The Critique Circle Blog

The CC Blog is written by members of our community.
Do you want to write a blog post? Send Us a blog request

Menu
  • View all blogs
  • Go to thread
Jan
8
2020

The CC effect -- by James Hannan

So, here I am. I have written my story. I have posted it to the CC story queue.

I’m excited. I have been slaving over this piece for months. It has potential (I think), it could be good but it’s not quite there yet. I really want to find out what others think.

As the crits start coming in, most people like the story but all agree it needs work. One critter says they want more from the peripheral characters. Another says it should be more overt that my main protagonist is a cad, while a third says the opposite. A fourth says the main character is not drawn finely enough.

This, according to one member, is the CC effect: when you get a multitude of differing opinions on your work. The question is, who do you listen to? Do you go with the person who most likes your story? Or, the person who most dislikes it? Do you listen to the person who gives you the most feedback? Obviously, you can’t listen to everybody, nor every idea that’s put in a crit. If you did, apart from going slightly nutty, you’d end up with a hodgepodge.

So, what to do?

Be judicious about what you take on board

CC is great for learning the intricacies of writing, especially when it comes to fiction. I've learnt about to be verbs, filter words, and that I get confused with my tenses. This is all great, and I’m glad I have received this feedback.

Yet, when it comes to the less technical/grammar aspects of writing, and what you are trying to achieve as a writer, I have found the need to be judicious in what I take on board and what I leave behind. You're the author and have the last say, so go with your gut.

Don’t let crits take you away from what you were trying to do in the first place

When I write, I have an inner dialogue about what I am trying to achieve and where I think the story is going. Sometimes, too many crits, and all the ideas in them can distract from that dialogue.

Indeed, when someone gives you feedback, there is an impulse to jump straight in and change your piece. I did this with the last story I put up on CC. Someone suggested something, and I thought, yes, great idea, and immediately put that in my story. With hindsight, it would have better to sit on that idea for a few days, letting it soak in, before returning to the story for another read and edit.

Be sure you’re ready for critiques before uploading your story to CC

CC is a great resource. You get free feedback on your writing, from other writers. What could be better, right? But next time you have story and you want to upload it to CC, ask yourself: are you ready for what might come back at you?

With the last story I put up on CC, I (probably) uploaded it prematurely. I wasn’t sure about what was happening in it, especially the motivations of the main character. The feedback I got was great, but perplexing because I couldn’t decide from all the contradictory views how the final version of the story would end up.

Contrast this with the story I put on CC before that. I was sure about what I was trying to achieve, and who the main character was. Again, the feedback was great, but because I was clear about the story, it was easier for me to take what I wanted from the feedback and incorporate that.

Build your tribe and cultivate their loyalty

There are always going to be critters out there who are not your ideal readers. They find your work too subtle, they don’t get why you don’t have a recognisable plot, and they want to understand every single motivation of every single character you put in your work.

Here’s the thing, not everyone is going to get, or (god forbid!), like your work. Do I listen to these people and make changes based on their feedback? Sometimes, but I also recognise them for what they are, and, if they give me a particularly bad crit, try not to get too hung up on that.

The funny thing is, I really like these critters and find their input extremely valuable. Why? Because I get to see the many ways my work can be interpreted and the reactions it produces, which also gives me perspective on what happens when I put my work out to the wider world.

Yet, for every critter that doesn’t get my work, I also want one (maybe two, three, or even four) that does. So how to do you get this? Be selective in the type (genre) of stories you crit, choosing like-minded writers or at least those you feel will have a handle on your style. It also helps to write back to those who crit your work (as soon as you can) to thank them for their crits, never bite back if they give you adverse feedback, and always give crits in return.

In this way you might find a good group that’s familiar with your practice, your themes and literary interests, which is (perhaps) the best way to get the most out of CC.

Posted by James Hannan 8 Jan at 00:33
Do you want to write for the Critique Circle Blog? Send us a message!

Responses to this blog

Luvrofinfo 12 Jan at 20:55  
Thank you, James!

I needed to read this after a recent critique where I felt personally attacked and denigrated!

What you say is so true! How every writer needs to be judicious, evaluate the responses within the context of their work. It is important to remember that the writer's style is their style; their words their words, and the structure of the story is theirs alone.

So, I'd like to add this note: When you critique, understand that you are talking about the story — not the writer. Rather than rewriting their words, try making suggestions. If something doesn't seem to be working, let the writer know you are confused or don't understand.

And when you read the critiques, follow James' advice: Be judicious! You are the writer and you have the final say!

I appreciate your blog.
Attaree 12 Jan at 22:20  
I agree a substantial rewrite with no supporting explanation can be annoying.

Critiques take time. This afternoon, I spent 1'50" on one with substantial rewrites. It would be sad to think they weren't helpful. I'm going to start asking writers I crit to let me know if they don't want suggestions with rewrites.
__________________
I like having more than I can handle, so for much of my life I've been real satisfied.

Botanist 12 Jan at 23:47  
Receiving critiques can be bewildering and hurtful. I like that you include the need to be sure you are ready for critiques. Some people just want praise and validation, in which case they've come to the wrong place IMO the most important skill is to develop your own objectivity and sound judgment on which feedback is worth listening to and which to not use.

BTW, the blog title confused me a bit. I always understood "The CC effect" to mean the confusion that crops up in critiquers' minds from reading a story a chapter at a time every week or longer, with probably chapters from other stories in between. It makes it hard to retain any continuity if you're following a novel through the queues.
Attaree 13 Jan at 00:07  
Botanist


BTW, the blog title confused me a bit. I always understood "The CC effect" to mean the confusion that crops up in critiquers' minds from reading a story a chapter at a time every week or longer, with probably chapters from other stories in between. It makes it hard to retain any continuity if you're following a novel through the queues.
Botanist, that's my understanding of the CC effect, too. A constant state of vague confusion.


__________________
I like having more than I can handle, so for much of my life I've been real satisfied.

Marisaw 13 Jan at 00:51  
Attaree
This afternoon, I spent 1'50" on one with substantial rewrites. It would be sad to think they weren't helpful. I'm going to start asking writers I crit to let me know if they don't want suggestions with rewrites.
Ever since I read a forum post complaining about rewrites, I've hesitated about doing them - but so often, I find it's the only effective way to explain what I'm trying to say. These days, I will always explain what I think the problem is, then say something like, "This is how I would do it".

Jessiel 13 Jan at 03:30  
I think when it calls for it, the rewrite with the explanation is the way to go as Marisa says.

. Sometimes people will rewrite for me and I'm not sure what they are trying to convey. I'm not offended by it, but what they are doing is first draft material and may not convey exactly they mean to or I may just be too dense to understand.
__________________
J
Say what you wanna say, and let the words fall out. Honestly, I wanna see you be brave.
Brave by Sara Bareillis

Cwotus 13 Jan at 03:40  
When I crit—when I do nearly anything at all, as a matter of fact—I do it for myself, first. Oh, don't get me wrong: I hope to offer encouragement and actual assistance to an author (whose aims and personality I try to always consider), but the crit is for me. It helps me to think when I analyze a piece, find and point out errors and suggestions for improvement, and do the writing to put all of that together. The crit is something that I write for myself. If it helps the author, and if it improves the piece in a subsequent edit or rewrite, then so much the better, but the crit is a gift that I give to myself.

Furthermore, as I sometimes tell the authors of the pieces I crit, even if I didn't like the piece itself for some reason, I don't waste my time critting bad writers or junk. (Whether I say that in so many words or not, it's always true.) So if I wrote the crit in the first place it was because I saw something worth reading, worth thinking about and analyzing, and worth writing about; at the very least, I saw behind the piece a talented author who could use some assistance, whether that's just with grammar, usage, spelling and punctuation, or plotting and factual correction. I'm big on "process", because it's what I write about and earn a living on IRL, so it's one of the things that I'll point out in a narrative. (Most of my crits average north of 1000 words, I think, so they do take some time and thought. It's okay; like the L'Oreal commercial says—or used to say, anyway, "I'm worth it.")

Sometimes my gift is not well received by the author. I've had at least one author accuse me of attempting to re-write the piece, and explaining haughtily that "I'm a published, award-winning author (and so on)." Maybe so, but anyone can make errors; all I did was point out some very obvious ones. I've had another author simply block me without a word.

So be it. Like I said, the crits I write are gifts to myself, first ... but they're not just for me. They're also gifts to the author, and whatever the author chooses to do with the gift is out of my control, and for the most part not my concern, either. If the author liked my gift, then that's a fine thing, and I'm always gratified to hear it. But my honest and careful crits are first of all for me.

As for how a crit should be accepted by an author, I suppose that's up to the author. I like hearing that my crits have helped in some way; they're intended to, after all! but I don't take offense when the author gives up the project altogether or ignores everything I've said. I tend to read the crit critically, too: if it's a badly written (or argued) crit, then it won't mean so much, after all.
Lmdewit 13 Jan at 03:55  
Botanist

BTW, the blog title confused me a bit. I always understood "The CC effect" to mean the confusion that crops up in critiquers' minds from reading a story a chapter at a time every week or longer, with probably chapters from other stories in between. It makes it hard to retain any continuity if you're following a novel through the queues.
Exactly. That's how I use it and how I see people using it: you tend to forget details especially when you're deep into the novel. A regular reader would read the book in a week or a month; CCers will take months to read one novel.

And James, thanks for the blog. I hope new CCers will read it and reflect upon it. What you say about being sure of what you put up there is so true: when I know where the story's going because the draft's complete and I'd done my job of revising it, receiving feedback is much, much simpler. I know what to cut and I know what to tweak on the spot. Those comments that make me think but might need a deep revise, I note down so I can think about the suggestions with calm.
When I send a new draft that I'm excited about but I haven't finished or properly revise, then feedback tends to be very confusing. I tend to withdraw those chapters quickly.

Dorothea 15 Jan at 21:53  
Botanist said: IMO the most important skill is to develop your own objectivity and sound judgment on which feedback is worth listening to and which to not use. — Totally agree with you. That IS the key to being able to understand, accept, and work through critiques by fellow writers. It takes some time to get that down, but once you do, it's excellent.

The awesome thing is the more I critique, the better I am at finding inconsistencies in their plot, something in their scenes, characters, etc., and it makes me happy to help them in that regard because I know it really helps me when I miss something in my storyline/plot or with my characters, etc. When you get such great critiques, it can truly have you rewriting and revising your novel into much more coherent and stronger.

Giglio 18 Jan at 02:40  
Botanist said: IMO the most important skill is to develop your own objectivity and sound judgment on which feedback is worth listening to and which to not use.
Yeah.

We need to be open to suggestions. I read a lot of crits on stories I crit. When I see sound recommendations offered and not incorporated in rewrite submissions (or future chapters) I often realize many comments are wasted and the writer is unwilling to make valuable changes. Not unusual on CC.

Expand your "sound judgment."

G
Glitterpen 18 Jan at 13:39  
Great blog post!
Mcyphers 18 Jan at 14:28  
I like the rewrites with the explanations. I don't always use them but often I do! Some of the best changes I've made and the crits that taught me the most were rewrites. The point (for me) is to get impressions as they read and adding suggested changes clarifies what they mean. I need it spelled out sometimes. The least helpful crits were the ones that had derogatory tones and used words like bad writing and feeble attempts. If you don't like it I think you can still be respectful and say hey this isn't my kind of story or I see what you are trying to do but maybe upgrade your word choice and try to avoid cliche terms. Then follow that with an I like this and this. or you have talent I'm just not a fan of the genre. Sometimes people crit stories that fall in genres they don't read. I am guilty of it but it is hard to be helpful when you don't understand what is expected in the genre. No one sits down and writes a best seller the first time. Writing is a process. I think as experienced writers we need to be extra considerate of people in the newbie forum. It would be very easy to discourage someone new and make them quit writing. This is just my opinion.
Badcomma 3 Feb at 17:05  
If multiple critters point out the same issues, I give those opinions more weight than the outliers. I've had a few critiques from left field but most are at least in the same zip code.
Apellie 4 Feb at 17:41  
Who do you listen to? Your inner writer ultimately. If a critter points out a grammar error that's a simple fix. We all bring our own level of expertise to the field. We also bring our own style and preferences. As a reader, I like certain things and that spills over into my critique. Never take someone's opinion as a personal affront or attack. Even if I dislike your story that is not a personal issue between us as people. I am new to the site, but I say read through the suggestions and use the ones that make sense or that you feel make your story more powerful. I also suggest coming back to the critiques a few months later, distance helps us gain perspective.
Drewbles01 2 Jun at 01:26  
Wow! What a great post. I completely understand and feel the same way about "Building your own tribe" it is nice to be able to have a rousing bout of constructive criticisms with people who are writing about the same things you are.

Respond to this blog

Please log in or create a free Critique Circle account to respond to this blog


Member submitted content is © individual members.
Other material is ©2003-2020 critiquecircle.com
Back to top