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Edmontonian
08-24-2008, 10:48 PM
Hello everyone,

I have jointed AW only recently, but it did not take me long to realize that some of what passes by for "good critique" or just "critique" is in fact no critique at all. Some people are just using this forum to express their thoughts in laconic blurbs that amont to a little more than "your work sucks." Now, I understand that some of the submissions may lack what consititutes in some people minds as highest levels of quality; nonetheless, I believe our critique, when we decide to disperse it, should be constructive, either focused on the clerical errors, like typos, sentence construction, flow of thoughts, plot holes, character development and things that actually build both the author and the work. Anything else, it is not really helpful neither to whomever gives it, nor to whomever receives it.

Thanks,

ED

mscelina
08-24-2008, 11:02 PM
Is this a chastisement or an opening for conversation?

Anyone who crits your work, whether you appreciate their critique or not, is volunteering their time to read your story. if you want specific types of critiques, it's always possible to ask for them specifically at the beginning of your posted work. And don't forget, sometimes 'no' critique is a critique in and of itself.

On the flip side, have you created a critique partnership with other members of the board? If you crit the work of those who've bothered to read yours, perhaps you could lead by example and provide the sort of critique that you consider to be helpful? eventually, someone will come along who lieks your crit style and will reciprocate by doing the same for you.

Aglaia
08-24-2008, 11:57 PM
IMO, probably the most difficult things we do as writers is open ourselves up to critique. It's a tough thing, to accept that other people - often with more experience or a better, fresher way of seeing our words - find things wrong with our work.

But if you can step back from the initial sting and take the crits how they're meant (and honestly, I've never come across anyone here who is out to be hurtful - why take the time?), then I think you'll see that the crits you've received ARE helpful. If you can divorce yourself from your work (which is incredibly difficult, I know), not take the suggestions personally, and just take them in. They won't all be gold, but what I've found is that, even when they sting a little, a whole heck of a lot of 'em are.


I believe our critique, when we decide to disperse it, should be constructive, either focused on the clerical errors, like typos, sentence construction, flow of thoughts, plot holes, character development and things that actually build both the author and the work.
Every critter has his/her own style. If you're looking for something specific, you can always ask for people to address your concerns when you post your work.

Mr Flibble
08-25-2008, 12:13 AM
Some people are just using this forum to express their thoughts in laconic blurbs that amont to a little more than "your work sucks."

Now I can't say I'd noticed any of that, all ( ok 95%) the critiques I see are constructive and helpful.

But they did always say I'd go blind if I kept up that hobby....

scope
08-25-2008, 01:21 AM
I am constantly overwhelmed by the detail and overall excellence of the critiques given here, to say nothing of the time taken to do same on a pure gratis basis. The intent and the result is always constructive, whatever your belief. If a poster only wants a certain element dealt with, all they have to do is say so.

Riley
08-25-2008, 01:29 AM
Hello everyone,

I have jointed AW only recently, but it did not take me long to realize that some of what passes by for "good critique" or just "critique" is in fact no critique at all. Some people are just using this forum to express their thoughts in laconic blurbs that amont to a little more than "your work sucks." Now, I understand that some of the submissions may lack what consititutes in some people minds as highest levels of quality; nonetheless, I believe our critique, when we decide to disperse it, should be constructive, either focused on the clerical errors, like typos, sentence construction, flow of thoughts, plot holes, character development and things that actually build both the author and the work. Anything else, it is not really helpful neither to whomever gives it, nor to whomever receives it.

Thanks,

ED

Tch. I had this argument with someone not long ago. The following is all my opinion. Your and others' mileage may vary.

First of all, there are a few concepts to receiving (and to giving) critiques that should stand no matter what. These are:

1. The critiquer is doing you a favor. If you don't like their critique, simply thank the person for their time.

2. The critiquer has her own biases. For example, I personally hate anything with a hint of romance. It always comes off cheesy to me, rarely sweet or romantic. I try not to, but I often make negative comments on it whenever I find it in stories.

3. The critiquer is human and may be affected by moods, or the piece itself may inspire a certain mood in them. In a few excerpts I've critiqued here, the piece was so poorly written, I was annoyed and this annoyance colored the critique, making me sound harsher than I really wanted to be. Again, the critiquer is human. Maybe they're having a bad day or the piece struck a wrong chord with them.

And this is one I've found mostly applies to AW.

4. Almost all critiques are helpful. I have very rarely received a critique here that wasn't helpful in some way. Now, sometimes they hurt my feelings. Sometimes I feel the critiquer is blunt and mean, but invariably, when I think about it, s/he is right to some degree.

If you spot any critique that's inappropriate (ie--it violates one of AW's biggest rules: respect your fellow writer,) there's always the option of reporting the offender. But please don't do this just because you're incensed that your opus wasn't received with thunderous applause. So to speak.



In fact, can you provide specific examples of where you thought the critiques were inappropriate in any way? Some people think "good critique" is critique oozed between words that soften and coddle. Different critiquers have different styles. They may be blunt. Bluntness hurts just as sharpness does, but unless the critiquer is really over-the-top, we have to accept their style.

I admit, a few critiques you see are one-liners that are used as a substitute of a real critique. But even a lot of the one-liners have valuable information in them.

Like Mscelina said, you might try asking for a specific type of critique. Note that, depending on how much you ask for, you may get fewer critiques, but at least you'll have what you're looking for and, in the long run, isn't that what counts? It's pretty easy to ask for what you want before the piece you want critiqued. Do remember, though, that some people will critique the way they're used to, your request be damned (I know because I am, unfortunately, one of those people!)

If worse comes to worse, and there's someone whose critique style chafes you, you can always put the person on ignore. I don't know how their posts will appear once they're on ignore, because I've never had a reason to use this function myself, but you shouldn't have to deal with them anymore.

Edmontonian
08-25-2008, 01:45 AM
It seems a few of you misundestood my words: All I meant to say was that saying "this story is bad" or "this story is not interesting" or "I did not find anything thrilling with this story" does not help the author. Instead, someone who wants to critique should do so with the goal of providing actual advice for improvement to the author, like "this story is not interesting because..." and so on.

This is my belief as I stated earlier and was not meant to "chastise" and has nothing to do with not being open to taking critique. We are all human and we have different understanding, talents and preferences. I am making it a goal not to take any critique (or lack thereof) personally.

On the other hand, thanks to all the people that provided extensive and helpful critique.

ED

Soccer Mom
08-25-2008, 01:49 AM
Not everyone has time for an extensive critique. While hearing the specific reasons a story doesn't work is more helpful, hearing that a story fails to reach some readers can be instructive in itself.

dgiharris
08-25-2008, 01:51 AM
I have to chime in here.

95% of the crits here are valuable. Positive crits are helpful, but negative crits are MORE HELPFUL. Of course, the negative is hard to hear, but better you get it 'here' than from an agent / editor. Actually, an agent / editor usually doesn't bother and just gives you the form reject.

I'm sensing you've had a negative experience or two. I'm sorry for that. If you look at my crits, you will see that I usually give very in depth crits, but they are tough love crits, I don't really pull punches, but most people I crit (90%) thank me for them.

Also, as someone mentioned above, building relationships are important on here, and you do that by critiquing. That is perhaps the best way, and you will find, that whenever you need a crit, people will give them without you even having to ask, and if you do ask, they are more than willing.

I'd say that i've critted about 75% of the Mainstream, Sci-fi forums, and Romance forum. I do so not only to help them, but to help me as well since critting is a powerful way to learn as it is easier to see the mistakes in others, harder to see them in yourself.

anyways,

hope you have better experiences, but realize that ALL crits have merit. Even the ones that you might not like at first.

Mel...

Carmy
08-25-2008, 01:59 AM
It seems a few of you misundestood my words: All I meant to say was that saying "this story is bad" or "this story is not interesting" or "I did not find anything thrilling with this story" does not help the author. Instead, someone who wants to critique should do so with the goal of providing actual advice for improvement to the author, like "this story is not interesting because..." and so on.
ED

If anyone offered only "this story is bad" or "this story is not interesting", etc., I hope he or she never offers to critique anyone else. That isn't critiquing.

I've read some things on SYW that haven't appealed to me. I haven't been able to be specific so I pass on saying anything. If a critic has something damning to say, the critic should also offer suggestions on improvement. We're here to help not hinder.

Beach Bunny
08-25-2008, 02:04 AM
It seems a few of you misundestood my words: All I meant to say was that saying "this story is bad" or "this story is not interesting" or "I did not find anything thrilling with this story" does not help the author. Instead, someone who wants to critique should do so with the goal of providing actual advice for improvement to the author, like "this story is not interesting because..." and so on.

Yes, getting those kinds of critiques aren't very helpful. It has been my experience that there is really not much you can do to get people who write those kinds of critiques to change their ways. :Shrug:You have several choices when you do get them (and you will continue to get them. Sorry. :( ) a.) Thank the reviewer and move on. b.) Send the reviewer a pm thanking them for their time and asking them what they specifically didn't like about the story. or c.) stew and fume over the inadequacy of the crit. Personally, I do a or b. Option C just gives me an ulcer and a headache. :(

Bufty
08-25-2008, 02:23 AM
I don't recall seeing these specific phrases used in isolation in crits. I did see one used in one of the OP's received crits and it was a constructive crit if read and digested.

If a recipient chooses to disagree with a crit, that doesn't mean the crit is in any way invalid or of little use.

And critters don't get paid - be grateful for what time they give and don't expect them to devote hours to one's work, tracking down what the writer has missed or providing analysis on a variety of topics. It's not a free coaching and editing service.

JJ Cooper
08-25-2008, 02:59 AM
Any critique, good or bad, can be valuable. After all, readers critique your books all of the time. If your first book is bad they won't buy the next. At least here they tell you it's bad, boring or otherwise before you get it published.

JJ

Prozyan
08-25-2008, 03:04 AM
this story is not interesting

Really, that might be a very valuable comment. Anytime I see this as a critique, it is almost always followed up with:


There is no action happening

I'm not quite sure how that could be considered a negative critique and I'm not quite sure how you would add to that. Sure, a critter could suggest various types of action that might be suitable but this is straying very close to telling the writer how to write their story, and that rarely is well received.

scope
08-25-2008, 03:38 AM
[quote=Edmontonian;2684006] Instead, someone who wants to critique should do so with the goal of providing actual advice for improvement to the author, like "this story is not interesting because..." and so on.

Ed,

What you ask for is a bit much.

To go into the kind of detail you refer to takes a long time, and to do so spot-on truly requires the person doing the critique to be privy to the manuscript, what's in your mind, or at the very least your proposal or synopsis. Speaking for myself, I have refrained from doing critiques of queries, although I'm always tempted to do so, because frankly, knowing me, I realize I'd spend too much of my time doing so, time I just don't have. So, lets be grateful to those AW'ers who consistently critique our work, and do so extremely well. All on their dime, using their valuable time for others.

Mad Queen
08-25-2008, 03:40 AM
I can't remember which writing book I got this advice from, but never argue with critiquers, because they are giving you what you asked for. Thank them and feel free to ignore the critiques if you don't agree with them. Some of them aren't helpful, no doubt about it.

Bufty
08-25-2008, 01:23 PM
I can't remember which writing book I got this advice from, but never argue with critiquers, because they are giving you what you asked for. Thank them and feel free to ignore the critiques if you don't agree with them. Some of them aren't helpful, no doubt about it.


Why is it seemingly negative observations always come from those who don't take time to read the introductory or guidance threads at the top of the Forums they choose to jump into.

I presume the undernoted, which is yours - falls into the helpful category -so what critique comments are not helpful?


My main problem with this story is that it has no conflict. Everything goes well and the chat between the traveler and the ferryman is trivial. No one learns anything. No one has anything interesting or unusual to say. I can't say I would keep reading this book if the other stories are all like this one

Darzian
08-25-2008, 02:30 PM
I have posted my work 4 times in the workshop on AW so far and each time, the critiques were just wonderfully helpful. No one said "Your writing sucks. Please uninstall MS WORD from your PC" and no one said that "I will stop reading from this point." Even if some one had pointed out where they would have stopped reading, I would seriously look into it as a potential agent may just do the same.

I really like accepting critique. In fact I'm looking for more sites where I can do so so that I don't repeatedly burdern the AW members with my work. :flag:

Disa
08-25-2008, 03:01 PM
I think all critiques are helpful in some way.

Some people may not feel they have the ability to do a line by line critique, whether they don't have the time or they just don't have the knowledge. I certainly don't think I have every grammatical rule ingrained in my mind enough to point it out and explain it to a more advanced writer than I am. So-whatever reason a person has for writing a one line critique, that's their choice. It lets us know someone read our story and what they thought of it overall. How is that not useful? They took time away from their own writing project to read ours and offer up a response, how nice is that?

While I understand your point, the detailed and involved critiques do help immensely, and that's really what we are hoping to receive, but I don't think we should be upset with the one liners that are interspersed, because after all- it IS a reader's opinion, and that's who we are writing for, isn't it?

Fillanzea
08-25-2008, 03:40 PM
I prefer not to provide advice for improvement when I crit.

Err, wait, that came out wrong! But I do believe that critiquers are more often right about what is wrong than about how to fix it.

When I read something, I know for a certainty whether I am bored or excited, whether I care about the characters or I don't, whether I understand the plotline, whether I can picture the setting, etc. I may have a good idea of the cause, and I might have a vague idea of the solution... but everything in writing is interconnected.

For example, if there's a scene that reads to me as overly melodramatic, it might be that the emotion of the scene needs to be toned down. But it also might be that I don't know enough about the characters to believe that they care so much about X, or it might be that the scene itself works fine but there are too many scenes of high emotion back-to-back and they start to lose their effect or become ridiculous with repetition.

Or, if an author uses too many adjectives, she might need to delete most of the adjectives, she might need to learn how to focus in on one aspect when describing something rather than giving a scattered description of everything, she might need to work harder at visualizing her settings...

Actually, one of my most frequent (in-my-head) responses to critiques is, "But I was doing X for a specific reason!" Now, obviously whatever effect I was trying to pull off didn't work for that particular reader, but the solution isn't necessarily to stop doing X. Maybe I need to do X better, or rearrange the other elements of the story so that X works, but how to make X work in the context of the story is more complicated than I would expect from a critiquer. Some people are lucky enough to have mind-meld beta readers, but that's a different story. ;)

On the other hand, I realize that I look like a total jerk if I just say "I was bored here," so I do try to offer suggestions. But with the awareness that the author knows way more about his own work and what he's trying to do than the reader.

Phaeal
08-25-2008, 05:27 PM
I'm reading a very interesting book at the moment, Toxic Feedback, by Joni B. Cole (University Press of New England, 2006).

Here's a pertinent passage from the chapter called "EQ":

"Feedback providers, you need to be equally attuned to the emotional component of the process. What is your personal agenda? What impact are your words having on the writer? Are you paying attention to what the writer really needs to hear, right at that moment, to move his work forward? When writers entrust us with their works-in-progress, it is our responsibility to remember that there is an actual, living, breathing, sentient person on the other end of our wisdom."

Watching your agenda, your natural desire to sound smart, to yell out the right answers first (You tell, you don't show! You use passive verbs! Your POV is fragmented!) is indeed very important, and very difficult. Take it from one who knows, but who is trying to do better.

SPMiller
08-25-2008, 05:32 PM
I've only gotten one response (in AW SYW) to a piece of work that genuinely offended me. I posted a work in the Literary subforum and was met with "PM a mod to have this moved to Humor". It wasn't a crit at all. Just a virulent and completely unprovoked insult.

Yeah. Ain't gonna post in Literary no more. No wonder they don't get many posts. The f/sf board almost always provides plenty of critters who intend to improve your work.


All I meant to say was that saying "this story is bad" or "this story is not interesting" or "I did not find anything thrilling with this story" does not help the author.Partially correct. The first response is unhelpful, but the other two are somewhat helpful because they're telling you why the author thinks your story is bad. Granted, they aren't being very specific, but it's possible that they're unable to identify and articulate any specific reason.

Darzian
08-25-2008, 05:39 PM
I've only gotten one response (in AW SYW) to a piece of work that genuinely offended me. I posted a work in the Literary subforum and was met with "PM a mod to have this moved to Humor". It wasn't a crit at all--just a virulent and completely unprovoked insult.

Yeah. Ain't gonna post in Literary no more. No wonder they don't get many posts. The f/sf board almost always provides plenty of critters who intend to improve your work.

Partially correct. The first response is unhelpful, but the other two are very helpful.

Oh my God, I can't believe you got a response like that on AW.

Prozyan
08-25-2008, 06:21 PM
Boiled and stripped down, all a critique does is provide a reader response. In this sense, as long as the critter is being honest and straighforward, a critique cannot be wrong.

Do not make the mistake of confusing critique with editing. Whenever you post your work for review, you are basically asking for a reader response. If you are lucky, you will get an excellent line-edit (maybe even a few!), but that does not invalidate comments such as "I couldn't get into the story", "I wasn't interested", and the like. Often, I think simple reader response is more valuable than line-edits.

I know when I critique, I will not provide rewrites, revisions, or really even hard grammar/syntax edits. Instead, I'll point out things that stick out to me, why I think things are or are not working, and basic errors as I see them (too much telling, infodumps, etc). I am not going to tell or even suggest to someone how they write their story. I'm not going to say, unless asked specifically by the writer, that "such-and-such plot point should be here" or "soandso character should do 'A' instead of 'B'." I'm just going to give my personal opinion and reaction.

SPMiller
08-25-2008, 06:26 PM
Oh my God, I can't believe you got a response like that on AW.I don't say that to make AW look bad.

Out of the at least a hundred responses/crits I've received, only one pissed me off. I'd say that's pretty damn good.

Ms. Jem
08-25-2008, 06:27 PM
I look at critiques as what my future readers will think about the book. That's why every crit, positive or negative, is important. And to me, critiques coming from different levels (whether it be a reader who doesn't write, an editor or a writer from a different genre) are even more so because they all bring something different to the table.

Meanful crits? I've never received one. But then, I have a really thick skin. One of the things I love about AW is that the writers are serious about the craft. At times, that seriousness may come off as blunt or impersonal, depending on personality. And you take it for what it's worth - the crit - depending on your personality. Writers are looking to improve themselves and some of them are even looking to improve you. So, I post a piece that I'm in love with and then a hater comes along and shows me what's wrong with it. Call me crazy, but that's just why I post. Not for the torture of getting my words shot down, but for the eye-opener that almost always follows.

Mad Queen
08-25-2008, 07:21 PM
Why is it seemingly negative observations always come from those who don't take time to read the introductory or guidance threads at the top of the Forums they choose to jump into.
Do you mean that I didn't read the introductory threads? By the way, I didn't even know I had written a negative observation.

I presume the undernoted, which is yours - falls into the helpful category -so what critique comments are not helpful?
I won't presume anything, instead I'll ask you directly why you felt like quoting one of my critiques. It might be worthy to notice that the part you quoted was preceded by another post on punctuation and a line-by-line critique. See the post below for how a critique can be unhelpful.

tehuti88
08-25-2008, 07:24 PM
this story is not interesting

Really, that might be a very valuable comment. Anytime I see this as a critique, it is almost always followed up with:

There is no action happening

I'm not quite sure how that could be considered a negative critique and I'm not quite sure how you would add to that. Sure, a critter could suggest various types of action that might be suitable but this is straying very close to telling the writer how to write their story, and that rarely is well received.

Actually, there ARE some people in the world who think that something like "This story isn't interesting" is a critique, no explanation--not even "There is no action happening"--attached. I once received a "critique" along the lines of:

"This story is well written but DREADFULLY boring. If you read my stories, you would be overwhelmed by sunshine, happiness, and fun."

Of course, said writer had not a lick of writing posted for comment anywhere. Needless to say I was underwhelmed. And had no idea whether my story was truly boring, or if it was just this one person who thought so. (Well, I did have an idea, but not every "critique" will be as obvious as this.)

In a followup post here, reference was made to explaining why a story might be lacking in certain areas, rather than offering suggestions on how to improve (i. e., telling the writer how to write their story). That in itself is a valid form of critique, and should not be confused with just saying, "This story is uninteresting" and leaving it at that. IMO saying a story is uninteresting is not a critique. It's a comment, with no explanation or examples behind it, and is thus useless. At least "There is no action" helps a writer determine WHY something is uninteresting. It could simply be that the reader finds the story uninteresting just because it's a subject they aren't interested in, in which case nothing the writer does could help change the reader's mind; it's a matter of personal opinion. It'd be nice for a reader to let the writer know that, before the writer misassumes what is meant by the story being "uninteresting" and tries to rewrite it for ONE person who just happened to not be interested in the subject.

In short, it's as much a reader's job to "show" and not tell as it is the writer's (in reference to critiques, not just reading for enjoyment!). Show the writer what needs work, instead of just telling them "This is uninteresting." It doesn't have to be ten pages of heavy critique or a line edit or anything. Just a simple "There's no action" can go a long way. But to just say something is uninteresting or whatever is not a critique in the least. It's a personal observation, and like any opinion, it might have a world of usefulness behind it, and it might not, but the writer can't tell which unless the reader clarifies.

I think a lot of the confusion here comes about from a misunderstanding of the term "critique." Everyone seems to define it differently. For some it's a line edit, for some it's some general comments on improvement, for some it's nothing but positive reinforcement, for some it's a mere opinion like "This story is uninteresting." It's unfortunate that there isn't a more reliable definition so such misunderstandings could be avoided. (I don't critique anymore for this very reason--I would practically offer line edits and point out all the grammatical problems, as well as point out the writing's strengths, only to be told stuff like, "Well, I know about the grammar problems, just ignore those" and then they'd completely ignore the good things I said. Too much time spent offering critique on things the writer didn't want critique on in the first place! That, and I simply got tired of so many writers asking me to "just ignore" all their grammar errors. Sorry, can't do it.)

I learned to be VERY SPECIFIC when asking for critiques--I'm more interested, for example, in thoughts on character development and theme than on grammar and style suggestions--but the downside is that I often have to spend several paragraphs just explaining what I'm looking for, and thus I come across as too nitpicky. There's no other way to make one's wants clear, though. :( I wish a lot more writers would be specific in what they want in a critique. Some people, it's true, just want a pat on the back.

I have no opinion on any critiques offered here at AW as I have not asked for any nor do I plan to. :o

*meekly bows out*

Bufty
08-25-2008, 07:30 PM
...Some of them aren't helpful, no doubt about it.

I quoted your crit because it seemed to me from the quote above here, you were agreeing with the OP's views on critiques comprised of phrases you yourself had used. Incidentally, I don't regard the quoted crit as unhelpful and it was, as you edited to say, preceded by several in-line comments.

If I'm wrong, please accept my apologies.


...

I won't presume anything, instead I'll ask you directly why you felt like quoting one of my critiques.

Ziljon
08-25-2008, 07:39 PM
To be fair, I must point out that the miniscule portion of a crit quoted by Bufty earlier from a Mad Queen crit was actually just the summation after an in-depth and helpful line crit.

I'm only writing this so the Mad Queen won't get too mad.;)

Mad Queen
08-25-2008, 07:46 PM
Thanks, Ziljon. I edited my previous post to say the same.

I quoted your crit because it seemed to me from the quote above here, you were agreeing with the OP's views on critiques comprised of phrases you yourself had used.
I do think some critiques are unhelpful for the reasons tehuti88 pointed above. Besides what's helpful and unhelpful depends on the writer's ability to get help from a critique. Sometimes it boils down to different opinions, thus a critique won't be helpful. This is not the critiquer's fault, but it happens.

If I'm wrong, please accept my apologies.
Apologies accepted. :)

Bufty
08-25-2008, 07:54 PM
:Hug2:.