Frequently Asked Questions

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  • Giving Critiques
  • Giving Critiques

     I'm confused about Inline Crits!
    The new inline crit system, introduced May 12th 2010 represents the largest improvement to the crit submission progress since inline crits were added, so many years ago. The entire crit system has been refactored and made easier to use and safer.

    Some of the highlights of the system are:

    Progressive Save
    Instead of saving the entire crit every few minutes to the server now the paragraph that you were working on is saved immediately when you move to another paragraph (or every 30 seconds). This will make your inline crits much safer since the saved version is basically always up to date.
    When you have pending changes the paragraph with the changes has a red vertical bar on the right side. In addition, you should see little footsteps on the top of your crit page. When the text is saved the footsteps turn into a checkmark and you're safe!

    technobabble ahead!
    This new system represents a paradigm shift from the typical web framework where you work on a form and then submit it. The submission progress now happens entirely on the server. When you hit 'Preview' you are not submitting any text to the server, you are merely navigating to another page which fetches the saved text from the database and displays it for you. Then when you click 'Submit critique' the crit is just marked in the database as 'submitted'. The text submission itself took place seconds after you wrote each word.

    You will not lose your crit if you get logged out
    Under no circumstances should you lose your crit when you get logged out. This was one of the complaints from people, that they might lose quite a lot of work because they spent a long time on a crit and got logged out (session timeout) in the meantime. Now the system will continue to save your crit even if you get logged out. If you click 'preview' and see the infamous 'please log in' screen, you should not have lost your crit. Simply log in and it should be there intact.

    Keyboard Navigation
    You can now do inline crits by just using your keyboard.
    j, k - Navigate between paragraphs (you will see the selected paragraph with dashed lines above and below) (these are the same shortcut keys as gmail uses to navigate between messages). When you navigate using these keys the webpage scrolls automatically to ensure that the selected paragraph is in view.
    Enter - Start working in the selected paragraph
    Control-Enter - Submit the text that you are currently working on (when writing in a text field)

    Try these shortcuts out, they are amazingly time saving. It takes you just a couple of tries to memorize them.

    Better visibility of credits for crit
    You can now mouse over the credits-for-crit number in the upper right corner to see how many credits you will receive for your current crit where the number of words is counted just like it is when you submit it (with story snippets removed) so you don't have to click 'preview' to see if you've made it across 300 words.

    You can now minimize Author's notes
    You can click on the "Author's notes" text to minimize it. Sometimes you want to just have the story in front of you and it's best to reduce clutter. Just click it again to show them. This setting is saved.

    Frequently Asked Questions

    Why have you removed the save button?
    There is no need for a save button anymore because your critique is automatically kept up to date with the server. Previously the crit existed only in your browser until it was saved or submitted. Now it exists on the server and your browser at the same time (with a few seconds difference)
    If you want to force a save of your current paragraph simply start writing into another paragraph or just click anywhere outside your text field. All paragraphs that you have previously worked on are safe on the server.

    Why do I have to click 'close' when I finish a paragraph now?
    You don't! Just click the next paragraph like you've always done and don't worry about the close button. The close button is more relevant for the Reading View since the crit text field obscures adjacent paragraphs. All it does is close the text field, it doesn't save the text. The text is saved when you click anywhere outside your text field (or every 30 seconds, whichever comes first)

    Why did you have to change something that wasn't broken?
    People requested Reading View to be available when doing inline crits and other people had encountered lost crits from time to time. The code was old and a bit buggy so it needed to be refactored to achieve the goals.
    In terms of usability if you don't want to use any of the new features it should be exactly the same as before, there are no additional hoops for you to jump through. You don't have the same warm feeling after clicking 'save' but your crit is safer.

    This doesn't work in my browser
    The feature relies heavily on advanced javascript functionality and it's possible that it will not play nice with older browsers. It has been tested on Internet Explorer 6, Firefox 3.6 and Chrome 3 and later browsers. Let us know if you have problems using this with your browser.

     Why is the word count different when I submit the critique?
    If you quote the story in your critique, this word count will be deducted from the total critique word count through a heuristic feature applied to the text which tries to dig out segments which are a part of the story rather than a part of the critique.

    For example. If the story contains the segment "Once in a blue moon I would go out and hunt mice" and your crit has the segment "sometimes during a full moon I would go out and party" the logic might infer that "moon I would go out and" is a part of the story and not the crit and would automatically deduct 6 words from the crit.

    If you are around the 150 / 300 word boundary (which is the only thing that really matters in regards to this) and find that you've been unduly penalized then send us a note and we'll fix you up.

     How does autosave work?
    Classic crits
    Autosaving is a feature on CC which automatically saves your classic critique every 5 minutes, but only if something has been written in that time. This feature is turned on by default and should always be used unless there are some technical reasons not to.

    When autosave is on, you will see the text Autosaving is enabled above your critique window when you start a crit and the autosave icon is light blue.

    When you take a break from writing a critique you should save it manually using the icon as the last autosave might be up to 5 minutes ago.

    Inline crits
    Autosave for inline crits work a bit differently. Basically your critique is always up-to-date on the server. Every 30 seconds your text is saved and if you move to another paragraph the text is also saved. Your inline crit should always be perfectly safe.

    Saved critiques are stored in your Critiques in Progress page and are accessible any time so that you can continue writing your critique at any time.

     How is my Critique Grade calculated?
    Each time you send a critique, the author is asked to rate it against seven statements. When you have completed at least five critiques, you will be able to see your overall Critique Grade on My Page. By clicking on your grade you can see your average score against each of the seven statements. You will not see how an individual author rated your critique but the average grade will help you to see whether there are areas of your critiques that you might be able to strengthen.

    Your grade will be updated each time you have five more critiques graded by authors. By default, the grade shown is calculated on the last cumulative multiple of five ó for example, if you have 12 critiques graded by authors then you see a grade calculated on 10 critiques. You can see how your grade has changed over time by choosing a different number from the drop-down box ó for example, the first 10 critiques or the first 25 critiques.

    The grade scale is from -2 to +2.

     How do Classic critiques work?
    How do Classic critiques work?

    The Classic critique is the simplest of the critique types but offers you complete flexibility in structuring your critique as there is no framework as with the other critique types. Itís particularly useful for critiques that look at the bigger picture and comment on plot, characterization, overall use of language etc.

    When you choose Classic critique, you will see a text box above a copy of the story you are critiquing. You can decide on the structure and the content of your critique. Use the text box to tell the writer what you thought of the story. Donít forget to be specific about why you liked or didnít like particular things in the story and try to offer ideas for how the writer might make the story better. If you want to quote bits from the story, use the Story function to copy and paste sections of the text into your critique. The quotes will stand out in a different color text and make it easy for the writer to tell the difference between the original story and your comments.

    Once you have said everything you want to say about the story, you can preview your critique to make sure everything looks OK. If you want to make any changes, just click on Edit to go back to your critique. When youíre happy with everything, send it to the writer.

    The Classic critique is perfect if you like to prepare your critiques off-line. You can simply copy your critique from your word processor and paste it into the text box for submission.

    —Many thanks to Angelnorth for contributing this FAQ entry—

     How do Inline critiques work?
    Inline critiques offer the ability to add comments inside the story text in an easy and intuitive fashion.

    When you choose Inline critique you will see a text box for Opening comments. Here you can greet the writer and perhaps say what impression the story made on you. Below this, you will see the story. When you hold your cursor over a paragraph in the story, you will see it change color. If you have comments you want to make on that paragraph, click on it and a text box will appear. You can work through the whole story in this way, making comments next to the paragraphs they relate to.

    At the end of the story you will see another text box marked Closing comments. Here you can make any final remarks that might help the writer to make the story even better.

    Finally, you can View critique to make sure that you are happy with everything before sending it to the writer. If you want to make any changes, just click on Edit to go back to your critique.

    If a writer has formatted their story using html, the Inline critique style will not be available and you will need to choose one of the other styles for your critique.

     How do I know if the critique I submitted has been accepted?
    Almost all critiques are accepted ó if it's not, you'll be told.

    Critiques are only unacceptable if they contain something offending or have zero content ó often sent in by trolls.

     Practical instructions: critiquing
    To crit a story:

    1. Click "Story queue" in the left-hand menu.
    2. Click on the story you'd like to critique
    3. Click "critique story".
    ó You can also click "remind me to critique story" if you'd like to crit the story later.
    4. Type your critique into the text form provided.
    ó you can make the input window larger or smaller by clicking the little boxes above the window to the left.
    ó If you quote from the story, you can select the quote, then click "story" in the menu below the window. This will mark the text.
    ó You can also use the other formatting options to make your point.
    ó It's a good idea to click the save button every once in a while, to make sure you don't lose any work. If you save your work, you can also come back to the crit hours or days later.
    ó You can choose to tick "send crit anonymously" ó the author of the story will know who wrote it, but other members won't.
    5. Click Preview
    6. If there's something you'd like to fix, click edit. If you're happy with your crit, click send.

    That's it! Your critique has been sent. You can view it under Story Queue - My Critiques.

    Please let us know if any of these steps are unclear.

    *If for some reason you forget a piece of information after sending, you can leave a comment in the comment section regarding the new material or message the writer through our mail system. If you send in another critique, note that no credits are given.

     What if I want to delete the critiques I've written?
    Once you've sent off your critique, it can't be removed, any more than you can delete email you've already sent out.

    If you and the author that you have sent the crit to both agree to delete it you can send a message to Administrator, but you should consider your crit the joint property of you and the person that you critted once you've sent it out.

    Likewise, the person receiving the crit cannot delete or hide the crits she or he has received.

    If you want to delete a critique in progress, you click the black X next to the critique by following the 'You have a critique in progress' link in the Reminders box on your CC home page or by going to Stories in the top menu bar, clicking on My Critiques and then going to critiques in progress.

     What is Story function about?
    For the author: When your critiquer has used the Story formatting option in marking the excerpts from your story he or she has referred to, that text is pale. If the critiquer has given you a Classic (as opposed to Inline) critique, you can change both color and size of that text, and you can also choose to eliminate the story text altogether, leaving only the critiquer's words. This may be handy when your critiquer has referenced a lot of the original story in his or her Classic critique.

    For the critiquer: Choose what text you want to quote in your critique and use copy/paste to move it from the story to your critique. When that is done, highlight the text and click Story. You should now see tags around the text and when you preview your crit you can see that the quoted text is now pale grey.

     Do I get credits for critiquing previous stories?
    Yes, unless the author has hidden or deleted the story.

    Each story has its fifteen minutes of fame — the current week.

    After that there are fewer credits for reviewing them — but there is good karma instead. This is one method to ensure that all stories receive some attention.

    You receive half a credit for a full critique of an archived story, no credit for a short critique (less than 300 words).

    If you're a day or two late with your critique then you can just contact the admins and we'll give you full credit for it.

    Please note that critiques found to be padded with unrelated content will be rejected, and the credits returned.

     Can I read critiques on other peopleís texts?
    You can read other people's crits after the stories have been critiqued, i.e in the archive.

    The reason why you can't read crits on stories that are being critted, is that they might colour your own critique.

     Writing a critique
    You don't have to be an expert on literature or to be able to use complicated language to write a critique. All you need is the ability to read and express your opinion.

    The most important thing to keep in mind is the golden rule: Write a critique that you would like to receive yourself. A critique is meant to help, not hurt, and the difference between the two often lies simply in the choice of words.

    Start by reading the story completely through, for the global impression it has on you as a reader. Then, read it again, and this time look at the details.

    If you tell the author that you think something should be changed, tell him why. Be objective and bring examples. It doesn't hurt to stress that this is all your humble opinion.

    Don't forget to tell the author about the positive things, what he's doing well. It's just as important to know what you're doing right as what you're not doing so well, to know what works and what doesn't.

    Keep this in mind:
    • Does the story hold your interest?
    • Do you care about the characters?
    • Do you understand the text easily or do you sometimes have to read a paragraph (or more) several times before you make sense of it?
    • Are the conversations natural, do they "flow"?
    • Is the plot believable or do you get the feeling that the author "cheats"?

    We emphasize that critiques should be objective, honest, polite and constructive. That they help people improve their writings. The critiques shouldn't contain personal remarks about the author, the critique is to be aimed at the text alone.

    A destructive critique can cause the author to give up. That's not the kind of critique we want here.

    Just because we stress the importance of constructive critiques doesn't mean we don't want honesty. You can easily be honest and constructive at the same time. It's all a question of phrasing. "Your plot sucks!" or "I think your plot needs some work" — similar messages, but one is destructive, the other is constructive.

    Comments meant for the Critique Circle and its administrators have no place in critiques.

    When you're done with your critique ask yourself: Is this a critique I would like to receive myself?

    Administrators and Moderators review all critiques and if there is a problem they will discuss it with the writer.
    If you have a problem with a critique you have received, please contact us and we'll look into it.

     What if I just donít know how to critique?
    Critiquing is not a question about talent, but practice! If you feel you don't know how to crit, read the instructions and see if they can't help you.

    You just do your best and with time you will be able to give crits that are both invaluable and useful for the author who uses them to improve his text.
    Remember to be constructive, the crits are meant to help the author, not tear him down

    It can be very helpful to read other people's crits (see here)

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