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View Full Version : You ever critique someone's work and they were offended?



nitaworm
12-13-2009, 01:10 PM
I sometimes beta other's work. When I critique, I basically point out things that I don't understand, don't make sense to me as a reader, things that I like, points where I stopped reading and such. I am not mean or crude, but I am honest.

Well this person took my critique so seriously, that they responded angrily about it. I wasn't offended, but like? Wow? Why did you ask for feedback if you didn't want it to be honest.

I have gotten tons of feedback, bad and good for my work. Sometimes it frustrated me that my reader and I couldn't seem to communicate, but I would think it over and give it to another to critic. If they both had the same issues, I knew a change was in order.

Now, it kinda makes me not want to beta/critique someones work. I take time that I should be writing to do this, because I know how hard it is to get someone serious to beta stuff.

So, how do you approach beta/critique - are you honest or do you play nice so you don't hurt the writer's feelings.

Luckily for me, all of my betas/critique partners were honest - therefore they improved my work.

gothicangel
12-13-2009, 01:37 PM
Oh yeah, it was a critique on YWO and they took the pages down soon after. Then I discovered they were a friend, I don't think she knows it was me yet . . .

On the otherside of the coin, I had critiques done (not AW) that have offended me. It was one that can only be put down to jealousy. It was two years ago, but the comments were along 'this is s***'; 'if this is what gets published, I don't want to be published'. Which are strange comments considering Darley and Anderson told me it had bestseller potential . . .

aadams73
12-13-2009, 03:51 PM
When I crit or beta I'm completely honest, which is often a problem so I rarely do it now.

Basically your average writer wants to be told they're brilliant! a literary genius! a definite bestseller! And if you don't support that delusion, they get pissy as hell.

Those types will never be published.

(Also it makes me laugh when they get all polly pissy pants. :D)

BigWords
12-13-2009, 04:03 PM
I think I'm blunt in my critiques. Not sure. It isn't that I mean to be rude, it's just to save the author time wading through a rambling and overlong explanation of why I don't think that something works. If I've offended anyone I didn't mean it.

Ken
12-13-2009, 04:55 PM
... about a year and a half ago a fellow here bragged about how brutally honest he was with his critiques. As a result more than a dozen newish members had quit posting on the site, altogether, as he claimed because they were so crushed by his critiques. Bugged me afterwards when I got to thinking about it, especially as he seemed proud of the fact and to be gloating over it.

As to me, I take into consideration what level a writer is on when I critique them, which becomes pretty obvious after reading a paragraph or two. If they're beginners and have lots to learn I go easy, offering some critiques about things they might fix but making sure to be positive so as not to discourage them from continuing to write and making efforts to improve. I feel that's important.

With more seasoned writers I occasionally am brutal, as brutality sometimes seems to be the only way to get through to some set on clinging to bad habits, as I've found.

kaitie
12-13-2009, 05:11 PM
I know I have in an old writing workshop I did ages ago...but that's okay because I had a few that offended me as well. Actually, I used to have a friend who fell into the, "This is shit," category...needless to stay she's no longer a friend. Some people, I think, feel better about themselves by dissing others.

I also try to take level into account, and I was taught early on to try to point out good things as well as bad. Often it's easy to only point out bad things because obviously the good things are fine, but it's so discouraging to see nothing but negative, so I always try to point out anything that's done well. I won't lie to people, though.

Parametric
12-13-2009, 05:19 PM
I critique a lot, so I get this now and then. Happened just a few days ago, actually. Makes me wish I could punch people in the face over the internet. :rolleyes: Sadly, all I can do is add them to my internal Douchebag List of People Never to Help Again.

scarletpeaches
12-13-2009, 05:23 PM
When I crit or beta I'm completely honest, which is often a problem so I rarely do it now.

Basically your average writer wants to be told they're brilliant! a literary genius! a definite bestseller! And if you don't support that delusion, they get pissy as hell.

Those types will never be published.

(Also it makes me laugh when they get all polly pissy pants. :D)This, this, a thousand times this.

I gave a mild critique to a precious snowflake once and she went tits mental. Ah well. Put me off critting I can tell you.

Now I precede everything with, "You do realise I'm brutal, don't you?" Weird, because this other crit was mild and after the reaction I got I thought, might as well go at it all guns blazing then, if that's the reaction I'm gonna get.

So that's why I only beta for tt42 now. She can take whatever I dish out and it's all for the good of the story anyway. I'll read chapters here and there for other people if they really want me to, but Lori's the only one who gets detailed crits and in-depth conversation about her work.

Like aadams73 said, people want to be told they're literary geniuses. "It's all right - I can take it!" is never the truth.

Unless your name's thethinker42. A writer less in possession of ego I have yet to meet, nor one who more deserves it.

YAwriter72
12-13-2009, 05:27 PM
I think there is a difference too. I had a critter early on when I started writing who was just awful. Not critical in a good way. She kept making little notes, like "It's obvious your a beginner" "I would go back to the drawing board, this is awful" type of comments. Nothing constructive at all. When I got it back I was floored and asked my regular CP if I was indeed a shitty writer. She was offended by the other crit person. (She actually did a blog post about just plain mean people after that LOL)

Its funny really, because that story was my first published story a few weeks later. The critter as yet remains unpublished. Since then I am very particular about who I let crit for me. Not because I don't want to hear the truth, but because I have no time for people to act like shit just because. Tell me I'm telling, tell me to add more to a scene, etc. Don't make snide comments every few lines about how much I suck.

When I crit other people, I try very hard to point out all the good along with areas of improvement. My aim isn't to make someone feel so bad that they want to give up. Honesty is good, presented in a way that doesn't make someone else feel like shit.

Unfortunately, OP, some people can't even take the most basic feedback and will be offended by anything other than "You're a brilliant writer."

Don't stop beta-ing! There are plenty of people out there who actually want to hear it!!


Also, I think the more seasoned a writer becomes, the more they are able to read a crit from someone and pick out the Ahhha and DOH! parts, and know they don't have to do everything thats pointed out. (Comes in handy when you get edit suggestions from your agent too! :tongue)

scarletpeaches
12-13-2009, 05:30 PM
Yup. Critting needs to be constructive. I tend towards flagging filtering, telling-not-showing, inconsistencies of character, that sort of thing.

Brutal, yes. Pointlessly rude, no.

I still maintain if someone threatens to quit writing because of a bad crit they were never a writer in the first place, just someone looking for a circle jerk.

Besides, if you can't take a crit, you're screwed when it comes to the submission process anyway. I'm brutal, but nothing like an agent or a publishing house. So come big or stay home.

YAwriter72
12-13-2009, 05:32 PM
You see it a lot on SYW. New writers who post, and by their obvious tone, are looking for everyone to say they are brilliant. The ones who truly want to learn and improve are pretty obvious!

thethinker42
12-13-2009, 05:33 PM
Yup. Critting needs to be constructive. I tend towards flagging filtering, telling-not-showing, inconsistencies of character, that sort of thing.

Brutal, yes. Pointlessly rude, no.

I still maintain if someone threatens to quit writing because of a bad crit they were never a writer in the first place, just someone looking for a circle jerk.

Besides, if you can't take a crit, you're screwed when it comes to the submission process anyway. I'm brutal, but nothing like an agent or a publishing house. So come big or stay home.

Amen on all counts.

Seams
12-13-2009, 05:33 PM
i understand this thread lol, yes it gets to a point where you go, 'why did i bother spending an hour or more looking into a story if everything is going to be disregarded or looked at as a personal attack. This is a writing forum to improve, if a writer believes they are good enough not to have feedback except for praise, then just sub it. sounds cold to say that, but showcasing is something i have never understood.

makes me think about this beta reader thing more and more, but i don't know much about that.

Parametric
12-13-2009, 05:37 PM
You see it a lot on SYW. New writers who post, and by their obvious tone, are looking for everyone to say they are brilliant. The ones who truly want to learn and improve are pretty obvious!

Sadly, some people post so little (and don't fill out their profiles) that it's difficult for me to tell in advance that they're going to be a douchebag. If only they'd fill out their "Best quality" section in advance with "My ability to ignore the jealous fools who try to drag me down to their level!", I'd know not to bother. :tongue

Ellefire
12-13-2009, 05:39 PM
One thing I don't want to be told is 'you're a brilliant writer' ,because it just smacks of 'actually I haven't got a clue and can't offer you anything to develop your writing'.

I want comments like 'Great scene but you slipped from 3rd POV limited into omniscience'
'This scene confused me, who the hell is FMC talking about?'
'You've info-dumped here and I skipped it.'

Helpful comments.

I once critted a nano novel, and after wading through about half of it I told the author that her dialogue was good, technically it was good, but the story was so weak, I couldn't even tell what genre it was. Obviously not what she wanted to hear. She was Quite Upset.

I tend not to crit here. I don't have the confidence. I'll have a read and point out some things that leap out at me as a reader, but as a writer feel I'm not of a standard to point out other people's fault when I can't recognise them in my own writing.

scarletpeaches
12-13-2009, 05:43 PM
When it comes to seeking crits, I tend not to do that myself because - and this will sound arrogant, I know - there's only one other writer on this site who's so completely on my level she understands what I'm trying to do and how to encourage me to express that. So we beta/crit/read through over MSN and by email.

I'm not saying she's the only one who's better than me, but she gives it some welly rather than this "Oh, that was nice. I liked that," nonsense. :D I would say "She's better than me and not scared of me, either!"

Plus, I've pissed off plenty of people with my forthright attitude so would expect much of the crits I'd get to be from a place of "Right, I'll show that cow," rather than what was best for the story.

thethinker42
12-13-2009, 05:47 PM
When it comes to seeking crits, I tend not to do that myself because - and this will sound arrogant, I know - there's only one other writer on this site who's so completely on my level she understands what I'm trying to do and how to encourage me to express that. So we beta/crit/read through over MSN and by email.

I'm not saying she's the only one who's better than me, but she gives it some welly rather than this "Oh, that was nice. I liked that," nonsense. :D I would say "She's better than me and not scared of me, either!"

Plus, I've pissed off plenty of people with my forthright attitude so would expect much of the crits I'd get to be from a place of "Right, I'll show that cow," rather than what was best for the story.

Indeed. That's why we work well as writing partners.

I'll still beta for people, but rarely. Usually only if a) they're beta reading something of mind or b) we've discussed their writing enough that I'm comfortable enough with them to give them an honest crit. I don't beta for people I don't know, basically.

Ellefire
12-13-2009, 05:47 PM
Plus, I've pissed off plenty of people with my forthright attitude so would expect much of the crits I'd get to be from a place of "Right, I'll show that cow," rather than what was best for the story.

I think from me the attitude would be 'Argh, she's published! How can I tell her where's she's going wrong if she's so obviously a better writer than I?'

Phaeal
12-13-2009, 05:48 PM
Noblesse will oblige on both sides of a critique, that of the critter and that of the recipient.

If the critter goes into the process with any other purpose than the honest desire to help, he should not crit. The crit is not a legitimate arena for grandstanding, nor should it be wielded either as a weapon or an ego-sop.

If the recipient goes into the process looking only for effusive praise, he'll be disappointed by anything less and will probably reject critical insights and suggestions. But whatever he gets, from praise to legit crit to brutality, the proper response is "Thank you." He can then determine, silently, which critters to pursue and which to avoid like the plagues they are.

Seams
12-13-2009, 05:49 PM
normally when i post its because i've reached a point in its editing that needs another view. I learn from a critique, sometimes i disagree(depends on the writer as i usually look at their work too) but i'm willing to learn something new or a better way to express it. I used to fight and explain everything they picked up, but found out, i wasn't learning anything at all doing that, so now i try to see pass how i would see it, and try to see how the reader does. but getting a 'good story, thanks' shows me nothing, helps me not at all, it might boost the ego, but my ego is a horrible writer :)

Julie Worth
12-13-2009, 05:49 PM
i understand this thread lol, yes it gets to a point where you go, 'why did i bother spending an hour or more looking into a story if everything is going to be disregarded or looked at as a personal attack.

The only rational reason to critique others is to improve your own skills at analysis. If you are truly altruistic, you'll see that, by helping others who will never be publishable anyway, you are only delaying their return to some more productive activity. Conversely, by not helping them, you will reduce their inevitable heartache and help put food into the mouths of their children.

scarletpeaches
12-13-2009, 05:51 PM
I think from me the attitude would be 'Argh, she's published! How can I tell her where's she's going wrong if she's so obviously a better writer than I?':D

In my case I'm not - yet! Getting there, though. So what me and tt42 get up to on MSN works for us. I know I can sell books - I've done it! - but have still to work my synopsis magic on my own. (Wish me luck on the full I have out).

I've had published writers ask my opinion on things and it really is an honour, especially when I'm already a fan of their work. Such humility is refreshing, and a stark contrast to Le Snowflaque Preceusse dans la SYW.

(Them's real words from French France, y'knows).

Sophia
12-13-2009, 05:52 PM
I have offended, unintentionally, but looking back I can see how it happened, and know not to do it again. When I first began critting, I would make suggestions that were what I would do in a particular section, rather than explaining where something was unclear to me or felt inconsistent with what came before. I think that critters go on their own learning curve for doing critiques, and that sometimes, what come across as bad crits might be down to their inexperience, rather than malice. Saying that, the actively insulting examples upthread are completely out of line, and must have been awful to receive.

I've had no response to crits a few times, and I'll know that my style doesn't suit that person, and move on. I think critiquing is good because not only does it help you become more analytical about your own writing, but it helps you find people who do take your crits very well and you'd feel comfortable having your work critiqued by. dpaterso, for example, is a great person to critique for.

Linda Adams
12-13-2009, 05:52 PM
I've found that no matter how nice you are, feelings can get hurt anyway. Some people come into critiques saying they're ready, but expecting to be told the story is fantastic. It's a rude shock for them to be told it needs work. Sometimes they don't even read the praise parts of the critique, but only the parts they perceive as bad.

And then you have someone like me: I'm going to start submitting in January. No critiques, no betas, at all. And it's because I fully expect a load of negative (unhelpful) critiques. I'm writing in omni, and the couple times I tried to do a critique of a first chapter draft I was admonished not to use the viewpoint. I was treated not as if I had made a deliberate choice about the viewpoint, but as I didn't know how to write and had to have it explained to me. You'd never hear someone say about a first person story, "I'm sure you know your story, but here's how you would write it in third." And I was actually told that. People commented on my using the viewpoint, not on how I did it. Very few comments on the actual story. I stayed polite and thanked everyone when the one thing I wanted to do was ask, "Is anyone going to actually do any critting of the work itself?" I shudder at the thought of a beta going through the manuscript and changing the viewpoint to third like the story was broken.

YAwriter72
12-13-2009, 05:53 PM
When it comes to seeking crits, I tend not to do that myself because - and this will sound arrogant, I know - there's only one other writer on this site who's so completely on my level she understands what I'm trying to do and how to encourage me to express that.


I was going to say this too. I'm a snob I know. I have read all my betas before they beta'd for me. I need their writing to be on a caliber that actually will help me, so I am picky about who does it. (And have found some amazing betas because of it!)

And GOOD LUCK!

Kalyke
12-13-2009, 05:59 PM
I think that it is very important to bring up things like the "artistic ego" and things like "fragility." One thing I learned after years of writing was that writing is a brutal and very competitive field-- not the dance in the woods with animated bluebirds trip that a lot of people seem to think. It's painful and humiliating to be told that your work is bland derivative junk, and you are not a genius. Crits can be traumatic, but building up the ability to recieve criticism is a part of growth as a writer.

I accept that a crit might seem like bing dragged through a gauntlet, but hey! The Beta actually read through it, thought about it and did not throw it on the floor! That's kind of great.

I occasionally Beta, but only in certain genres. I think I will not ask for the first chapter of a book, but the second. The first chapter is usually the one that is constantly tweaked, so it will be more polished than the last, and I have been discovering that some people will seem to have a complete book, but will have only a first chapter. I can't give a crit if the writer dosent think the book is publisher ready. Betas are like: the last step before sending Queries, are they not?

I also cannot really learn much from the first chapter because the first chapter is usually development. There is some buildup for the initiating incedent, but it is mainly character development.

Julie Worth
12-13-2009, 06:00 PM
...I need their writing to be on a caliber that actually will help me...

What I value most is for readers to tell me where they lost interest. Occasionally, they don't even have to tell me. I gave one book to a relative who stretched out on the sofa to read it, and promptly fell asleep. So I knew the opening needed work.

thethinker42
12-13-2009, 06:01 PM
I think from me the attitude would be 'Argh, she's published! How can I tell her where's she's going wrong if she's so obviously a better writer than I?'

In the case of SP and me, yes, I'm published...but I'm not a better writer than she is. If anything, I write faster, but we're on the same level. A marathon runner isn't going to run as many races in a day as a sprinter, but their Olympic medals are made of the same gold.

My attitude is this: I wouldn't BE published without her. My writing wouldn't be where it is today. Believe me, when she speaks...I listen.

kaitie
12-13-2009, 06:02 PM
You see it a lot on SYW. New writers who post, and by their obvious tone, are looking for everyone to say they are brilliant. The ones who truly want to learn and improve are pretty obvious!

I'm always afraid I come off like that. I want an honest critique, and while I might have to have a good cry after a bad one, I go back afterward and fix it--I just usually need that moment of being upset first, especially if it's been particularly frustrating. I don't get offended, though, unless someone is just being a jerk, and I certainly am not looking for someone to just hand me a "you're awesome" pass.

kaitie
12-13-2009, 06:04 PM
In the case of SP and me, yes, I'm published...but I'm not a better writer than she is. If anything, I write faster, but we're on the same level. A marathon runner isn't going to run as many races in a day as a sprinter, but their Olympic medals are made of the same gold.

My attitude is this: I wouldn't BE published without her. My writing wouldn't be where it is today. Believe me, when she speaks...I listen.

I think it is incredibly awesome that you have a relationship like this with someone in terms of writing. We'd all be lucky to have this.

YAwriter72
12-13-2009, 06:07 PM
I'm always afraid I come off like that. I want an honest critique, and while I might have to have a good cry after a bad one, I go back afterward and fix it--I just usually need that moment of being upset first, especially if it's been particularly frustrating. I don't get offended, though, unless someone is just being a jerk, and I certainly am not looking for someone to just hand me a "you're awesome" pass.


I literally cried when my agent sent back my second book with an "The second half is just not working for me" Then I gave it a day, and started thinking about how to make it better, and he was totally right!

Every step prepares you for the next one! Betas, agents, editors. You have to be open to feedback and suggestive criticism, but aware that the people who are telling you that are (hopefully) ones that really want to see you succeed!

kaitie
12-13-2009, 06:08 PM
I think I'm just a crier in general, though. If I'm faced with something negative, I might spend a day being really upset by it, but then once that day passes I get over it and take care of it.

Parametric
12-13-2009, 06:10 PM
I was going to say this too. I'm a snob I know. I have read all my betas before they beta'd for me. I need their writing to be on a caliber that actually will help me, so I am picky about who does it. (And have found some amazing betas because of it!)

Do you find that writing skill correlates so closely to critiquing skill? I think of myself as much better at critiquing than writing. And I've had really great critique from people whose work I've never read - Georgina (http://www.absolutewrite.com/forums/member.php?u=28999), for example, did the most incredible beta read for me. I kind of see writing and critiquing as two separate skills, and being good at one doesn't necessarily make you good at the other.

Ellefire
12-13-2009, 06:11 PM
Oh Kaitie, I think so too. Do you fancy a WIP swap to have a crack at it?

thethinker42
12-13-2009, 06:12 PM
I think it is incredibly awesome that you have a relationship like this with someone in terms of writing. We'd all be lucky to have this.

Believe me, I'm thankful for it every time I go to put words on paper.


I literally cried when my agent sent back my second book with an "The second half is just not working for me" Then I gave it a day, and started thinking about how to make it better, and he was totally right!

Amazing what a little objectivity can do.

I had a book contracted in January. Then when the company merged with another, my book was one of the contracts that was dropped. I was upset about it for a day or two, then pulled the manuscript out and gave it a look from an objective angle. Turns out, that dropped contract was the best thing that ever happened to that book...I completely rewrote it, adding nearly 50,000 words of new material, and it's better than ever.

Sometimes crits, rejections, etc., can hurt, but it's part of the process.


Every step prepares you for the next one! Betas, agents, editors. You have to be open to feedback and suggestive criticism, but aware that the people who are telling you that are (hopefully) ones that really want to see you succeed!

Amen on all counts!! And if you can't handle betas, agents, and editors...wait til you get to reviewers and readers! If I hadn't developed a thick skin at this point (do I need to say who's responsible for that? I think it's obvious), I'd have been a bucket of tears and preciousness over an e-mail I received from a reader this morning. But I just took it for what it was, brushed off the negativity, and moved on.

kaitie
12-13-2009, 06:12 PM
Do you find that writing skill correlates so closely to critiquing skill? I think of myself as much better at critiquing than writing. And I've had really great critique from people whose work I've never read - Georgina (http://www.absolutewrite.com/forums/member.php?u=28999), for example, did the most incredible beta read for me. I kind of see writing and critiquing as two separate skills, and being good at one doesn't necessarily make you good at the other.

Just chiming in to agree with this.

kaitie
12-13-2009, 06:18 PM
Oh Kaitie, I think so too. Do you fancy a WIP swap to have a crack at it?

Your siggy amuses me btw. ;) I'm not necessarily going to make anyone read my story (unless they want to lol), but I'm willing to give other people's a look (in chunks lol...I've been far busier lately than I thought). I'm at this weird point where I'm pretty happy with what I have and don't mind letting someone read it, but I've got a couple of people looking at it for me as a whole, and honestly I'm not expecting anything major.

See...this is where it sounds like I'm just wanting someone to say I'm awesome. Let's just say aside from a couple of minor things, I'm really confident with what I have, and after all of the working through of plot details and fixing I've done to get to this point, I think it's about as good as I can make it. That might sound kinda naive, but it's true. Now if you'd hit me two weeks ago when I was begging people to read my first chapter, that's a different story lol. ;)

I don't mind reading for other people, though, as long as they're aware I'll be a bit slow. :)

Kalyke
12-13-2009, 06:18 PM
Do you find that writing skill correlates so closely to critiquing skill? I think of myself as much better at critiquing than writing. And I've had really great critique from people whose work I've never read - Georgina (http://www.absolutewrite.com/forums/member.php?u=28999), for example, did the most incredible beta read for me. I kind of see writing and critiquing as two separate skills, and being good at one doesn't necessarily make you good at the other.

A good point is that critiquing skills seem to correlate to editing skills. The hardest type of editing is substantive -- seeing big picture of the overall "story." I really think nit-picking about spelling or punctuation, or whether someone uses too many passives is not as important as the story. The other stuff can be cleaned up with some good editing.

The last thing I read was too small a sample to see any story emerging. The MC was also extremely unlikeable. So unlikeable that he seemed mentally ill. I knew what the author wanted-- a kind of angry young man-- but this guy struck me as a whiner. I gave my opinion-- never heard anything back. That's the sort of stuff that happens with me.

jclarkdawe
12-13-2009, 06:19 PM
We have a young person who just came to QLH. His friends and family have been telling him he's a wonderful writer and to try to get published. I told him, in my usual style, he's nowhere near there yet.

Which of us is nicer?

I guess the question is which is more important to you. Is it more important to feel good, or is it more important to learn to write so well someone is excited about publishing you?

Best of luck,

Jim Clark-Dawe

Ellefire
12-13-2009, 06:30 PM
Heh, two weeks ago I was frantically trying to pound the wordage out for nano (and a novel that may go straight into the trunk).

Actually, instead of a beta reader, what I really want at the moment is an msn buddy to bounce ideas off, someone who writes and reads the sort of stuff I do and somebody who may beta when I'm ready.

The sig is awesome, I nicked it from somewhere else, it's probably the least likely thing King would ever say.

kaitie
12-13-2009, 06:32 PM
We have a young person who just came to QLH. His friends and family have been telling him he's a wonderful writer and to try to get published. I told him, in my usual style, he's nowhere near there yet.

Which of us is nicer?

I guess the question is which is more important to you. Is it more important to feel good, or is it more important to learn to write so well someone is excited about publishing you?

Best of luck,

Jim Clark-Dawe

Not speaking out against you, Jim, because you're insanely helpful, but just saying that I think it's also important to look at the writer and take into account their needs as well. Some people need a gentle critique, and if they see something that's just one negative thing after another, they can get super discouraged by it. Some people can take a person pissing all over their work and have no problem. I think there are a lot of times when the tone of the critique can make a big difference.

I had a bunch of people read my first chapter not too long ago (as mentioned before). Some of them loved it and raved. Some of them had a lot of good things to point out, and I've improved the chapter quite a bit because of it, I think. Was it a bit discouraging, yeah, but that was just stress and being frustrated at being unable to get it right. My critters were all awesome (thanks to all of you, seriously). But there was one in particular that stands out to me because he mentioned a lot of negative things that needed fixing, but he did it in a really joking, lighthearted way. Now some people might be offended at someone making a joke about something bad in their novel, but for me, personally, it was awesome. He made me laugh about the mistakes.

It's impossible to tell what someone needs, but if someone is obviously a new writer I do try to be encouraging and more gentle than if someone is an old hand at it. I do think it's completely true, though, that a lot of people just have no idea what their tolerance is until they're hit with the negative crits. It's hard for someone to say, "Please be nice it's my first time" when they think, "Eh, I can take it." I just try to guess.

Oddly...attitude also matters here, though. I get really frustrated when people just ignore whatever is said, and I've had that happen a lot (especially in said writing workshop). When someone gets defensive and refuses to listen to any advice, I get a lot less sympathetic.

YAwriter72
12-13-2009, 06:33 PM
Do you find that writing skill correlates so closely to critiquing skill? I think of myself as much better at critiquing than writing. And I've had really great critique from people whose work I've never read - Georgina (http://www.absolutewrite.com/forums/member.php?u=28999), for example, did the most incredible beta read for me. I kind of see writing and critiquing as two separate skills, and being good at one doesn't necessarily make you good at the other.


Well for me, I am confident in my actual writing style, its the big picture that gets away from me. And I beta in turn based on the big picture. I agree with Use Her Name in that the small things can be fixed. My area of weakness is letting the plot fizzle out. I let me betas know this so they know what to be looking for.

And yes, you can find great betas who you've never met or read before (My first few were and they were awesome) but at this point, for me, I need more than a spelling/grammar/punctuation crit, and I can usually tell by reading someone else whether we would work good together.

(For example, I write laid back. I start at lot of sentences with But and And. I use 'was' constantly. My betas to know that, and know how to spot style vs "rules" which I think comes with just a lot of writing-or reading in my genre.) I also use my betas as bouncers during rewrites.

SPMiller
12-13-2009, 06:33 PM
I don't visit SYW anymore due to the reactions to my crits. This thread inspired me to look up some stats from my f/sf SYW days.

first crit date: 31 Mar 2008
stories posted: 13
stories critiqued: 64
final crit date: 28 Nov 2008

That was a good eight months, I guess, but I just can't do it anymore.

kaitie
12-13-2009, 06:33 PM
Heh, two weeks ago I was frantically trying to pound the wordage out for nano (and a novel that may go straight into the trunk).

Actually, instead of a beta reader, what I really want at the moment is an msn buddy to bounce ideas off, someone who writes and reads the sort of stuff I do and somebody who may beta when I'm ready.

The sig is awesome, I nicked it from somewhere else, it's probably the least likely thing King would ever say.

Dude, I could totally use an idea bouncer. You in the UK? I've got a yahoo ID or an email address. :tongue

scarletpeaches
12-13-2009, 06:35 PM
Yay! AW helps form another bouncer-partnership. Bouncership?

Anyhoo...if you're gonna ask for crits, PLEASE FOR THE LOVE OF JARED LETO LEARN TO SPELL.

I will shut the shit down on any chapter littered with spelling mistakes and grammatical errors. You won't get past an editor and you won't get past me.

Show the craft some respect by learning the basics before you even THINK of asking for a crit. PLEASE.

icerose
12-13-2009, 06:39 PM
I recently got offended myself and had to ammend my own comments because I realized what I was doing and I hope no one saw me acting like an ass. Basically it boiled down to the comment didn't help me at all. The offhand comment didn't give me anything to work with. It basically was "might as well take this one to the shredder" in usefulness.

But I deleted my comment and instead gave them a positive reppy and opened up a dialog. We talked until I finally understood where that comment came from, along with help from another critter and connected with what was wrong and what needed to be changed. That was a first in a long time, so it caught me off guard.

I have more people get offended than not, but I always strive toward honest (yeah they're brutal) and to the point critiques. If you're looking for sugar coated goodness you've stumbled across the wrong critter. I've run across too many writers who take what's called faint praise and use it to drown out all other comments I've made and not bother to improve their work at all because I said X.

Since then I have never offered faint praise. If you get "This is really good" I mean it.

That being said, 99% of the time I lead in with a warning, or ask the person before hand if they're sure they want me to critique because this is the way I dance. When I do private critiques it tends to work out so much better than on board critiques because I've been able to get the person asking me a warning and a sample of my critiques. It's when I forget those warnings and post on the board that I get my fingers slammed in the door.

SPMiller
12-13-2009, 06:42 PM
If I ever did go back into SYW, I'd probably write a boilerplate disclaimer to prepend to every post.

icerose
12-13-2009, 06:43 PM
We have a young person who just came to QLH. His friends and family have been telling him he's a wonderful writer and to try to get published. I told him, in my usual style, he's nowhere near there yet.

Which of us is nicer?

I guess the question is which is more important to you. Is it more important to feel good, or is it more important to learn to write so well someone is excited about publishing you?

Best of luck,

Jim Clark-Dawe

That's how I personally view it. A writer will get hobbled more by faint praise (praise that isn't hard earned and deserved) than he will by a harsh, honest, but helpful critique.

If they aren't ready then they need to recognize and back out of asking critiques until they are ready.

kaitie
12-13-2009, 06:49 PM
I recently got offended myself and had to ammend my own comments because I realized what I was doing and I hope no one saw me acting like an ass. Basically it boiled down to the comment didn't help me at all. The offhand comment didn't give me anything to work with. It basically was "might as well take this one to the shredder" in usefulness.

But I deleted my comment and instead gave them a positive reppy and opened up a dialog. We talked until I finally understood where that comment came from, along with help from another critter and connected with what was wrong and what needed to be changed. That was a first in a long time, so it caught me off guard.

I have more people get offended than not, but I always strive toward honest (yeah they're brutal) and to the point critiques. If you're looking for sugar coated goodness you've stumbled across the wrong critter. I've run across too many writers who take what's called faint praise and use it to drown out all other comments I've made and not bother to improve their work at all because I said X.

Since then I have never offered faint praise. If you get "This is really good" I mean it.

That being said, 99% of the time I lead in with a warning, or ask the person before hand if they're sure they want me to critique because this is the way I dance. When I do private critiques it tends to work out so much better than on board critiques because I've been able to get the person asking me a warning and a sample of my critiques. It's when I forget those warnings and post on the board that I get my fingers slammed in the door.

Okay last comment then I MUST go to bed! I just wanted to respond to this. I think you hit the nail on the head about some people just pulling out positive comments and ignoring the rest. That is definitely something that happens, and it's especially frustrating when you leave a lot of things to be fixed and one positive and then the rest is ignored. Now, I'm still going to leave the "smiley faces" behind the way I was taught ages ago in my first ever writing class, just because like I said earlier, I like to always point out something positive as well, but I think what you've mentioned here is the same kind of writer mentioned above--the one who just wants people to tell them how great they are. They aren't really there for the sake of the crit, they're there for the positive reinforcement.

The thing is, that's their choice. If they don't want to learn and improve, that was something they decided, and I suppose they're getting what they want out of it. Frustrating, but there is a reason why there aren't more published authors out there--because most people don't have the desire or motivation to do what it takes to improve, and that means learning from our mistakes and putting the effort into fixing them.

ChaosTitan
12-13-2009, 07:02 PM
When I crit or beta I'm completely honest, which is often a problem so I rarely do it now.

Basically your average writer wants to be told they're brilliant! a literary genius! a definite bestseller! And if you don't support that delusion, they get pissy as hell.

Those types will never be published.

(Also it makes me laugh when they get all polly pissy pants. :D)

This.

If someone is getting defensive and pissy over a SYW crit (or a private, email crit), then they're going to have a hell of a time working with a professional editor, who are the epitome of blunt. If you don't develop an ability to take criticism, consider its value, and then implement or ignore based on the needs of the story, you're going to have a hell of a tough time later in the game.


We have a young person who just came to QLH. His friends and family have been telling him he's a wonderful writer and to try to get published. I told him, in my usual style, he's nowhere near there yet.

Which of us is nicer?


Jim, you big meanie, you... :cry:


(kidding :D Rock on!)


That's how I personally view it. A writer will get hobbled more by faint praise (praise that isn't hard earned and deserved) than he will by a harsh, honest, but helpful critique.

If they aren't ready then they need to recognize and back out of asking critiques until they are ready.

Ditto.

I don't think I've personally every offended someone with a crit (no one's ever accused me of it, anyway) I've given them. I try to be polite and helpful, but I don't offer empty praise. If I like something, I'll tell them. If it's not working, I'll tell them. But as always, it's still just my opinion.

DragonHeart
12-13-2009, 08:31 PM
On here, no. Elsewhere, yes. Not a stranger but a friend who asked me to look at his work. He gave me an unedited first draft. I called him on it and he yanked the story (he'd posted it and asked me specifically for a crit). We're still friends but ever since then I've been cautious in my critting, which I don't do very often to begin with.

I've received many 'crits' consisting of nothing but praise in the past so I make a point of not doing that myself. If I read something on here and enjoy it but I don't think I can contribute anything constructive, I offer my opinion via rep instead. When I post a crit, I am honest but I also try not to come across as mean-spirited. Sometimes I think it makes me a little softer than I should be. I try very hard to not be antagonistic in general. Just not the sort of person I am. Perhaps I'm not well suited to being a critter but I do enjoy helping others despite my relative inexperience.

Lauretta
12-13-2009, 08:46 PM
I always try to use the sandwich style. A positive note, a negative one and a positive note again.
Alas, some will listen, while others will completely ignore it or get very defensive. You can't please everyone, but at least I try not to be harsh nor to offend them.

scarletpeaches
12-13-2009, 08:50 PM
Personally, Missy, I think the quote in your signature is shit. :D

AuburnAssassin
12-13-2009, 08:58 PM
I always try to use the sandwich style. A positive note, a negative one and a positive note again.
Alas, some will listen, while others will completely ignore it or get very defensive. You can't please everyone, but at least I try not to be harsh nor to offend them.
I agree with this though I don't necessarily worry that it's balanced. That is driven by the quality of the piece. It's definitely easier to find the stuff you don't like and comment on it but I think it's just as important to comment on what does work too. I'm not a professional editor, won't ever be one, but neither is my time soo valuable that I would ignore the good and just assume that the writer knows if I ignore it, it must be okay. Heck, I've found some pretty amazing bright spots in otherwise disappointing pieces. I'd feel remiss if I didn't point out that single bright spot even while I point out all the other issues.

But, it is kind of a drag when the author replies with, "oh that's covered in a later chapter" when you're critting chapter 1 or my favorite, "no one else seemed to have a problem with that" yet subsequent posters agree with me.

It's also a drag when you spend the time to crit and the poster says, "oh, I know it's bad but I wrote it long time ago and I'm much better now. I just thought I'd post it anyway for shits and giggles". I'll never crit or comment on that person's stuff ever again. I do tend to take on the ones that go ignored for a while, where the person is obviously new, so I know I open myself up that sort of thing but on the whole the newbies I've critted have been pretty terrific.

Lauretta
12-13-2009, 09:03 PM
Personally, Missy, I think the quote in your signature is shit. :D

Personally, Missy, I disagree with you, I think it shines brightly :D

dolores haze
12-13-2009, 09:22 PM
I've done many, many crits since I first joined AW. I think it says a lot that I've only had to deal with one complete jerk. I didn't even have to deal with him, actually. The mods took rapid action. (Thank you!)

When it comes to beta'ing, however, I'm a little more careful. It's such a drain on my time and energy that I only want to beta writing that I actually like. I've said no to several requests, based on what I knew of their writing, knowing it would not be a labor of love for me. Maybe it's being picky that allows me to say that every person I've beta'd has been completely professional. And that's the way I like it.

Amarie
12-13-2009, 09:56 PM
I think it helps to learn what you are best at critiquing. I've discovered I can't really help anyone with writing that needs a lot of work, because my brain just boggles the amount of time I would have to spend, and I don't like to just do a job halfway. Also, many of those writers are at the stage where they need gentle critiques and a pat on the head and I can't do that anymore. After years in the trenches, and minimal pats on the head from my agent and editor, I'm just used to a different style. I'm best at working with things that are almost there, and just need some tweaking.

Kaiser-Kun
12-13-2009, 10:01 PM
I honestly prefer receiving criticism than praise. That's because I tend to suspect that people are lying to me when they say something positive. I believe I have been able to take the criticism I've received with equanimity (and mind ya, the things I submitted in SYW were an unedited first draft.. never again).

It helps that I once received very harsh, harmful-intended criticism by a sour person and I can tell the difference.

Here's a mantra that everyone posting in SYW should repeat: They're trying to help me.

icerose
12-13-2009, 10:06 PM
I've done many, many crits since I first joined AW. I think it says a lot that I've only had to deal with one complete jerk. I didn't even have to deal with him, actually. The mods took rapid action. (Thank you!)

When it comes to beta'ing, however, I'm a little more careful. It's such a drain on my time and energy that I only want to beta writing that I actually like. I've said no to several requests, based on what I knew of their writing, knowing it would not be a labor of love for me. Maybe it's being picky that allows me to say that every person I've beta'd has been completely professional. And that's the way I like it.

It's why when I ask for a beta I tell them to read the first chapter and see if this is something they want to work with or just send them the first chapter and ask if they wish to continue. Beta-ing is a huge deal both for doing it and asking for it.

Of the beta-ing I've done, I've only sent back a few pieces and said "The comments pretty much apply to the whole thing, read the comments and apply them, then I'll take another look." I've yet to recieve one of those back in any better shape than they arrived and at that point I just send it back and tell them either I'm not an effective beta for them or they aren't ready for that level of critiquing. And I wish them luck.

Polenth
12-13-2009, 10:42 PM
If I've offended someone, they kept it to themselves. I don't critique strangers much though. Swapping stories with someone you know means you can cut through the silly offence stuff and get to the point.

On the side of receiving critiques, I tend to misunderstand critiques, so it helps when I can question the person without them thinking I'm being defensive. The standard is to say "thank you" even if you haven't got a clue what it meant. That doesn't work for me. I'm left feeling confused and I don't get anything out of it.

Lauretta
12-13-2009, 10:50 PM
On the side of receiving critiques, I tend to misunderstand critiques, so it helps when I can question the person without them thinking I'm being defensive. The standard is to say "thank you" even if you haven't got a clue what it meant. That doesn't work for me. I'm left feeling confused and I don't get anything out of it.

You can thank that beta-reader for the critic done, and still ask to clarify it for you. Otherwise, it wouldn't make any sense.

Parametric
12-13-2009, 10:56 PM
On the side of receiving critiques, I tend to misunderstand critiques, so it helps when I can question the person without them thinking I'm being defensive. The standard is to say "thank you" even if you haven't got a clue what it meant. That doesn't work for me. I'm left feeling confused and I don't get anything out of it.

My take on the "thank you" rule is that that's the minimum polite response to critique. Even if the critiquer rites liek dis and seems to have read something that bears no resemblance to your work, the least you can do is thank them for their time. It's not supposed to forbid you to say anything else. :tongue

As a critiquer, I kind of like it when writers want to get into a dialogue - it shows they're listening carefully, it gives me an opportunity to help them further, and it teaches me to be clearer in my comments.

Polenth
12-13-2009, 11:00 PM
You can thank that beta-reader for the critic done, and still ask to clarify it for you. Otherwise, it wouldn't make any sense.

The problem in online critique groups is some people use that as an attack. They know they can't go "you're so mean!!!", so instead they question in a way that's a thinly veiled attack implying the critiquer is at fault for not understanding (or is just plain stupid for not being clearer).

It's hard to come into an environment like that and ask "what did you mean?" without sounding like one of those people. At that point the critiquer gets defensive because they've been here before, and the whole thing is needlessly stressful.

Like I said, I prefer critiques from people I know. Then I can get down to the writing comments without the social drama.

Priene
12-13-2009, 11:13 PM
My take on the "thank you" rule is that that's the minimum polite response to critique.

If I crit someone new (the regulars are all right, but you know where you are with them) in Poetry SYW I'm ecstatic if I don't get a boo-hoo PM by return of post. If I get a thank you I sprinkle flowers on it and hang it from my mantelpiece.

Rowan
12-14-2009, 12:03 AM
I recently started beta reading and it's been a roller coaster ride. I don't sugarcoat anything but I do my best to be constructive and helpful in my crits... I'm not rude or excessively harsh as I know on the flip side that only makes me angry and blind to what the beta is trying to say. But I'm 100% honest. If syntax/dialogue are screwed up, voice is weak, plot is non-existent or execution is lacking or a character incites me to rage mode of course I'm going to point that out (with a caveat: I hope you seek other opinions but...) And I'm always open to dialogue re: the crit and make it clear in both my e-mails/summary. I'm not perfect but I do have opinions. ;)

I think a good beta will tell you the good along with the bad and will also suggest ways to correct obvious problems. I'm not an expert but I'm a reader and that's how I approach beta projects. I insert my gut instinct reactions as a reader... some people don't like that. I also include at least two pages of comments--positive and negative aspects along with an overview of any problem areas, etc. For those I've beta read for I hope you weren't offended by my comments; I'm a hard @ss on the job but not when it comes to someone's dream. Then I'm compassionate--my only intent being to make your MS the best it can be.

What really gets me are the people who don't so much as say "thanks" or even respond to indicate that your remarks were helpful. I work full time in a very demanding job and my life is chaos but I take the time to read a MS carefully and it really peeves me when I get blown off. WTF? Samantha's Song just covered this in the Beta Forum. Now I've had some fantastic beta experiences (jeseymour--- thank you! :)) but I'm contemplating pulling out because it's just not worth it. Do people realize just how much time and effort a good crit takes?????? Surely nobody is that bloody clueless.

Beta reading has helped my writing in many ways but sometimes you have to know when to walk away........for me--I'm taking a time out. Because I hate to just give it up! :D

ETA: Oh, and I should note that I point out in my 'Willing Beta' post what genres/authors I enjoy AND the things I'm likely to be extremely tough on so there are no surprises! :)

Seaclusion
12-14-2009, 12:12 AM
As you know, I offer help in SYW. Yes I have had a couple of posters get offended or mad. I found that those that got mad were relatively new. I now only critique work posted by people with more than 10 posts. This way I go back through their old posts and see if they have a responsive attitude or an egotistical one. I don't comment on the ones with egotistical attitudes.

Been burned
Richard

Matera the Mad
12-14-2009, 01:40 AM
I've done tough-love crits that simply resulted in no further response. Don't know what the impact was if there's no feedback to the feedback. There have also been...incidents, writers with a bad case of Golden Words Syndrome. Eh. I figure when the smoke blows away someone has something to think about and I have another lesson in handling bombs.

It's easier to be blunt in a one-on-one beta situation than in SYW. I don't really want to totally embarrass someone in public, no matter how godawful amateurish unpolished garbled unready for critique their offering is. In unpleasant SYW sessions, I try to keep the offended party from walking out. A couple of times I've re-interpreted or commented on part of someone else's crit to make it clearer or easier to take. Or re-explained my own elliptical babblings, lol.

I've received some rough crits (and some careless ones -- the wtf? are they only reading every other line? kind), but I find food for thought in them and try to shut the door quietly behind me. Oh, and I may never pay much attention to anything that person says again :tongue

narnia
12-14-2009, 01:51 AM
Yay! AW helps form another bouncer-partnership. Bouncership?

Anyhoo...if you're gonna ask for crits, PLEASE FOR THE LOVE OF JARED LETO LEARN TO SPELL.

I will shut the shit down on any chapter littered with spelling mistakes and grammatical errors. You won't get past an editor and you won't get past me.

Show the craft some respect by learning the basics before you even THINK of asking for a crit. PLEASE.

I have to agree with the lovely Miss Peaches. :) As a former English teacher I find it difficult to concentrate on what I am reading if the text is likewise littered. I feel too inclined to correct and after awhile I lose interest.

IMVHO it is important to master the basics before you go to the next level.

As for critting, I like to do it but I am currently too pressed for time while I polish my ms to perfection. I will be back at it when I have turned in my ms. I can't recall anyone being offended, but I try to crit in such a way as to be helpful but honest, at least I hope so. I have also posted work for crits in the past, and for the most part the feedback has been extremely beneficial. I would go so far as to say that when my first novel finally hits the shevles, I will owe a great deal of gratitude to many, many AWers who took the time to crit my work.

:Sun:

emilycross
12-14-2009, 02:52 AM
Before coming to AW i did a number of private critiques, like previous posters have said i mix my critiques with positive stuff and generally try and be 'gentle' but informative with my responses. . . cause i am a wimp. . . and i don't consider myself a great critiquer.

What annoys me though is when i spend time doing the critiques or whatever, send it back and then . . . nothing.

Silence.

No insult, no thank you, no nothing.

Although i give wimpy critiques, i appreciate honest constructive criticism (which i've found here - thanks!). i posted a piece on another board, and i get a critique and its was amazing. She totally got where my weaknesses were and highlighted them to me, and i could see it - finally! I actually have it printed on my wall.

We're here to learn, not to pat ourselves on the back. People are taking the time to read and offer advice (freely), i think a thank you, no matter how hurt you are etc. is not out of line!

ishtar'sgate
12-14-2009, 03:17 AM
Well this person took my critique so seriously, that they responded angrily about it.

Now, it kinda makes me not want to beta/critique someones work. I take time that I should be writing to do this, because I know how hard it is to get someone serious to beta stuff.

So, how do you approach beta/critique - are you honest or do you play nice so you don't hurt the writer's feelings.



Well, they should take your critique seriously. If feedback isn't honest and direct (without being sarcastic or mean of course) there's no point in having it. If all it does is stroke your ego it's worthless.
I no longer do any beta work. The last one I did took me a week and I gave daily notes on what I'd read so far. It takes a lot of time to beta an entire novel, think about it and offer suggestions. When I finally finished and emailed the last of my notes I didn't hear back one word from her. No 'thank you', no 'your critique sucks'. Nothing.
I frequently read SYW and occassionally offer a critique but mostly I stay away from critiquing. I've been burned too many times to stick my hand in the fire again.

Wayne K
12-14-2009, 03:41 AM
Originally Posted by nitaworm View Post
Well this person took my critique so seriously, that they responded angrily about it.

Now, it kinda makes me not want to beta/critique someones work. I take time that I should be writing to do this, because I know how hard it is to get someone serious to beta stuff.

So, how do you approach beta/critique - are you honest or do you play nice so you don't hurt the writer's feelings.

Don't give up Nita, you just went to the top of my list. I want honesty. I might not like what you say, and I may not agree with you, but I'll be damned if I get angry about it.

kaitie
12-14-2009, 03:57 AM
But, it is kind of a drag when the author replies with, "oh that's covered in a later chapter" when you're critting chapter 1.

*raises hand* Alright I'm guilty of this. I said this about a couple of comments I had on my first chapter critiques...I'm just wondering what it is about it that makes it a bad thing. I don't think I was just blowing off the concerns, but some people wanted answers to a couple of things that were handled in the first part of the second chapter (I basically asked the question in the first and answered it in the second). Did I do something wrong?

Rowan
12-14-2009, 04:14 AM
*raises hand* Alright I'm guilty of this. I said this about a couple of comments I had on my first chapter critiques...I'm just wondering what it is about it that makes it a bad thing. I don't think I was just blowing off the concerns, but some people wanted answers to a couple of things that were handled in the first part of the second chapter (I basically asked the question in the first and answered it in the second). Did I do something wrong?

I was thinking about that too as I've encountered the same thing. I don't think it's wrong to bring it up as it helps the beta determine if you should a) move that "answer" up, or b) shows the writer a potential problem. Sometimes posing a 'question' is a good thing--if it intrigues the reader enough to make them want to read on. It's all about execution! :)

I think Auburn Assassin's example is when the writer rebutts with more of an excuse--as if to say, "you're wrong because I cover that in the next chapter." It's good for a beta to bring it up as it means something was missing or off about the read. But I might be way off base! ;)

wheelwriter
12-14-2009, 04:50 AM
So, how do you approach beta/critique - are you honest or do you play nice so you don't hurt the writer's feelings.

I try to balance both. So far I've been lucky and no one has told me I've offended them. I try to convey that I'm giving my opinions, and that it's written in the spirit of wanting to help. I'll word things so it's clear it's what I think, but I could be wrong. People can take it or leave it. It seems like a waste of both our time if I'm not going to be honest. I'd never tell someone they are a bad writer, since it is subjective, but I will tell people what doesn't work for me, and I'll point out sentences with grammar problems. I do think people need to be able to receive negative feedback and, although they don't have to agree or love it, they need to be upset in private and let it roll off their backs. Your writing isn't going to appeal to everyone, and you need to have enough confidence to weather a bad review. It's a shame when someone isn't open to constructive criticism, since it really can make the writing stronger.

JoNightshade
12-14-2009, 05:18 AM
I'm honest in my critiques and as others have said, I try to balance the negative with the positive. Well, not balance; I try to find at least one thing to really compliment the person on. I think it's important to know what DOES work as well as what doesn't. Also, critiques are hard to take and it takes a while to learn how to do so gracefully. So if someone gets all upset, I'm not totally surprised or offended.

However, what yanks my particular chain is the author ARGUING with my critiques. Not asking for clarification, but taking my "this doesn't work for me" and either telling me why it DOES work or "explaining" why I didn't understand right or I am just plan wrong. And then wanting to go back and forth about the item.

Generally, if I say something doesn't work for me, I MEAN IT. If you think I'm wrong or stupid or whatever, ignore my critique. If you need clarification, ask for it. But don't try to tell me I'm an idiot!

YAwriter72
12-14-2009, 05:25 AM
However, what yanks my particular chain is the author ARGUING with my critiques. Not asking for clarification, but taking my "this doesn't work for me" and either telling me why it DOES work or "explaining" why I didn't understand right or I am just plan wrong. And then wanting to go back and forth about the item.



These are the same people who argue with agents who reject them too. I would almost bet on it. And tell everyone their brilliant book will never be published because everyone is an idiot who can't see how great it is.

RevisionIsTheKey
12-14-2009, 06:16 AM
I try to balance any negative comments with specific positive examples of what the writer did well. It's true, though, that some writers just don't know how much they still have to learn, and they seem too lazy to want to learn it. I've been in workshops where the writing is full of spelling errors, grammatical errors, even changes of character names halfway through the story. I want to say, c'mon guys, if you don't treat this seriously enough to at least find and correct the basics, why should I spend hours trying to help you fix a POV problem or show you how to work in an extended metaphor.

I once worked for a woman whose motto was, "I match my time with your effort." That's how I am starting to look at doing critiques. There is no reason I should be spending more time on and being more invested in the writing than the author is!

One final thought, harsh critiques - warranted or not - are hard to take, but no one with a thin skin is going to make it in this business. There are ways to soften the blow when discussing problems, but writers need to remember that agents and publishers are not going to hold their hands and overlook obvious weaknesses in submissions.

kaitie
12-14-2009, 07:30 AM
These are the same people who argue with agents who reject them too. I would almost bet on it. And tell everyone their brilliant book will never be published because everyone is an idiot who can't see how great it is.

See, this is what y'all say that makes me worried that I come off this way when I don't intend to. I like to respond to comments , particularly if a person questions something or mention something that is covered later on, like my example above. But I don't think that makes me unreasonable or difficult, does it? If someone says something I disagree with I'm more likely to not say anything at all and just ignore the comment, but I always try to comment and thank people for specifics, or say, "This was because of this," or whatever. Heck, I'm just as likely to say, "Omg, thanks for pointing that out because I never noticed it," or "You're right, this just isn't working."

I really wouldn't want people to think I'm being difficult because I respond to comments, or if I answered questions regarding them. I'm completely aware that if someone asks, "What's the answer to this," and I say, "I answer that in the next chapter," that it might mean that my current method of trying to build intrigue or whatever isn't working. I typically assume, however, that the question is asked more because the fear is I don't do it at all. Maybe I'm making the wrong assumption there. I didn't have people read my whole manuscript, I had them read the opening (or some random parts along the way), and if someone says, "I think you should explain why this..." I figured it was more a way of saying, "This is something the reader needs to know and make sure you don't have a plot-hole hanging open" than "This must be said right now at this moment or it doesn't work."

Maybe my way of thinking is just off. :/ I really do hope anyone who has helped me doesn't consider me a negative writer, because I'm not, and I certainly accept criticism and make changes based on it all the time, and I definitely would never be someone arguing with agents who rejected me, even if I did respond to someone's comments in a critique.

RunawayScribe
12-14-2009, 07:55 AM
I'm honest, but I'm kind.

Let me explain.

I bring up the good things as well as the bad. I start with the good things. I have very rarely read anything so irredeemable that nothing complimentary could be said about it. Actually, the one time I did was in a workshop, so I just kept my head and hand down for the complimentary part.

Then I explain what doesn't work for me and why, and give my suggestions. I don't ever use words like "sucks" or even "bad." That's not helpful; it's hurtful. Words like "awkward", "wordy", "jarring", "slow" or "confusing" are much more helpful in pointing out where I think the actual problem lies.

If someone's story just isn't my cup of Chai, I'll tell them that, too. I.e., it's not that it's bad - I'm just not into romance novels. If that offends someone, I don't even care, since that just means they need a dose of reality.

But yeah, sometimes my plot and prose critiques have gotten people all pissy. I don't critique someone anymore if they show that tendency. Though I am honest, I know I'm softer and gentler than a lot of others. So if you can't handle my encouraging, soft-edged style of truth, then I can't help but think you need to toughen up. Big time.

AuburnAssassin
12-14-2009, 08:17 AM
I think Auburn Assassin's example is when the writer rebutts with more of an excuse--as if to say, "you're wrong because I cover that in the next chapter." It's good for a beta to bring it up as it means something was missing or off about the read. But I might be way off base! ;)

Thanks, Rowan, that is indeed what I meant. I know some genres have and require teasers like mysteries, etc. but some, like romance, follow more of a tried and true pattern. So for example, if I run across a main character, say the love story hero, who doesn't seem to have much chemistry with the female MC who, inexplicably, is sooo in love with him, I gotta wonder, what am I missing? Why does she love him? I sure don't nor do I sense any chemistry of any sort between them. One of the huge rules in romance is the typical reader (assuming it's a hetero she) should want to be the heroine and fall in love with the hero. But to be told, "oh you'll learn why she loves him so much in chapter 3", eh, it doesn't really work for me in that particular genre. I think, "no, this might be your only shot to hook me on your two MC's. She doesn't have to love him in chapter 1 of course but there should be some sort of strong reaction that the reader feels too.

AryaT92
12-14-2009, 08:39 AM
Brutally honest, even if they may hate me it is better for them in the long run.

Cyia
12-14-2009, 09:05 AM
I can't imagine getting upset with beta readers (unless they're intentionally mean spirited or suggest things harmful to the book). If not for the two who read my current novel, I'd never have realized that removing the characters I removed stripped the background characters down to puppets because their interaction scenes are gone.

Outside eyes are critical, because so many of us see what we intend instead of what we actually accomplish on paper.

LOG
12-14-2009, 10:20 AM
I've critiqued a few. I try to keep as neutral and clinical tone as possible.
I point out spelling/grammar errors, usually just by saying it is incorrect or makes no sense. I also use color highlighting so I don't have to type something for every dang thing.
If it's highlighted in red, it's a spelling error, green is for grammar errors, purple is for my thoughts.

Lauretta
12-14-2009, 01:08 PM
What annoys me though is when i spend time doing the critiques or whatever, send it back and then . . . nothing.

Silence.

No insult, no thank you, no nothing.





When I finally finished and emailed the last of my notes I didn't hear back one word from her. No 'thank you', no 'your critique sucks'. Nothing.



My take on the "thank you" rule is that that's the minimum polite response to critique.


This.
No matter what the critique has said, a thank you reply is no harm.

Lauretta
12-14-2009, 01:19 PM
harsh critiques - warranted or not - are hard to take, but no one with a thin skin is going to make it in this business. There are ways to soften the blow when discussing problems, but writers need to remember that agents and publishers are not going to hold their hands and overlook obvious weaknesses in submissions.

I agree with this, but I see a huge difference between:

This is badly written.

AND:

I think this is badly written because..... bla bla bla

When I explain my POV, the writer shifts his attention from bad written to bla bla bla, and it'll make more sense to him.

If I critique a WIP it is to help the writer, not to let him down. The market is very competitive, that's why beta-readers exist.

Mr Flibble
12-14-2009, 01:24 PM
I've delivered a not well received crit in person

Was interesting to watch his ears turn redder and redder...At one point I felt certain he'd explode. Shame really, because I thought the premise of the book was great.

flyingtart
12-14-2009, 04:22 PM
This is bad written.


Erm...are you aware this should be badly written?

Lauretta
12-14-2009, 04:34 PM
Erm...are you aware this should be badly written?

LOL
Thank you! As you can see, I'm still learning!!!

stormie
12-14-2009, 06:32 PM
I don't do critiques very often, but if I do, I try to begin with a positive comment, even if it's only to say "might be an interesting story." And I try to gauge the level that writer is on. It might be someone middle-aged with not a clue how to write or someone just into the teen years who has promise and wants to learn. Hard to do if they don't fill out their profile.

Most don't get offended, esp. if I try to find at least one positive thing with their ms. I do remember one person, though, who defended herself and her work by starting a new thread about why her idea and ms. were so great and how "someone" (me) didn't like it at all.

Richard White
12-14-2009, 08:10 PM
The only time I've ever really had a problem with a critique was when the person doing the critique did it from the point of view "this isn't how I would do it". They insisted on trying to rewrite the chapter in their voice. The other stuff they pointed out was useful (pacing, caught a few typos and misplaced commas, etc.), but it was tough to get past the "you're doing it wrong" feeling I got from them.

I thanked them and then promised myself I'd never use them for a critique partner again. We're still on friendly terms but I only show them stuff that's already been published these days.

Lady Ice
12-14-2009, 10:38 PM
If they come across as annoying, I'm perfectly willing to be ruder and more sarcastic in my critique than if they are polite.

icerose
12-14-2009, 10:51 PM
See, this is what y'all say that makes me worried that I come off this way when I don't intend to. I like to respond to comments , particularly if a person questions something or mention something that is covered later on, like my example above. But I don't think that makes me unreasonable or difficult, does it? If someone says something I disagree with I'm more likely to not say anything at all and just ignore the comment, but I always try to comment and thank people for specifics, or say, "This was because of this," or whatever. Heck, I'm just as likely to say, "Omg, thanks for pointing that out because I never noticed it," or "You're right, this just isn't working."

What I try to do when comments toward my work are leading the wrong way or they've taken the wrong impression, I'll come back and say "This is what I was trying to do, apparently it didn't work, any suggestions on how to accomplish this?" And the critters have been more than helpful. Don't be afraid to ask your critters questions and ask for help on achieving what you're trying to do.

Because sometimes a critter just doesn't get what the writer is trying to do, granted it's almost 99% the writer's fault for not presenting in a way that can be understood easily by most, but it doesn't mean they can't give you ideas to help you achieve your goals.

I personally go in trying to help the person and nothing makes me happier than seeing a better piece come out of it and see the writer grow. That's the whole point of doing it. If they have to ask me a hundred questions and I have to draw up examples, I'm fine with that as long as they are at least willing to try.

It's the ones who lead up with "You're wrong, and this is why..." that irritate me.

scarletpeaches
12-14-2009, 10:52 PM
I'm so with the people who get titted off at "This is how I'd do it..." crits.

I don't want to know how you'd write it. Tell me what works and what doesn't and I'll decide how to fix it.

Just red flag any disconnects and leave the rest up to me otherwise it won't be my work any more.

RunawayScribe
12-14-2009, 11:00 PM
I had one beta who kept trying to rewrite my plot points. Changing the character's professions, altering plot twists and motives, coming up with new settings and what have you. She always had a paragraph-length explanation justifying these changes and why she thought they'd be amazing. But she never pinpointed anything wrong with my overall plot - she just wanted to see a different story. I feel like if she'd betaed Jurassic Park, she'd have said something like, "Well, this is cool, but do there have to be dinosaurs?"

Yeah. That got old fast.

AuburnAssassin
12-14-2009, 11:56 PM
I feel like if she'd betaed Jurassic Park, she'd have said something like, "Well, this is cool, but do there have to be dinosaurs?"

LOL! :D

I think I'm guilty of having done this with my writing partner a few times. Sometimes I do it to provide examples of what I mean when I point something out, not necessarily to supplant the author's vision but to demonstrate my point. Probably an important thing for me to be more aware of and curtail.

DeleyanLee
12-15-2009, 12:15 AM
I'm sure that everyone who's ever done a crit has had someone take it wrong. There's far too many fragile egos just wanting to be pampered and stroked out there, it's unavoidable.

I was taught that the point of critiquing a manuscript was to assist the author in telling their story. I believe this whole-heartedly.

Which is why I start crits with a summation of what I think the story is supposed to be and the note that if I'm incorrect, they have a definite problem because I couldn't tell. It's also a preface to what I see as positives and negatives how the story came across. Usually people will be able to see right from the summation whether or not they want to continue reading the rest of the commentary.

But there's always someone who doesn't get it.

So I was taking this indepth on-line class many years ago where the goal at the end of the almost 2-year thing was to been well-on-the-way of completing a novel, if not have it done. One of the students ripped through writing theirs and was completely done before the majority of us had 25K and posted it on the class board, and got no crits. And got no crits. And just couldn't understand that the majority of us were WRITING and not taking time to crit.

So Student decided to corner me specifically (I will admit, I was the teacher's pet for some reason I never quite comprehended) and DEMANDED that I take time to crit the entire book ASAP. I decided to go ahead, just to have the obligation finished, and took a week out of my writing time to do this.

The crit was 16 single-spaced pages wrong. Using the course syllabus as my guideline, I not only pointed out the numerous faults, but I went back into the instructors posted commentary on the earlier lessons to show that Student had totally ignored all the same points for months. Hot-linked to the instructor's posts, even.

No, there was nothing positive to say about the entire manuscript. I mean that seriously. Student had completely ignored everything we were supposed to be focused on learning in the course.

The response? To publically blackball me on the site, outside the restricted class area, even going so far as to turn moderators against my presence there.

When the class met for its final chat-session and the instructor was due to give us her critique of the first 3 chapters of what we'd posted, the first post from Student was "Did you see what Dele said? She needs to be kicked out."

The instructor's response was: "No, you need to get your head out of your ass. She told you everything I would and did and in far more detail than I have time to do."

Funny, after that, I became a moderator on that site.

I don't give a lot of in-depth commentary. I don't do commentary that often, unless I'm particularly taken by a project or consider the writer a friend. But I don't pull my punches in the commentary, though I don't purposely try to shred egos either.

The one thing I won't do is apologize for my opinion of a work. I will apologize for not getting something (like humor--I often miss humor in writing), but never what I thought of the work. To me, that negates the entire purpose of getting/giving commentary in the first place.

Shadow_Ferret
12-15-2009, 12:30 AM
... but no one with a thin skin is going to make it in this business. ...


There's far too many fragile egos just wanting to be pampered and stroked out there, it's unavoidable.


Guess I won't make it in this business then. I have a fragile ego. I take any negative comment personally. I mean, you are insulting my baby, which is an extension of me. But that doesn't mean I want to be pampered and not told the truth.

I'll just withdraw into a fetal position for several weeks, think I suck, think my work sucks.

Then I'll recover and move on. :D

Rowan
12-15-2009, 12:32 AM
I'm curious... how do you guys feel about suggestions to revise a sentence that just seems out of synch? Not necessarily a "this is how I'd do it" but more of a "consider revising, something like blah blah blah" with an explanation. I only make such suggestions if the sentence throws the entire paragraph out of whack or just feels out of tempo--or to tighten it up, etc. I was reading one MS where something just didn't feel right for that particular character; I don't tell them how to do it but try and give an example to illustrate what I'm suggesting. I've had beta readers do this for me and I love it. I can read something ten times and miss something that a beta will find on the first pass (with fresh eyes).

I hope this makes sense. Anyone? :)

Rowan
12-15-2009, 12:33 AM
Guess I won't make it in this business then. I have a fragile ego. I take any negative comment personally. I mean, you are insulting my baby, which is an extension of me. But that doesn't mean I want to be pampered and not told the truth.

I'll just withdraw into a fetal position for several weeks, think I suck, think my work sucks.

Then I'll recover and move on. :D

Try going into rage mode instead--it might make you feel better. Then take it out on your MS. :D

DeleyanLee
12-15-2009, 12:41 AM
I mean, you are insulting my baby, which is an extension of me. But that doesn't mean I want to be pampered and not told the truth.

That could be a difference between us, Ed. I don't think of a book as a baby. I never did. While I can see similarities, a book is never going to be anything but what I put into it. It "lives" as an extension of myself. A real child will develop her own personality, her own life and go and be her own person (whom I may or may not even like) totally independent from me.

Yeah, it hurts if you tell me my kid is ugly or my book sucks, but the kid is done and there's not a whole pile I can do to improve him. There's always something I can do to improve a book.

And, honestly, I was never comfortable about the kid/book connection because the common thing is to sell your book for money. There's define moral and legal ramifications to selling your kid for money. ;)

I guess it's all in how you think about it.

Mr Flibble
12-15-2009, 12:43 AM
I'm curious... how do you guys feel about suggestions to revise a sentence that just seems out of synch? Not necessarily a "this is how I'd do it" but more of a "consider revising, something like blah blah blah" with an explanation. I only make such suggestions if the sentence throws the entire paragraph out of whack or just feels out of tempo--or to tighten it up, etc. I was reading one MS where something just didn't feel right for that particular character; I don't tell them how to do it but try and give an example to illustrate what I'm suggesting. I've had beta readers do this for me and I love it. I can read something ten times and miss something that a beta will find on the first pass (with fresh eyes).

I hope this makes sense. Anyone? :)

Yes

Bubastes
12-15-2009, 12:59 AM
And, honestly, I was never comfortable about the kid/book connection because the common thing is to sell your book for money. There's define moral and legal ramifications to selling your kid for money. ;)


in my mind, the only similarity between a kid and a book is that I kick them out of the nest when they're grown and tell them to send me checks. ;)

DeleyanLee
12-15-2009, 01:08 AM
in my mind, the only similarity between a kid and a book is that I kick them out of the nest when they're grown and tell them to send me checks. ;)

Does it work?

RevisionIsTheKey
12-15-2009, 01:39 AM
Guess I won't make it in this business then. I have a fragile ego. I take any negative comment personally. I mean, you are insulting my baby, which is an extension of me. But that doesn't mean I want to be pampered and not told the truth.

I'll just withdraw into a fetal position for several weeks, think I suck, think my work sucks.

Then I'll recover and move on. :D

If by recover and move on, you mean you'll go back to writing, you'll revise and improve the piece and resubmit, then you will make it. And I can be as thin-skinned as the rest of the group, but I've learned to put a time limit on the "licking my wounds" stage. I wish I had learned this earlier in my writing life.

My first submission was an article I sent to a local newspaper. This was back in the day when newspapers were thriving and cable news was just an idea waiting to germinate. The editor sent me a handwritten letter telling me the only reason he was not buying was that the subject was not of interest to a large enough audience. He said I had talent and I should definitely send him future articles. Did I do that? NO! All I focused on was the comment about the appeal not being wide enough. The good stuff he said did not matter. That was decades ago. (My son was a toddler then; he's now 32.) It took me until the past several years to start writing again. I cringe at all the time I wasted.

I still hate negative comments. They still really sting. But I've learned to put the comments aside and move on with my life for a day or two, then revisit them. At that point I am clearheaded and can decide that wow, the comments were right on target, or no, that reader does not know what he's talking about and I am going to ignore his input. Those of us not born with a thick skin can develop one over time. Look at the sting of the critique as an opportunity to learn. In the end, maybe it's just those who refuse to learn who don't succeed.

BTW, I still have the editor's letter. Now I read it to remind myself of an important lesson learned. :e2BIC:

Shadow_Ferret
12-15-2009, 01:40 AM
And, honestly, I was never comfortable about the kid/book connection because the common thing is to sell your book for money. There's define moral and legal ramifications to selling your kid for money. ;)

I guess it's all in how you think about it.

You know, if I could legally sell my kids...

But you're right. A book, if well-written, will go out and carry on your good name. It'll take on a life of it's own. And it will pay you back for all the heartbreak it caused you in birthing.

A kid is just a pain in the ass its whole life.

But be that as it may be, bad critiques, rejections, I don't take out my frustrations upon the person doing the critique or rejecting my work, I beat myself up.

kuwisdelu
12-15-2009, 01:41 AM
I'm so with the people who get titted off at "This is how I'd do it..." crits.

I don't want to know how you'd write it. Tell me what works and what doesn't and I'll decide how to fix it.

Just red flag any disconnects and leave the rest up to me otherwise it won't be my work any more.

I'm with you. I used to give that kind and gave up because I realized I just didn't like receiving them.

If someone asks for advice on how to fix it, then I'll say "well this is how I'd do it..." but otherwise I'll just say what doesn't work and why, and sometimes a more general suggestion for fixing it. (E.g., "Maybe have her tell him this before, so it makes more sense.")

If someone tells me "this is how I'd do it," I'll likely just ignore it. I'll be appreciative of the explanation of what doesn't work, but I want to fix it myself. If I get it wrong again, keep telling me until I get it right, but dammit I want to do it myself.

In any case, I won't get pissed off at such suggestions. I'll just ignore them.

Richard White
12-15-2009, 01:41 AM
I'm curious... how do you guys feel about suggestions to revise a sentence that just seems out of synch? Not necessarily a "this is how I'd do it" but more of a "consider revising, something like blah blah blah" with an explanation. I only make such suggestions if the sentence throws the entire paragraph out of whack or just feels out of tempo--or to tighten it up, etc. I was reading one MS where something just didn't feel right for that particular character; I don't tell them how to do it but try and give an example to illustrate what I'm suggesting. I've had beta readers do this for me and I love it. I can read something ten times and miss something that a beta will find on the first pass (with fresh eyes).

I hope this makes sense. Anyone? :)


Rowan,

No, your way wouldn't bother me because you're "giving an example". That's different than rewriting someone's paragraph and saying "this is a better way to do this" (about that abrupt).

If you pointed out that my character has been using short, choppy sentences because he's always on the run, mind moving mile a minute, and then starts waxing poetically in this chapter with huge run-on sentences, that's perfect. If you take the sentence and chop it up into smaller pieces similar to the way I'd been doing it up to then as an example, that's even better. If you basically said, "I like this better, you should go back and rewrite the rest of the book so he talks like this all the time", I might look at you funny.

If you came back and said, "I think this character should be redone to be an Oxford professor, oh and make him a woman," I might have to unretire my ClueX4.

*grin*

Rowan
12-15-2009, 01:47 AM
Rowan,

No, your way wouldn't bother me because you're "giving an example". That's different than rewriting someone's paragraph and saying "this is a better way to do this" (about that abrupt).

If you pointed out that my character has been using short, choppy sentences because he's always on the run, mind moving mile a minute, and then starts waxing poetically in this chapter with huge run-on sentences, that's perfect. If you take the sentence and chop it up into smaller pieces similar to the way I'd been doing it up to then as an example, that's even better. If you basically said, "I like this better, you should go back and rewrite the rest of the book so he talks like this all the time", I might look at you funny.

If you came back and said, "I think this character should be redone to be an Oxford professor, oh and make him a woman," I might have to unretire my ClueX4.

*grin*

Thank you, Richard. And please don't look at me funny! :D

StandJustSo
12-15-2009, 03:55 AM
I'm not thin skinned about my writing, and would love to find someone to honestly critique it in depth. I'm working on the final draft of my first fiction novel, the one I plan to submit to publishers. I had a writing partner, but she dropped out of writing, and I miss her like hell. Her comments were very constructive and helpful

I feel the best way to learn how to write effectively and well is to get the critiques. I want to know if the story flows well. Are the characters and situations believable? Is the dialogue true to the characters? Is the story propressing at a good pace? Do you want to know what's going to happen next? Do you care about the Main Character? If any of those answers are no, then tell me why. If my writing style is confusing or awkward to read, tell me. If my style flows well, tell me.

I don't want someone to kiss my ass or tell me I'm brilliant; I want someone who will tell me when my work is good, and tell me when it isn't, and why. I would be happy to do the same in return.

kuwisdelu
12-15-2009, 04:39 AM
my first fiction novel

One honest critique:

Don't be redundant; a novel is defined as being fiction ;)

Ellefire
12-15-2009, 05:05 AM
I'm curious... how do you guys feel about suggestions to revise a sentence that just seems out of synch? Not necessarily a "this is how I'd do it" but more of a "consider revising, something like blah blah blah" with an explanation. I only make such suggestions if the sentence throws the entire paragraph out of whack or just feels out of tempo--or to tighten it up, etc. I was reading one MS where something just didn't feel right for that particular character; I don't tell them how to do it but try and give an example to illustrate what I'm suggesting. I've had beta readers do this for me and I love it. I can read something ten times and miss something that a beta will find on the first pass (with fresh eyes).

I hope this makes sense. Anyone? :)

My WIP 'Asylum' is littered with pink highlighting and a comments that reads "Rewrite, this is clunky" I don't mind in the slightest if beta-readers do the same.

I did get one comment along the lines of 'These kids seems like puppets' and another that reads ' this character needs more conflict, what does she want?' Both times, the beta was right. Clunky sentences? Thin character? Flag it up my friend. I'm doing it wrong, I'm not seeing it, please make it yellow and point to it. Then I will go 'aaah!' and hopefully fix the damn thing.

Rowan
12-15-2009, 06:01 AM
My WIP 'Asylum' is littered with pink highlighting and a comments that reads "Rewrite, this is clunky" I don't mind in the slightest if beta-readers do the same.

I did get one comment along the lines of 'These kids seems like puppets' and another that reads ' this character needs more conflict, what does she want?' Both times, the beta was right. Clunky sentences? Thin character? Flag it up my friend. I'm doing it wrong, I'm not seeing it, please make it yellow and point to it. Then I will go 'aaah!' and hopefully fix the damn thing.

That helps a lot, Ellefire! I make comments to myself too (within the MS); especially when I've identified a problem but haven't quite figured out how to fix it. Good to know that some people are okay with my beta style. :) I guess it all comes down to finding that perfect beta-beta match!!

Ellefire
12-15-2009, 02:27 PM
Are you comments as snarky as mine? I see where my editor-self has literally head-desked at some parts of the novel and left notes for my writer-self. Notes such as:
How does she open the door when it was locked in the last chapter? Magic? huh?
Well this makes no sense, rewrite with something that actually fits.
Where's the dog? You mentioned a dog, have they lost it? Three chapters and no dog, where is the damn dog?

Lauretta
12-15-2009, 02:29 PM
Where's the dog? You mentioned a dog, have they lost it? Three chapters and no dog, where is the damn dog?

LOL
I know this feeling!!! It happened to me more than once!

Rowan
12-15-2009, 04:33 PM
Are you comments as snarky as mine? I see where my editor-self has literally head-desked at some parts of the novel and left notes for my writer-self. Notes such as:
How does she open the door when it was locked in the last chapter? Magic? huh?
Well this makes no sense, rewrite with something that actually fits.
Where's the dog? You mentioned a dog, have they lost it? Three chapters and no dog, where is the damn dog?

:roll: Oh yes--especially when I've done something incredibly stupid. I've had issues with dog characters too... My first drafts are littered with these comments. :)

RunawayScribe
12-15-2009, 04:59 PM
Are you comments as snarky as mine? I see where my editor-self has literally head-desked at some parts of the novel and left notes for my writer-self. Notes such as:
How does she open the door when it was locked in the last chapter? Magic? huh?
Well this makes no sense, rewrite with something that actually fits.
Where's the dog? You mentioned a dog, have they lost it? Three chapters and no dog, where is the damn dog?

I'm soo snarky with myself - snarkier than I'd ever be with anyone else.

In one story I had a character wake up with her hands bound. Then,as she tried to escape, she ran all over the place trying doors and pushing on things. Thankfully I caught this myself and wasn't humiliated by such an inane mistake. My note to self: "She tried the door. Cool. Ropes? Irrelevant. Ropes vanish all the time - something to do with molecular properties, I believe. Good job, novelist. Gonna query this one? Huh? Are you?"

:D

sohalt
12-15-2009, 05:17 PM
You ever critique someone's work and they were offended?

Not on this boards here, no. (As least as far as I can know. Maybe the happy recipients of my feedback have so far all been hiding their seething resentiment. Or I've already forgotten any explicit statement of taking offense because I tend not to dwell on these things).

Which is really marvellous, come to think of it.

I try not to be scathing when I give feedback, but I don't exactly act as if I were walking on eggshells either. Also, my feedback is usually based on spontaneous impressions, it's often a snap-judgement and I don't devote much time to framing it in the most diplomatic way possible. (I still think it's valueable because I think that any feedback can give you some insights. Nothing is worse than no reaction at all).

Sometimes I even have some regrets afterwards, not because I have changed my opinion but because it occurs to me that there would surely have been a nicer way to put this. Then I come back to the thread with a guilty conscience, ready to back-pedal and apologize, expecting to find the author insulted and angry, calling me names and accusing me of terrible things.

But it never happens. Instead I get a "thank you" and sometimes some lengthy justifaction of the points I criticised (which I read as "I won't heed any of the advice you gave me", but which doesn't bother me, because, frankly, I sometimes cannot resist the temptation either and I don't care whether some stranger on the internet takes my advice or not) and the whole thing is often peppered with smilies.

Mind you, I sometimes get this vibe that the person in question is not particularly fond of me in that particular moment, although they might take great trouble not to show that. You can not see clenched teeth behind a virtual smile, but you can often still feel them between the lines.

Some might call that passive aggressiveness, I call it restraint and I greatly admire it.

And let's stop pretending it's not personal. Sure, writers are not their narrators are not their main characters. Except when they are. (One good advice I read here is to always put a bit of yourself in every character, because that's the surest way to prevent them from becoming mere caricatures. And it stings if that particular aspect of yourself is the one that is most ardently criticised).

So if I say that your main character is shallow, narcissistic and totally unrelateable, I surely don't mean to personally offend you, but I'm quite aware that you might have put a lot of yourself in that character and that the aspects that I pointed out as flaws, might not have been the aspects you intended to be seen as flaws. I expect any professional writer to have some emotional distance to their creation, but sometimes I might just hit a bit too close to home. And that hurts and it's okay to feel hurt. It's just not very productive to show it. (But if you do, I will forgive your lapse of judgement and pretend that nothing has happend).

I'm not terribly frustrated if I get the impression that my feedback is dismissed, even if I sometimes take more effort than I should in writing it (when I have countless other more important things to do) - I don't only write it for the benefit of the recipient, but also for the benefit of the audience. When I'm procrastinating I like to read things in share your work and as a third, uninvolved party I often enjoy reading the thorough, insightful comments more than reading the original post. Also, I don't think you have to make all the mistakes you learn from yourself.

That particular piece of advice I cited above? It was not given to me and there's no way of knowing whether the person to whom it was given will listen to it. But I've read it too, and I will certainly take it heart.

DeleyanLee
12-15-2009, 05:25 PM
And let's stop pretending it's not personal. Sure, writers are not their narrators are not their main characters. Except when they are. (One good advice I read here is to always put a bit of yourself in every character, because that's the surest way to prevent them becoming mere caricatures. And it stings if that particular aspect of yourself is the one that is most ardently criticised).

Actually, it's not pretense. All too often, I can see that the writer does have a full-blown character in their head and the total lack of skill to put said character on the page for me to experience. Many writers put their own shorthand code onto the page so when they read the words, THEY have the experience they want the reader to have--but the reader might as well be reading computer code for all that they're experiencing.

It's still a valid comment to say that a character is shallow or thinly drawn, because that's what's on the page. It's up to the author to get over their own image and realize they failed at putting it in a form that anyone else can see.

A good critique really, truly, isn't any more personal than the author insists on taking it.

Amarie
12-15-2009, 05:29 PM
I had one beta who kept trying to rewrite my plot points. Changing the character's professions, altering plot twists and motives, coming up with new settings and what have you. She always had a paragraph-length explanation justifying these changes and why she thought they'd be amazing. But she never pinpointed anything wrong with my overall plot - she just wanted to see a different story. I feel like if she'd betaed Jurassic Park, she'd have said something like, "Well, this is cool, but do there have to be dinosaurs?"


I do this. This is why I am a very bad critique partner.

The Lonely One
12-15-2009, 06:18 PM
I need critiquers that tell me my characters are pussies, my story is missing a plot, they don't see the point, why the fuck would anyone want to read this.

Because that's what a friend does. They tell you things to your face that everyone else will say behind your back.

Namatu
12-15-2009, 06:25 PM
Actually, it's not pretense. All too often, I can see that the writer does have a full-blown character in their head and the total lack of skill to put said character on the page for me to experience. Many writers put their own shorthand code onto the page so when they read the words, THEY have the experience they want the reader to have--but the reader might as well be reading computer code for all that they're experiencing.

It's still a valid comment to say that a character is shallow or thinly drawn, because that's what's on the page. It's up to the author to get over their own image and realize they failed at putting it in a form that anyone else can see.

A good critique really, truly, isn't any more personal than the author insists on taking it.Exactly. In the instance above, it's a problem of execution. If I say the character is shallow, I'll also point out instances of where, and probably follow up with a slew of questions that I hope result in some writer response to the effect of "no!" (then show it), "of course!" (then show it), "oh" (exactly).

I will point out the positive, and I will correct grammar, spelling, and punctuation (it's compulsive), but largely I take a big picture approach. Is the story holding together? Are there logic flaws? Are the characters distinct from one another and do their actions make sense? Is it all too easy? I will pick apart a plot if it's not woven together well. :whip: All of this is intended to help the author, hopefully to see greater potential in their work. I approach it from a professional angle and expect the author to receive it in the same.

ChaosTitan
12-15-2009, 07:34 PM
Actually, it's not pretense. All too often, I can see that the writer does have a full-blown character in their head and the total lack of skill to put said character on the page for me to experience. Many writers put their own shorthand code onto the page so when they read the words, THEY have the experience they want the reader to have--but the reader might as well be reading computer code for all that they're experiencing.

It's still a valid comment to say that a character is shallow or thinly drawn, because that's what's on the page. It's up to the author to get over their own image and realize they failed at putting it in a form that anyone else can see.

A good critique really, truly, isn't any more personal than the author insists on taking it.

This is such an insanely important part of both giving and receiving critiques. Especially receiving.

As the author, we know what we're trying to get across on the page. And it may read successfully to us. But we are not our target audience, and if the critter tells you something isn't working, don't blow it off. It's probably a very valid point.

scarletpeaches
12-15-2009, 07:50 PM
This is such an insanely important part of both giving and receiving critiques. Especially receiving.

As the author, we know what we're trying to get across on the page. And it may read successfully to us. But we are not our target audience, and if the critter tells you something isn't working, don't blow it off. It's probably a very valid point.Exactly.

I often speak of a 'disconnect' and that's something I had to just get the hell over when I started letting other people read my work.

If the vision in my head is different from the one in yours, the problem is more than likely (not always, but most often) in the writing I put on the page. If you're my target audience and you're not 'getting it', assuming you have two brain cells to rub together, you're working with the words I put in front of you...and those words are inadequate.

YAwriter72
12-15-2009, 07:56 PM
As the author, we know what we're trying to get across on the page. And it may read successfully to us. But we are not our target audience, and if the critter tells you something isn't working, don't blow it off. It's probably a very valid point.


THIS is the main reason I love my betas!! In my head, it all makes sense. I know the characters motivation, I know what's going to happen to them. I always ask the people who read for me to tell me when they get to a WTF? moment. I have a tendency to rush through to the good parts.

And when I beta, I do it with the eyes of a reader, not an editor. If there is something I expected or wanted to happen, I note it. If I get totally lost, I note it. Missing comma? Sorry, I suck at punctuation.

Cyia
12-15-2009, 07:57 PM
Many writers put their own shorthand code onto the page so when they read the words, THEY have the experience they want the reader to have--but the reader might as well be reading computer code for all that they're experiencing.


This is what happened to me when I edited my MS. Pulling a few of the characters robbed some of the remaining characters of their development because their interaction was gone. They ended up as shells that basically just sat or stood or whatever.

When I'd read it, they were fully dimensional because I still had the full picture of who they were including the cut scenes. When someone else read it, they were puppets.

I couldn't understand it at first and it took a while to figure out what was lacking from the new version and where.

Mr Flibble
12-15-2009, 08:15 PM
How does she open the door when it was locked in the last chapter? Magic? huh?
Well this makes no sense, rewrite with something that actually fits.
Where's the dog? You mentioned a dog, have they lost it? Three chapters and no dog, where is the damn dog?

Or mine in capitals HOW THE F*** DID HE DO THAT HE ONLY HAS ONE HAND! Ahem




As the author, we know what we're trying to get across on the page. And it may read successfully to us. But we are not our target audience, and if the critter tells you something isn't working, don't blow it off. It's probably a very valid point.

Absolutely. If they are confused, it's because I'm not clear. Although the best is when a beta writes lol at something that was just a private little joke for me... and they got it too:D

sohalt
12-15-2009, 08:23 PM
Actually, it's not pretense. All too often, I can see that the writer does have a full-blown character in their head and the total lack of skill to put said character on the page for me to experience

No, of course it's not pretense to point out that a character is badly executed. And you are right, very often it is merely a matter of execution. I just think, that it might be a bit of a pretense to claim that it's always just the execution....

You see, when I tell you that your character is shallow and explain my impression by listing choices that your character makes that I perceive as symptoms of vacouousness, that might well be choices that you yourself would have made in the same scenario. The message I sent is definitely not personal - as a critic I of course operate on the assumption that there is no congruence between writer and characters - but the message you receive might well be.... The message sent and the message received are rarely completly identical, and sometimes that's neither the fault of the sender nor of the receiver, but just how communication works (=fails).

Still, it's important that critics continue bashing unengaging characters and it's of course important that writers don't let their hurt ego get into the way of self-improvement, so I think we agree on the main points.

All I wanted to do is raise some sympathy for offended writers - It's okay to feel what you feel. Just don't always act on it.

Jerry B. Flory
12-15-2009, 08:31 PM
I wish I could show you the forums but they're listed as N/A now.
I've done quite a few crits here and I've had some...less than pleased...posters.
It's all very typical. You know what happens. You give it your best shot; they react...negatively. You try to console them, point out the good parts of their work if there are any; you try to be encouraging, but they...resist your positive efforts. They get mad, you get mad, dpaterso makes the forum disappear.
It's routine, really.

Amarie
12-15-2009, 08:46 PM
LOL
I know this feeling!!! It happened to me more than once!


Are you comments as snarky as mine? I see where my editor-self has literally head-desked at some parts of the novel and left notes for my writer-self. Notes such as:
How does she open the door when it was locked in the last chapter? Magic? huh?
Well this makes no sense, rewrite with something that actually fits.
Where's the dog? You mentioned a dog, have they lost it? Three chapters and no dog, where is the damn dog?

What is it with dogs? I've had the same problem, until I got so sick of tracking the dog, I wanted to write him out.



If the vision in my head is different from the one in yours, the problem is more than likely (not always, but most often) in the writing I put on the page. If you're my target audience and you're not 'getting it', assuming you have two brain cells to rub together, you're working with the words I put in front of you...and those words are inadequate.

QFT-My editor kept telling me one character sounded whiny, which I couldn't understand, because I was trying to show the limits of his world, but I decided if it came across as whiny to her, it was going to come across as whiny to the reader, so I changed things.

Samantha's_Song
12-15-2009, 08:51 PM
Nita, I was complaining about this exact same thing on here last week, in one of my older postings, and why I've given up beta reading for good, except to a few regulars I'll always make time for. Some think that their words are golden, so I don't know why they bother to ask for beta readers in the first place.

emilycross
12-15-2009, 10:51 PM
Perhaps (and maybe there is already a sticky/guideline, if so ignore my stoopidity) there should be an emphasised Critiqu-etiquette?

I posted on my blog about this re Blog-etiquette and asked people what is the etiquette about posting comments. Basically if someone comments of your post you 1. thank them 2. comment on their blog.

Perhaps a very highlighted/emphasised sticky might help things? Like for example i've always thanked people via the thread they commented on but would it be better to rep them or pm them my thanks?

Maybe if a] negative responses to b] ignoring of critiques were explicitly shown as a 'no-no' it might help stop it happening so often?

hmmm. . . i know, like i said Stoopid idea.

Samantha's_Song
12-15-2009, 11:04 PM
Rereading Nita's posting, I was referring to beta readers - those of us who do a part.whole novel privately for someone. For the forums I would class it as doing a critique. I've had mostly good comeback from the bits I've done on here. For the ones who ignore me in any way: Reply to everyone else other than me, or don't bother to come back to reply to anyone at all, I make a mental note to never try and help them again and sometimes I'll even delete my posting. I deleted one of my replies the other week, and where it asks for the reason, I stated that I don't do ungrateful.

Jess Haines
12-16-2009, 12:47 AM
I was going to say something eloquent and snarky about liking to beta, except for those who don't respond / get argumentative, but a lot of you guys already said as much in prettier words than I would've used...

Rowan
12-16-2009, 02:19 AM
Rereading Nita's posting, I was referring to beta readers - those of us who do a part.whole novel privately for someone. For the forums I would class it as doing a critique. I've had mostly good comeback from the bits I've done on here. For the ones who ignore me in any way: Reply to everyone else other than me, or don't bother to come back to reply to anyone at all, I make a mental note to never try and help them again and sometimes I'll even delete my posting. I deleted one of my replies the other week, and where it asks for the reason, I stated that I don't do ungrateful.

I've just resigned from beta reading too... it's just not friggin' worth it. When you work full time, have a life and are also working on your own projects and people can't even bother to respond? WTF? I'm done. I've sacrificed way too much time to those who can't even acknowledge receipt of a critique and well-- )*#)*#)$*#)$*)#$**!%#)*$. I learned my lesson.

Best of luck to all the other willing beta readers. As for my beta experiences? I contacted people in the willing beta thread who couldn't be bothered to reply...... again, WTF? You volunteer to be a beta and yet you can't be bothered to decline my project? :rant:Sorry for the rant but I'm pissed off.................. (better than being pissed on I suppose). Time for some wine.

Samantha's_Song
12-16-2009, 05:03 AM
Maybe some people think that if we weren't beta reading, that we'd be sitting knitting squares for blamkets because we've nothing better to do. I always saw beta reading as trying to help someone get the very best out of their works, even if they didn't agree with all of the suggestions I made. Still, loads of time for my own writing now. :)

I've just resigned from beta reading too... it's just not friggin' worth it. When you work full time, have a life and are also working on your own projects and people can't even bother to respond? WTF? I'm done. I've sacrificed way too much time to those who can't even acknowledge receipt of a critique and well-- )*#)*#)$*#)$*)#$**!%#)*$. I learned my lesson.

Best of luck to all the other willing beta readers. As for my beta experiences? I contacted people in the willing beta thread who couldn't be bothered to reply...... again, WTF? You volunteer to be a beta and yet you can't be bothered to decline my project? :rant:Sorry for the rant but I'm pissed off.................. (better than being pissed on I suppose). Time for some wine.

StandJustSo
12-17-2009, 02:03 AM
"If the vision in my head is different from the one in yours, the problem is more than likely (not always, but most often) in the writing I put on the page. If you're my target audience and you're not 'getting it', assuming you have two brain cells to rub together, you're working with the words I put in front of you...and those words are inadequate."

I could not say it better than scarletpeaches has - she is, as usual, right on the money.

Libbie
12-17-2009, 07:03 AM
Unless your name's thethinker42. A writer less in possession of ego I have yet to meet, nor one who more deserves it.

Well, if you'd ever finish crits for me, you'd meet another one. ;) Just sayin'. :D There are more of us out there, although yes, I think people who GENUINELY want the harsh truth about their writing (so they can improve upon it) are very rare. Most of them do seem to want to have their egos stroked. Blech.

To answer the OP's question, I've done some chapter-here-and-there type crits for people who apparently really didn't want to work on their writing. They were expecting praise, and when I found things they could strengthen, they seemed dismayed and disheartened. They didn't go batshit on me, thank goodness, but they seemed a little wilted (and I'm not particularly harsh in my critiques, or at least I don't think I am.) That alone was enough to turn me off of critting for most people. I stick to a very small group of folks now -- people I know are really interested in improving their writing and who need and want the "here's what you can do better" along with the "wow, this is great!"

I'm reluctant now to extend my help outside of the small group of writers I know will actually appreciate it.

thethinker42
12-17-2009, 07:09 AM
(and I'm not particularly harsh in my critiques, or at least I don't think I am.) That alone was enough to turn me off of critting for most people. I stick to a very small group of folks now -- people I know are really interested in improving their writing and who need and want the "here's what you can do better" along with the "wow, this is great!"

Your crits are awesome. That's why I have you handcuffed in my basement to beta at my whim beta reading all the time.

I LIKE beta readers who are honest and upfront, rather than trying to stroke my ego. There's also the other extreme ("this is crap", "this is the worst thing I've ever read", etc) which is just unnecessary. I've had some nasty crits in the past, which is uncalled for.

Libbie and SP? The perfect beta readers.

Cassiopeia
12-17-2009, 07:10 AM
I have been asked to critique work from a published journalist, who is also a PHD and published a lot in his field of expertise. I was hesitant to accept their request and yet, he reassured me, after reading my work, he wanted me to.

I know he might take what I said personally, but I'm not going to be offended or upset if he is. That's a circle/cycle that just won't help either of us.

swvaughn
12-17-2009, 04:50 PM
What is it with dogs? I've had the same problem, until I got so sick of tracking the dog, I wanted to write him out.


There's definitely something about dogs. I actually did write a dog out, because I couldn't keep track of him.

Elusive beasties, dogs are. :D

cscarlet
12-17-2009, 07:46 PM
To the OP: Please (pretty please?) don't stop being a Beta because some people don't like criticism! I'm still learning, so I feel like I'm running around begging people to critique my work. I actually want it to be harsh (not unnecessarily mean of course, but "blunt" works very well for me). Because if it's not, I won't learn. I'm running out of friends and neighbor's kids to read my stuff, so I'm just crossing my fingers hoping someone over in the Beta forum will give me the time of day by the time I mull up the courage (and something I'm happy enough with) to ask.

So just remember: For every person out there who takes it personally, there's another person out there sitting on the opposite end of the spectrum, hoping you'll tear it to shreds!!! :)

As for how to respond to the "sensitive" types? I'm not sure. Perhaps you can do what I did for the few Beta projects I've worked on (for others), and just critique one chapter first, to see how they respond. If they like your comments, and you two feel comfortable together, then move on to critique the rest of the manuscript as a whole. So if the person freaks out, or doesn't agree with ANYTHING you've said, you don't waste your time pushing forward for the next several hundred pages.

Ruv Draba
12-19-2009, 03:29 PM
In software, the term 'beta' means that the software is out of 'alpha'. Beta means that the software has already been put through its paces before it was let out the door; there may be some bugs (some known, some unknown) but fundamentally the software does what was intended.

In literature it's much sloppier. 'Beta' can mean that the author:
finished and revised a whole draft, believes that the characters, plot, setting, narration and through-lines are all viable, that the dialogue is reasonably well-crafted and now wants to see where the problems are;
finished some part of a first draft, knows that there are design or exposition problems, has no idea how to resolve them and needs guidance; or
wrote words on a page, has no idea how to approach the craft of writing and just wants someone to give encouragement and directions.
To my mind, only author 1) needs a beta-reader.

Author 2) needs a capable writing-buddy to peer over the shoulder, and help diagnose and fix problems, suggest alternative approaches, offer encouragement, point out strengths and weaknesses, and suggest exercises to beef up the muscles. Ideally that person would work with snippets, synopses and outlines, and not whole wads of manuscript. Ideally there's respect and trust between such buds.

Person 3) needs an experienced mentor -- someone to talk about what needs to be learned, suggest effective ways of learning it, and to dissuade them from writing 100,000-word novels and querying them to professional agents. :)

Naturally, if a person 2 or 3 thinks they're a person 1 then they're in for a rude shock. There are more or less polite ways to say 'Your manuscript is unpublishable and you need to learn more craft', but there are no ways of guaranteeing that someone won't hate us for saying it.

My suggestions:
Don't commit to beta-reading manuscript until you're clear that beta-reading is what the author actually needs.
If the author doesn't need beta-reading, tell him so clearly. Explain why constructively, and give examples.
Authors generally write far more than they should. Don't waste your time reading material that has the same deep recurring flaws. Point it out once or twice, then stop and let them know where you stopped, and why.
You can't stop authors from hating you, but you can minimise the effort it takes to get hated. :)
I turned my hand to fiction in a serious way just on four years ago. In that time I've critiqued hundreds of manuscripts, had a crack at four novels, half a dozen shorts (one now in publication), read half a dozen books on writing, posted maybe three thousand writing-related articles and completed maybe sixty writing exercises. In order of useful learnings, I'd rank them:
Reading books on writing. Especially the first three or four good ones; after that it tends to be the same messages rehashed. I wish I'd read some good writing-books on day 1.
Being a good writing-bud. It might take me a week to write a flawed short, but it only takes me an hour to critique one. I can learn some key lessons faster by reading other peoples' crappy manuscripts than by crapping out my own.
Completing writing exercises. Exercises are very efficient at teaching us what we don't know because they're short and targeted and designed by people who know how to write. Because writing is experiential, doing exercises with buddies is far more useful than doing them alone.
Writing shorts. About 80% of all the flaws we might have as a writer are visible in a short. Shorts are short, so the flaws come out faster. Hence better learnins.
Writing about writing. I'm a mad problem-solving fiend. So helping other people with their problems is a form of learning for me too. We often teach what we most need to learn.
Writing novels. They are certainly an acid test of being able to write, but I find them the least educational of all the writing activities I do. They're most prone to producing inconclusive and not very informative results.
I guess that for the purpose of this discussion I'm saying: don't give up critting other peoples' stuff, but don't try and beta-read it unless that's what it actually needs. And if you aspire to be a good writing-buddy, get yourself a good grounding in writing fundamentals first.

Hope that helps.

Samantha's_Song
12-19-2009, 03:49 PM
That's why I always say I'm a beta reader - I won't consider reading something that the writer doesn't think is finished and worth beginning to query. Mind you, you'd be surprised at what someone thinks is worth querying and what I think needs another couple of drafts or so. ;)



finished and revised a whole draft, believes that the characters, plot, setting, narration and through-lines are all viable, that the dialogue is reasonably well-crafted and now wants to see where the problems are;

Sevvy
12-19-2009, 05:26 PM
If a person's critique of your manuscript is "that sucked," then that's not a critique, that's a jackass. Disregard their comments, they aren't helpful.

Thankfully I've never experienced the angry writer deal when I've critiqued, but I think that's because I don't critique over the internet, but do a lot of in-person workshops. It's harder to be mean to someone's face, and that works both ways. Also, in workshops, the author is usually not allowed to speak during the critique unless it's to clarify a glaring mistake (typo on page 3, my bad!). Plus there's a moderator of some form to keep everyone civil and helpful.

I did receive a nasty critique in a workshop once, but that guy was a jerk to everyone, so I didn't take it personally. He also said that magazines and journals weren't worth being published in because he had never read one he liked. I have no idea where he's planning on publishing his own stuff then, but whatever.

Most people do just want a pat on the back. I have a hard enough time patting people I know in-person on the back, let alone someone over an internet forum I've never met. I do try to ask people ahead of time though, whether they want an honest critique, or if they just want me to tell them what I liked. At least then I know how in-depth I have to read their piece.