authors' own good. I think that saying is backwards don't you? So for who's own good is it for? Or rather who feels better, at what end of the critique? Wishing to help others is commendable, however it must stem from kindness.

What rolls off one person back with ease, another will take it personally. A critic's job is to focus on the work itself, not the anthers faults. The best way to have all of your helpful advice ignored, is by only focusing on the mistakes that the author is making and pointing them out. What I mean is, that the critic is making it feel personal to the author. Saying such things as "You need to, I think that.." No. Focus on the book/story/chapter it self. Grammatical errors, spelling errors, fragmented sentences. Other errors like these that you spot, great it's good to spot those, but that doesn't make one a critic, when someone checks for those they are line editing.

When a critic unprofessionally is [i]attacking[/i] the author's choice of story type, plot line, and writing style. I would say this occurs more out of the critic being "green" as a writer themselves. And example would be, a critic really hates first person point of view and will go into one of these stories ripping apart the author for using too many I's. Or the critic decides that they hate anything that are not short crisp sentences, and anyone that doesn't have a writing style like they do, has to be wrong. So is in need of fixing. See? Those are just examples mind you, try to remember one style of writing is not the only one, and they all are valid.

A good critic should never let their ego decide how they critique. Avoid using "I would not use that word" Then pull back for a moment. The authors' word choice, unless it is jarrings out-of-place, then that word they chose for a reason. That reason cannot be seen fully until you have read the whole book. What if that word, that sentence, paragraph, chapter, will make perfect sense later on? You can't know this until the book is finished. Again keep your opinions out of it, they are counting on you for an unbiased critique, give it to them. It is pure arrogance to try to force an author to use your writing voice, check that critique once more. Is that a helpful advice or just your personal preference?

The author will decide the story's meaning, and, of a story's[i] intent.[/i] Don't tell an author what their work is "supposed" to mean. When reading an author's work, it's crucial to take into account its genre, along with its intended audience. it's tasteless to harshly judge an author's book simply because you don't like the genre. Focus on the story. Is the plot, characters, and verb choice appropriate? The author is counting on you to tell them why or why not and to do this in detail. Anything otherwise may as well be a line edit. If you simply can not get over your distaste for a type of book, then continuing to critique, it will only harm the author as your perspective of the book is colored.

Keep this professional as you are able, avoid using the words, 'you, I like, I don't like, This is bad, this is good,' The reasoning behind this is that, by saying "you", (or any of the other examples) at any time in your critique you are now drowning your invaluable critique with personal opinions, and  preferences. This causes the author to feel like they and their skills are under attack. It's far better to start with: “This works because, this doesn’t work because"…you don't have to use that exact wording, that's just an example. The authors you are giving a critique deserve to have an explanation of why something in the story is working, based on facts, the same thing applies for when something isn't working, and what is causing this.

A good critic explains them selves and strives for clarity in all that they say. When offering ways to do something better, backed up with a solid reason why based on actual writing rules and explained in a straightforward way. The logic of this will be clear.
 

I personally love the critics here, most of you are so helpful and are my teachers.:) I thank you for this. I wish to become a better author and a better critic. This blog doesn't just come from a critique I wasn't happy with it also comes from wanting to also improve as a critic.

Posted by Jessica Salmonson 18 Jan 2015 at 03:43
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Responses to this blog

Mikew 18 Jan 2015 at 12:09  
Thanks for this post. I certainly think we should be talking about what to expect and what not to expect, as both critics and writers, from CC, and this is a good start. Particularly in the newbie queue, I think it's important to be delicate and encouraging. Pointing out what you DO like will be enough here.
If you are going to criticize, like asking for more showing v. telling, pointing out hollow characters, etc., help them to understand exactly what you mean and provide an example of how it could be done.
On the other hand, as writers, let's not expect everything to be simply telling you how awesome you are. My skin is thicker because it has scarred over, and it is a good thing. Personally, I would rather have someone who takes the time to tell me what's not working and some idea's how to fix it than a fluffed over crit more interested in gaining a credit to post their own work. One way you can overcome the inherent distaste for criticism is by posing it in a question form. "Who am I supposed to be rooting for in this and why should I?" "What is the protagonist's goal and obstacle?" It's constructive criticism, with a heavy emphasis on constructive, but we still have to be prepared to have it evaluated and in fact judged.
My last point is how important it is to respond to your critters. If you only thank them for their time you've met the bare requirements, but if you give them feedback on their crit it's far more useful and will help them to evolve as a critter. Your response, "You crushed my soul" will be as just as bitter as their soul crushing crit if you don't point out where and why your feeling got hurt. Of course, pointing out where they helped you will also encourage them to continue that type of critique.
Most importantly, keep in mind most of us are unpublished writers offering opinions, and ultimately it's up to the writer to take what is helpful and discard the rest and keep on writing. Good luck!
Nainy 18 Jan 2015 at 23:09  
I honestly disagree with half the points you're making here, if not more. I won't argue, though.
Kam 19 Jan 2015 at 01:19  
I wish there was a 'like' button so I could click on Nainy's post and move on...
Mikew 19 Jan 2015 at 08:55  
Thanks Nainy and Kam, I've learned a lot from your posts and look forward to doing a better job in the future based on the information you've presented here. Great job!
Nainy 19 Jan 2015 at 11:40  
I'm useless.
Aheila 19 Jan 2015 at 19:55  
I also disagree with half of the points made in this blog.

The art of writing is in knowing the rules and when/how to break them. Ultimately, there's no such thing as a golden way to write a good story. A wide variety of factors work together to make that happen, and a significant chunk of said factors relate to emotion, taste/style and understanding (which, as anyone who's studied human communication a little can tell you, depends on a lot of things personal to the writer and the reader).

So whether we like it or not, anything that isn't a line edit ("Grammatical errors, spelling errors, fragmented sentences," as you say) will be subjective.

A sentence that I love may annoy someone else, and we could both have valid theories to back up our opinion. A character's motivation won't seem believable, and there may not be facts to back up the feeling that the writer failed to make me care.

Critiques on world building, character motivations, character arcs are often not measurable. But if the critter "doesn't get it", I, the writer, didn't show it properly. It doesn't matter if it was an intentional choice to set up something later; if the reader puts the book down at that point, he'll never get to the "later".

That being said, I do agree that critters need to take the writer's style into account and not try to impose a different POV/genre/voice/whatnot. I also think it's extremely important not to be rude. Writers put their heart and soul into stories, and that deserves respect. On the other end, there isn't a thousand ways for a critter to say something is broken (and get that point across) and writers need to check their ego at the door before reading critiques.

One last thing, I wrote this comment using the same dichotomy you used, but, of all the things you said, it's the part I disagree with the most. It's the wrong mindset for both the writer and the critter, and makes it way too easy for both of them to shift the blame to the other in the critique process.

A critique has to be a partnership. It's not about who of the writer or the critique is right; it's about what serves the story the best. When we're in the mindset of a team effort, there's no reason for the writer to feel personally attacked and there's no motive for the critter to be inconsiderate. We're both accountable for making the critique constructive.
Rhodes 19 Jan 2015 at 20:47  
The biggest pet peeve I have regarding critiques is the mentality that rules are set in stone and should not be crossed. "You shouldn't do XYZ because that's just not how we do things in the writing world" never struck me as useful.

That said, we're working with a subjective medium here, and much of our critique will be based on a subjective view of what does and does not work. That's exactly why "rules" are really guidelines at best, but it also doesn't invalidate "I don't like XYZ because..." or "this isn't working for me."

The important part is to remember that these are opinions at the core and not to take them too seriously. If one person is telling you your character feels flat or your plot is nonsense, you may not have a problem. It's when five people tell you the same thing that you may want to consider tweaking.
Nainy 19 Jan 2015 at 21:38  
Quote by: Aheila
But if the critter "doesn't get it", I, the writer, didn't show it properly.

That's not always the case.

I do agree with the things you said, though. That'd be my argumentation, too.
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Aheila 20 Jan 2015 at 00:11  
Nainy, I agree with your point. It will happen that an important piece of information that is clearly stated escaped a critter while the majority of critters gets it. Like Rhodes said, when the numbers start stacking up on a issue, that's more of a must fix while the outliers in the data are more of a judgement call for the writer.

Nevertheless, when a critter didn't get something, my first line of thought is always "am I sure I showed this properly?" as opposed to "is s/he not paying attention?" It doesn't hurt my story to double-check, but it could hurt not to do so.
Coralb 20 Jan 2015 at 01:23  
Great topic to bring up for discussion. I think of a critique as a favor I requested, so I try not to get annoyed or put rules on what I can or can't be told (tempting as it is sometimes!) On a forum that uses a token system, it does go both ways in that everyone has to critique. However, as a critiquer, I choose writers to help who seem appreciative of the time and effort rather than the ones who complain, and I'm sure others feel the same. So if we're talking about saying something back to critiquers over their comments on our work, I wouldn't.

The critique etiquette I've always heard and followed is that unless a critique is outright abusive, the professional response is to simply say "Thank you" and move on. The writer is at all times free to use or discard any advice so there's really nothing to argue about. Also, the writer requested a critique, the critiquer did not.

When the goal is getting published, writers need to develop thick skin anyway because once your (general "your" here) work is published, you will get harsh, smug, unfair, inaccurate comments and they won't be behind a password with just a small group of other writers. They'll be out there in public for everyone to see, and when it's too late to have the option to change anything.

So what I have to add is that while I do agree with many of the points in the blog post, I think it's also most beneficial for newer writers to strive to take what helps from critiques not bother about what doesn't.
Luca 20 Jan 2015 at 09:27  
Excellent response, Coralb.

I would also just add that, for me, i would personally love to

Focus on the book/story/chapter it self.
in every critique. But, 90% of the time, the writing itself stops me. I read a lot, you see (shocker!), so i have a lot of highly polished, published material to compare against. Bad writing will stop me concentrating on the larger picture within a chapter. I've enjoyed some brilliantly written stories on CC, don't get me wrong, but they have been few and far between. Most of the time, i'm critiquing delivery, not story.

Before you start laughing at my ramshackle house of glass: most of my critique feedback is on grammar, badly written lines, paragraphs of cr*ppy info dump. Basic errors that i should know to avoid and cringe when i read back. And you know what? I expect and want that level of feedback, because CC is a good forum for that type of critique. If they're critiquing at that level then i didn't do that stuff well enough. I suppose that's why drafts were invented.

Personally, i don't think (using the forbidden phrase!) that CC is a very good place to get good feedback on The Book. Unless you set up a private queue for your own personal critiquing angels.

Ooh, last minute thought! You could choose not to have inline critiques? The others i think specify chapter level feedback?
Bethanne80 21 Jan 2015 at 17:26  
Quote by: Luca
90% of the time, the writing itself stops me. I read a lot, you see (shocker!), so i have a lot of highly polished, published material to compare against. Bad writing will stop me concentrating on the larger picture within a chapter. I've enjoyed some brilliantly written stories on CC, don't get me wrong, but they have been few and far between. Most of the time, i'm critiquing delivery, not story.



I agree whole-heartedly. I still try to focus on overall things I like / dislike about the story and characters, but honestly, if you don't know how to use a comma, I will give you a lecture on that instead of on your plot. It's hard to focus on the story when you are searching for the next comma error.

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Darkocean 21 Jan 2015 at 19:56  
That is very true Mikew. This blog is just a guide more or less.
Darkocean 21 Jan 2015 at 20:00  
Aheila, No blame for anyone is intended I tried to make what was said clear in that I Believe cridics can and should point out flaws, but with a less accusatory tone. Mainly I find that kind of an attitude else where and not in here. Critics and writers need to not take things personalty and be more willing to listen to each other. Otherwise nobody wins.
Darkocean 21 Jan 2015 at 20:03  
Rhodes I think what they mean when they start quoting about writing rules is that you have to know them, be a master at them before they can be broken.


It's when five people tell you the same thing that you may want to consider tweaking.
Yes. -nods- I tend to do that after two or three. By that time I can see what they are talking about, expectantly when someone explains things in a why I can understand.
Darkocean 21 Jan 2015 at 20:08  
Coralb Thanks I like seeing both sides of the board here and peoples opinions on this. I think it's something that is somewhat ignored.


Also, the writer requested a critique, the critiquer did not.
Yes, this is true. Make no mistake I'm always grate full to anyone that takes time out of their day to help.


Darkocean 21 Jan 2015 at 20:10  
Bethanne80

if you don't know how to use a comma, I will give you a lecture on that instead of on your plot.
That in it self is not a bad thing. The writer; in my experience can become so frustrated with misplaced commas being pointed out, that they try much harder so the commas are no longer an issue with cridics.
Arunser 22 Jan 2015 at 08:22  
This blog is great and very well thought out. Sure does make you think about how to critique and how not
Margotg 22 Jan 2015 at 09:19  
I'm a newbie. My friends and family all give me wonderful, cheerful, glowing praise. Pleasant to hear but not helpful.

I came to this group for honest and pointed feedback. Perhaps I've just been lucky, but the crits I've received so far have been incredibly helpful. Some crits were worded more kindly, some were quite terse. Regardless, I found each of them useful. I'd like to publish a story someday. In order to do that, I need to understand what is working and what needs fixing and why. My experience so far is that people here are incredibly thoughtful and generous with their feedback. I try to give the same thing back. Kind or curt, bring it.
Medgib 22 Jan 2015 at 10:47  
I would have to agree with some of the others here and argue some points. I think much of the blog gets it wrong. Yes, it is important to choose your words wisely. Iíll admit that Iíve been know to cringe after I hit the send button, wishing Iíd been a little less direct. However, my score is high on the ďwas the critique worded in a constructive mannerĒ.

First off, I love getting line edits. It isnít the only thing I want, but it certainly has its merits. If someone can point out glaring errors in grammar, punctuation or spelling, it saves me a lot of embarrassment from realizing it after Iíve sent it off to a publisher. There is nothing wrong with line edits. We could ALL use them. ahem.

Iím not real sure what you mean by not saying: I think that...or, I would not use that word. Personally I think that IS the wording we should be using. It is what we think, not written in stone. Not a something that has to be changed, but to be looked at. What you donít say is: change that word, or this doesnít work.

Some, if not everyone, will disagree, but I think that sometimes there is some benefit in a little vagueness. I think it can make you learn to evaluate your own writing rather than someone tell you point by point. A good example is that I recently had a critique that said I was ďtellingĒ too much. Not that there isnít a place for it, but it wasnít what Iíd intended. After I took a breath and walked away from it I went back through and took a hard look. Sure enough, there were parts that I needed to change and I learned it much more by seeking it on my own than it being pointed out line by line, and I think Iíll be a better writer because of it.

Chances are, if you are lucky enough to get a note from an editor about your work they arenít going to be specific, it will be general comment for you to figure out what they meant and how to fix it. Iím not saying critiques should be vague, we need detail. Itís about learning. But sometimes a general comment on too much backstory, or asking if the passive voice was a choice, can be useful.

And every critique has had some benefit to me. Even the harshest one. And I got one that made my hands shake, but it pointed out one huge logic problem that I changed immediately. Sure, wording is great, but for me true honesty is better no matter how itís worded.
Nainy 22 Jan 2015 at 11:24  
My biggest pet peeve with critiques is when a critiquer tears your story to pieces and says at the end, 'I really enjoyed your piece!'

Can't stand that crap.
Ratrilyn 22 Jan 2015 at 12:04  
Quote by: Nainy
My biggest pet peeve with critiques is when a critiquer tears your story to pieces and says at the end, 'I really enjoyed your piece!'

I fear I may be guilty of this. Sometimes I will read a piece where the writing in strong, but the plot has some logical inconsistencies or where the plot is amazing but the writing struggles a bit. As a reader, I might still enjoy both of those stories, but as a critter I have to dig a little deeper.

I always try to point out a few positives along with the constructive criticism in the inlines. If something is done consistently well though, I will often wait until the end notes to say that rather than repeating 20x - great description/characterization. So the overall balance of the crit tends to look like heavy negative on the body of the text, then overall glowing comments (or issues) at the end.


There is some good thoughtful discussion in this thread. And perhaps a bit of a theme.

Each critiquer has their own style and considers different things important. As an author on the receiving end of a critique, it can be difficult to interpret the critter's intentions until you're familiar with their style, which can lead to hurt feelings or misunderstood commentary.

Finding and building relationships with critters whose styles match what you're looking for may help avoid some of that tension. Otherwise, that oft-touted communication is a handy savior. If I'm critting someone consistently, I may ask them what they want out of my feedback and vice versa. If it's a type of critique I don't feel capable of giving, there's no harm in saying that and realizing that the relationship won't work out.
Darkocean 22 Jan 2015 at 13:59  
Arunser - Thank you.

Darkocean 22 Jan 2015 at 14:00  
Margotg - People seam to be missing the point of the blog, in that useful cirques can be done in a respectful manner.

I think that if the critic choses can be done simply pointing out whats wrong and from what i've read saying I think right off the bat might make the author not willing to listen to critic in the fist place. Some people are snippy. This whole blog arose from when I gave what i thought was a well thought out critique (one another website) to her becoming angry because I dared to tell her that her 'baby' need more work, along with lots of ways to improve it.

The critique that I gave:

Don't be afraid of going to far, bush your boundaries and write with emotion, push your self! Don't worry if the description become a little over detailed you can always trim them later.

Think of how your character and felling, thinking, is it hot is it cold, can they smell something?, what can they see? What can they hear? What can touch? Put yourself into your character write like you are them, peek your words in present tense and you'll do fine.

Beware describing things that do not move the story forward, like how delicious a sandwich is or someone else hair, eye, and clothing. Having your character stand in front of a mirror admiring them self's screams new author. Remember you cant see your own hair or eyes so neither can your character.

Ok, that should do i for now, have fun with your story and know that first drafts are going to suck, that's ok keep writing anyways! The most important thing is to never give up to become better you must write and then write some more! You can speed things up considerably buy going into the wattpad clubs, the improve your writing club, and then into find a critic thread.

Find one, and politely pm them (Always say hello when asking for a critique.) Do what ever payment they are asking for, then wait patiently for them to post a critique of your story. The critics on here are fair and I have not run into one that gives false advise, not one. So with that thought I say fix and or do what ever it is they are pointing out. Ok have fun, before getting a critic give them something to critique.

This is her reply (It also got her flagged by the system for swearing)


Why you being too rude to me,?! I write because I want to share my emotions here not to have a book or something.. So just be silent if you want to say something good do it if not just shut the f*** up!

And that is why I wrote this blog, as it made me think that perhaps a critique needs to be worded differently so that it's not taken as an attack on them as person. I think shes quite rude and apparently so does most everyone else in the site as her story was made in Nov. 6 201 and has only 17 views. I realize that not everyone is going to nice, but then gain why did she ask for a critique if shes going to bit my head off?
Darkocean 22 Jan 2015 at 14:01  
Maybe ti was the word suck that did it. XD oops.
Darkocean 22 Jan 2015 at 14:04  
Ratrilyn



Each critiquer has their own style and considers different things important. As an author on the receiving end of a critique, it can be difficult to interpret the critter's intentions until you're familiar with their style, which can lead to hurt feelings or misunderstood commentary.



This sums up what I was trying to say nicely.
Card 23 Jan 2015 at 10:01  
Interesting post. Certainly not all authors are the same and you are absolutely right about that.

I am always looking to get better at critting, or else I would not have clicked on a post like this, but I find that what helps me with being diplomatic is trying to point out both things that I liked and things that I didn't like. And do it as honestly as possible.

My goal, mind you, isn't to shove platitudes down the person's throat. The fact is, when I read something - even by an amateur author - it usually has at least one or two things (even if it is just a sentence or phrase choice) that I enjoyed reading. And if I am in full-on-critic mode, it's easy to skate past those little moments and not mention them at all.

But I feel it's important for me as a critter to be fair to the author and mention not just the things that bothered me, but what tickled my fancy too. Otherwise, they are being given a one-sided, incomplete version of how I felt about their story.

I'm thinking about changing up my approach a little though. Perhaps if I read through once to be critical and then read through a second time as pure reader with the intent to enjoy, I'll have an easier time distinguishing between the two and being honest about both.

I feel that even when an author has a purported "thick skin," it's still important for them to hear what works for the reader, regardless of whether they think it's important in the moment. The goal may be to improve, but some stories and moments are majestically flawed and not every "mistake" is worth fixing.
George_000 23 Jan 2015 at 10:53  
Sometimes if your work is not ready to be looked at yet, and could benefit from being edited and redrafted, it might feel like you're being attacked. A critique should be one of the last things you do before querying agents. Editors can charge a lot of money for one, but that's what you're asking—sometimes paying—someone to do, is criticize your story.
Amayfair 23 Jan 2015 at 10:59  
Quote by: George_000
Sometimes if your work is not ready to be looked at yet, and could benefit from being edited and redrafted, it might feel like you're being attacked. A critique should be one of the last things you do before querying agents. Editors can charge a lot of money for one, but that's what you're asking—sometimes paying—someone to do, is criticize your story.



That's an interesting point. I have often put up first draft work, and I assumed other people did the same...
George_000 23 Jan 2015 at 11:59  
Quote by: Amayfair
Quote by: George_000
Sometimes if your work is not ready to be looked at yet, and could benefit from being edited and redrafted, it might feel like you're being attacked. A critique should be one of the last things you do before querying agents. Editors can charge a lot of money for one, but that's what you're asking—sometimes paying—someone to do, is criticize your story.



That's an interesting point. I have often put up first draft work, and I assumed other people did the same...



I'm new here Amayfair, and that may be the case. From what I've learned though, is you don't show your work to others, meaning agents, editors, publishers, even other authors until your manuscript is the best it can be. I'm querying agents right now, and while no one's asked to see my manuscript, I wanted a critique of the first chapter, because usually its one you struggle with a lot. As you write more, and your story begins to pick up, the other chapters seem to connect and sound better. I was expecting to find other authors who were in a similar situation as I am, but from what I can see, and honestly, I've only critiqued a couple stories, but glanced at a few more, is that some of the manuscripts need to be rewritten. I see a lot of the critiques just focus on grammar and usage other than story and content.
Megrim 23 Jan 2015 at 12:23  
Quote by: George_000
Quote by: Amayfair


That's an interesting point. I have often put up first draft work, and I assumed other people did the same...



I'm new here Amayfair, and that may be the case. From what I've learned though, is you don't show your work to others, meaning agents, editors, publishers, even other authors until your manuscript is the best it can be. I'm querying agents right now, and while no one's asked to see my manuscript, I wanted a critique of the first chapter, because usually its one you struggle with a lot. As you write more, and your story begins to pick up, the other chapters seem to connect and sound better. I was expecting to find other authors who were in a similar situation as I am, but from what I can see, and honestly, I've only critiqued a couple stories, but glanced at a few more, is that some of the manuscripts need to be rewritten. I see a lot of the critiques just focus on grammar and usage other than story and content.



I'm not too bothered by people putting up early drafts because it depends on what they are looking for. A first draft can be clean and free of technical errors (especially since I expect someone to check it over before submitting), and maybe they want to know if they need to completely change a scene/chapter/plot.

What I do think, however, is that you shouldn't put anything up until you've fixed what you can fix by yourself. Otherwise, every time someone points out something that you knew was wrong already and could have addressed, they're wasting both your time. It's not news to you, and it's distracting them from talking about other things in their crit. So if you don't want to double-check your "hook" that you wrote in an hour and copy pasted to the submission form without reading (have seen people say that's what they did), that's the risk you take—less useful, less targeted feedback.
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Dollyames 23 Jan 2015 at 13:09  
Quote by: Nainy
My biggest pet peeve with critiques is when a critiquer tears your story to pieces and says at the end, 'I really enjoyed your piece!'

Can't stand that crap.



I know when I'm critting, I may really like the story and want to know more, but can see where some changes can be made to make the piece smoother.

It may be that the grammar, spelling, etc is awful - and I don't think I've critted any of yours, if I have and it was me - SORRY! - I'll make notes wherever I see that. But I can still like the idea of the story, even if I "tore" it apart.

Just my opinion.
Ryanv777 24 Jan 2015 at 20:47  
Just a thought, one of the main methods of becoming a good writer is reading widely. If you do so, and you read good writing, you will learnt to recognize good writing. Anyone who can recognize good writing will know when their story isn't as good as it can be. What makes me, and I believe most people, the happiest, is knowing that my writing is good. If I recognize that it isn't, but you come along and write a critique telling me that it is, I'll be happy, but misled. If, on the other hand, you write a harsh, possibly even cruel, critique, but from it I improve my story, as well as my writing, I will actually be much happier than in the first case. In the second case my happiness will also be deserved, and my standard for recognizing good writing won't by diluted. I want harsh criticism more than praise.
George_000 24 Jan 2015 at 20:52  
Quote by: Ryanv777
Just a thought, one of the main methods of becoming a good writer is reading widely. If you do so, and you read good writing, you will learnt to recognize good writing. Anyone who can recognize good writing will know when their story isn't as good as it can be. What makes me, and I believe most people, the happiest, is knowing that my writing is good. If I recognize that it isn't, but you come along and write a critique telling me that it is, I'll be happy, but misled. If, on the other hand, you write a harsh, possibly even cruel, critique, but from it I improve my story, as well as my writing, I will actually be much happier than in the first case. In the second case my happiness will also be deserved, and my standard for recognizing good writing won't by diluted. I want harsh criticism more than praise.


Excellent points. I agree.
Darkocean 25 Jan 2015 at 13:19  
George_000



I'm new here Amayfair, and that may be the case. From what I've learned though, is you don't show your work to others, meaning agents, editors, publishers, even other authors until your manuscript is the best it can be. I'm querying agents right now, and while no one's asked to see my manuscript, I wanted a critique of the first chapter, because usually its one you struggle with a lot. As you write more, and your story begins to pick up, the other chapters seem to connect and sound better. I was expecting to find other authors who were in a similar situation as I am, but from what I can see, and honestly, I've only critiqued a couple stories, but glanced at a few more, is that some of the manuscripts need to be rewritten. I see a lot of the critiques just focus on grammar and usage other than story and content.



I did this with the first couple of chapters, now I know to give it a good look over before put anything up in q here, just just the small mistakes but rewriting anything that doesn't make sense, doesn't fit, is too wordy and the like.
Darkocean 25 Jan 2015 at 13:24  
Ryanv777


Just a thought, one of the main methods of becoming a good writer is reading widely. If you do so, and you read good writing, you will learnt to recognize good writing. Anyone who can recognize good writing will know when their story isn't as good as it can be. What makes me, and I believe most people, the happiest, is knowing that my writing is good. If I recognize that it isn't, but you come along and write a critique telling me that it is, I'll be happy, but misled. If, on the other hand, you write a harsh, possibly even cruel, critique, but from it I improve my story, as well as my writing, I will actually be much happier than in the first case. In the second case my happiness will also be deserved, and my standard for recognizing good writing won't by diluted. I want harsh criticism more than praise.


Very good points, and true.The problem with a small number of people is that they have the mistake belief that hash = Insults and that's where it goes wrong. Though on here at least I haven't run into anything like that. -shrugs-
Coralb 27 Jan 2015 at 00:15  
I agree. There's no reason to be rude or mean in a critique and really no excuse for it. A critique can easily be thorough, honest, and kind, polite, and friendly.
Dystopianp 2 Feb 2015 at 11:49  
I just read through the entirety of this section on critiquing.

I like friends. I like polite people. I appreciate if someone warns about a problem they are facing (from commas to the first chapter grind to this is a first or tenth draft, or an awareness of a problem they cannot fix, etc.). But none of that makes or breaks a crit for me. Since age 12 I have been working with the real world of writing (although not fiction until recently). Professional editors and agents are, as a group, too busy to be "nice." Their sarcasm is worth a dozen nice crits.

What bothers me second-most about crits is lectures on rules. LECTURES We all break the rules, by accident or deliberately. If this bothers the reader, mention the broken rule at the place where it is broken. As we write, our thoughts are on one thing so we can mess up another. We make messes.

I do not respect 300 words of rule-lecture to show off "superior knowledge" or to fill a need for points. Most of us know the rules. If we don't know a rule, we can ask or we can read up on it.

What bothers me MOST is a crit which is ALL VALUE JUDGMENT. If I did something wrong, I expect an example of how to do it correctly or at least better. If I did something right, I appreciate the exact spot pointed out with an explanation. I learn from this.

I learn nothing from rule-lectures or from summaries that say good or bad. That stuff is totally useless to me. All of the rule-lectures I have received are baby talk compared to the good "how to" books I own and read.

If you will look back to the opening statement by the admin, SUGGESTIONS to make things BETTER is among the first recommendations on how to do a crit well. I agree. Even when the crit has given me bad examples for changes, those examples usually kick my brain into gear to see what is needed.

And, I do not believe the platitude that all crits have things within them to help an author. Those who have written long enough have been badly misled.

But I have never been misled by a crit that has applicable examples for change. This means the critter has worked doubly hard — to find the problem and then to develop changes to fix the problem. That line, "develop changes to fix the problem," does not include such platitudes as "make an outline" or "read ____'s book on how-to." That is lazy and rude.

Shivprasad 12 Feb 2015 at 01:39  
It is as simple as that... " Accept the critiques one you feel you are worth for the well work or the bad work (which will help for improvements) and rest simply discard it..."

I would personally feel that everyone has his / her own perspective on every other script. Its left to the individual what to be digested and what to be omitted out.

Again, whatever critiques one gets, we should respect for their time spending on our writing and one should take positively for any kind of critique
Dystopianp 12 Feb 2015 at 11:09  
I particularly do not "take positively" those done while the critter is stoned. Sometimes that is obvious. Time is not a good measure of the value of anything. Retarded crits are a waste of time. Rude and nasty commentaries which are simple value judgments or retaliations for crits they did not like do not get one bit of respect from me. They get blocked. I am not of the era where "nice" is a good word. To me "nice" is a four letter word. Save your "holier than thou" comments for someone else. What god do you think you are? I will not kneell to you. In SF we have a great fanzine with that title.
Edwardra3 19 Feb 2015 at 12:30  
Thank you for this. I recently submitted my first story and the first critique I received was brutal. It took me three tries of stopping and starting to get through it. Some of the comments were useful; these were repeated in other critiques. Others just seemed ridiculous. Like the "rule" that there should only be one exclamation point per 100,000 words. Based on my anticipated word count for this novel, i shouldn't use my first exclamation point until the second book!
At the end of the day, harsh critiques don't seem like they are very helpful but rather discourage novice authors from trying.
Nainy 19 Feb 2015 at 21:16  
Quote by: Edwardra3
At the end of the day, harsh critiques don't seem like they are very helpful but rather discourage novice authors from trying.

I'm no pro, but it seems like a simple brutal critique is nothing compared to a brutal rejection. So, the sooner one learns to suck it up, the better. Filtering bullshit is also a useful skill to get if one wants to learn how to write.
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Luvrofinfo 21 Feb 2015 at 01:00  
I just want to add my two cents here, for what it's worth — which may not be much.

One of the reasons I joined CC is because it is international, and in that phrase I also mean all areas of my own country. Therefore, I try to be aware some submissions have gone through translation software and some writers may not follow the same writing rules I was taught (the most notable being those writers from Great Britain who use single quotation marks).

I happen to love writing from many parts of the world and try to treat them with respect. Therefore, for me anything rude and abrasive that comes from a stolid position of what "I" learned is correct carries no respect.

I have been the recipient of a rather rude critique. I have also been the recipient of critiques from a ranging number of critters from more than one country who have provided so much help I just know my work is getting better.

If you need change for that two cents, let me know!
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Bean60 21 Feb 2015 at 08:07  
I joined CC over a year ago. Previously I had been a member of a critique group in which members basically said, 'good work,' and 'I liked your story.' Well, I knew I wasn't going to learn anything from those folks, so I went looking for a different critique group. And I found CC. That's when I started getting what I knew were mostly true, some harsh, some softly worded and nice, but again, what I wanted. I wanted real critiques with helpful comments, suggestions, recommendations, and down-right true critiques. I even cried a few times, but I kept coming back for more.

Now, I haven't posted in a while because I've been editing like crazy before I post any more of my chapters. I may even begin again with short stories. I've been reading books, and blogs, on writing, reading here as much as possible. I think I've learned a lot. We'll see. I'm also in a local writers' group whose members chew up and spit out the members' writing weekly. I'm truly glad I joined CC first - got my hurt feelings and tears over in the privacy of my home before joining that group. (One younger member left in tears the first time she put her work out before that group - never returned.) I just thank them sincerely and promise to keep their advice in mind when I rewrite. And I do.

But I think I get my best advice from this group here on CC. I thank y'all sincerely.

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Pbass 23 Feb 2015 at 16:42  
Personally, I think harsh criticism, when it's on the money, is the best thing an author can hear. Yes, it hurts, but what the hell, you're never going to get anywhere in this if you don't grow a thick skin. The point is whether or not the critic is making valid points, not whether or not their criticism is couched in sufficiently complementary/sympathetic/gentle terms. The idea is to make the work better, and you do that by taking criticism on board and measuring whether it's valid or not.

In my experience, it's only the valid criticism, harsh or not, that hurts. When someone is harsh but their opinion is ill-informed or irrelevant, it doesn't bother me at all; I ignore them. But when it hurts a little, it's because I know they're right; that the criticism has found the weakness or flaw, and the only way to take that is to be thankful for it.
Zombie 6 Jul 2015 at 11:03  
Quote by: Dystopianp

I like friends. I like polite people. I appreciate if someone warns about a problem they are facing.



Dystopianp, I agree. And I was just about to send you a reply saying that if I didn't click "I like this Crit" on your last crit of my work it was an oversight, and also to apologize because, on reflection, I felt should have graded the crit higher. But you blocked me from sending you messages? Dude. That's cold.

Cheers.
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