PDA

View Full Version : Handling Harsh/Mean-Spirited Critiques



Pages : [1] 2

Mharvey
07-23-2011, 09:07 PM
Hey all,

I'll be honest - one of the hardest skills for me to learn as a writer was how to swallow your ego and bear someone reading your work, taking a meatcleaver, and chopping it up beyond recognition. This is usually done in a crazy-nazi sushi chef style, invoking feelings that everything you've done, everything you are - your very soul - is just wrong. In the end, your formerly beautiful (at least in your mind) piece looks like the aftermath of a dinner date with the Tasmanian Devil.

I'm happy to say, I've gotten much better at this - but particularly scathing ones are still hard to endure.

We've all had these kind of critiques. In the end, we have to inevitably say: "thank you for the time you spent," and grant the rep point, all the while clutching our sore bottoms. But is there ever a point, you feel, where a critique simply becomes unproductive? A critic who, for example, just seems to be reading every sentence and looking for something they can say negative about it.

I mean, if you try hard enough, you can find something negative to say about almost anything.

I'm sure you've all had that one or two that had a negative comment every 1-2 lines. Some of the critiques are valid. Some feel nitpicky and boring. The worst is when a nitpicky/boring critique is done in a snarky/sarcastic tone. The person seems to have dropped an unbiased critic mask and donned the persona of Simon Cowell - they don't just want to critique you, they want to embarrass you. It's their mission to prove how bad of a writer you are. They seem to make it personal. It almost gets to a point, where they're literally trolling you, probing you with pain sticks, trying to get you to lash out at them, just so they can say: "I'm sorry you can't handle criticism. If you just want positive things to be said, stick to showing your story to mommy."

Can a critique cross a line for you? What is that line? When you're critiquing a piece yourself - is there a point where it just becomes impolite to continue, simply because you clearly don't like anything this writer has to say? Or do you keep going to the bitter end, no matter how much red you have to write?

And of course, the $64,000 question - does a writer who posts their work ever have a right to say: "Wow. You're a real asshat. Go to hell."... even if the critic has a valid point, just based on the way they handled their critique.

Please share your thoughts!

RobJ
07-23-2011, 09:16 PM
You have to filter the useful stuff from the not-so-useful stuff, regardless of how it's delivered. Just because a critique is harsh doesn't mean it's not useful, just as a pleasantly written one is not guaranteed to be helpful. Never bite back. Just filter.

shadowwalker
07-23-2011, 09:44 PM
First, if it's a stranger rather than someone I asked to beta, I brace myself before reading. They are under no promise to be 'nice'. I never respond to such reviews with other than a "Thanks for reading."; if it's on their site/blog/whatever, I don't respond at all. No point. If there is anything worthwhile in the diatribe, I'll find it, but no way I'll give them the satisfaction of saying "See? I was right!".

It's different in a writing group. There I expect honest but respectful comments - "constructive criticism". If they can't do that, then I'm more than willing to respond first to their critique and then to their method. I would never expect an author to accept something like that from me, and I sure as hell won't accept it from others. But then I've been lucky with the crit groups I've been part of, because it's only happened on a couple of occasions (and then to other writers). Then too, I was one of the mods so I could put down that crap with authority. :evil

ChaosTitan
07-23-2011, 09:45 PM
If you think a critique posted in SYW is purposely negative, that the critter is overly personal, or are ever tempted to call them out publicly, use the Report Post button and let a Mod handle it.

If you think a critique given privately is any of the things above...well, a good rule of thumb is to pick out whatever's useful to you, thank the critter for their time, then never ask them to crit for you again. Engaging them is unproductive, and you can better focus your energy on your writing.

dpaterso
07-23-2011, 10:03 PM
And of course, the $64,000 - does a writer who posts their work ever have a right to say: "Wow. You're a real asshat. Go to hell."... even if the critic has a valid point, just based on the way they handled their critique.
The $64K answer, what's that going to get you except some ill feeling? They might not even be aware of how you've perceived their feedback. And heck, the critter whose response irritates you today could be the critter who gives you the best feedback ever tomorrow! Sometimes it's difficult not to take comments personally but that's what you have to try to do. Do they help improve your material, your writing, your perspective? If not, forget 'em, don't let 'em eat at you.

And, what everyone else said.

-Derek

Gillhoughly
07-23-2011, 10:07 PM
We all get those and you only need ask yourself: who owns this problem?

If you spot a "mean to show how clever I am as a critic" then discount it. The "critic" is out to feed his own ego, not help you improve your craft. You've got that down.

I may take flack because mean crits may have valid points, but it's hard to pick those from the emotional battering they dish out.

Chances are good if valid points on the writing are to be found, they will be repeated elsewhere by someone who doesn't get his jollies from trying to take a stranger down a peg.

Other times it's clearly a personal attack, and you can again ignore those. I found one posted as a "review" and asked Amazon to remove it, which they eventually did. The comments were on me, not the book.

And there are cases when you just can't tell one way or another. It could be feedback from someone who knows there's something wrong, but they don't know how to define it. That's when you have to use your best judgment, step back and try to see your work through their eyes. They might be your target audience, and something there did or did not work for them.

It's all part of honing your craft.

In a critique group, I got a nasty going over by the wife of another member. I'd given an honest crit of her spouse's work (balanced with suggestions on how to fix things), and she put on her best butter-don't-melt-in-MY-mouth attitude to let me know what an epic fail my work was, concluding with a cheerful smile and a hope that I could fix those problems. It was clear she wanted to get back at me for what she perceived as an attack on him.

It was hilarious, because everyone (knowing my temper) expected me to rip into her and held their breath when my turn came to respond. Instead, I let her think she was a huge help and because of her honest feedback (I cheerfully slapped the gratitude on with a trowel) my book would be a total success.

The moron thought she'd really helped me, and that just spoiled her whole evening. :evil

Sophia
07-23-2011, 10:07 PM
As well as the advice above, I would suggest, just for your own peace of mind, to assume best intentions from the critiquer. If someone with best intentions lays into my work, that would suggest to me that something about that point in my story really got to them. And if it's a particularly emotional reaction, perhaps expressed with lots of sarcasm or borderline troll-like wording, I would look at that point carefully and see why it might have triggered that. Basically, look for the source of the problem, rather than focusing on the end result of its presence in the story. That way, the critiquer's point will still have been made, and the story will benefit from it.

It also might help to remember that critiquers improve with experience. The critiquer who was harsh to you might look back on this particular crit later, and cringe. As always, if anyone breaks the "respect your fellow writer rule", report the post. But, just for the sake of your own blood pressure, perhaps give them the benefit of the doubt. And remember that all members here own their own posted words! You have control over what you present of yourself, here. If you need to, maybe rant in a Notepad file - and then delete it. :)

sheadakota
07-23-2011, 10:08 PM
If you can't handle negative crits- personal or not- don't ask for one.
If you don't agree with a crit- don't defend yourself or argue- thank the critter and move on.
There is no rule that states you need to take advice offered, but be prepared to hear things you 1) may not like, and 2) may not agree with.

In the end it is your work- critters don't crit YOU they are critter your writing. That is a huge difference- you have to learn not to take it so personally.

stormie
07-23-2011, 10:17 PM
It's all subjective. Even when you submit work to agents or editors, you'll get one who'll write back that it's a piece of crap, and yet another who will think the sun rises and sets on it, it's so wonderful. SYW is a good place to grow thick skin.

But always remember--step back, think about what they're telling you, then decide what to do about revisions.

Polenth
07-23-2011, 10:18 PM
Most of the times I see people dismissing critiques as mean, they weren't anything of the sort and had some valuable points. Being blunt doesn't mean a person is mean-spirited. Using swear words doesn't mean a person is mean-spirited. Being the only one to dislike a piece of writing doesn't mean the person is mean-spirited. Pulling the tone argument on someone ("you had valid points, but I won't listen to you because you sounded angry") encourages others not to help you.

On the other side, critiques that are genuinely unproductive often don't come across as mean, because they don't hit the problems, so there's nothing to really get offended about. They also don't help.

shelleyo
07-23-2011, 10:41 PM
Most of the times I see people dismissing critiques as mean, they weren't anything of the sort and had some valuable points. Being blunt doesn't mean a person is mean-spirited. Using swear words doesn't mean a person is mean-spirited. Being the only one to dislike a piece of writing doesn't mean the person is mean-spirited. Pulling the tone argument on someone ("you had valid points, but I won't listen to you because you sounded angry") encourages others not to help you.

On the other side, critiques that are genuinely unproductive often don't come across as mean, because they don't hit the problems, so there's nothing to really get offended about. They also don't help.

I agree. To the right person, "you use too many commas" can be seen as brutal.

Sometimes people are nasty and seem to seek to humiliate or belittle the writer whose work they're critting. The irony of this is, I find, the people who do seem to get some sort of pleasure out of ripping something to shreds are usually shitty writers who need the ego boost of bringing someone else down, because they're not getting that boost by having their own work praised or published. They're very easy to spot and ignore, with a little practice.

The crits that immediately make a writer feel indignant and upset (aside from those gleefully brutal ones) are usually the ones that get something right.

I'm of the opinion that the worst crits are the ones that say nothing. Waste of everyone's time, and no one learns anything. A lot of this kind of mutual stroking goes on in almost every workshop or critique group I've ever been involved with. I'd rather have something to get angry about, and have to justify why I did something (in my head, of course, not out loud) and conclude that I was right or the critter was right. Something's been accomplished, at least.




And of course, the $64,000 question - does a writer who posts their work ever have a right to say: "Wow. You're a real asshat. Go to hell."... even if the critic has a valid point, just based on the way they handled their critique.

Please share your thoughts!

If someone, in a crit, starts critiquing the writer instead of the story, then I think it's fair to call them on it. "This story is awful" is far, far different than "you can't write" or "you suck." Crits should never get personal. I would clamp down on that instantly--politely.

I've never argued with a crit, but I've had plenty of people I've critiqued argue with me, which is one reason I rarely do it anymore. I believe a huge portion of people who offer their work for critique do so in order to be told how good it is, and are shocked when someone has actual criticisms. Don't ask for statistics :) but in my experience, this has been a high percentage of people in groups.

Personally, I see far, far worse behavior from those who have been critiqued than those critiquing, both here and in most places.

Shelley

Mharvey
07-23-2011, 10:43 PM
I just want to clarify one thing: This was more of hypothetical than anything else. In the past few months, I've only had one critter that kinda irked me with their critique - it was just lot of nitpicky kinda stuff done with a snide attitude every 1-2 lines. However, even that person wasn't really being mean-spirited, based on the parting thoughts. I didn't bare them ill-will, thanked them and repped them.

So yeah, probably should have made sure that was clear - nothing but love to those who've critted me recently. Just thought this would make for an interesting discussion.

Linda Adams
07-23-2011, 10:45 PM
Critiques, overall, generally haven't bothered me. They comment on stuff. Either I agree with it, I need to think on it, or I don't agree with it. And I've had some that were really nasty, including one writer who should have turned down the critique because the book would have offended her (she was vehemently anti-gun. It should have been a clue that a book set in the Civil War would not been a good idea). Instead, she took her anger out on the book. I even had one guy who was leaving a writer's critique group (at the time I was one of the co-owners) vent by doing a nasty critique of my work.


Can a critique cross a line for you? What is that line?

Yup, I had one of those. My book's in omni. The omni-haters jumped on the bandwagon and explained all the reasons I shouldn't be using omni. If they'd said there was a problem with the omni itself, I would have been fine with that because it was a critique. But they didn't comment on the story or the writing -- only the use of the viewpoint.

Everyone was civil and polite, but I kept getting comments like, "Why can't you do that in third instead?" and "I hate omni." I even had one guy tell me, "I'm sure you know your story, but here's how you'd do it in third." That was the one that got me really mad because he was treating me like I was stupid and didn't know any better. I didn't think I needed to explain that the book had been through third and first, before I settled on omni. Nor did I think I needed to list the eight reasons I had come up with as to why that book needed to be in omni.

But I own my words, so the only thing I did was bite my tongue and thank the critiquers. As a result of the above though, I no longer ask for critiques. I shouldn't have to put a disclaimer on my work saying, "If you're going to tell me you hate omni or that I need to change it, drive by and don't comment."


When you're critiquing a piece yourself - is there a point where it just becomes impolite to continue, simply because you clearly don't like anything this writer has to say? Or do you keep going to the bitter end, no matter how much red you have to write?

Well, if I didn't like what the writer had to say, I wouldn't do the critique. Period. That's why I got the nasty comments from the anti-gun writer. That's why I was told by someone to remove all my dialogue because narrative told the story better. That's even why the guy leaving the group gave a nasty critique. To be fair on a critique, the critiquer really has to start out with being interested in the subject/genre.

Bracken
07-23-2011, 10:58 PM
Would somebody do that deliberately?
Give a mean-spirited critique, I mean?

If I could tell the person was just trying to be hurtful, I would assume it was their own insecurity talking, and I would not take their words to heart.
On the other hand, if it was just a harsh critique (but not mean-spirited), then maybe they actually are trying to be helpful, and don't have the tact that comes naturally to others. You should give them the benefit of the doubt.

shadowwalker
07-23-2011, 10:59 PM
Perhaps I should add a disclaimer to my comment - I'm not talking about thing about the story I don't like hearing. Everyone has to learn to listen to those and determine their validity. What I'm talking about is personal attacks or statements like "Well, this just sucks. Start over and do it right!". I'm not sure about 'blunt'. I've heard too many people use that word to soften 'rude'. I don't think there's any reason we, as writers, can't make comments diplomatically and still get the point across.

Zelenka
07-23-2011, 11:16 PM
Another point that I think is important is that people, especially on these boards, come from all different backgrounds and cultures, and what may be perceived as 'blunt and honest' some place may be crossing the line for someone brought up elsewhere, and so again, like others have said, it's useful to step back, take things with a pinch of salt and try not to let the tone of the thing detract from the actual content. That said, I have come across some truly unhelpful statements in critiques, including 'why are you writing about a country other than the one you live in? Stop writing this and write another book about your own country' or words to that effect. Again, as the others have said, you just have to sift stuff like that out and see if there is anything that's useful. There are some people who want to be the literary equivalent of Simon Cowell, some who want to make a name for themselves being mean rather than for their skills as a writer, basically that's where they get the attention, "look at me and how mean I am", and they are upsetting, but that's what they want. So why give them the reaction they're looking for?

Love the story about the mean woman getting annoyed because she thought she'd helped!

Phaeal
07-23-2011, 11:48 PM
It's all subjective. Even when you submit work to agents or editors, you'll get one who'll write back that it's a piece of crap, and yet another who will think the sun rises and sets on it, it's so wonderful. SYW is a good place to grow thick skin.


In my experience, agents and editors are much less likely to be "mean" than reviewers or nonpro critters. After all, being mean takes some energy and time, and why should they bother if they're just going to reject your piece anyway? Not to mention that they don't need any more loonies fixating on them. ;)

Hundreds of rejections in, I've never gotten a mean one.

My advice on any kind of comment: Say thanks, think about any good advice, and move on. If the comments are super-positive, however, be sure to tell the commenter that you want to have his or her babies.

Bracken
07-23-2011, 11:59 PM
Agents and editors have no reason to be "mean"; no motivation to be.
Fellow writers, on the other hand (or professional critics, who are probably failed writers themselves), might have a motivation to try and tear you down.

KathleenD
07-24-2011, 12:15 AM
What about GIVING a harsh critique?

I cannot sing. I did not know this until surprisingly late in life, because it's not that I'm tone deaf (I'm a pretty good violist). I can hear and match tones. If I'm standing next to someone who CAN sing, I can do well enough for college chorale and campfires.

Singing alone? Gah. What comes out of my mouth is not what I hear in my head, and I can't fix it because all I can tell is that it's not right... but I didn't know *how* "not right" it was until I heard a recording.

No one (besides my three year old) has ever come out and said, dudette, you cannot sing. But I never tried to be a professional singer, either.

Someone I like a lot asked me to crit her novel. She cannot write. I'd seen some of her stuff that was co-written with another person, and it was okay, so I was totally stunned at the sheer awfulness of the manuscript. I could not find even one thing to say that was positive. Homonym abuse, rapid POV shifts, off-putting premise, inconsistent characters, terrible pace, stilted dialogue, etc.

This person wants to be a professional writer, and thinks her hundreds of rejections are no different from Stephen King's legendary spike full of 'em.

An honest critique would have been extremely harsh and not the least bit mean spirited. It also probably would not have been believed, so I took the coward's way out. I still don't know if there was a "right" answer.

shelleyo
07-24-2011, 12:19 AM
An honest critique would have been extremely harsh and not the least bit mean spirited.

It's all so subjective.

I think a harsh critique is one that's unnecessarily negative.

An honest critique that the work is nowhere near publishable, to me, is not harsh, just honest.

Shelley

Kitty27
07-24-2011, 12:50 AM
I have a cousin that is extremely blunt. She's always spoken her mind. When she reads my manuscripts,she tells me the raw truth. Another person might read her words and say she is a cruel hearted bitch. Now,that isn't true but it all in how we perceive another person's words and tone. I know she's utterly ruthless when she speaks and it doesn't faze me. Another writer might be reduced to tears!

There is a clear difference between blunt mouthed people and those that are nasty just because. If you do receive a vicious critique,don't engage and don't let it shake your confidence. Politely thank them and never deal with them again. Now if the person doing the critique is like my cousin aka meaning no harm but quite unable to finesse their speech,well,you have to toughen up. I think these kinds of critiques are invaluable and I welcome them.

Sevvy
07-24-2011, 12:50 AM
A critic who, for example, just seems to be reading every sentence and looking for something they can say negative about it.


As other people have said, some of this is a matter of perspective (what I consider fine another would consider a mean-spirited critique). Also, over the internet it can be hard to tell tone and it can be very easy to misinterpret what someone is saying. I will say, though, that when someone is truly just being vicious, you can tell.

I will comment on the above quote that I pretty much expect a version of that in the workshops I've been a part of. We're there to improve a manuscript, which does include searching out what isn't working in it. When I read a line, I'm looking for what does and doesn't work. I would certainly want someone to point out that sort of thing in my manuscript to save myself from embarrassment when sending it off to an editor later.

There is a professional way of doing that, though. I can't help but feel that some writers just haven't really learned how to do that, though. I've had workshops where the first day was spent learning how to critique a piece of writing. I think the other reason some people are harsher with their critiques is that they are tired of the usual "This story is great, I really enjoyed reading it" critique, and recognize that sometimes what the writer really needs to hear is brutal honesty if they want to get better. But, again, I do think there is a line where you go from helpful honesty to meanness.

backslashbaby
07-24-2011, 02:07 AM
I agree so much with Kitty27. I'm around a bunch of blunt folks, and those who tease or use sarcasm but would never be passive-aggressive. Apparently, not everyone is familiar with that culture, lol :D

And sometimes the cute comments are meant to be lighthearted in a crit. Again, this can read as passive-aggressive behavior, but it really might not be.

Some folks crit line by line as they would edit their own work. So you might see a lot of changes. That makes sense, I think.

In the end, you can always agree (or not) to disagree. Yeah, they may be an ass. They may be trying to tear you down. Meh. People are weird. The worst part about that, imho, is that I don't don't how seriously to take their answers, darnit. But you have to think on each change anyway, so filter their suggestions as objectively as you can.

AmsterdamAssassin
07-24-2011, 02:33 AM
I didn't bare bear them ill-will, thanked them and repped them.

Hah!


Would somebody do that deliberately?
Give a mean-spirited critique, I mean?

Uh, for fun?


What about GIVING a harsh critique?

It's all part of a bigger plan. No, let's call it a conspiracy. If you give enough harsh criticism, you can demotivate the competition. Thin the herd, so to say.

Of course, you have to brutally slaughter their fictional children, then add insult to injury by telling them 'it's nothing personal' and 'you'll do better next time'.

And the clincher: if they start whining about being treated too harsh, tell them 'if they can't handle constructive criticism, they're not cut out for the profession of writer'.

thothguard51
07-24-2011, 02:47 AM
I used to do a lot of line items critiques in other groups and what always drove me crazy is after spending 30-60 minutes on a critique, the posters response was...

I know all of that, but what did you think of the story?

That type of response makes me want to reach through the screen, grab them by the throat and strangle them so I never have to read that type of response again.

By usual response though, "Hard to tell with all the other issues you have. Fix them and then come back and see me in about six months.

shelleyo
07-24-2011, 02:52 AM
I used to do a lot of line items critiques in other groups and what always drove me crazy is after spending 30-60 minutes on a critique, the posters response was...

I know all of that, but what did you think of the story?

YES.

I've also always found it maddening to spend time on a thoughtful critique, and have that person turn around and crit something of mine with something like, "Hey, I liked it!" More than once.

:rant:

At least it's a quick way to spot the takers and weed them out. But it's frustrating as hell the first couple of times.

Shelley

Lyra Jean
07-24-2011, 03:44 AM
I have a cousin that is extremely blunt. She's always spoken her mind. When she reads my manuscripts,she tells me the raw truth. Another person might read her words and say she is a cruel hearted bitch. Now,that isn't true but it all in how we perceive another person's words and tone. I know she's utterly ruthless when she speaks and it doesn't faze me. Another writer might be reduced to tears!

There is a clear difference between blunt mouthed people and those that are nasty just because. If you do receive a vicious critique,don't engage and don't let it shake your confidence. Politely thank them and never deal with them again. Now if the person doing the critique is like my cousin aka meaning no harm but quite unable to finesse their speech,well,you have to toughen up. I think these kinds of critiques are invaluable and I welcome them.

I think your cousin comes under the heading of know your critiquer. If people read the crits on SYW and see the style of critique when used on a work not written by oneself it will be easier to see if the person is being purposefully mean or if they are just blunt but helpful.

Jehhillenberg
07-24-2011, 10:40 AM
Hey all,

I'll be honest - one of the hardest skills for me to learn as a writer was how to swallow your ego and bear someone reading your work, taking a meatcleaver, and chopping it up beyond recognition. This is usually done in a crazy-nazi sushi chef style, invoking feelings that everything you've done, everything you are - your very soul - is just wrong. In the end, your formerly beautiful (at least in your mind) piece looks like the aftermath of dinner date with the Tasmanian Devil.

I'm happy to say, I've gotten much better at this - but particularly scathing ones are still hard to endure.

We've all had these kind of critiques. In the end, we have to inevitably say: "thank you for the time you spent," and grant the rep point, all the while clutching our sore bottoms. But is there ever a point, you feel, where a critique simply becomes unproductive? A critic who, for example, just seems to be reading every sentence and looking for something they can say negative about it.

I mean, if you try hard enough, you can find something negative to say about almost anything.

I'm sure you've all had that one or two that had a negative comment every 1-2 lines. Some of the critiques are valid. Some feel nitpicky and boring. The worst is when a nitpicky/boring critique is done in a snarky/sarcastic tone. The person seems to have dropped an unbiased critic mask and donned the persona of Simon Cowell - they don't just want to critique you, they want to embarrass you. It's their mission to prove how bad of a writer you are. They seem to make it personal. It almost gets to a point, where they're literally trolling you, probing you with pain sticks, trying to get you to lash out at them, just so they can say: "I'm sorry you can't handle criticism. If you just want positive things to be said, stick to showing your story to mommy."

Can a critique cross a line for you? What is that line? When you're critiquing a piece yourself - is there a point where it just becomes impolite to continue, simply because you clearly don't like anything this writer has to say? Or do you keep going to the bitter end, no matter how much red you have to write?

And of course, the $64,000 question - does a writer who posts their work ever have a right to say: "Wow. You're a real asshat. Go to hell."... even if the critic has a valid point, just based on the way they handled their critique.

Please share your thoughts!

I completely understand where you're coming from. I've had friends read some of my stuff in the past, but since it was in person I could knock them out. I'm totally kidding. I think it kinda boils down to personalities (maybe clashing) and personal tastes. Everyone's is different. I happen to be extremely sensitive and extremely receptive when it comes to any kind of creativity I've produced; people like me can't help but to take things personal when we shouldn't. It takes a lot to put yourself out there. I appreciate any and all critiques I get nowadays. Even if it's something that basically kicks me in my stomach, I give it time and then come back and give credit where it's due. But if it's something trivial that probably wouldn't affect my work, I use my own judgment and go with my gut.

I truly don't believe that a hellish critique is done deliberately to embarrass anyone (even if it feels that way) because I hope a person wouldn't take the time out of their day just to do that. When I critique, I always keep in mind that author's personal style. I try to keep an open mind and keep a balance: positives and negatives. Everybody's got 'em. Something might not sit well with me as a reader, but if I think it won't be helpful to that person, I keep it to myself. It's my opinion and there are many that would differ with it. I always try to see things from the other pov. If a story doesn't sit with me or the writing just really bothers me from a reader's standpoint, I try to bow out as politely as possible because words can get misconstrued.
:)

Linda Adams
07-24-2011, 02:22 PM
I truly don't believe that a hellish critique is done deliberately to embarrass anyone (even if it feels that way) because I hope a person wouldn't take the time out of their day just to do that. :)

It does depend on the situation. The one where the guy left the group and delivered a nasty critique was intended as a personal attack by the individual. That was obvious to me, though, and easy to dismiss.

However, I think there are others who really don't know how to do critiques -- it's not a matter of just going in and finding out what's wrong with the story. I've always said -- though I've curiously had people dispute it -- that critiquing is every bit a writing skill as writing a novel is.

Undercover
07-24-2011, 03:26 PM
To me the harshest crit is when they are critting on you are a person, like others say on "personal attacks." They can tell me bad things about my writing until their blue in the face, it won't bother me. But the minute they start judging me as a whole real life person and assuming, that's when it gets ugly. But that's when you have to step back and say, "Hey, they've got problems"...no need to wrap yourself up in that sort of drama.

I think a line-by-line in depth crit, no matter how horrible it may be, is a very thoughtful crit at that. It means that person took the time to read and study your work line -by- line, perhaps even word by word, and querying you "why would you choose that word?" sorta thing is a learner. Those are the types that want to hone in on there on craft and settled on your story because they liked it. I don't think there are people out there that would waste their time on a poorly written story, only but to help.

I read things from betas included and the writing has absolutely poor grammar and spelling and sentence structure wise and oh, just aweful. But I saw what passion this person had and so I helped out for the first three chapters. Tedious work, it really was. Even filling in where the periods should go and everything. They came away learning more grammar and I came away with a writing buddy.

Like someone else said in this thread, once they start sayin "you suck"...red flag!!!!

jclarkdawe
07-24-2011, 04:44 PM
Hey all,

I'll be honest - one of the hardest skills for me to learn as a writer was how to swallow your ego and bear someone reading your work, taking a meatcleaver, and chopping it up beyond recognition. You wouldn't be talking about me, would you? Because I sure as hell did that to some of your queries. This is usually done in a crazy-nazi sushi chef style, invoking feelings that everything you've done, everything you are - your very soul - is just wrong. I can just picture the image some people have of me wielding a keyboard like some Ninja sushi chef, chopping up their query. Maybe I need to change my avatar. In the end, your formerly beautiful (at least in your mind) piece looks like the aftermath of dinner date with the Tasmanian Devil. Well, if you said after the Tasmanian Devil vomited it up, then I would have bought this description. As an aside, in a query, you should be trying to nail this image in one sentence instead of repeating yourself.

I'm happy to say, I've gotten much better at this - but particularly scathing ones are still hard to endure. I grow on people, like a fungus. Eventually you figure out to ignore the tone and think about the advice. It's either good, in which case I don't care if it makes my work look like vomit from a hung over Tasmanian Devil, or it's bad, in which case it just goes in the circular file.

We've all had these kind of critiques. In the end, we have to inevitably say: "thank you for the time you spent," and grant the rep point, all the while clutching our sore bottoms. That's your problem, not mine. I walk away forgetting about the critique in about thirty seconds. But is there ever a point, you feel, where a critique simply becomes unproductive? Yeah, when no matter what you try, you can't get through to the thick-headed person asking for a critique. All they want to hear is how brilliant they are. Hate to tell them, but ain't nobody that brilliant. A critic who, for example, just seems to be reading every sentence and looking for something they can say negative about it. Which is how you should look at every sentence in your manuscript. What's wrong with this sentence and how do I improve is how you should be looking at your writing.

I mean, if you try hard enough, you can find something negative to say about almost anything. But for many queries, I don't have to try hard, I don't even have to wake up. If the person has an agenda other than critiquing your writing, that comes through clearly. But it amazes me how many people have thought one of my critiques is personal. Hell, I've never met the person, don't know a damn thing about them, and I'm making it personal?

I'm sure you've all had that one or two that had a negative comment every 1-2 lines. I've had numerous negative comment for every single line. What can I say. If it's wrong, it's wrong. Some of the critiques are valid. Some feel nitpicky and boring. It's the nitpicky stuff that separate the good from the brilliant. The worst is when a nitpicky/boring critique is done in a snarky/sarcastic tone. The person seems to have dropped an unbiased critic mask and donned the persona of Simon Cowell - they don't just want to critique you, they want to embarrass you. Until he got on TV, I doubt Crowell cared about embarrassing people. And then he only cared because of ratings. You're trying to make a point, one you've made so many times it's no longer funny, knowing you've got to rock the person so they will move from their present position. Remember, we all want to stay where we are. Improvement comes hard, and takes a lot of work. Most of us would prefer to avoid that. It's their mission to prove how bad of a writer you are. They seem to make it personal. Notice your use of the word "seem" here. It "seems" personal. Reality is it isn't. It almost gets to a point, where they're literally trolling you, probing you with pain sticks, trying to get you to lash out at them, just so they can say: "I'm sorry you can't handle criticism. If you just want positive things to be said, stick to showing your story to mommy." Have you read some of the reviews on Amazon? Hell, some of those people would have been well advised to just show their work to their mommy.

Can a critique cross a line for you? No. What is that line? When you're critiquing a piece yourself - is there a point where it just becomes impolite to continue, simply because you clearly don't like anything this writer has to say? My manuscript is being beta by someone who doesn't like my character. It's great (for me, probably not as much for him). People who don't like what you did force you to justify everything you do. Or do you keep going to the bitter end, no matter how much red you have to write? God, I hope someone critiquing me will last. I love red and the more the better.

And of course, the $64,000 question - does a writer who posts their work ever have a right to say: "Wow. You're a real asshat. Go to hell."... even if the critic has a valid point, just based on the way they handled their critique. Sure they do. Just probably don't want to do it out loud. Or know it's someone like me who a critique of my critique style just amuses me. Sometimes it helps to lose your temper, and definitely in QLH the rants can be very helpful.

Please share your thoughts!

I'm doubting that you actually meant this at me, but it provided me with such a wonderful opportunity for the other side that I couldn't resist. There is a line, and the only time I've been spoken to by a mod was not in QLH and where I knew damn well I was going over the line. Nor have I ever seen Crowell go over that line.

But you have to know where that line is if you do this style of critique, and you've got to have a thick skin for what gets thrown back at you. And you damn well had better be right a lot more than you're wrong (yes, Virginia, I am sometimes wrong).

Best of luck,

Jim Clark-Dawe

Mr Flibble
07-24-2011, 05:07 PM
I agree so much with Kitty27. I'm around a bunch of blunt folks, and those who tease or use sarcasm but would never be passive-aggressive. Apparently, not everyone is familiar with that culture, lol :D

And sometimes the cute comments are meant to be lighthearted in a crit. Again, this can read as passive-aggressive behavior, but it really might not be.



A lot depends on teh style of the critter. I tend to make what I suppose you could call 'cute' comments. Because that's how I like to be critted - with a sense of humour, to remind me that while my attitude to work is serious, I shouldn't take myself so seriously. One of my favourite (and helpful as it happens) crit sessions with my writers' group included the phrase 'Thundernuts!' I'm planning on a rewrite of that story, and now, every time that character is on the page, I want to call him Thundernuts. And probably will :D

It's one reason I find JCD's crits so helpful if I'm honest - again, while he knows I'm serious, he's telling me what I need to know and reminding me not to take myself too seriously. That way, I can step back from what I've done and look at it from his eyes.

But, of course, some people don't like that style of critting. They might feel I'm making fun(I am, kinda - in the same way I make fun of my own failings - but I'm also trying to say something, make a point, only with a bit of humour to lighten the occasion)


When I get a crit, I always try to see it in the context of the personality of the person giving the crit. That's what makes it hard sometimes in SYW or other places - you don;t know the person behind teh crit, and so you don;t know if this is just their usual style, whether this is the sort of crit they like to get. If in doubt, I try to think that they think they are being helpful. Which, of course, if they're being mean, will pee them off a la Gillhoughy's story :D

Mharvey
07-24-2011, 05:21 PM
I'm doubting that you actually meant this at me, but it provided me with such a wonderful opportunity for the other side that I couldn't resist. There is a line, and the only time I've been spoken to by a mod was not in QLH and where I knew damn well I was going over the line. Nor have I ever seen Crowell go over that line.

But you have to know where that line is if you do this style of critique, and you've got to have a thick skin for what gets thrown back at you. And you damn well had better be right a lot more than you're wrong (yes, Virginia, I am sometimes wrong).

Best of luck,

Jim Clark-Dawe

Heya Jim,

Nah - honestly, I love ya. If I were to name a single reason as to why I feel I have a decent query letter right now for Noxbringer, it's been the way you've cut to the heart of every query (not just mine) that you've critiqued before. Over the years, I've learned those lessons, sat down, belted out this one, and - in 2 drafts rather than 30 - I have a query that's going to get agent's attention, based on my last round of feedback. Now, I just need to make sure the manuscript itself is polished enough to show them, when the partial and full requests come rolling in.

This was no way directed at you, and I thank you for all your help over the years.

This thread was 95% inspired by a hypothetical, and 5% by a critique a recently got on a piece I uploaded that kinda irked me. The critique *wasn't* done in mean spirit, I'm sure, and part of it was actually useful. The other part was a little redundant (the points they made just weren't all that poignant and just seemed to be made for the sake of making them, because they'd gone all of 2 lines without saying something), and I did feel the tone that critter used was probably not needed to get their points across. That's all.

AlwaysJuly
07-24-2011, 07:24 PM
I don't generally mind however cutting a critique is if it's valid (though I've had one - by a multiply published author - that made me cry, I will admit). But those crits are useful in making my work better, and that's what matters. It's kind of people to take their time to crit your work.

However, I've had a few where the person just seemed they were criticizing to criticize, making comments that were positively nonsensical, and were harsh as well. And I admit I have a hard time shaking those off.

My rules on that is to smile, nod, say thank you (or, if on SYW, just say thank you) and to move on. If you can take something from what they said, great. If not, just forget they ever said anything. And I will not crit them if I'm feeling petty in response (which I know I shouldn't, but seriously... human).

DanielAnuchan
07-24-2011, 09:47 PM
I don't mind a strong critique as long as it is constructive. But the critiques I hate the most are the ones that are flowery and nice, but say absolutely nothing about how to improve the writing. I'm here to improve my writing. If I want compliments I'l record my own voice and play it back.

RobJ
07-24-2011, 10:40 PM
If I want compliments I'l record my own voice and play it back.
Be careful. I recorded my own voice and played it back, and it was pretty harsh.

agentpaper
07-24-2011, 10:45 PM
I don't mind a strong critique as long as it is constructive. But the critiques I hate the most are the ones that are flowery and nice, but say absolutely nothing about how to improve the writing. I'm here to improve my writing. If I want compliments I'l record my own voice and play it back.

This. When I get a crit. I don't expect there to be me a whole lot of compliments. Some are nice, of course. I like to know what's working as well as what's not, but I go in expecting that I'm going to see a whole lot of red.

I've had only 1 truly harsh crit. in my entire writing career and it came from my own cousin. It said, "You suck. Quit writing. Go back to school." o.O I cried, then got over it (ignored her completely) and now I'm being published by Tor. *shrug* (I still have plenty to learn, of course. Not trying to toot my own horn. Promise. :P )

But I did learn from that and I always try to be tactful in how I say things. However, even with that, I just had a new member of my crit group threaten to quit, because she didn't like how I critted. She wanted two compliments for every criticism and I don't do that.

I point out the things I LOVE, but expect that they understand if I didn't say anything, I liked it, then spend my time on pointing out the things that didn't work for me.

Bracken
07-24-2011, 10:59 PM
My. We seem to have some real hardcases on this board.
If I read a piece, and I like the piece, and I don't have any specific criticism about the piece, I will simply post that I read and enjoyed it, as an acknowledgment that I did in fact read and enjoy it.
I will not complain if others do the same for me.
Of course, I'd prefer some sort of constructive criticism; that's why we're all here, to become better... but if one simply has none to offer, an acknowledgment that one read/understood/appreciated/enjoyed the piece is fine with me.
I'm not going to be like, "If you can't say something negative, then keep your damn mouth shut!"

shelleyo
07-24-2011, 11:04 PM
I'm not going to be like, "If you can't say something negative, then keep your damn mouth shut!"

Nobody here has said that.

But most people want a thoughtful critique that has something to say beyond, "That was nice." Especially after they've spent time giving others in-depth comments. It's a bit one-sided.

Shelley

Bracken
07-24-2011, 11:16 PM
Nobody here has said that.

But most people want a thoughtful critique that has something to say beyond, "That was nice." Especially after they've spent time giving others in-depth comments. It's a bit one-sided.

Shelley


I've received feedback from two individuals so far.
One was an in-depth critique, with a good mix of negative and positive comments, and some useful suggestions.
The other was a compliment: "I liked this piece. blah, blah." (can't remember it verbatim).

While the former is certainly more useful to me than the latter, I would never suggest that the latter simply refrain from commenting at all, since if I want to hear compliments I'll simply tape-record my own voice.
I appreciate the simple acknowledgment that she read and liked my story, whether or not she has any specific criticism for me.

I do understand that not everyone may share this feeling.
I was simply commenting: wow. Hardcases.

kaitie
07-24-2011, 11:50 PM
On one hand, I feel like being able to take a negative critique is incredibly important, and I've definitely seen some people take critiques really poorly. Some people just aren't at the stage yet where they can handle it, and there are definitely people who ask for crits expecting to get nothing but praise and who then are really upset to find they get anything else.

At the same time, I've seen a lot of critters take what I call the Simon Cowell approach to critiques. I was always taught that you're neutral, as kind as you can be, and that you point out anything good that you see along with the bad. I've seen critiques that are just scathing. Sarcastic, rude, that personally make me cringe. I think there is absolutely no place for that type of critique, period.

Now, I'm not saying don't be harsh. I've torn pieces to shreds, but I try to do so in as constructive a way as possible, explaining reasoning, offering suggestions, and pointing out what does work along with what doesn't. I've never had anyone complain, and most people come to me and are incredibly pleased, even when it's an incredibly hard critique.

Personally, I think when doing something like this, it's the critters responsibility to be considerate and constructive. Even one sarcastic comment is too much, imo. I think we've all been there and know how tough a hard critique can be. For me it's just a matter of respect to recognize that and make sure that our method isn't making matters worse.

shelleyo
07-25-2011, 12:33 AM
I would never suggest that the latter simply refrain from commenting at all, since if I want to hear compliments I'll simply tape-record my own voice.
I appreciate the simple acknowledgment that she read and liked my story, whether or not she has any specific criticism for me.



I think everyone does this from time to time. A story doesn't have problems that stand out, or it may be a case that the critter didn't really like the story but can't explain why. I'm talking more the repeated non-crit crits. When a person only ever gives a one or two sentence explanation of how much they liked something, then I think there's a problem. They're taking and not giving back, whether by intent or inexperience.

Compliments are easy to get. Good critiques aren't. Most serious writers posting in a critique group aren't looking for, and can't really use, compliments. They're nice, but rarely helpful. Though they're great when mixed in with actual critique. Good stuff should be pointed out, along with things that might need some work.

There isn't that much work being posted for critique anywhere that's worthy only of compliments, so someone who only ever has brief, flattering things to say probably isn't trying very hard, especially when the flattery doesn't even say anything specific. That's what I'm referring to, more than the occasional non-critique reply.

Habitual non-critters are easy to spot and ignore, fortunately, but as I said, the first couple of times you've spent considerable time combing over their words to get only "That was great! Thanks for sharing!" in return, it's frustrating as hell. There are sharing boards for back-patting and praise; crit groups are for work, IMO.




At the same time, I've seen a lot of critters take what I call the Simon Cowell approach to critiques. I've seen critiques that are just scathing. Sarcastic, rude, that personally make me cringe. I think there is absolutely no place for that type of critique, period.

I agree. Those don't help anyone. I think often they make the critter feel superior, and it shows more about their insecurities and shortcomings than the writer's. I've never been a fan of American Idol or similar shows, because I dislike watching anyone become the brunt of that stuff. I'm apparently in the minority, but I can't stand it.

Honesty can be delivered in a better way.

Shelley

Polenth
07-25-2011, 12:49 AM
I appreciate the simple acknowledgment that she read and liked my story, whether or not she has any specific criticism for me.

This is assuming a comment can either be fluff praise or constructive criticism. You can also give someone constructive praise. If you liked it, you must have reasons... adding those in makes the praise much more useful.

COchick
07-25-2011, 12:58 AM
I don't crit anymore. I had a terrible experience in a class not too long ago, when every student had to critique everyone else's work, and I always try to be as kind as possible. Another student BLASTED me, although I couldn't figure out exactly what I'd said to make him so angry. Meh. I'll avoid the drama, thank you very much.

As far as taking critiques--I don't know. I tend to read the crit, let it simmer for a while in the back of my head, and then come back to it. It seems to work better that way, when I've distanced myself a bit. But I would never attack a person offering the critique, because those things tend to come back and bite me in the ass.

Psychomacologist
07-25-2011, 01:03 AM
This is assuming a comment can either be fluff praise or constructive criticism. You can also give someone constructive praise. If you liked it, you must have reasons... adding those in makes the praise much more useful.
I was just about to say this! :D

I had a critique once that was basically: "This was too long. I didn't read it." I was not impressed.

I think as Polenth said it's possible to give constructive, positive feedback. Whilst it's always nice to receive glowing praise, personally I'd much rather here specifically why it's so good. What's working? I want to know what I got right as well as what I got wrong. If you're going line by line you can highlight sentences and paragraphs that show great voice, or are really well written or sound beautiful, or are great character moments. As well as just picking out the bad you can also pick out the good.

I think there's a clear difference between critting and snarking. Critting can be helpful no matter how harshly it's delivered, whereas snarking is just mean. Personally, I would ignore the critique of someone if I felt they'd genuinely crossed that line into nasty snarking OR personal attacks. If they don't respect me I can't trust them to respect my work; therefore I can't trust their critique to be useful or constructive.

timewaster
07-25-2011, 01:10 AM
I think that if anyone bothers to respond to your work in any way you owe them a debt of gratitude. Crits are difficult. You are under no obligation to take their crits to heart and if they seem to have missed the point of your genius so what? It is
a data point and that is always better than no feedback at all.
I think you have an obligation to thank someone for their trouble and to think seriously about their opinions: sometimes arseholes are right. If you can't find it in your heart to be grateful then at least be gracious.

thothguard51
07-25-2011, 01:20 AM
There are a lot of SYW postings that I have read and never commented on for one reason or another. I think new members need to understand this happens more often than not.

Some of the best SYW threads I have read are where the writer interacts with the members critiquing them. Asking questions or explaining a little bit more and getting advice on that as well. The worse seems to be those where the member posting has very little interaction on their own thread...

I always critique about what is on the page. It's about the mechanics more so than the storyline, though there are times I do question the believability of the story at that point. It is never about the author personally. This is where some writers have a hard time, separating themselves from their writing. I know its hard, but if a writer wants to improve, they need to do this...

I have had many thank yous and I appreciate them. I have also had a few who question my intent rather than what was said. Really? That one bothers me and a person thinks they know my intent.

As a person who has posted in SYW for critiques in both QLH and SYW, I don't think I ever challenged a member for their intent, nor have I ever just brushed off their comments without trying to understand where they are coming from. I may not agree with them, but they obviously saw or felt something that may be valid...

I think I am a pretty good example of how to take a critique, though I might be a bad example of how to give em...

Al Stevens
07-25-2011, 01:44 AM
Tell me what's wrong with the piece. The whole story, characters, plot, style, paragraph-by-paragraph, sentence-by-sentence, word-by-word.

Save the attaboys. If I crave approval, I have a cat.

If you need to bring attitude, agenda, hostility, bias, meanness, ego, insecurity, and whatever pisses off critiquees to the critique, do so. Bring it on. Who needs nice-nice? I can find my way through all that and address the substance of each specific criticism.

But, don't assume I know all the buzzwords. If you say my dialogue is "clunky," for example, please explain so I can fix it. (That happened, I googled "clunky dialogue" and found nothing helpful. :) One of my beta-readers cleared it up for me.)

If I don't understand, misunderstand, or totally disagree with a criticism, I'll ask for an explanation to make sure I got it right. I've read that one shouldn't do that. Just thank them and move on, they say. Horse hockey. I want to understand.

What pisses me off as a writer? Retaliatory reviews. If you get one, ignore it. Chances are anyone reading it can spot it for what it is.

I said it elsewhere: publishing is writing with no pants on. So is offering your work up for criticism. Brace yourself. Folks will point and laugh.

RobJ
07-25-2011, 01:47 AM
If I don't understand, misunderstand, or totally disagree with a criticism, I'll ask for an explanation to make sure I got it right. I've read that one shouldn't do that. Just thank them and move on, they say. Horse hockey. I want to understand.
There's nothing wrong with asking for clarification if you don't understand the comments you've received. It makes perfect sense to do so.

Goldenleaves
07-25-2011, 02:22 AM
It helps if you assume that someone means well (unless they're coming at you with a hammer) because there's many different personalities and means of expression.

I think it's interesting how different people will see different things in a given piece of work too. My son in law for example, picks up on every grammar problem and misspelling, my daughter will pick up plot holes. I just pick up on extra words and bits that can be cut. We all enjoy different things, when we're together we can help each other enjoy stuff from different viewpoints.

Adverse comment can be extremely useful, as long as you remember you're always free to ignore it.

Cwm
07-25-2011, 02:22 AM
I am a newbie to AW, but not to crits. Most are invaluable. However I have been frustrated on occasion by short, cryptic comments or questions that appear to come out of left field and consequently seem snarky and condescending when that may not be the critter's intent.

A bald question about what PoV I "think" I'm using doesn't come across as a crit, you see? (Although the critter who wrote it did get reps and thanks, and, eventually, I was able to understand where he/she was coming from.)

I am incredibly grateful to everyone who takes the time to read and crit my work. Most have offered constructive criticism that has been extremely helpful. But the tone of the comments and the way they are presented do affect how I respond to them, and I doubt I am alone in that regard.

shadowwalker
07-25-2011, 04:46 AM
But the tone of the comments and the way they are presented do affect how I respond to them, and I doubt I am alone in that regard.

This is it, exactly. If someone is offering constructive criticism, they want to help. But if they make statements that are condescending, snarky, sarcastic, etc and claim that's just their style or they're just 'blunt' - how is a writer supposed to feel 'helped' by that? The idea is to point out problems - not make the author feel like crawling into a corner and never writing again. Or getting so angry they say the hell with the critter and change nothing. It's defeating the whole purpose.

If we don't know, as writers, how to get our point across without the attitude, maybe we're in the wrong business. jmo

Al Stevens
07-25-2011, 04:57 AM
If it really troubles you, try this. Nicely ask the snarky critics to show you an example in their own published works of how what they are criticizing in your work might have been done better. That will silence most of them.

Tirjasdyn
07-25-2011, 05:07 AM
Lol.

I'd rather hear why my work is crap than a bunch of mincing around the problem. Everyone writes crap from time to time. Part of the critique process is having folks point the crap out.

Sure it's pointless when all the person says is crap without a why, but baiting folks who you think are after your "great novel" is like responding to reviewers, plain stupid. You're the only one who comes out looking like an ass.

Key thing to remember about critiques is this: it's not about you. Unless the critique specifically attacks you my advice is to take it, rep and move on either using the advice or throwing it out. Just cause you got a nasty critique after you were nice on their work doesn't mean you didn't write crap. A critique along the lines of "you use to many commas" can make you cry or make you take a look at the grammar rules you are using. Are you using a style that the critique may not know about? Or is your comma use a little wonton?

::Shrug:: Harsh? Yes. Art is subjective, as said before, one man's trash is another's gold.

shelleyo
07-25-2011, 05:12 AM
Lol.

I'd rather hear why my work is crap than a bunch of mincing around the problem. Everyone writes crap from time to time. Part of the critique process is having folks point the crap out.


I agree that I'd rather get an honest opinion. But of these two:


"This story is crap."
"Your craft needs serious work."
One of those is unnecessarily assholish.



If we don't know, as writers, how to get our point across without the attitude, maybe we're in the wrong business. jmo


This.

Shelley

Cwm
07-25-2011, 05:33 AM
If it really troubles you, try this. Nicely ask the snarky critics to show you an example in their own published works of how what they are criticizing in your work might have been done better. That will silence most of them.

Passive-aggressive much, haha?

I'm here to be part of a community of writers, since that's not available to me where I live. The crits are part of what the community offers. And, to me, community means a sense of camaraderie. It's the combination of tough crits and nurturing that is most beneficial to me.

jclarkdawe
07-25-2011, 05:35 AM
Any time "you" is used in the following, it's a generic "you" and not meant at any specific individual.

I agree. Those don't help anyone. I think often they make the critter feel superior, and it shows more about their insecurities and shortcomings than the writer's. I've never been a fan of American Idol or similar shows, because I dislike watching anyone become the brunt of that stuff. I'm apparently in the minority, but I can't stand it. I'm doubtful you're in the minority, but be that as it may, you're not understanding the psyche of many of the people who use the Crowell technique. (He sure as hell is not the first person to use the technique. The military has been using it for decades.)

I know my short comings as a writer very well, and there will always be many people who are better at it then me. And I'm too dumb to be insecure.

First you have to understand how fundamentally boring doing lots of critiques becomes. Frequently the only place where I'm being creative in a query critique is the greeting. For example, fantasy writers love to give their protagonist a special power. Seems to me this would be an important point for a query. But constantly, all I get is a "special power." To which my response will be something impolite like, "Special power to do what? Blow bubbles with his farts? Light Christmas trees with his breath?"

I suppose I could create a macro that says, "You need to explain the power." And a whole lot more. Because this is constant in critiquing a query. Or any writing. People don't come up with new problems. So if people like me bother you (and I don't blame you if I do), ignore the way the message is phrased and listen to the message. And realize that if I'd gone the macro approach, I would have left QLH long ago (am I hearing cheers coming from there?)

Notice I'm no more serious about myself than I am anyone else. Because if you're going to take writing seriously, it's just not worth it.

I don't need to prove to anyone that I'm better at query writing then they are. There's no national championship or anything like that. It's a useless skill, other than being able to get an agent, which I've done in the past and am sure I can do in the future. Simon Crowell doesn't need to prove he's good at finding music talent. He's got a track record that shows how good he is at it.

Beyond the basic personality traits of the person doing the crit, there's a couple of other things going on. One is throwing down a challenge. Are you willing to show how good you are? Or are you going to walk away? If I get you so pissed that you're going to show me what a dumb asshole I am and write the most brilliant freaking query to prove it, great. I love it when people tell me, "That they'll show me."

Second is I want you to think about every little thing you think I'm going to find to nitpick. I don't want to do your editing, I want you to. Pleasant or not, wanting to make sure you don't look like an idiot is great motivation. A lot of the problems in a query are already addressed, the writer just has to look for them. Apparently before my critique some writers aren't motivated to do that. Maybe afterward you might.

Third is to get people to shift from worrying about self-esteem and instead worry about results. To be honest, I never care about whether someone is neurotic as hell as long as they produce the results I want.

What you would call a harsh critique isn't for everyone. I'm well aware of that, which is why I only wander from QLH on invitation. I don't want to beat on someone who isn't prepared (if you come to QLH, you've come to a squirrel pit and deserve what's going to happen).

And although some people who do harsh critiques do so because they're petty people, other people do it because it's a style that works for them and they know it teaches people. Several million people a year are taught through this method in boot camp. A lot of manufacturing businesses use this model. It's used in coaching.


Honesty can be delivered in a better way. Honesty can be delivered in a nicer way. For some people, this is the best model for learning. For other people, it doesn't work.


But, don't assume I know all the buzzwords. If you say my dialogue is "clunky," for example, please explain so I can fix it. (That happened, I googled "clunky dialogue" and found nothing helpful. :) One of my beta-readers cleared it up for me.)

If I don't understand, misunderstand, or totally disagree with a criticism, I'll ask for an explanation to make sure I got it right. I've read that one shouldn't do that. Just thank them and move on, they say. Horse hockey. I want to understand.


But I don't know what you know. So sometimes I'll say things you don't understand. That's fine. Ask me. I've never, ever seen a stupid question. This is one way to separate out the critiquers from the pretenders. The critiquers can explain exactly why they said everything they said. The pretenders? They have no idea why they're saying it.

Look at the end result of the critique, not how it's said.

Best of luck,

Jim Clark-Dawe

backslashbaby
07-25-2011, 05:46 AM
^^^ My dad was an Army officer. That makes sense now that you bring that up, Jim. No wonder I don't take bluntness as a personal thing in a situation like critique.

It's the message that matters. This sounds awful, but chances are the person doesn't give enough of a crap about you to be trying to get you angry, lol. I see why folks think that's too cold, but there would be a lot fewer crits if folks had to try to ascertain personality types of the writer and all that. There are harsh, blunt critters. That's just how they do their work. It comes with the territory, I think.

shelleyo
07-25-2011, 06:05 AM
The military has been using it for decades.

The military uses a 'toughen up and take the abuse, or be a pussy and quit' approach. Every person who offers up a story for critique isn't in the military, and shouldn't be treated as if that's so, as if 'suck it up or be demoralized' are the only options. There are happy mediums. I was in a writing group once where the attitude was brutal honesty with an emphasis on brutal. Most people quit because of that. I didn't. The approach is most definitely not for everyone.


First you have to understand how fundamentally boring doing lots of critiques becomes.

I've been doing them for years, and have never felt the need to be nasty or smart-assed about it. To each his own, I guess.


But constantly, all I get is a "special power." To which my response will be something impolite like, "Special power to do what? Blow bubbles with his farts? Light Christmas trees with his breath?"

I don't necessarily find that impolite. A lot would depend on the rest of the crit and the general attitude.


Notice I'm no more serious about myself than I am anyone else. Because if you're going to take writing seriously, it's just not worth it.

I do take writing seriously, though. I wouldn't bother, otherwise. I'm not sure what you mean by this.


And although some people who do harsh critiques do so because they're petty people, other people do it because it's a style that works for them and they know it teaches people. Several million people a year are taught through this method in boot camp. A lot of manufacturing businesses use this model. It's used in coaching.

And the people going into those situations know what they're going to get. Someone posting a story for critique may be looking for a few suggestions rather than someone assuming they're the right person to be a drill sergeant for that poster.

I think blunt honesty is fine. But a crit done with mockery, condescension and potential humiliation of the writer, while expecting that as long as something meaningful is said in the midst of it nobody should care, is most likely doing more for the critter than the critted.

I haven't read any of your crits, I don't think, so they might not be as rough as your boot camp comparisons make them sound. Simon Cowell is an asshole, not because it motivates people, but because it gets ratings for the show. It's his schtick and gets him a lot of attention. Yes, he's honest with the rest don't have the balls. But he delivers that message with such scorn, and it made him well-known and feared by newbies. I think the majority of nasty crits are done for the same reason.

But again, we may not even be talking about the same level of snark here.

Shelley

thothguard51
07-25-2011, 06:06 AM
A bald question about what PoV I "think" I'm using doesn't come across as a crit, you see?

That depends...

Some times a bald question is not meant as a crit, but an opening to a critique. The member asking might want to see how the poster respond so they know what to comment on before spending 30 minutes typing up something the poster may already know.

There is an old expression...there are no stupid questions except those left unasked.

There is no set standard to a critique. In some groups I have belonged to, we had a list each member had to use when giving a critique. It limited individual creativity IMHO. In other groups, we followed the golden rule where if you can't say something nice then don't say anything at all. Of course, nice is subjective to each individual person so again, it stifled creativity in critiquing.

Only once in the past 20 years have I ever told a person their story sucked, to pack it up and call it a day. And that person had it coming and I did not feel guilty one bit.

shelleyo
07-25-2011, 06:18 AM
Any time "you" is used in the following, it's a generic "you" and not meant at any specific individual.

Jim, for the record I just read a couple of your crits in QLH (where the crits are known to be incredibly blunt). I didn't see anything that wasn't blunt but thorough--not the kind of crits that cross the line at all.

See, it's all so subjective.

Shelley

shelleyo
07-25-2011, 07:12 AM
OMG you guys. This same topic is also going at the

A crit of unpublished work and a review of something already out there are two completely different things. One doesn't relate to the other.

Shelley

Brutal Mustang
07-25-2011, 09:06 AM
First you have to understand how fundamentally boring doing lots of critiques becomes. Frequently the only place where I'm being creative in a query critique is the greeting. For example, fantasy writers love to give their protagonist a special power. Seems to me this would be an important point for a query. But constantly, all I get is a "special power." To which my response will be something impolite like, "Special power to do what? Blow bubbles with his farts? Light Christmas trees with his breath?"

I suppose I could create a macro that says, "You need to explain the power." And a whole lot more. Because this is constant in critiquing a query. Or any writing. People don't come up with new problems. So if people like me bother you (and I don't blame you if I do), ignore the way the message is phrased and listen to the message. And realize that if I'd gone the macro approach, I would have left QLH long ago (am I hearing cheers coming from there?)

Hah. I could never put a finger on it before ... you know, as to why I can get a bit, em, 'creatively testy' while beta-ing for people. It's the boredom. And it isn't because (most) people's manuscripts are that boring. It's because when I beta for someone, I reread each damn sentence, until I want to puke from the monotony. A bit of playful snarkiness is the only thing that keeps me sane, keeps me going.

Some people can handle and even appreciate my critiques, some can't. I'm sure those who can, will handle any kind of future Amazon review with the nonchalance of an NYC police horse. Those who can't, probably won't last as a writer.

Cyia
07-25-2011, 09:18 AM
basically what this is saying is that if you ever want to write at all, you'd better be a good little monkey and tow the line, 'cause we're watching you -- and if you give us a lousy two stars, we are going to come after you and make your life a living He**.

Um, can I like hide here forever and ever? These people skeer me!

Actually, what it's saying is that you're spitting in the pool you want to swim in.

Yes, you are entitled to your opinion, however, when you make that opinion public, you do so at the risk of having the author you didn't enjoy, her readers, her editor, and her agent all see it. Then when you query said agent, and that agent Googles you, they now have to consider that you don't like the writing of one of her clients. Maybe that means your taste isn't the same as she thought it was and you're a bad fit. Maybe that means that if you get published, and a given writer is approached for a cover blurb, that writer remembers you didn't say nice things about her friend, so she refuses.

It may sound crazy. It may sound petty. But writers are people, too - sensitive people more often than not - and they stick together. (Google YA Mafia. I dare you.)

Cwm
07-25-2011, 03:26 PM
That depends...

Some times a bald question is not meant as a crit, but an opening to a critique. The member asking might want to see how the poster respond so they know what to comment on before spending 30 minutes typing up something the poster may already know.

There is an old expression...there are no stupid questions except those left unasked.

There is no set standard to a critique. In some groups I have belonged to, we had a list each member had to use when giving a critique. It limited individual creativity IMHO. In other groups, we followed the golden rule where if you can't say something nice then don't say anything at all. Of course, nice is subjective to each individual person so again, it stifled creativity in critiquing.

Only once in the past 20 years have I ever told a person their story sucked, to pack it up and call it a day. And that person had it coming and I did not feel guilty one bit.

Yup, I get that now -- that was the point I was making (albeit poorly)! But initially all it did was confuse and horrify me. I'd been posting for a while with nothing about that particular issue rising to the top before. What triggered it was a post by somebody who said they'd read only a couple of graphs of my work. Then, BOOM!

The combination of bluntness and tone took me aback ... just like sometimes on the boards my attempts at humor fall flat I'm afraid ... we get no facial expressions or other clues to help us process information.

That particular critter has been very helpful to me. It just took a while for my sphincter to resume its normal shape, yikes!

PorterStarrByrd
07-25-2011, 04:00 PM
As a reader who has limited experience, four beta's,
I have yet to find one that was not in NEED of a line by line. In one case the author didn't want that after I sent a one chapter demo, probably because the book was already e-published. Had I realized that, I'd have been much more general in my review and not sent him the line by line demo.
Each of these had a repeating malady enfolding a good story, so my responses had a lot of red ink. I don't do that until after I've sent a chunk of my offering back, asking if that is what they want.
Once they accept the sample, and we know what the program is, I start using red font wherever it is needed. Because of the frequent repetition of the problem it could look like I am jumping on them with both feet.
I also make blue font comments about things I like which may soften the overall blow.
Because there is neither productive nor excusable reason to do so, I do not write 'personal' comments. The closest I probably have come to doing that is, after reading a paragraph that contained MANY words that looked like they were kidnapped from a thesaurus, saying that it had the effect of making the writer look like English was his second language and he had hired a very bad interpeter. I did that with a near apology for doing it.
So far I have receieved one Thank you for your effort that I think was possibly just being polite. Other writers seem to like, as I do, HONEST tearing apart, where needed, of their work. That could be fairly extensive.

Now .. that is how I view my beta reading. If I can get honest feedback after the read is done, I can understand how my effort looks through other eyes.
A short reponse, even to the seemingly mal-intented beta reader, can provide a useful evaluation of that style.
When that results in a nasty reponse, it's just game over with a note to self not to send work to or beta read for that person.

shaldna
07-25-2011, 04:06 PM
Personally I smile and say thank you. All crits, even the harsh and boring and nitpicky ones are valid because that is how someone felt when reading my work, so that makes their opinions on it just as valid as someone who was nice.

Not everyone is going to like your work, be it a reader, a critiquer or a reviewer.

Let them behave anyway they like, but you need to keep your dignity and not rise, no matter how mean spiritied the crit or the comments are.

bearilou
07-25-2011, 04:55 PM
If you need to bring attitude, agenda, hostility, bias, meanness, ego, insecurity, and whatever pisses off critiquees to the critique, do so. Bring it on. Who needs nice-nice? I can find my way through all that and address the substance of each specific criticism.

Hostility? Meanness? Whatever will piss someone off?

Really? This is necessary for an honest exchange of information?

Maybe I am in the wrong business if I can expect, should expect and 'say thank you sir may I have another', hostility in a critique.

Must be in the way I define hostility but in a critique, it shouldn't be personal. Hostility is personal.

Be harsh? Sure. Be blunt? Go ahead. Get impatient? Knock yourself out.

But to be mean to someone in a critique? That's deliberately personal because it's meant to attack the writer and not the text and seems to me what everyone is pretty much saying shouldn't be done in a critique.


I said it elsewhere: publishing is writing with no pants on. So is offering your work up for criticism. Brace yourself. Folks will point and laugh.

I would agree that if I offer my work up for criticism, I should expect harshness, bluntness, people who will take everything I've written and dissect it in front of me to show me how it's not working. I would expect that it's done in the name of helping me improve as a writer. There, I have a thick skin.

If someone rips apart my work in the spirit of just being hostile and mean? Sorry. I don't buy it. I know there are people out there and that they will. All I'll do is just look at them and wonder what a sad life they must have for feeling like they have to tear someone down to make themselves feel better.

That's what hostility and meanness mean to do. Not help. Just tear.

shadowwalker
07-25-2011, 05:08 PM
The more I read some of these responses, the more I'm figuring I will never submit a piece to this board for crits. I mean, come on - you get bored critting so snarkiness is entertaining? Or you take your boredom out on the current author? If you're bored, don't crit. Take a break. And this idea that authors should be able to handle nastiness in crits is just... I don't get it. We are talking crits - where the idea is to help the author - versus reviews - where nobody cares what the author thinks - right? Since when is being polite or at least tactful doing a disservice? Since when is being rude equated with being helpful? Some of this stuff really comes close to "We're doing you a favor so suck up our diva-ness and like it!".

Geez...

quicklime
07-25-2011, 05:53 PM
The military uses a 'toughen up and take the abuse, or be a pussy and quit' approach. Every person who offers up a story for critique isn't in the military, and shouldn't be treated as if that's so, as if 'suck it up or be demoralized' are the only options. Shelley


aaaah, but you pretty much are--or at least you're in a world nearly as brutal.

If someone can't deal with QLH, I find it very doubtful they are going to get to the level of successful publishing, just as anyone who doesn't have the spine for a hardass coach may be a fair footballer but probably isn't going to make it into the NFL. Writing is hard, at least writing to the level of getting published. Much harder and less forgiving than a few blunt critiques.



The other thing to consider is if you seek a crit, you are asking a favor. I spend or waste, depending upon your outlook, ten hours a week in QLH. It helps me to write my own stuff, but it is also time I could be writing. Many others spend more. I've always been of the opinion that once you ask for a favor, you're not entitled to state the terms and conditions of said favor. Put another way, beggars can't be choosers. If someone is seeking free advice, then they aren't in a good position to dictate how they wish to receive it. AND, my time matters. Blunt works far better than going back three or four times to gently nudge the query along because face it, we all love our work, and rationalize our way into half-measures. Saying "I might try a little less flowery imagery" in a 250-word query will get a single metaphor or two dropped, highlighting all them and saying "see, that's 23 tries at turbocharging this thing, and it makes the entire things feel like you're trying way too damn hard" might actually kill half of them.



I crit. I crit pretty blunt and harsh. Probably what some would consider "mean" or "assholish". And the quickest way to get rid of me, or many other critters, is to begin to moan about the advice you're given and how it is being administered. Now, I don't consider myself special, but I think the same or similar holds true for several of the folks in QLH who really are the old guard, and know their shit. Want their advice? then suck it up and see what they have to say. Want to chase them away until all you have is a bunch of "ooh, your query sounds super-good; I'd SO read that", they certainly CAN be chased away. The problem is, in the end, an agent won't tell you, bluntly or pleasantly, why you were rejected. Think "Umm, wow--you need to go cold-turkey on adverbs" is harsh, try twenty form rejections instead. Critting is what it is, some folks are gentle and some aren't. Ignoring or getting hostile towards the ones who aren't is a great way to lose lots of advice though.


just my thoughts, and I understand others may well disagree. Everyone has their own tastes, but what you like and what someone else either feels you NEED or is able to give are not always going to be in sync.
Quick

Bufty
07-25-2011, 05:58 PM
Have you browsed the critique Boards? I can't see you have critted there -although I may not have gone back far enough.

If you haven't scanned the critique Boards and the relative critiques of those to whose posts you are referring I think you should consider whether or not you may be jumping to the wrong conclusions.

Try finding a rude crit. If you do, report it.


The more I read some of these responses, the more I'm figuring I will never submit a piece to this board for crits. I mean, come on - you get bored critting so snarkiness is entertaining? Or you take your boredom out on the current author? If you're bored, don't crit. Take a break. And this idea that authors should be able to handle nastiness in crits is just... I don't get it. We are talking crits - where the idea is to help the author - versus reviews - where nobody cares what the author thinks - right? Since when is being polite or at least tactful doing a disservice? Since when is being rude equated with being helpful? Some of this stuff really comes close to "We're doing you a favor so suck up our diva-ness and like it!".

Geez...

quicklime
07-25-2011, 05:59 PM
The more I read some of these responses, the more I'm figuring I will never submit a piece to this board for crits. I mean, come on - you get bored critting so snarkiness is entertaining? Or you take your boredom out on the current author? If you're bored, don't crit. Take a break. And this idea that authors should be able to handle nastiness in crits is just... I don't get it. We are talking crits - where the idea is to help the author - versus reviews - where nobody cares what the author thinks - right? Since when is being polite or at least tactful doing a disservice? Since when is being rude equated with being helpful? Some of this stuff really comes close to "We're doing you a favor so suck up our diva-ness and like it!".

Geez...


shadow,

if you don't want to submit, don't. I'm not sure how we're more diva in suggesting that we crit bluntly for the reasons listed than you are in saying you will simply take your ball and go home if we can't treat you like the special flower you are, but harsh crits DO serve several purposes. If you don't appreciate them, that's your choice. I know I have helped a number of folks, and don't feel at all bad about how I've done it. Jim has done the same for years and years. Check the crits, most of the nicest ones are the ones with the least to say, the "big meanie" ones are the ones that really get into the guts. Figure which one you'd prefer, and go from there, but I'd rather a harsh dissection and a slap if needed, both for giving AND receiving, than a nice but worthless fluffing, or even a nice but instructive crit where my issues are not stressed enough in the crit...if I'm fucking up, I would want to know, because I intend to get published at some point.

AmsterdamAssassin
07-25-2011, 06:07 PM
I think if you put something up for crit at this board, you do so to query other writers in how to improve your writing. If you don't like the way the crit is delivered, ignore the critter at your own risk.

I'm not into the 'tear someone a new asshole' category, but if your writing is immature and cliché, I won't mince words. Better to hear it from me than to hear it from an agent or publisher. Or, even worse, a book reviewer after the book is [self-]published.

If you offer your work up for critique without having edited and polished it to the point where you cannot take it any further, I'll probably respond with 'did you lose your dictionary?' or 'maybe you should do some more research'.

What I see quite a lot is people, who should've spent more time reading and writing, offering up first drafts of mediocre ideas and over-used storylines with the attitude of having produced a brilliant piece of work and being insulted when someone responds with less than awe.

I read more SYW threads than I respond to, mainly because I'm looking for real craft that needs tweaking to become publishable. I tend to disregard the first fumblings of newbies craving validation, because I'm not personally inclined to foster and nurture fragile egos. Those people I've critted appreciate my efforts, those I don't crit won't know the difference.

Bufty
07-25-2011, 06:16 PM
Each to his own, but, ouch, AA.

Those of us who do respond to these 'fumbling beginners' try to remember we started once, and try to point them in the right direction. Our intended helpful prods and nudges have nothing to do with fostering or nurturing egos.


.... I tend to disregard the first fumblings of newbies craving validation, because I'm not personally inclined to foster and nurture fragile egos. Those people I've critted appreciate my efforts, those I don't crit won't know the difference.

Brutal Mustang
07-25-2011, 06:34 PM
What I see quite a lot is people, who should've spent more time reading and writing, offering up first drafts of mediocre ideas and over-used storylines with the attitude of having produced a brilliant piece of work and being insulted when someone responds with less than awe.

QFT.

Jamiekswriter
07-25-2011, 06:45 PM
I've had only 1 truly harsh crit. in my entire writing career and it came from my own cousin. It said, "You suck. Quit writing. Go back to school." o.O I cried, then got over it (ignored her completely) and now I'm being published by Tor. *shrug*


O.O!!! Congrats on Tor. I hope you have a special signed copy just for your cousin!! :D

To the OP, I find if you're getting review crits, after the book/piece is already published and out there, it's best to not engage at all or just say thanks for reading. Sometimes bad reviews are just a way for a troll hoping to start a fight/viral sensation and has nothing to do with your work. It's tough though, especially if you feel the need to explain or validate what the critiquer said. I had someone call my stuff a Matrix rip off. It was written 2 years before the Matrix came out. I had to sit on my husband so he didn't respond to the poster.

If it's something currently in progress, the *only* response is a heartfelt "thank you." Unless you paid the critiquer, they did you a *huge* solid by reading your work and taking their time to tell you what they felt was wrong with it. I know it stings if they're being nasty, but sometimes there's a grain of truth in what they're saying. Ultimately, it's your work and you know what will work and what doesn't. You can ignore the bad review, but it doesn't hurt your work at all to consider what the troll is saying.

Of course, if you don't understand the critique you can always ask for more clarification. It doesn't mean you'll get it. I had a critiquer once say "This sucks." I responded. "Thanks for reading. What sucked about it?" I never heard back. :: shrug ::

shadowwalker
07-25-2011, 06:48 PM
I'm not sure how we're more diva in suggesting that we crit bluntly for the reasons listed than you are in saying you will simply take your ball and go home if we can't treat you like the special flower you are, but harsh crits DO serve several purposes.

Oh, please don't give me that "special flower" routine. :rolleyes: I see that so often when someone dares to say that someone else was rude - yeah, if someone disagrees with the way you (generic) do something, insult them. I mean, really - how dare they? But oh yeah - you're doing them a favor so they should just suck it up, right?

I've been doing crits for many years and I have yet to resort to being rude or obnoxious. It is actually possible to be honest and helpful without it.

quicklime
07-25-2011, 07:15 PM
no insult at all--if you don't like it, you can use the ignore button, scroll past, or continue to ignore anything I say; I'll certainly leave soon enough. On the other hand, just as you are free to be offended and/or ignore my advice, I'm under no special obligation to couch my advice in terms you are sure to find maximally palatable. Life doesn't work that way, and I find it a little amusing that you seem to think if you need a favor I should deliver it exactly as you want it, instead of lending whatever hand I see fit. That's a bit like complaining when you're broke down and a random guy pulls over help fix your car because he has the gall to be carrying a metric toolset.

On the bright side, I doubt you'll have to worry; the people who can't deal with blunt crits tend to make it obvious and those who deliver them tend to walk away....

Al Stevens
07-25-2011, 07:35 PM
Hostility? Meanness? Whatever will piss someone off?

Really? This is necessary for an honest exchange of information?

Not necessary, but sometimes a critique expressed that way also makes a valid point or two. That's what's necessary. If you get scared off just because someone lacks the social graces, you are going to miss what they have to contribute to your work.



If someone rips apart my work in the spirit of just being hostile and mean? Sorry. I don't buy it.
They aren't selling it. They're giving it away. Find the value and ignore the rest. A thin skin doesn't get far in publishing. A critique of a new ms is only the beginning. You have to deal with a lot of people along the way. Some of them are going to be unkind. Get used to it. Oh, it's okay to sulk and cry and tell it to your bartender, but look on the bright side. Maybe your next story is about a writer who murders a critic.

shadowwalker
07-25-2011, 07:45 PM
no insult at all--if you don't like it, you can use the ignore button, scroll past, or continue to ignore anything I say; I'll certainly leave soon enough. On the other hand, just as you are free to be offended and/or ignore my advice, I'm under no special obligation to couch my advice in terms you are sure to find maximally palatable. Life doesn't work that way, and I find it a little amusing that you seem to think if you need a favor I should deliver it exactly as you want it, instead of lending whatever hand I see fit. That's a bit like complaining when you're broke down and a random guy pulls over help fix your car because he has the gall to be carrying a metric toolset.

On the bright side, I doubt you'll have to worry; the people who can't deal with blunt crits tend to make it obvious and those who deliver them tend to walk away....

You seem to be under the illusion that because I expect to be treated with respect that I cannot take tough crits. Why does it have to be one or the other? What is sooooo difficult about delivering a tough crit without being rude? It's a bit like saying that the guy who stops to help fix your car has a right to call you an asshole for breaking down because, after all, he's doing you a favor. Well, I may give this jerk a forced 'thank you' (because I know how to be polite) but I'm sure as hell not going to offer to buy him a beer.

I put something up for a crit. People volunteer to do it. I'm not twisting their arm. Yeah, they're doing me a favor, and I'm appreciative of that. But their choosing to help doesn't give them license to treat me like dirt. Those folks can go stroke their ego elsewhere.

Al Stevens
07-25-2011, 07:45 PM
Actually, what it's saying is that you're spitting in the pool you want to swim in.
Or worse.


Yes, you are entitled to your opinion, however, when you make that opinion public, you do so at the risk of having the author you didn't enjoy, her readers, her editor, and her agent all see it. Then when you query said agent, and that agent Googles you, they now have to consider that you don't like the writing of one of her clients. Maybe that means your taste isn't the same as she thought it was and you're a bad fit. Maybe that means that if you get published, and a given writer is approached for a cover blurb, that writer remembers you didn't say nice things about her friend, so she refuses.

This.

Also, if you take the snarky road with your critiques, agents might think--probably with justification--that you are difficult to work with. They might pass based soley on that impression and never give your deathless tome a second look.

quicklime
07-25-2011, 08:42 PM
shadow, I'm not sure I"ve seen anyone treated like dirt; maybe we're talking different hypotheticals, and you should actually look in QLH to see if that matches your visions of mean-spirited serial abusers, maybe we're simply defining mean-spirited in vastly different ways.

Stacia Kane
07-25-2011, 08:54 PM
Let's all remember RYFW, folks, okay? I'm not saying anyone is forgetting here, just that it seems to be getting a touch heated, so this is a preemptory comment. :)



:e2dance:

Tirjasdyn
07-25-2011, 09:01 PM
The military uses a 'toughen up and take the abuse, or be a pussy and quit' approach. Every person who offers up a story for critique isn't in the military, and shouldn't be treated as if that's so, as if 'suck it up or be demoralized' are the only options. There are happy mediums. I was in a writing group once where the attitude was brutal honesty with an emphasis on brutal. Most people quit because of that. I didn't. The approach is most definitely not for everyone.



The college I went to took this approach. You had to sit at the front of the classroom while 30 students and the professor took turns critiquing your work. Students were encouraged to be a mean as possible and even attack the author directly. The author was not allowed to speak, ask questions or do anything but sit there. It sucked but I learned how to brush off the bad and take what was worth while.

I don't like to sugar coat things. If some says it's crap then tells me why it's crap is just as fine as "there are problems with your writing". No one has to be mean but sometimes people are.

PorterStarrByrd
07-25-2011, 09:04 PM
I put something up for a crit. People volunteer to do it. I'm not twisting their arm. Yeah, they're doing me a favor, and I'm appreciative of that. But their choosing to help doesn't give them license to treat me like dirt. Those folks can go stroke their ego elsewhere.

Actually it kind of does ... unless they are breaking some law. Your feelings don't negate freedom of speech.
Fortunately, you have just as much right to exit/delete the post or message

You will notice from any previous posts I have made that I don't advocate ugly behaviour.That does not mean I control, or want to control, the stuff.

Cassiopeia
07-25-2011, 09:12 PM
I'm not sure that's possible but what I do think is, well that's learning to accept that there are mean spirited people who either feel so puffed up with their own self worth or have none (probably the same thing) that they feel the only validation they get is by shredding someone else or even blaming someone else for their problems.

When we can recognize that the "critic" is coming from a place like that, we begin to dismiss the dismal offerings they give us.

HOWEVER, (yes there is a disclaimer involved) it behooves us to at least read what they said and search for anything that MIGHT be helpful. Why? (you ask)

Because even a hypocrite or bad writer or mean spirited person has some worth while suggestions from time to time.

I always assume that the person who lashes out at me for no apparent reason has something going on in their life that they feel out of control over. In this case if it were a critique...I'd just say thank you for taking your time to do this for me and I'd move on. After all, they did spend time doing it and it is my responsibility to be gracious even if they can't be at the time.

First rule of thumb I was taught by our very own Pthom was, take what helps you, leave what doesn't and never EVER bad mouth the person who took time out of their busy day to give you a critique. And when we take time to return the favor to others, we learn more about our own writing than we are helping others.

I hope that helps you. Take a deep breath and keep writing. It's what we do. :)

RobJ
07-25-2011, 09:26 PM
A request for critique is a request for help, for advice, for support. Some people manage to provide that support politely. Some don't. When you make such a request, you have to mentally prepare yourself for the range of possible responses and learn to filter the useful content from the not-so-useful, however it's delivered, because once you push that submit button you're no longer in control of what happens.

I've found that what people usually want and value most of all is honesty. Plain honesty. Even if it's hard to swallow. Insulting the author with your delivery makes it more likely that the message will be lost, and your time spent writing the critique wasted.

Cassiopeia
07-25-2011, 09:29 PM
So true, RobJ. So very true. So when we go to give a critique we need to really understand how to do it in a way that will be helpful.

I haven't seen that many harsh critiques on AW since probably the first year I joined. I think people have come a long way in understanding what giving a helpful critique means.

shadowwalker
07-25-2011, 09:32 PM
shadow, I'm not sure I"ve seen anyone treated like dirt; maybe we're talking different hypotheticals, and you should actually look in QLH to see if that matches your visions of mean-spirited serial abusers, maybe we're simply defining mean-spirited in vastly different ways.

We have been talking about hypothetical situations - but if what has been said in this discussion holds true for QLH or SYW, I wouldn't take part on either side (crit or submit). Because it seems in this area, RYFW is optional - again, based on what some people are saying here. I would definitely have to look closely at how things are actually handled before getting involved.

As to what defines rude ("mean-spirited"), I would say the difference between "Where did you get that crap from? It makes no sense at all!" and "I don't understand this part. Can you explain...?". If you (generic) think the first is fine and the second is mamby-pamby, then you're the kind of critter that would be warned off any of the beta sites I'm on - because any useful suggestions or comments would be lost in the attack.

shadowwalker
07-25-2011, 09:34 PM
Insulting the author with your delivery makes it more likely that the message will be lost, and your time spent writing the critique wasted.

This is it exactly.

Bartholomew
07-25-2011, 09:51 PM
Sometimes people want to make pithy jokes off of things they perceive as word choice errors. These can come off as very, very insulting, especially if the critic is reacting without considering how the OP will read the joke.

Phaeal
07-25-2011, 09:54 PM
I read more SYW threads than I respond to, mainly because I'm looking for real craft that needs tweaking to become publishable. I tend to disregard the first fumblings of newbies craving validation, because I'm not personally inclined to foster and nurture fragile egos. Those people I've critted appreciate my efforts, those I don't crit won't know the difference.

"Bingley, I'm in no humor to give consequence to young ladies slighted by other men."

And now I know that if AA doesn't crit my stuff, AA hates it. ;)

Phaeal
07-25-2011, 09:55 PM
Oh, please don't give me that "special flower" routine. :rolleyes:

Me, too. I much prefer being referred to as a "speshul snowflake."

AmsterdamAssassin
07-25-2011, 10:10 PM
And now I know that if AA doesn't crit my stuff, AA hates it. ;)

Or AA is too busy writing his own stuff to prop up your fragile validation-craving ego... :)

Psychomacologist
07-25-2011, 10:17 PM
Or AA is too busy writing his own stuff to prop up your fragile validation-craving ego... :)
AA.... Y U NO VALIDATE MY FRAGILE EGO?

Kidding... kidding...

Cassiopeia
07-25-2011, 10:28 PM
"Bingley, I'm in no humor to give consequence to young ladies slighted by other men."

And now I know that if AA doesn't crit my stuff, AA hates it. ;)I'd certainly not let that hurt my feelings. :D


Me, too. I much prefer being referred to as a "speshul snowflake."LOL. You slay me. ;)

quicklime
07-25-2011, 10:43 PM
We have been talking about hypothetical situations - but if what has been said in this discussion holds true for QLH or SYW, I wouldn't take part on either side (crit or submit). Because it seems in this area, RYFW is optional - again, based on what some people are saying here. I would definitely have to look closely at how things are actually handled before getting involved.

As to what defines rude ("mean-spirited"), I would say the difference between "Where did you get that crap from? It makes no sense at all!" and "I don't understand this part. Can you explain...?". If you (generic) think the first is fine and the second is mamby-pamby, then you're the kind of critter that would be warned off any of the beta sites I'm on - because any useful suggestions or comments would be lost in the attack.


I'd advise you to check it out then. I don't have much sympathy for folks whining about harsh crits, but I haven't seen anything I PERSONALLY felt was all that harsh in SYW. Now, not everyone has agreed. Most folks will be upset with "you are a tlalentless douche, and after reading that, I bet your spouse drinks" but a number will also be horribly offended with "Really? A story about a beagle named Snoopy? Don't you think the first thing people are going to think of is the beagle in Charlie Brown?"

I haven't really seen the former, and would have zero sympathy for the latter, so I guess we may be arguing about vastly different levels of bluntness....at the same time, I still can't see NOT subbing; learn to ignore the chaff and hunt out the wheat.

Karen Junker
07-25-2011, 10:55 PM
I'm not whining -- I'm stating my opinion: Yes, there are harsh crits in SYW. I'm not talking about crits of my own work, I'm talking about crits of the work of others.

I see no reason for some of the rude comments I see in there. However, I also understand that someone who is willing to make those kinds of comments is not very likely to stop doing it just because some of us feel they've stepped over the line.

There is a culture that has developed in SYW -- and I'm not really comfortable in it most of the time.

Cassiopeia
07-25-2011, 11:01 PM
Karen, can you be more descriptive for me of the kind of culture that you see that has developed?

Karen Junker
07-25-2011, 11:14 PM
It's hard for me to be articulate about it, but I'd say that just the atmosphere where jokes are made about brutality, for example. I'm a person who believes that all jokes have a basis in reality, so even though something is framed with humor, it still has at its heart a kernel of truth or seriousness of intent.

I have to admit that I am very sensitive to even the most lighthearted bullying types of behavior. There's a difference between pointing out how something could be made better and ridiculing it.

bearilou
07-25-2011, 11:46 PM
Not necessary, but sometimes a critique expressed that way also makes a valid point or two. That's what's necessary. If you get scared off just because someone lacks the social graces, you are going to miss what they have to contribute to your work.

Sorry. Still not seeing how being brutal and honest and to the point and harsh about someone's writing is equivalent to being hostile to the writer.

All the crap being thrown around here about how people are ZOMG MEAN AND SO RUUUUDE when they critique when all they are offering, as they claim, is just balls-to-the-wall honest criticism that will offer to strengthen someone's writing is not the same as being deliberately mean and hostile to someone.

How it is in the big bad wide world of publishing? Not the same environment. I'm coming to a critiquer for advice, for help, for their experience. To help tighten my prose, to make my plot stronger, to make my query the best it can be.

Not to be their emotional punching bag just because they're having a bad day, or they for whatever reason just don't like me.

Yeah, they may actually have something to offer. Yeah, if I absorb their personal attacks along with their oh-so-valuable advice, I might learn something. Sorry if I believe that a little mutual respect goes a long way.

But no one has convinced me yet that being hostile to someone who is asking for help is actually helping in the spirit of helping. They're just tugging on their own Superman Underoos to make themselves look superior and grind people under their heel.

I've poked around in the SYW and I've seen the critiques of many of the people in this very thread that are crowing that they're OMG SO MEAN. And while what they say may be harsh, while it may be blunt, I haven't yet seen them grind someone down and be openly hostile to the writer in their critique until the writer gets hostile with them first. Then it's less about the critique and more about the writer who isn't listening.



They aren't selling it. They're giving it away. Find the value and ignore the rest. A thin skin doesn't get far in publishing. A critique of a new ms is only the beginning. You have to deal with a lot of people along the way. Some of them are going to be unkind. Get used to it. Oh, it's okay to sulk and cry and tell it to your bartender, but look on the bright side. Maybe your next story is about a writer who murders a critic.

Yeah, a lot is to be gained from shrugging off someone being a raging asshole hell bent on personal attacks. It doesn't make them less of a raging asshole and whether it's the reality of the situation or not, still doesn't excuse the fact that they're a raging asshole.

Be blunt. Be honest. Be harsh. Be nitpicky.

Is it really necessary to be hostile in a critique?

Seriously. Someone explain to me how that works. Because clearly I'm not getting it.

AmsterdamAssassin
07-25-2011, 11:53 PM
I see writers who show their first scribblings cuddled and petted for their efforts, and efforts made not to be too harsh on these first flights of fancy to avoid dampening the novices' fragile spirits.

I can understand when one praises a child for a splash of paint that's supposed to be a rocket to the moon, but if an adult refuses to read books or show interest in the craft of writing, but expects awe for prose that a middle grade teacher would toss in the waste bin, I bow out, as I don't believe in encouraging those who show a blatant disrespect of the art and craft of writing. Especially if any criticism of their magnum opus is taken as a personal slight and grievous insult.

firedrake
07-25-2011, 11:53 PM
My take on critiques.

SYW was an eye-opener for me.

I learned:

(a) I'm not Speshul
(b) My writing needed a lot of work
(c) The more blunt and honest the critique, the more I gained.
(d) I have a thick skin

I've seen plenty of blunt and honest critiques that the writer has taken way too personally. Publishing isn't all rainbows, unicorns and sparkly vampires. There will always be people out there who will criticise what you write from agents to editors to reviewers.

The whole reason I gave up critiquing in SYW was that I was sick and tired of seeing writers get all butt hurt because their Golden Wurds weren't met with universal acclaim.

Rude, to me, is in the eye of the butt-hurt author. Publishing isn't a business for the easily offended. I've seen writers complain that their critiquers were being rude. Hey, guess what? They weren't, they were being honest and probably spent a great deal of time reading through the piece before offering their comments.

If you can't stand the heat, you'd best take up knitting.

/peace out

bearilou
07-26-2011, 12:01 AM
I can understand when one praises a child for a splash of paint that's supposed to be a rocket to the moon, but if an adult refuses to read books or show interest in the craft of writing, but expects awe for prose that a middle grade teacher would toss in the waste bin, I bow out, as I don't believe in encouraging those who show a blatant disrespect of the art and craft of writing. Especially if any criticism of their magnum opus is taken as a personal slight and grievous insult.

There is a difference in not condoning or enabling someone who has pulled the special snowflake golden word card (even if it means getting hard and maybe even rude about it), and meeting a critique with open hostility right out of the gate.

One is after the initial critique has been offered and the writer shows their maturity as a writer and the other is when a writer first approaches with the expressed desire to get an honest critique.

After the writer gets it and throws a snit fit? Sure, all bets are off, take off the gloves and be rude and mean and hostile.

I'm tripping up on the idea that going in to a critique hostile is conducive to...well...anything.

Soccer Mom
07-26-2011, 12:05 AM
There is a difference in not condoning or enabling someone who has pulled the special snowflake golden word card (even if it means getting hard and maybe even rude about it), and meeting a critique with open hostility right out of the gate.

One is after the initial critique has been offered and the writer shows their maturity as a writer and the other is when a writer first approaches with the expressed desire to get an honest critique.

After the writer gets it and throws a snit fit? Sure, all bets are off, take off the gloves and be rude and mean and hostile.

I'm tripping up on the idea that going in to a critique hostile is conducive to...well...anything.

But not here, please. The rule at AW is still RYFW. If someone is ugly in response to a crit, just his the report post icon and let the mods know.

Outside the bounds of AW, let your conscience be your guide.

bearilou
07-26-2011, 12:09 AM
But not here, please. The rule at AW is still RYFW. If someone is ugly in response to a crit, just his the report post icon and let the mods know.

Outside the bounds of AW, let your conscience be your guide.

*hangs head*

You're right. My bad on stating it poorly.

My apologies.

*wrists duly slapped*

Brutal Mustang
07-26-2011, 12:33 AM
Not to be their emotional punching bag just because they're having a bad day, or they for whatever reason just don't like me.

The roughest critiques aren't going to come from people having a bad day, nor from people with a bone to pick. They're going to come from calloused individuals, whose skin has grown so thick, they've all but forgotten what sensitivity is. But they have a genuine desire to help people, which is why they go in that squirrel pit faithfully, day after day, year after year. If they get a bit snarky now and then, after seeing the same shit over and over and over and over and over (X1000), can anyone blame them?

Personally, I'll take the snark over fluff any day, because I'm meant for great things. :D

AmsterdamAssassin
07-26-2011, 12:34 AM
I'd like to point out that 'harsh/mean-spirited' shouldn't be together, as a 'harsh' criticism isn't necessarily 'mean-spirited' or 'hostile'.

Also 'hostile' would mean 'a negative emotional response taken to an unwarranted extreme', but I think that a writer putting their work up on SYW should be ready to receive both positive and negative emotional responses.

Sevvy
07-26-2011, 12:34 AM
I've found that what people usually want and value most of all is honesty. Plain honesty. Even if it's hard to swallow. Insulting the author with your delivery makes it more likely that the message will be lost, and your time spent writing the critique wasted.

I agree with this.


but a number will also be horribly offended with "Really? A story about a beagle named Snoopy? Don't you think the first thing people are going to think of is the beagle in Charlie Brown?"


True, there are some people who would find that offensive, and those are the ones who need to get some thicker skins. Like Rob above mentioned with a critique being hard to swallow, I don't think the critter needs to go out of their way to make the critique harder to accept. If your honest, constructive feedback puts someone's panties in a knot, that's their problem.

Although I wouldn't personally take offense at quicklime's example there, I would like to say that the sarcastic "Really?" in that reply doesn't seem necessary to me. Noting the similarity in plain language (There is already a famous beagle named Snoopy, you should consider changing the name) is enough, and if your comments don't get through to the writer, again, that is their problem.

bearilou
07-26-2011, 12:42 AM
But they have a genuine desire to help people, which is why they go in that squirrel pit faithfully, day after day, year after year. If they get a bit snarky now and then, after seeing the same shit over and over and over and over and over (X1000), can anyone blame them?

I don't see how snarky and hostile can be considered the same thing.

Clearly, I'm the only one who has an issue with a critiquer who wishes to be hostile to me when I'd just be asking for help.


I'd like to point out that 'harsh/mean-spirited' shouldn't be together, as a 'harsh' criticism isn't necessarily 'mean-spirited' or 'hostile'.

Also 'hostile' would mean 'a negative emotional response taken to an unwarranted extreme', but I think that a writer putting their work up on SYW should be ready to receive both positive and negative emotional responses.

I disagree.

Expect positive and negative emotional responses? Sure. So far, I've not argued to the contrary.

Hostility?

Seems we are not defining it the same way if that's how you're defining it.

I'm out.

Brutal Mustang
07-26-2011, 12:46 AM
I'd like to point out that 'harsh/mean-spirited' shouldn't be together, as a 'harsh' criticism isn't necessarily 'mean-spirited' or 'hostile'.

Now that I think on it, I don't think I've ever seen a truly mean-spirited critique, given to me, or anyone else. Harsh? Yeah. Snarky? Yeah. Mean? No.

shaldna
07-26-2011, 12:49 AM
If it really troubles you, try this. Nicely ask the snarky critics to show you an example in their own published works of how what they are criticizing in your work might have been done better. That will silence most of them.

No, this is just stupid.

Some of the best, most ruthless crits I have had have come from non-writers.

icerose
07-26-2011, 12:56 AM
My take on critiques.

SYW was an eye-opener for me.

I learned:

(a) I'm not Speshul
(b) My writing needed a lot of work
(c) The more blunt and honest the critique, the more I gained.
(d) I have a thick skin

I've seen plenty of blunt and honest critiques that the writer has taken way too personally. Publishing isn't all rainbows, unicorns and sparkly vampires. There will always be people out there who will criticise what you write from agents to editors to reviewers.

The whole reason I gave up critiquing in SYW was that I was sick and tired of seeing writers get all butt hurt because their Golden Wurds weren't met with universal acclaim.

Rude, to me, is in the eye of the butt-hurt author. Publishing isn't a business for the easily offended. I've seen writers complain that their critiquers were being rude. Hey, guess what? They weren't, they were being honest and probably spent a great deal of time reading through the piece before offering their comments.

If you can't stand the heat, you'd best take up knitting.

/peace out

Same here. I love SYW, but I don't critique there anymore. My frustration levels can't handle the whining. When I learn more patience with people I am critiquing then I will return, but that's something I have to overcome.

Right now it feels like a waste of time and I'm sure if I were more selective of who I picked to critique it wouldn't be such a problem but I know I am brutally honest. I have never said "This sucks" but I don't praise unless the writer has thoroughly earned it. It's how I prefer to get critiqued myself.

The only critiques I've recieved that have gotten me worked up are either the cryptic one line critiques that don't really tell you anything or the "this sucks" and off they go. Which again is really unhelpful. If the critiquer had even gone past it and said "This sucks because..." Then I could have handled it, but general unhelpfulness is what gets my goat.

ChaosTitan
07-26-2011, 01:00 AM
No, this is just stupid.

Some of the best, most ruthless crits I have had have come from non-writers.

It isn't just stupid. It also reeks of playground behavior. I thought we were all adults?

Cassiopeia
07-26-2011, 01:11 AM
I see writers who show their first scribblings cuddled and petted for their efforts, and efforts made not to be too harsh on these first flights of fancy to avoid dampening the novices' fragile spirits.

Everyone is on their own learning curve and it's not our place to decide what they can handle.

There is absolutely no excuse for being "harsh" to someone on any level for any reason. Critiquing should be done professionally and with courtesy. Harshness is NOT the earmark of a professional critic or writer. It's rude behaviour...fullstop.

One can give a full and honest critique while displaying compassion and caring for the writer's feelings.

After all, we are a tender-hearted lot and our words are our precious babies. And who should understand that better than a fellow writer.

There's no need for sarcasm, jabs or harsh words. Jesting about someone's mistakes isn't funny. It's an attempt at public humility.

I've had many a professional critique of my work and it stung like hell BUT, they were so kind and positive and HELPFUL that I had to take my lumps. The fact they sugar coated it showed me a side of grace I had not experienced before.

So, I say to anyone reading this post, not just AA...if you find yourself in need of being harsh, I recommend you click away and take your harshness elsewhere because you won't be heard and you will just be wasting valuable time.

Cyia
07-26-2011, 01:17 AM
I am the proud wielder of the Red pen of Doom (Doooooooooooooooooom!) ®




There is absolutely no excuse for being "harsh" to someone on any level for any reason.

Sure there is. Hearing it now, means the writer can still fix it. Soft critiques have a tendency to give a writer false confidence that their writing isn't "that bad" and that they're ready to submit.

Editors and agents are harsher than any crit you'll find here, only they don't usually tell the person what was wrong with the piece. They simply reject it.

One can give a full and honest critique while displaying compassion and caring for the writer's feelings.


After all, we are a tender-hearted lot and our words are our precious babies. No, we're professionals. Our words are our product and if that product isn't capable of surviving in the wild, then the product must be altered.



So, I say to anyone reading this post, not just AA...if you find yourself in need of being harsh, I recommend you click away and take your harshness elsewhere because you won't be heard and you will just be wasting valuable time.Like as not, after the writer digests what's been said, they go and rewrite, then thank the person who was honest enough not to sugar coat their weaknesses.

Karen Junker
07-26-2011, 01:28 AM
I just spent the weekend at the Cascade Writers workshop with an editor who critiqued submissions by the writers there. Never at any point was she harsh or rude. Professionals don't have to rely on sarcasm or especially pointed remarks to express their opinion.

shadowwalker
07-26-2011, 01:30 AM
Once again, I keep hearing this idea that anyone who expects to be treated respectfully is some kind of spoiled brat. WTF???

Is there, really and truly, some reason that a strong, honest critique cannot possibly be done in a polite, helpful, and supportive manner? This is somehow impossible to achieve?

Like a few other disgusted ones... :gone:

Mr Flibble
07-26-2011, 01:35 AM
(a) I'm not Speshul


This is a very important thing for any writer to learn.

Sadly, some writers do not learn it. Sadly, some writers feel they are above learning it. Sadly some writers will actively fight the idea that anything they have written is not TEH AWESOME!!!

I do not go out of my way to be harsh, or mean, or snarky. But I will be bloody honest (possibly with stupid jokes about turnips when something is unclear. Like Jim's Special Power. Does he snort turnips out of his nose? Not meant as snark, meant as a humorous - or not - way to say this could mean anything) - and even that will get comments of 'meanie!' or thereabouts.

However, I will say this: Your (generic you) reaction to critique will not go unnoticed, whether it's a professional willingness to listen to what is being said, or a snit fit and an assertion that 'well, X writer 75 years ago did it!' or any number of things....

If someone is mean/harsh/hostile to you and you respond with professional politeness, that too will not go unnoticed. More than once I have offered to beta something from SYW, not having critted in the thread, but have been impressed with the writer's willingness to take their craft seriously.

And the even bigger reason to learn this? If you get published, you will see worse comments. You will not be able to respond to them if you are sane.


BTW, no one in this thread has repped me to say how bloody wonderful I am, and how all my words are glorious golden prose worthy of a Booker AND a Nebula. I'm taking my ball home!!!1111!!!
:D

firedrake
07-26-2011, 01:36 AM
I have read a lot of critiques in SYW and can honestly say I've never seen one that said anything personal or rude. So I'm at a loss as to where all this talk of nastiness is coming from.

As I intimated before, one person's rudeness is another person's honest critique.

If someone doesn't like what you've written and takes the trouble to explain why it doesn't work, whether you want to hear it or not, that's not rude, it's honest.

I'm not going to sugarcoat a critique, although I do try my best to balance my comments between pointing out what can be fixed and praising bits that work.

But, no, I don't think I've seen anyone overstep a line in SYW although given some writers' reactions to critiques, I wouldn't blame them if they did, TBH

Cassiopeia
07-26-2011, 02:02 AM
I am the proud wielder of the Red pen of Doom (Doooooooooooooooooom!) ®



Sure there is. Hearing it now, means the writer can still fix it. Soft critiques have a tendency to give a writer false confidence that their writing isn't "that bad" and that they're ready to submit.

Editors and agents are harsher than any crit you'll find here, only they don't usually tell the person what was wrong with the piece. They simply reject it.

One can give a full and honest critique while displaying compassion and caring for the writer's feelings.

No, we're professionals. Our words are our product and if that product isn't capable of surviving in the wild, then the product must be altered.

Like as not, after the writer digests what's been said, they go and rewrite, then thank the person who was honest enough not to sugar coat their weaknesses.Since when is a respectful and honest critique, "soft"? I think that being rude and disrespectful to the writer does nothing. Worse. It offends them so they WON'T listen to helpful advice. And yes, our words are our precious babies...and we can still be professional about that. I'm not advocating lying to someone about their work. I'm saying be polite and HONEST. They are not mutually exclusive.

Karen Junker
07-26-2011, 02:02 AM
I'm not talking about honest critiques. I've seen posters be rude in SYW -- I'm not going to quote them here because it does not seem respectful to do that. They don't need to be called out, but I do think there are a few posters in SYW who could temper their posts and it might be better to work toward being honest and straightforward rather than sarcastic and snarky.

Satsya
07-26-2011, 02:36 AM
I agree that honesty and rudeness are two separate factors; but rudeness in the editor should not distract the writer from the meat of the critique--the advice on how to improve the writer's work. The difference between an editor and a troll masquerading as an editor is in how much "meat" there is in the given critique, underneath the editor's personality.

That said, I'm always sad to learn of people giving up on critiquing others. There are a lot of whiners out there, but sometimes the only perspective a writer like me has is from hearing the brutally honest opinions of others.

quicklime
07-26-2011, 03:29 AM
And yes, our words are our precious babies...and we can still be professional about that. .


I think there is a schism in how you and I, for example, view writing. The moment I call my words precious babies or set up any pretense of them being anything more than an attempt to tell a simple story, I am advising idiots or anyone else who has my personal information to find and slap the shit out of me.

My words are product, and I intend to hone them into sellable poduct. I've come, very quickly, to realize I lean faster from brutal honesty than well-meaning ass-kissery. If others are different, well that is the beauty of a site like this where you can sub work and get a dozen different replies. As for me, when someone says "be gentle" in their posts, I keep walking--we're not compatible, someone else can spend or waste their time there.. But if someone doesn't specify, and I choose to help, I will help in the way I'm most capable. Like my tag says, I'm a horrible fluffer. If someone decides that means I have nothing of value to say, they should walk on by.

Brutal Mustang
07-26-2011, 03:41 AM
As I intimated before, one person's rudeness is another person's honest critique.

So true!

DancingMaenid
07-26-2011, 03:58 AM
Sure there is. Hearing it now, means the writer can still fix it. Soft critiques have a tendency to give a writer false confidence that their writing isn't "that bad" and that they're ready to submit.

I think maybe you see "harsh" differently than I do. I don't have anything wrong with blunt critiques. I wouldn't call something like, "You could trim this down a lot" or "This beginning didn't hold my attention well at all" or even "This needs a lot of work" harsh.

I'd call something like "This really sucks" harsh, and I don't think there's any usefulness in that. It's not constructive, it's negative.

I've received blunt criticism and I've received harsh criticism. The former has helped me, the latter has threatened to make me stop writing.

thebloodfiend
07-26-2011, 04:35 AM
I've read through a lot of threads on YA SYW and QLH. I haven't seen anything too harsh or mean. Granted, critique feels mean at first, especially from certain people (looking at you quicklime). But after I sit on it, (and silence my internal protests) I realize my mistakes and move on. The two months I've been here have really helped me improve my writing and hone my critique skills as I'm known for being not very nice on GoodReads.

Though, really, we talk about the YAMafia and shitting where you drink, but insulting your critiquers or talking back to them is just as rude, if not worse IMO. I mean, people on SYW read through the "slushpile" for free and offer commentary. An agent would press the reject button. Aren't we all looking for agents? I'd rather get a vague "you suck" than a form letter rejection with a "this isn't for me". And I've never seen a "you suck" anywhere on this board but I've gotten quite a few "this isn't for me" letters. Some of my critiques take up twenty minutes of my time. Time I could have spent elsewhere; writing my book, doing schoolwork, reading stuff I want to read. And I don't think I'm being mean or harsh when I critique. I'm being honest. I treat your work as I'd treat a published book. I expect you, as a writer, to respect my intelligence and not expect me to read crap and tip-toe around you. If someone takes the time to read my stuff, I appreciate whatever they have to say as no one is obligated to read or comment. That's the risk you take when you post on a public forum, no matter how tough RYFW is enforced. Someone is always going to take a comment worse than someone else. Sometimes, (to borrow a line from someone's MS) you've got to grit your teeth and move on. But please, someone show me a "you suck" or a "you're a fucking awful writer" on QLH. So far, I've only seen helpful people and one fragile ego.

DancingMaenid
07-26-2011, 04:51 AM
But please, someone show me a "you suck" or a "you're a fucking awful writer" on QLH. So far, I've only seen helpful people and one fragile ego.

I've never seen anything like that happen here. I've also had pretty good luck in structured critique groups. I think it helps when there are rules in place and the people doing the critiquing are all actually writers themselves. But I have gotten comments like that from people elsewhere, in less structured and writer-friendly environments. It happens.

jclarkdawe
07-26-2011, 05:17 AM
I used to do a lot of line items critiques in other groups and what always drove me crazy ...


I don't crit anymore. I had a terrible experience ...


The whole reason I gave up critiquing in SYW was ...


Same here. I love SYW, but I don't critique there anymore. ...

I've known a few more who've left AW as well.

Some of these comments I've quoted here aren't directly about SYW, but this is what I find so depressing about these threads and what should worry every writer. I've seen critiques by three out of four of these people. Any writer should be happy to get a critique by them.

Here's the big question. Is there an infinite supply of critiquers? There definitely seems to be an infinite supply of people wanting critiques. If there is a limited number of people who want to do critiques, do we run the risk of eventually getting rid of them?

Just something to think about.

Best of luck,

Jim Clark-Dawe

Eva Lefoy
07-26-2011, 06:25 AM
Well, I came on here tonight and just saw a message from a Mod asking me to modify the message that I posted yesterday - but there's a slight problem...... it's not here.

Um, no reason to be paranoid or anything, is there?

jclarkdawe
07-26-2011, 06:32 AM
Well, I came on here tonight and just saw a message from a Mod asking me to modify the message that I posted yesterday - but there's a slight problem...... it's not here.

Um, no reason to be paranoid or anything, is there?

It's sandwiched between #61 and #62.

This message has been deleted by MacAllister (http://www.absolutewrite.com/forums/member.php?u=13). Reason: What happens on other boards/with other mods stays there -- Thanks!Mac is the owner of this board and she solved the problem in her usual simple fashion.

Nothing major, just one of Mac's rules in life.

Best of luck,

Jim Clark-Dawe

MacAllister
07-26-2011, 06:43 AM
Jarrah, nothing to worry about at all.

As a general rule of thumb, we try hard to not bring issues from other boards onto AW, is all. But you hadn't been online and we weren't sure when you'd be around to see the PM.

I'm really glad to hear that you've been liking AW so far, though -- thanks for the kind words!

Cassiopeia
07-26-2011, 06:44 AM
When I talk about our words being our precious babies, I'm talking about how much love and effort we put into our work. Anyone who says a critique that points out the inherent flaws in our writing doesn't bother them, give me serious cause to pause as to how much they value what they do.

Having said that, I've also been blasted in SYW for my method of critiquing and so on occasion I come back to visit and help out but I won't be doing a lengthy critique any time soon. I always try to critique the writing and never the writer.

And on that note, I'll let you all belabor an old topic that will never be resolved.

Jehhillenberg
07-26-2011, 06:48 AM
A request for critique is a request for help, for advice, for support. Some people manage to provide that support politely. Some don't. When you make such a request, you have to mentally prepare yourself for the range of possible responses and learn to filter the useful content from the not-so-useful, however it's delivered, because once you push that submit button you're no longer in control of what happens.

I've found that what people usually want and value most of all is honesty. Plain honesty. Even if it's hard to swallow. Insulting the author with your delivery makes it more likely that the message will be lost, and your time spent writing the critique wasted.

Yes yes yes yes.:e2BIC:

Brutal Mustang
07-26-2011, 06:49 AM
I hug and caress my words. Then I feed them to the nearest sharks. Some 'word parent' I am. :eek:

wheelwriter
07-26-2011, 07:33 AM
The poor horse may be no longer breathing, but I'll chime in. I've read a gazillion crits in SYW (mostly QLH), and I've never seen "this sucks," or anything close to it. That may be the message the OP hears from the critique, but that is not what's being said. I think I've reported something maybe twice, and that was for personal attacks. Having your query letter picked apart can feel personal, but it really isn't. I critique for three basic reasons - I like to help people, it helps me improve my own writing, and I want to see AW writers succeed.

Everyone has a different definition of "harsh." I've seen people flip out at pretty mild criticism. You can't control someone else's reaction. To me, the appropriate response to a critique is to thank them. Or ask questions for clarification - most critiquers are happy to respond with more information. I've learned so much from giving and reading critiques that I actually feel bad for people who close themselves off from at least giving some thought to the feedback.

As long as the intention is to be helpful, the critique is most likely appropriate.

Bracken
07-26-2011, 07:37 AM
The poor horse may be no longer breathing, but I'll chime in. I've read a gazillion crits in SYW (mostly QLH), and I've never seen "this sucks," or anything close to it.

I haven't seen it either. Not on this forum.
Although I'm new, I've read a lot of crits.

I kind of assumed people were talking about someplace else.
Weren't there references to some YA forum?

shelleyo
07-26-2011, 07:42 AM
I think it's important to realize that those who are defending harsh crits (and I think they mean blunt, because I can't imagine anyone being for rudeness) are the ones least likely to get them.

If I put something up for critique, I know the comments are going to focus on plot, maybe word choice, whether or not it works or whether that one line is too goofy/obscure/unnecessary. It's unlikely anyone's going to be able to tell me I don't know grammar, punctuation or basic writing skills like showing and telling, and pick it apart like a vulture cleaning a carcass. But I've been at this a while. If I put something up that could honestly earn the question "Was there a white sale on adverbs?" I'd probably laugh and wonder where my head was. I'm not a new writer who may have just worked up the courage to post something, either.

I think most of the people who perceive others as whining here also have a good grasp on basic writing and have moved beyond crits that might point out what's wrong with every sentence, because they don't make those types of beginner mistakes. Most have reached a certain level of competency. This is an assumption on my part, but I don't think I'm far off base.

The new writers, or the ones who still haven't managed to get those things down, are the ones most likely to get the blunt (and sometimes unnecessarily scathing) critiques. So it's fine for me and some others to say even the roughest crits are fantastic--we're not the ones having every sentence taken apart. Granted, we've all probably been there, but I think it pays to consider how one-sided it probably is.

Also, because each of us defines "harsh" a little differently, there won't be a consensus. I don't find honesty harsh--only the manner of delivery.

You need to read up on grammar and study the basics
This needs a lot of work before it's publishable
Everything is loosely written and passive (and here maybe a reference to a resource about it)

That's blunt, and a lot of new writers desperately need someone to point those things out. I have no problem with this. This, to me, is valuable critting. (But, of course, I'm not the one on the receiving end of it.)


Did a punctuation truck explode on your street, scattering commas and semi-colons everywhere?
I can't believe this is your third draft, because it reads like a bad first one.
I spilled a box of cereal this morning and it made a better plot than this
My five-year-old has better grammar

Those are rude and obnoxious, even though they may be accurate. I hope nobody's really defending those types of comments. That's what I think of when I think of harsh.

I can tell someone they need to work on their craft without spitting in their eyes.

The one last point I'd like to make is how much I really am bothered by the attitude that a person shouldn't care if someone is truly rude and hateful as long as that person also says something worthwhile. As if being bothered by a hateful statement is the problem of the person who's bothered and not the rude person. That's so ass backwards it hurts.

I don't think there's anything to be done about it but ignore anyone who clearly has an agenda, but to act like it's okay to be verbally abused as long as you get something out of it--my jaw drops a bit at that. I HOPE that all boils down to the definition of harsh being different for everyone and that no one really thinks it's not okay to be bothered when you're genuinely being insulted.

Shelley

Brutal Mustang
07-26-2011, 07:57 AM
Did a punctuation truck explode on your street, scattering commas and semi-colons everywhere?
I can't believe this is your third draft, because it reads like a bad first one.
I spilled a box of cereal this morning and it made a better plot than this
My five-year-old has better grammar

I personally haven't seen any crits like these, here before. Though, if my sister were reading my stuff, and knew diddly squat about writing, I'm sure she'd say these kinds of things. :roll:

Lehcarjt
07-26-2011, 07:58 AM
I can't believe I just read every single one of the posts on this thread (avoiding my MS by any chance?), but in truth it interests me because last week I decided I was getting too blunt. I wasn't intentionally being harsh, but I offended on several different critts and that isn't the goal.

When I ask why I wasn't softening things up as I used to, the answer was that I was writing the same suggestions to the same problems in queries that all felt the same. And so my replies were getting more and more direct - it takes less words to cut to the heart of the problem - this is then perceived as too harsh.

I LOVE query letters - I really do. I think they are fun, and I enjoy working on them. So I cut myself off for a while (which I totally blew today).

I'm writing all this because what Jim said about losing experienced critters really struck me. To really help someone with a query, a critter needs a solid understanding of the elements that make for a good query and the ability to recognize them. That level of judgment doesn't come from working on a dozen or so queries (the fly-by-nights can be the worst people to listen too), but the repetitiveness of doing hundreds and hundreds of critts wore me down - and I've only been hanging out here a few months.

So is experienced judgment worth putting up with a more direct, perhaps even occasionally grumpy critique?

quicklime
07-26-2011, 08:00 AM
I think it's important to realize that those who are defending harsh crits (and I think they mean blunt, because I can't imagine anyone being for rudeness) are the ones least likely to get them.

If I put something up for critique, I know the comments are going to focus on plot, maybe word choice, whether or not it works or whether that one line is too goofy/obscure/unnecessary. It's unlikely anyone's going to be able to tell me I don't know grammar, punctuation or basic writing skills like showing and telling, and pick it apart like a vulture cleaning a carcass. But I've been at this a while. If I put something up that could honestly earn the question "Was there a white sale on adverbs?" I'd probably laugh and wonder where my head was. I'm not a new writer who may have just worked up the courage to post something, either.

I think most of the people who perceive others as whining here also have a good grasp on basic writing and have moved beyond crits that might point out what's wrong with every sentence, because they don't make those types of beginner mistakes. Most have reached a certain level of competency. This is an assumption on my part, but I don't think I'm far off base.


Shelley

I've been here 9 months or so, I believe; go dig up my earliest posts, especially my query letters and the few pages I put on SYW. I was cordially handed a new asshole. But I learned more from Jim's sarcasm and wheel and a few others' bluntness than I did from any amount of polite-speak attempting to say the same thing.

I get that different folks learn in different ways, and that's the beauty, you get a variety of opinions, delivered in a variety of ways here on AW. So skip the ones you can't bear, but I know for myself, once I was done nursing my poor ego and took a moment to think "wow, that was pretty fucking harsh--bet it actually MEANT something", THAT was when I learned the most.

I understand "harsh" doesn't work for everyone. If it doesn't you should skip those crits; it isn't like you have to read long to figure style. But for me the harsh crits were invaluable. To lose them out of politeness would have set me back christ knows how long.


P.S. Thank you for the quasi-kind words, bloodfiend :tongue

amergina
07-26-2011, 08:06 AM
Did a punctuation truck explode on your street, scattering commas and semi-colons everywhere?

Now see, there are people who could give that comment to me in a crit and I would laugh my head off. At myself.

And there are people to whom I could make that comment, and they would laugh their heads off. At themselves.

However, those are the critique partners I have who know me very well, the one's with whom I've had long conversations into wee hours of the night. They know the snark comes with the utmost love and respect.

I would never include a comment like that in a critique of a work by someone I didn't know personally.

wheelwriter
07-26-2011, 08:16 AM
My thoughts.


I think it's important to realize that those who are defending harsh crits (and I think they mean blunt, because I can't imagine anyone being for rudeness) are the ones least likely to get them. (I think people are talking about blunt critiques that are being interpreted as harsh by the person seeking feedback.)

If I put something up for critique, I know the comments are going to focus on plot, maybe word choice, whether or not it works or whether that one line is too goofy/obscure/unnecessary. It's unlikely anyone's going to be able to tell me I don't know grammar, punctuation or basic writing skills like showing and telling, and pick it apart like a vulture cleaning a carcass. But I've been at this a while. If I put something up that could honestly earn the question "Was there a white sale on adverbs?" I'd probably laugh and wonder where my head was. I'm not a new writer who may have just worked up the courage to post something, either.

I think most of the people who perceive others as whining here also have a good grasp on basic writing and have moved beyond crits that might point out what's wrong with every sentence, because they don't make those types of beginner mistakes. Most have reached a certain level of competency. This is an assumption on my part, but I don't think I'm far off base.

The new writers, or the ones who still haven't managed to get those things down, are the ones most likely to get the blunt (and sometimes unnecessarily scathing) critiques. So it's fine for me and some others to say even the roughest crits are fantastic--we're not the ones having every sentence taken apart. Granted, we've all probably been there, but I think it pays to consider how one-sided it probably is. (I think all of this is a valid point. It is helpful to fill out your profile and give a little info on where you're at as a writer. In QLH, it is seen as the final stop before querying agents, so it is assumed the manuscript is in publishable or near-publishable shape. Although it's common that query letter critiques shine a light on manuscript weaknesses. (Ahem, at least for me.))

Also, because each of us defines "harsh" a little differently, there won't be a consensus. I don't find honesty harsh--only the manner of delivery.

You need to read up on grammar and study the basics (I promise you that this is seen as harsh by some people.)
This needs a lot of work before it's publishable (I think a lot of people would say this isn't constructive unless specifics are given.)
Everything is loosely written and passive (and here maybe a reference to a resource about it)

That's blunt, and a lot of new writers desperately need someone to point those things out. I have no problem with this. This, to me, is valuable critting. (But, of course, I'm not the one on the receiving end of it.)


Did a punctuation truck explode on your street, scattering commas and semi-colons everywhere? (See, this is where it's gray to me. Humor can be an effective way to get a point across. I think this is funny, not harsh, but I can see why someone else would be upset by it. If you wrote it with the intention of making the OP chuckle and say, "Gosh, I DO have a truckload of commas in this puppy" then, to me, it's not harsh/abusive. There is a certain amount of individual personality traits that play a part in all this.)
I can't believe this is your third draft, because it reads like a bad first one. (I agree this is mean and useless. I also haven't seen this anywhere in SYW.)
I spilled a box of cereal this morning and it made a better plot than this
My five-year-old has better grammar (Agreed when it comes to these two too, but I don't see this in SYW either.)

Those are rude and obnoxious, even though they may be accurate. I hope nobody's really defending those types of comments. That's what I think of when I think of harsh.

I can tell someone they need to work on their craft without spitting in their eyes. (I'm like you, and I make a special effort to try not to hurt feelings when giving critiques. I'm also a social worker who wants everyone to feel good about themselves and the world, so that impacts the way I communicate.)

The one last point I'd like to make is how much I really am bothered by the attitude that a person shouldn't care if someone is truly rude and hateful as long as that person also says something worthwhile. As if being bothered by a hateful statement is the problem of the person who's bothered and not the rude person. That's so ass backwards it hurts. (I think it's the gray area that gets murky. And everyone has a different opinion of where the gray crosses over to rude/hateful/abusive. At the risk of sounding like a suck up, I think the mods do a great job here of monitoring that line.)

I don't think there's anything to be done about it but ignore anyone who clearly has an agenda, but to act like it's okay to be verbally abused as long as you get something out of it--my jaw drops a bit at that. I HOPE that all boils down to the definition of harsh being different for everyone and that no one really thinks it's not okay to be bothered when you're genuinely being insulted.

Shelley

Al Stevens
07-26-2011, 09:07 AM
Sorry. Still not seeing how being brutal and honest and to the point and harsh about someone's writing is equivalent to being hostile to the writer.
The two are neither mutually exclusive nor mutually inclusive.

I've poked around in the SYW and I've seen the critiques of many of the people in this very thread that are crowing that they're OMG SO MEAN. And while what they say may be harsh, while it may be blunt, I haven't yet seen them grind someone down and be openly hostile to the writer in their critique until the writer gets hostile with them first. Then it's less about the critique and more about the writer who isn't listening.
If I understood the OP correctly, it wasn't specifically about what gets posted here on this forum. There are places that make SYW and QLH look like a Sunday school picnic. Usenet comes to mind.


Is it really necessary to be hostile in a critique?

Again, no, but it happens.

DancingMaenid
07-26-2011, 09:23 AM
I don't doubt that, more often than not, it's more common for writers to react strongly to blunt but well-intentioned critiques than for people to actually make rude and mean-spirited comments.

But I'm coming out of the latter situation right now, where I received a really rude, unhelpful comment on another site. The worst part was that there was no advice or really anything about the story at all. I had no way of knowing if this was just a mean-spirited person who was in the mood to pick on someone, or if they might have had something useful to say if they didn't seem more interested in making personal jabs.

It's a really sucky situation to be in, because we're taught to always take critiques seriously. Nine times out of ten, a critique will contain something useful, even if you ultimately decide you don't totally agree with it. But on that tenth time, it can be hard to know how to react. And those tenth times do happen sometimes.

I'll be honest: the situation has made me really hesitant to seek out critique. I know I probably don't have much to worry about, and I ultimately love getting critique (even if it's hard on the ego occasionally), but it was still a blow.

backslashbaby
07-26-2011, 09:40 AM
I think I just read one. Hmmm.

If somebody requests a polite crit, some of y'all (to be intentionally vague about it) need to step back from the keyboard, methinks.

shelleyo
07-26-2011, 09:47 AM
But I'm coming out of the latter situation right now, where I received a really rude, unhelpful comment on another site. The worst part was that there was no advice or really anything about the story at all. I had no way of knowing if this was just a mean-spirited person who was in the mood to pick on someone, or if they might have had something useful to say if they didn't seem more interested in making personal jabs.

Just disregard the whole thing. It's not like the one tiny bit of help rolled up inside a ball of hatefulness will be completely lost to you if you don't try to analyze what they said. It's not as if someone else might never point the same thing out; perhaps someone already did. A super hateful critter is not likely to bestow any bit of brilliance on you, I promise.

You're under no obligation to continue to consider it, really. Let it go.




It's a really sucky situation to be in, because we're taught to always take critiques seriously. Nine times out of ten, a critique will contain something useful, even if you ultimately decide you don't totally agree with it.


I do disagree here. I don't think nine out of ten critiques are helpful in most open-to-anyone groups. Some are, to be sure, but not 90%. I say this as someone who has given many critiques over the years--their value can be overrated.

Shelley

DancingMaenid
07-26-2011, 10:20 AM
Just disregard the whole thing. It's not like the one tiny bit of help rolled up inside a ball of hatefulness will be completely lost to you if you don't try to analyze what they said. It's not as if someone else might never point the same thing out, or perhaps someone already did. Someone super hateful is not likely to bestow any bit of brilliance on you, I promise.

Thanks. That's how I feel logically, but I've been going through a rough time writing-wise, so it hasn't been sinking in as well as it should.


I do disagree here. I don't think nine out of ten critiques are helpful in most open-to-anyone groups. Some are, to be sure, but not 90%. I say this as someone who has given many critiques over the years--their value can be overrated.
True enough. 90% is probably a bit of an exaggeration, and yeah, I think there are more unhelpful critiques out there than people care to admit sometimes.

Though, I try to get what I can out of feedback even if it's not terribly helpful. I figure if it makes me think, that's something, even if the actual advice isn't something I agree with. I've gotten stuff from people's comments before that was probably different than they intended.

firedrake
07-26-2011, 10:26 AM
Did a punctuation truck explode on your street, scattering commas and semi-colons everywhere?
I can't believe this is your third draft, because it reads like a bad first one.
I spilled a box of cereal this morning and it made a better plot than this
My five-year-old has better grammar


I have never seen anything like this in SYW.

If I were addressing the issues mentioned above, I'd post something like:
1. You're relying a little to heavily on commas and semi-colons. It's a common beginners' mistake. Read what you've written out loud and pause in the same places you have the commas. How does it sound?
2. I know you've been working hard on this from your previous version in SYW, but I don't think you're quite there yet.
3. I'm no great one when it comes to plots, but I'm not sure if this will work. Have you considered (a), (b) or (c)?
4. Your grammar needs a bit of work I'm afraid. As I mentioned in the second paragraph, you're repeating the same mistakes. You may need to take a breather, read some other crits in SYW and see how others have dealt with the problems.

I've seen plenty of the above type crits. I have never seen the stuff you mentioned, apart from in Amazon book reviews.

*shrugs*

shelleyo
07-26-2011, 10:35 AM
I have never seen anything like this in SYW.

I've seen stuff like that and far worse in other online groups. I haven't seen anything quite like that here, but I think the OP was talking about crits in general, not just at AW.

If a crit quite that smart-assed dropped here, I'm sure it would be reported and removed. That's a credit to SYW and the board in general.


If I were addressing the issues mentioned above, I'd post something like:

Yours would be a truly helpful crit for someone, and definitely not something I'd call harsh.

Shelley

firedrake
07-26-2011, 10:40 AM
I've seen stuff like that and far worse in other online groups. I haven't seen anything quite like that here, but I think the OP was talking about crits in general, not just at AW.

If a crit quite that smart-assed dropped here, I'm sure it would be reported and removed. That's a credit to SYW and the board in general.



Yours would be a truly helpful crit for someone, and definitely not something I'd call harsh.

Shelley

Yet there are writers who post in SYW who react as if someone had posted the examples you used.

I have used that type of crit over and over and had several posters react as if I'd insulted them, their mother, their grandmother, etc. etc. etc.

That's why I quit SYW. I don't need any more drama!

shelleyo
07-26-2011, 10:46 AM
Yet there are writers who post in SYW who react as if someone had posted the examples you used.

I have used that type of crit over and over and had several posters react as if I'd insulted them, their mother, their grandmother, etc. etc. etc.

That's why I quit SYW. I don't need any more drama!

They're the ones who do need to toughen up a bit, IMO. Honesty may be hard to hear, even when presented politely, but it's necessary to improve.

Though I've seen some pretty nasty crits other places, in SYW, to be honest, the rudeness I've seen usually comes from people responding to crits, not the critters themselves. And that's generally wrapped up in defensiveness.

I don't do very many crits anymore for the same reasons you don't.

Shelley

shaldna
07-26-2011, 01:01 PM
I'll agree with Firedrake in that I've seen people - not just in SYW, but in real life classes and groups as well - who have reacted to ANY negative comment as if the reader had just wiped their ass with the the MS.

Yes, sometimes people can be harsh or rude, but that shouldn't bother the writer. The writer should take what they need from the crit, let the rudeness wash over their heads.

Lyra Jean
07-26-2011, 04:38 PM
I think that is why I like the online forum because I have received some critiques, none lately so this is not directed at my current ss in SYW now, that I felt were hurtful. Being online it gave me a chance to gather in my emotions in private and calm down before typing a response. I realized that the person had valid points and was trying to help not be mean. I realized that at that time I didn't have a thick enough skin so that it was really me and not them.

In a public setting, it would have been much worse.

jclarkdawe
07-26-2011, 04:48 PM
I think it's important to realize that those who are defending harsh crits (and I think they mean blunt, because I can't imagine anyone being for rudeness) are the ones least likely to get them. Personally I don't define my crits at all. They are what they are. Other people have defined them as harsh, thorough, blunt, refreshingly honest, nasty, nice, and so on. Then again, I only define other people's critiques of my work as helpful or not helpful.

I think most of the people who perceive others as whining here also have a good grasp on basic writing and have moved beyond crits that might point out what's wrong with every sentence, because they don't make those types of beginner mistakes. Most have reached a certain level of competency. This is an assumption on my part, but I don't think I'm far off base. I definitely assume a high level of competency in QLH. The next step, after all, is commercial publishing. I do not critique beginners, in part because a beginner needs a lot of support that I'm not willing to provide. However, many people don't know how to rate their writing and assume they're more knowledgeable then they are. And many, many beginners think they are ready for commercial publishing and queries when they're no where close. Many of these beginners need to do significant research, but if they did, they'd avoid a lot of embarrassment.

For example, there are a lot of people who come to AW asking how to format a query letter. The answer is out there, over and over again, including the fact that when you get specific enough, there is no answer. Some agents specific courier, others new Roman, other times. The real answer is that agents want queries in an easily read font.

Going back to my "special power" issue. Several agents have commented on this at various times in their blogs. The other part of it is that if I give a character the special power to blow down buildings with his farts, then obviously I think that's going to help me to sell the story. And as every agent has said about queries, tell them what's special about the book.

So a writer who has just described this as a "special power" either hasn't done their research or they know their approach is right. How much force is going to be needed to move them from either of these positions?

The new writers, or the ones who still haven't managed to get those things down, are the ones most likely to get the blunt (and sometimes unnecessarily scathing) critiques. So it's fine for me and some others to say even the roughest crits are fantastic--we're not the ones having every sentence taken apart. Granted, we've all probably been there, but I think it pays to consider how one-sided it probably is. Actually the only place that's likely to happen in SYW is QLH. And we have a thread specifically warning of this. On other forums, yeah, this can be a problem, but most people in SYW tailor their critiques to the level of the writer.

But most critiques in SYW are honest and are looking at the probability that the writer is seeking professional publication. The critiques view honesty as more important than building self-esteem.

Also, because each of us defines "harsh" a little differently, there won't be a consensus. I don't find honesty harsh--only the manner of delivery.

You need to read up on grammar and study the basics Actually I find this a bit harsh, and it definitely has been defined as such in SYW. More importantly, it isn't terribly useful. Does the writer really have absolutely no idea about grammar? I doubt it. You need to point out examples, and then offer specific suggestions, such as books or threads the person can look at.

This needs a lot of work before it's publishable Again, complaints have been made that this is harsh. It's also less then useful.

Everything is loosely written and passive (and here maybe a reference to a resource about it) This doesn't excite my as a critique, but it does get its point across.

That's blunt, and a lot of new writers desperately need someone to point those things out. I have no problem with this. This, to me, is valuable critting. (But, of course, I'm not the one on the receiving end of it.) It is, but it has also been labeled as harsh.


Did a punctuation truck explode on your street, scattering commas and semi-colons everywhere? I; love, this;! It, shows; exactly, what; the, problem; is,;.:??!

Is it a bit sarcastic? Sure. But the person writing this has explained the problem by showing the OP the image the critiquer has. The OP might be pissed, the OP might feel that someone is beating up on them, but does the OP have any question of exactly what the critiquer means? It's succinct, it's clear, it's self-contained, in my book it's pretty damn near perfect. Because if you ignore the tone, the OP is told, with no room to hide, exactly what the problem is.

I can't believe this is your third draft, because it reads like a bad first one. Mod alert. The first one of these by a poster isn't likely to cause a problem, but if we see this consistently, a mod will be talking to the person, and if they don't shape up, they will be heading to the land of the banned.

I spilled a box of cereal this morning and it made a better plot than this One of these will get at least a chat from a mod. Depending upon how that chat goes, I've seen behavior like this end up in a vacation from AW.

My five-year-old has better grammar This one will also get a chat from a mod. It's also likely to get a grammar Nazi after you, because although I don't know that much about grammar, I believe there are more grammatically correct ways to compare two things.

Those are rude and obnoxious, even though they may be accurate. I hope nobody's really defending those types of comments. That's what I think of when I think of harsh. We disagree with one out of four. But yes, I'd defend the dump truck. It dumps the problem squarely on the writer with no place to hide. But it also is so clear.

I can tell someone they need to work on their craft without spitting in their eyes. The one I like is the exact opposite of spitting in their eyes. It's forcing them to open their eyes by seeing exactly what the critiquer is seeing.

The one last point I'd like to make is how much I really am bothered by the attitude that a person shouldn't care if someone is truly rude and hateful as long as that person also says something worthwhile. As if being bothered by a hateful statement is the problem of the person who's bothered and not the rude person. That's so ass backwards it hurts. I've had assholes give me useful stuff. I'll take it and ignore the rest. Assholes who aren't useful are ignored. I'm not interested in maximizing the world, I'm interested in maximizing myself, and I'll take anything I find useful.

I don't think there's anything to be done about it but ignore anyone who clearly has an agenda, but to act like it's okay to be verbally abused as long as you get something out of it--my jaw drops a bit at that. I HOPE that all boils down to the definition of harsh being different for everyone and that no one really thinks it's not okay to be bothered when you're genuinely being insulted. In public, getting into a fight doesn't make sense. And AW isn't the Wild West, where we all have to strap on gun-toting keyboards. We have good mods who address the problem. If a person thinks they've been abused, their best approach is to say "thank you" in public and contact a mod. After all, this is how the mods earn the big bucks Mac pays them.

Shelley


Did a punctuation truck explode on your street, scattering commas and semi-colons everywhere?

1. You're relying a little to heavily on commas and semi-colons. It's a common beginners' mistake. Read what you've written out loud and pause in the same places you have the commas. How does it sound?

First off, let me say that Firedrake is a better person than me. I'd go with the truck, but notice I don't label the writer a "beginner." If I disagree with either, I'm not sure I'm going to feel any better with Firedrake's approach. Yeah, it's nicer, but I love my commas and I'll be damned if anyone is going to tell me to get rid of them. ,,,,,,,,,,,,, Boy, does that feel good. Commas bring joy and fun to my life.

As far as I'm concerned, either of these approaches work. They both explain exactly what the problem is. Firedrake offers solutions, which is an improvement on the truck.


Ultimately, our personalities are going to define both how we approach receiving and giving critiques. Bottom line is Mac has plenty of sheriffs running around AW making sure things go the way she wants them to. And somehow or other, Mac manages to keep AW on the top of recommended writing sites. Despite our ability to disagree about virtually everything here, we all manage to play together without killing each other.

Best of luck,

Jim Clark-Dawe

Devil Ledbetter
07-26-2011, 05:09 PM
I'll agree with Firedrake in that I've seen people - not just in SYW, but in real life classes and groups as well - who have reacted to ANY negative comment as if the reader had just wiped their ass with the the MS.

Yes, sometimes people can be harsh or rude, but that shouldn't bother the writer. The writer should take what they need from the crit, let the rudeness wash over their heads.I'd like to add, the delicate flowers who overreact to honest critique ruin it for everyone else. AW used to have an excellent critter with awesome publishing credentials. I would give anything to have her critique my query, but she has left us permanently as a direct result of the whiners.

Those whiners will never be able to provide the quality of critiques that she did. We are all a little poorer for it, and a little further from publication, too. What a loss.

Rise2theTop
07-26-2011, 05:10 PM
If it really troubles you, try this. Nicely ask the snarky critics to show you an example in their own published works of how what they are criticizing in your work might have been done better. That will silence most of them.
I love this! Although I see this may have been snark too, the advice has a legitimate backbone. If the crit is from an online source, meaning not in person such as being part of a physical group, on occasion you will find when you can't see a person's face, sometimes it's difficult to grasp their 'tone'. If the crit is in person, then yes, you do have the benefit of eye contact, but still may not be able to 'read' the vibe from that person. This is one way to see if someone is truly trying to help or hurt. With this approach, while you can't ask a crit to re-write your work, an example of how the crit would 'make it better', be it from a critics published work or not, shows you a different side of that person's perspective. Risking cliche, the phase 'A picture is worth a thousand words' can be an effective way to see if the apparent snarker has the ability to be objective or not. Not all crits can see past the personal like or dislike of a stories characters, subject, style,voice--and give good crit. I think those that can, are the ones that give us the crit we may not want, but need. While we are all thrilled to have someone acknowledge our work in a positive way, you have to ask yourself a few serious questions: Did they see past the story? Did they see any underlying foundation flaws? Did they see flow problems? Did they get confused at any point? Blah, blah, blah....

A crit who has nothing to say other than 'I like it' is scary. On the other hand, to me, having paragraphs or sentences ripped apart left and right in a way that seems to be 'over the top', and the ripper can't 'tell' me why or suggest how it might be made better, is frustrating. And unfortunate as it might be, it may very well be because of their own personal writing issues--ego's, complex, fragile components of ourselves, ya know? I wouldn't expect a book length explanation, but it is sometimes hard to see within your own work what's wrong.

The best crits in my opinion, are the ones that take the time to give you at least a sentence or strong word to say 'what' they are seeing--even if it seem like every other word. Clear, concise wordage can come off as snark for the sheer fact it's to the point, not glossed over or steeped in 'cuddles' to make you feel better about the possible flaw being pointed out. In the same breath though, if OTT crit happens often, then it's time to step back and see the big picture--ask more questions. Do I need to hone my grammar? Do I need to take a different approach, maybe POV? Do I need to do more research. Do I need to work on the foundation of the plot? And probably the hardest question. Do I need more skill? Reach deep down for that answer--being honest with one's self is harder than you think. Admitting you need to possibly pull your work from critique can be difficult, but in the end, you will have learned something.

The bottom line is, of course, there will be opinion differences, POV haters, flat out jerks, blah, blah... but, by calling someone out in this way, it makes the crit be responsible for why they feel they have what it takes to be critting your work to begin with. By giving the opposing side a chance to prove their crit worth, everyone benefits, including the crit. The ultimate goal here would be, learn something you needed to know or find out if that snarky crit really is talking out their ass! You win either way! Ha! And if you are lucky, maybe the crit who can't produce their own examples is open-minded enough to give YOU credit for helping them out! Don't count on that one though...that ego thing again. But, It does happen. I was fortunate to find what turned out to be a very good friend through such circumstances.

All just food for thought. Take it, leave it, or spit it out... It's all good. I can take it! Crit, that is! :D

quicklime
07-26-2011, 06:16 PM
I love this! Although I see this may have been snark too, the advice has a legitimate backbone. If the crit is from an online source, meaning not in person such as being part of a physical group, on occasion you will find when you can't see a person's face, sometimes it's difficult to grasp their 'tone'. :D


except, as noted, publication is a single and not always accurate measure of ability.

I'm unpublished, and you're certainly free to disregard anything I say until I am. Got started in QLH befvore I finished my novel, and still haven't finished it, which makes it hard to successfully query. I do know I've assisted a few people who have done well, including at least one who thanked me personally for assisting her in getting a partial. Her query was strong anyway, and her manuscript got her representation, but I DID help with her query, a bit.

On the flip side, Stephen King, who I suspect has not had to query since I was still pissing diapers, may be so far out of the game that he spews irrelevant garbage about a SASE (he essentially does similar when he talks about getting your foot into the door with regards to novels by writing short stories in On Writing; the approach certainly works, but is slipping out of favor and was even as he was publishing that book; small-press markets are contracting into nothingness).


In addition to deciding how to take crits and what to seek out, everyone seeking advice is responsible for choosing how to weigh the advice they get, and while this publishing thing may be one partial indicator, it's a pretty minor one and too much weight on it is like determining the merit of any poster by post count.

icerose
07-26-2011, 06:20 PM
I think I just read one. Hmmm.

If somebody requests a polite crit, some of y'all (to be intentionally vague about it) need to step back from the keyboard, methinks.

The problem comes in for me is when the writer says "Tear it apart, don't be gentle, show me the problems."

So I do.

"This part doesn't make any sense."

"Where are we? There's no setting, you dropped me right into the middle of nowhere and started talking."

"I really don't like your main character. She's rude, whiney, and obnoxious with no signs of growth."

"This plot isn't moving anywhere, try adding in some subplots or something to move it forward."

Then I get the responses of "Are you blind, it makes perfect sense!"

"The setting is right there, if you had better reading skills you'd know where you are."

"My main character is perfect, how dare you!"

"There's tons of action, you just don't understand pace."

That's when I throw up my hands and walk away.

shelleyo
07-26-2011, 06:21 PM
Jim, the examples I gave were of comments I have seen given to people offering work for critique. I would not personally say most of the comments I posted in the "blunt" examples, at least not without then pointing out the correct way to do something. I wouldn't just tell someone he needs to brush up on grammar without pointing out exactly what's wrong and how it should be done. The crits I've done, here and elsewhere, bear that out.

I would have no trouble telling someone they needed to work on their grammar, that the story needed a great deal of work before it's publishable, and that it's loosely written and passive, but you say those have been defined as harsh here. I would, and have, said those things. Then I've spent sometimes considerable time pulling examples out of the text to illustrate what I mean, with suggestions about a better way to do it. But I have said those exact things to people here. Fuck, if that's considered harsh here, then I've been pretty harsh. I'll steer clear, because if saying those things is harsh, I can't be helpful.

And, once again, the discussion isn't specifically about SYW or AW. Really mean-spirited crits would probably be jumped on by mods pretty quickly here. That sets it far above some places I've seen. But that's not the point.

The discussion isn't about SYW but critiquing in general, anywhere.

Shelley

icerose
07-26-2011, 06:28 PM
Guys, once again, the OP wasn't talking specifically about SYW. If he was, it branched out into a more general discussion.

Really mean-spirited crits would probably be jumped on by mods pretty quickly here. That sets it far above some places I've seen. But that's not the point.

The discussion isn't about SYW but critiquing in general, anywhere.

Shelley

Given that the only free critiques I've done are in SYW and that I have been paid to critique scripts, I'll use my SYW experience.

I could go on and on about the horrors I encountered against writers I had to critique their scripts who could not write, and refused to see they were anything but pure genius and refused to take anything I said to heart while sending me their next dozen batch of scripts to the point I wanted to tear my eyeballs out and it got to the point where the money just was not worth it the eye gouging desire of agony.

I have no problem with writers who are beginners or have a long way to go. I was there myself once, and there's always room to get better. It's the ones who absolutely refuse to step down off the golden word syndrome and if you give them anything but an attaboy and pat on the back, you're evil, you're despicable, you know nothing, and you just insulted their family name. Those are the ones that keep me from critiquing.

Bufty
07-26-2011, 06:39 PM
Re the OP question - On any open critique Board on the net one has to be prepared to take whatever comes up.

Joining a real life critique group is like joining any club - there's usually somebody one doesn't agree with or get on with.

If there's no effective Moderating, or Supervision or Chairman or whatever, there's not much one can do about a genuinely mean-spirited critique other than acknowledge it/bear it/ignore it/report it/kick the offender/and/or walk away and find another place...

The risk comes with whatever turf you pick to walk upon.

A lot of the best posts here have come from folk asking the reverse question. What about handling the golden-word syndrome pillocks on the other end?

shelleyo
07-26-2011, 07:13 PM
If there's no effective Moderating, or Supervision or Chairman or whatever, there's not much one can do about a genuinely mean-spirited critique other than acknowledge it/bear it/ignore it/report it/kick the offender/and/or walk away and find another place...

I know of one place, that will remain nameless, where harsh, rude comments are not only not a problem, but are encouraged. The board moderators are more likely to be the ones doing it, in fact. The focus is newbies who don't write well at all. I've rarely seen one not dipped in scalding water with an hour or two.

It's a highly useful place if one can overlook the vicious glee and the feeding frenzies when new people post something. I never had to deal with having my ass roasted, but I always do a couple dozen crits before posting anything, and I don't commit the newbie mistakes they like to pounce on . I've gotten comments that might not be acceptable in SYW, but I had no problem with their bluntness. I'm blunt there, too. (Or was--I got tired of the outright hatefulness that became the norm, even though it was never directed at me.)



A lot of the best posts here have come from folk asking the reverse question. What about handling the golden-word syndrome pillocks on the other end?

I've mentioned this a couple of times. It's not necessarily true for everyplace, but the most rudeness I've seen in SYW was directed at critters. And it's almost always from someone defending an indefensible piece of writing. I have no idea what to do about people like that, except never crit their work again. I think anyone reading the exchanges can see what's going on, except maybe other golden-worders.

I won't crit someone twice even if they're defensive, but polite. It's a waste of my time, when they're clearly going to spend time trying to point out why I'm wrong instead of considering their own work. That hints at golden word syndrome, and spells trouble to me.

I'm not arrogant enough to think that everything I say in a critique must be followed--none of us are always right. But there are some things that really aren't subjective. I've gotten crits I don't agree with, but I refuse to argue with them or defend my work, which is like telling them thanks for all the time you spent earnestly trying to help, but no thanks. I just thank them and move on.

Shelley

Al Stevens
07-26-2011, 07:57 PM
The problem with defending your work against an unfavorable critique is that you miss the larger issue. The critic is a surrogate reader. You won't have the opportunity to explain the issue to the readers.

That said, I will ask a critic for more detail. I might even debate the issue in order to better understand the critic's meaning. And my arguments might even be misinterpreted as golden word syndrome. I don't care about that. I am not there to win the popularity contest.

I almost always change something as the result of an unfavorable critique. The critic and observers don't always know about that.

On another forum I had a blunt critic say that a passage I wrote was a "sure sign of an amateur." That was his style, and that was what I expected. We need candid, not candied.

shelleyo
07-26-2011, 08:30 PM
That said, I will ask a critic for more detail. I might even debate the issue in order to better understand the critic's meaning.

That's not the same as being defensive, IMO. Though a debate can go both ways--constructive and defensive--depending on what's said.

Shelley

icerose
07-26-2011, 08:41 PM
That's not the same as being defensive, IMO. Though a debate can go both ways--constructive and defensive--depending on what's said.

Shelley

I actually prefer it when they pose situations and ask questions and often do it myself.

Like for one scene no one was getting what I was trying to say, so I was failing as a writer but I didn't know how to write it to where it would come across how I wanted it to.

So I told the critiquers, "This is what I'm trying to do, but obviously I'm failing at it. Can you help me figure out how to get this across that makes sense." It was a fabulous critique session and I learned a ton. Asking questions and doing a back and forth is not the same as 'ur stipid and I haz a jeneous brayn'

RobJ
07-26-2011, 08:43 PM
A crit who has nothing to say other than 'I like it' is scary.
A simple 'I like it' isn't really a critique. It's feedback, and it's often nice to know that someone took the time to read your work and gave it a thumbs up, but it's not a critique.

I don't think there's anything wrong with an 'I like it' as feedback, but you don't learn anything from it the way you would with a critique.

firedrake
07-26-2011, 08:47 PM
A simple 'I like it' isn't really a critique. It's feedback, and it's often nice to know that someone took the time to read your work and gave it a thumbs up, but it's not a critique.

I don't think there's anything wrong with an 'I like it' as feedback, but you don't learn anything from it the way you would with a critique.

I have some trouble with some 'I like it' or 'keep going, it's great!' posts. There's a thread in the main SYW thread somewhere about that not being helpful. It got a little heated. My issue with this is when you see a piece of writing that needs some work and someone comes along and posts 'this is really great!' when it isn't. Then a more discriminating critique is posted, the writer gets the arse with the post that points out the flaws and clings desperately to the well meant but misguided 'this is great' post.

It doesn't help the writer at all.

icerose
07-26-2011, 08:52 PM
I have some trouble with some 'I like it' or 'keep going, it's great!' posts. There's a thread in the main SYW thread somewhere about that not being helpful. It got a little heated. My issue with this is when you see a piece of writing that needs some work and someone comes along and posts 'this is really great!' when it isn't. Then a more discriminating critique is posted, the writer gets the arse with the post that points out the flaws and clings desperately to the well meant but misguided 'this is great' post.

It doesn't help the writer at all.

Yep, writers have a strong tendency to be delusional. We're all dreamers. When we post a critique many of us secretly hope that everyone out there will see our genius and that we'll get all the accolades we're positive we deserve. The newer the writer the more delusional they tend to be and the more unwilling they are to change if they don't think they have to. I am certainly no exception which is why I always ask for dead honest and blunt critiques.

I have seen more than a few promising but need serious work writers stop working because someone came along and said "This is great, don't change a thing."

That's what us writers want to hear, but it's not what we need to hear. Those kinds of things are only useful when the book is published and out there, not when the story needs polishing.

Now I have made that kind of comment before but the story was absolutely exceptional and I couldn't find anything at all that needed to be improved. It was published shortly afterward.

RobJ
07-26-2011, 08:57 PM
I have some trouble with some 'I like it' or 'keep going, it's great!' posts. There's a thread in the main SYW thread somewhere about that not being helpful. It got a little heated. My issue with this is when you see a piece of writing that needs some work and someone comes along and posts 'this is really great!' when it isn't. Then a more discriminating critique is posted, the writer gets the arse with the post that points out the flaws and clings desperately to the well meant but misguided 'this is great' post.

It doesn't help the writer at all.
If someone thinks a story is great, that's a valid opinion. There's no assumption that they're wrong. I've seen plenty of critiques that were misguided and no use to the writer, too.

shelleyo
07-26-2011, 09:00 PM
I have some trouble with some 'I like it' or 'keep going, it's great!' posts. There's a thread in the main SYW thread somewhere about that not being helpful. It got a little heated. My issue with this is when you see a piece of writing that needs some work and someone comes along and posts 'this is really great!' when it isn't. Then a more discriminating critique is posted, the writer gets the arse with the post that points out the flaws and clings desperately to the well meant but misguided 'this is great' post.

It doesn't help the writer at all.

I agree. "Great read, thanks for sharing!" is enough to make me flail.

I'm not sharing anything. It's a wholly selfish thing. If I post something for critique, I clearly want help in some way. It's most certainly not done out of any sense of sharing.

Just a pet peeve.

I also hate to see people, and this does happen in SYW, repeatedly give those kinds of comments while getting thoughtful, constructive feedback on their own stories. Not my place to say anything if neither of the stories in question are mine, however.

Funnily enough, the one giving the "loved it!" comments is only shortchanging himself. I've learned far more by critiquing the work of others than in getting critiques. It's so much easier to be objective about something someone else wrote, and learn by analyzing it. Some people never quite get that.

Shelley

firedrake
07-26-2011, 09:09 PM
If someone thinks a story is great, that's a valid opinion. There's no assumption that they're wrong. I've seen plenty of critiques that were misguided and no use to the writer, too.

it can be a valid opinion but not if the majority of the other comments on the piece say otherwise. Then the 'It's great" post tends to stick out like an unhelpful sore thumb.

AmsterdamAssassin
07-26-2011, 10:48 PM
I agree. "Great read, thanks for sharing!" is enough to make me flail.

I'm not sharing anything. It's a wholly selfish thing. If I post something for critique, I clearly want help in some way. It's most certainly not done out of any sense of sharing.


Uh, it's 'Share Your Work'... ;)

I agree with almost everyone in this thread - I understand the need for constructive criticism, and sometimes I can even provide it.

I don't agree with some posters about the books being like their children/babies/tender flowers. If I crit your story, I will lift her skirt to check if she's not being sent into the world bare-assed with toilet paper stuck to the crack of her ass. And if you don't want me to do that, please put 'be gentle' in your OP, that'll make sure I will skip your SYW thread. If you put 'be gentle' in your OP, I know that you're unable to detach yourself emotionally from your story and kill your darlings, and I understand that you need validation. Nothing wrong with that, but I don't cuddle adults without lifting their skirts and ... :)

shelleyo
07-26-2011, 10:55 PM
Uh, it's 'Share Your Work'... ;)

You know what I mean. Yeah? Yeah.


If I crit your story, I will lift her skirt to check if she's not being sent into the world bare-assed with toilet paper stuck to the crack of her ass.

I'm just quoting that, because I can.

Shelley

DancingMaenid
07-26-2011, 11:03 PM
To me, the problem with "It's great!" isn't that it may not be accurate (unless the person is outright lying, it is accurate in that they feel it's great, at least), but that it doesn't give any real feedback on what the person feels makes the story great.

Knowing what does work in a story can be really valuable, too. Perhaps not as valuable as knowing what doesn't work, but still valuable. If someone thinks a particular aspect of my story works well, I like to know that because it may be something I need to know. And I like to know if my story is being read as I intended.

If someone just says it's good and leaves it at that, that doesn't really give any feedback. For all I know, my story didn't come across at all like I intended and the person's positive reaction was based on unclear writing.

Al Stevens
07-27-2011, 02:42 AM
If I crit your story, I will lift her skirt to check if she's not being sent into the world bare-assed with toilet paper stuck to the crack of her ass.
Thanks. I just sprayed coffee all over my keyboard and monitor. :ROFL:

Kitty27
07-27-2011, 02:54 AM
Once you share your MS,chapter,query,it's open to criticism. If you ask for a critique,you have to understand the person that does it might have a totally different personality. As I said before,my cousin lacks any ability to filter her speech. Because I know her,I'm not bothered. I'm not bothered by blunt people at all. Take a hatchet to my MS and don't bother with nice talk. I ain't sensitive,ya feel me?

Blunt people and the way they speak comes across as even more blunt over the net. They don't mean to hurt your feelings and whatnot. Of course,there are people that are just vicious. I had a lady in my crit group that wrote literary fiction. She had some of the most beautiful language! Her chapters were almost hypnotic. I loved it. Another writer,in the same genre I might add,took it upon himself to savage her work. Everybody else LOVED it. I call this hating. Unfortunately,there are many people like that out here. They see writing that surpasses their own and decided to tear the writer down. This does happen. But you have to shake it off. Another thing I noticed was a herd mentality. One writer didn't like the story and others just decided to follow. Often I was the lone supporter of the writer. This was quite annoying.

The way people speak in life tends to be present in their board posts. At least that's what I think. If you cannot handle a basic critique,I just don't know how you're going to make it as a writer. I'm sure editors and agents will be even more gangster when it comes to going over a MS.

Mutive
07-27-2011, 02:59 AM
A lot of the problem really does come from a difference in how people define "harsh" vs. "non-harsh".

I haven't been active in SYW, but on other sites, I'm known for being blunt. Not patronizing, not rude, but blunt. A story others rave about, I find stuff I'd like to see changed. Sometimes I'm wrong. That's cool. More often, I'm right.

I've had authors throw temper tantrums at me, send me hate mail, and cyberstalk me for giving them critiques. I've also got several who've thanked me profusely. One hand made me a doll (complete with embroidery) and sent it to me as a thank you.

So am I a total bitch and a meanie (as one would call me) or a savior of irredeemable manuscripts? I have no idea.

I personally like blunt (but non-patronizing critiques). My favorite beta regularly snarks at me, which I find funny and helpful. But some people don't. Unfortunately, I can't magically read an author's mind when I give a critique, nor can they read mine when I put something up asking for a crit. In an ideal world, they could, and I'd know how to avoid the people who'd freak out about being told to use fewer commas, and people who wanted to correct one spelling error then gush would know to avoid my stuff. But it doesn't work that way. Either way, the critiquer is doing me a favor, so I treat it as such and thank even if I then ignore it forever after.

I have seen some needlessly harsh stuff during my years of critting. (Not here, but elsewhere.) And I agree that there is a line that some critiquers *do* cross. But most really don't. And if an author intends to publish, he/she has to be ready for far, far worse from reviewers who have no problem savaging something that's been put out for public consumption. It helps to learn how to say, "Not helpful, let me send a form 'thanks for the crit', then ignore".

Al Stevens
07-27-2011, 03:13 AM
The harshest critique I ever got was this one-liner that came to me second-hand:

"I couldn't finish his first chapter. His writing style makes me vomit."

I loved it. The critic later apologized when he learned that his words had been repeated to me verbatim.

If something like that sends you crying in your pillow, it might have saved you years of stress. You might not be tempermentally suited for this line of work. Or you can bypass the process and self-publish. :)

shelleyo
07-27-2011, 04:10 AM
"I couldn't finish his first chapter. His writing style makes me vomit."

I loved it. The critic later apologized when he learned that his words had been repeated to me verbatim.

If something like that sends you crying in your pillow,

The critic didn't exactly say that to you, though, did he/she?

Please don't act as if someone being told "your writing style makes me vomit" shouldn't be bothered by the sheer nastiness of the comment. That would bother almost anyone, and it should. That doesn't mean they're not cut out to be a writer. There would be no call for anyone to say anything remotely like that to anyone.

Anyone who can't crit without saying something like that TO the person has no business critiquing.

Shelley

sheadakota
07-27-2011, 04:51 AM
The critic didn't exactly say that to you, though, did he/she?

Please don't act as if someone being told "your writing style makes me vomit" shouldn't be bothered by the sheer nastiness of the comment. That would bother almost anyone, and it should. That doesn't mean they're not cut out to be a writer. There would be no call for anyone to say anything remotely like that to anyone.

Anyone who can't crit without saying something like that TO the person has no business critiquing.

Shelley
See, I don't find that comment nasty- just as others have said- blunt and maybe brutally honest. If it was directed to me I think I would have laughed- not everyone is going to love your style, your voice, your anything- some will adore everything you put to paper.
My favorite critter once asked me- "When the f*** are you going to learn how to write a sentence that isn't a run on?"
The comment made me smile because he was right- run-on sentences are my weakness- it was a wake up call and I needed it. Could it have been said in a nicer way? Sure. Would it have made the impact it did on me if it had been? Nope. I would still be writing 28 word long sentences in my MS. I lurves the blunt critter- Tell me like it is because stroking and platitudes aren't going to make me a better writer.
On the other side of the coin- I have made people cry with my crits and I have had people thank me for them as well- I don't think I am nasty, but I am not going to tell you something to just stroke your ego either.

Bracken
07-27-2011, 04:57 AM
See, I don't find that comment nasty- just as others have said- blunt and maybe brutally honest.Oh, for heaven sakes. Of course it's nasty.
What's "honest" about saying someone's writing style makes you vomit?
It's a lie. No writing style could make anyone literally vomit.
It's a gratuitous exaggeration, for the purpose of being nasty.

"Honest" would be to say you dislike- strongly dislike- the writer's style... although that would not be a particularly helpful comment to make, unless you bothered point out why you didn't like it, or what would have to change in order for you to like it.

shelleyo
07-27-2011, 05:08 AM
See, I don't find that comment nasty- just as others have said- blunt and maybe brutally honest.

Oh, come on now. Someone says, "Your writing style makes me vomit" and that's not nasty? Come on. That's nasty and hateful as fuck.


My favorite critter once asked me- "When the f*** are you going to learn how to write a sentence that isn't a run on?"
The comment made me smile

Your. Favorite Critter. That's a vast difference from any Tom, Dick or Mary saying the same thing, isn't it?


but I am not going to tell you something to just stroke your ego either.

Saying "your writing makes me vomit" is not "not stroking someone's ego." It's more like a fuck punch in the nuts.

Good lord. Beat each other silly and enjoy yourselves.

:gone:

Shelley

Al Stevens
07-27-2011, 05:17 AM
The critic didn't exactly say that to you, though, did he/she?
No.

Please don't act as if...
I'm not acting.

Anyone who can't crit without saying something like that TO the person has no business critiquing.
He didn't say it to me. He is too much of a gentleman. He's a well-known published author of mysteries and someone whose opinion I respect.

Mutive
07-27-2011, 05:19 AM
I agree that the vomit comment was rather rude. But the run on sentences one made me laugh. (Possibly as one of my favorite betas regularly comments that me and complete sentences never have been and never will be friends.)

She also laughs at my death scenes. I regularly get, "I'm pretty sure this wasn't meant to be funny, but I started laughing out loud at these lines."

We do all have different tolerances for abuse. ;)

Nya RAyne
07-27-2011, 05:27 AM
I have to agree, the "vomit" comment would have had me hunting someone down, but I did find the run-on sentence comment rather funny in an abstract sort of way.

Having said that, I'm definitely one of those people that wants critique given straight and without all the flowers--how else am I going to learn--but that doesn't mean it has to be tactless.

Al Stevens
07-27-2011, 05:29 AM
It's a lie. No writing style could make anyone literally vomit.
No one should take such a joke so seriously.


It's a gratuitous exaggeration, for the purpose of being nasty.You presume to know his purpose? I took it quite differently. Probably because I know him.

...unless you bothered point out why you didn't like it, or what would have to change in order for you to like it.
We had that conversation afterwards. Very helpful.

As we talk here about the tone of critiques of works of fiction, I am reminded of the many technical reviews I got from computer programmers on my manuscripts. (Such reviews are [were] paid for by the publisher and kept anonymous.) And some of the letters I received about my column. You think writers can be harsh?

Maybe that's where my skin got thickened. Heat, kitchen, and all that.

scarletpeaches
07-27-2011, 12:29 PM
Oh, come on now. Someone says, "Your writing style makes me vomit" and that's not nasty? Come on. That's nasty and hateful as fuck.Maybe to you. To me, that reads like a crit couched in words that are...you know...funny. Fuck punch in the nuts? Do me a favour.

Kitty27
07-27-2011, 05:04 PM
Ahem.

Things are getting a bit pressed in here. Please remember to respect your fellow writer and their opinions.

We've already had a warning posted in this thread. I don't want to have to close it because I like the discussion.


Thanks.

Phaeal
07-27-2011, 05:07 PM
Some people do have styles that make me queasy, but so far I haven't actually vomited.

thebloodfiend
07-27-2011, 05:10 PM
Some people do have styles that make me queasy, but so far I haven't actually vomited.

If I were the critique partner for my ten-year-old self, I'd tell me that my writing style made me vomit. And my handwriting. My purple prose was horrendous.

squeaky pram
07-27-2011, 06:20 PM
If I were the critique partner for my ten-year-old self, I'd tell me that my writing style made me vomit.

And then your 10-year-old self may never have written again!

I know you're only joking, bloodfiend, but your comment made me think about the consequences of the harsh or "blunt" critique. Yes, an honest negative critique can be exactly what a writer needs to hear, but blunt? Harsh? Not sure I see the value in that. There are always ways to construct even the most negative criticism with sensitivity to the feelings of the writer. I don't think that in order to be honest one needs to be "blunt". Explaining the reason for the criticism (constructive) rather than just lobbing it at someone (destructive) shows respect. The critiquee feels cared for, not attacked.

We're writers, for goodness sake! Crafting language for a particular audience is what we do! Yes, writers need to develop thick skins, but I've seen too many sensitive, insecure yet *extremely* talented writers give up on themselves because of unnecessarily harsh criticism. What's the point? Our first task as fellow writers is to nurture one another.

firedrake
07-27-2011, 06:24 PM
Nurture, yes.

Mollycoddle, no.

Once that book gets out into the Big Bad World, there'll be harsh comments from editors, there will be nasty reviews. Not everyone will love your words. Some will loathe them.

Do we, as writers, hide away from reviews in case we take umbrage and never write again?

scarletpeaches
07-27-2011, 06:28 PM
Our first task? Sod that. My first task is to make lots of money and get laid. Okay, that's two. Whatever.

shaldna
07-27-2011, 06:30 PM
your comment made me think about the consequences of the harsh or "blunt" critique. Yes, an honest negative critique can be exactly what a writer needs to hear, but blunt? Harsh? Not sure I see the value in that.

.......

Yes, writers need to develop thick skins, but I've seen too many sensitive, insecure yet *extremely* talented writers give up on themselves because of unnecessarily harsh criticism. What's the point? Our first task as fellow writers is to nurture one another.

And then what happens the first time the writer gets a negative review from a reader? Will their head implode? Or will they just shrug it off because they are obviously the shizz?

I don't like it when people are rude for no reason, but at the same time I feel that writers need to learn to just accept it, and if a writer feels that they can't possibly write again because someone was mean about their work then possibly they are in the wrong line of work.

thebloodfiend
07-27-2011, 06:31 PM
And then your 10-year-old self may never have written again!

I know you're only joking, bloodfiend, but your comment made me think about the consequences of the harsh or "blunt" critique. Yes, an honest negative critique can be exactly what a writer needs to hear, but blunt? Harsh? Not sure I see the value in that. There are always ways to construct even the most negative criticism with sensitivity to the feelings of the writer. I don't think that in order to be honest one needs to be "blunt". Explaining the reason for the criticism (constructive) rather than just lobbing it at someone (destructive) shows respect. The critiquee feels cared for, not attacked.

We're writers, for goodness sake! Crafting language for a particular audience is what we do! Yes, writers need to develop thick skins, but I've seen too many sensitive, insecure yet *extremely* talented writers give up on themselves because of unnecessarily harsh criticism. What's the point? Our first task as fellow writers is to nurture one another.

Yeah, I was joking, but I'd have to disagree.

Harsh, or blunt critique only makes me strive to prove the critiquer wrong. If you give up that easily, you don't have the guns to become a writer.

When I was that age, I was a horrible writer. But my teachers praised my writing skills and I was a gifted student with quite a bloated head. Then, my dad started reading over my papers. He is an anal English major and he basically tore them to shreds every single time. And he wasn't nice about it.

Now, I could have curled into a ball and never written anything again. But I decided to prove him wrong about my writing. At the time, I didn't exactly feel all that great, but I wanted to show that my writing wasn't shit. That I could do better. And, seven years later, I'm still writing. So I don't think his treatment damaged my ego in any sort of way. It made me feel bad, but if he'd tip toed around my emotions, I'd still write crappy book reports in place of actual essays, all the while, thinking I'm the shit.

And, no, I'm not exaggerating. He didn't yell, but yes, he said things that were the equivalent of calling my writing vomit. He said my papers were bullshit and a few variations of that. I wouldn't take that approach, but it worked for me.

shaldna
07-27-2011, 06:31 PM
Our first task? Sod that. My first task is to make lots of money and get laid.


If only there was a way to do both things at once then....



...yeah, forget I just said that.

squeaky pram
07-27-2011, 06:50 PM
And, no, I'm not exaggerating. He didn't yell, but yes, he said things that were the equivalent of calling my writing vomit. He said my papers were bullshit and a few variations of that. I wouldn't take that approach, but it worked for me.

Glad that worked for you, blood! I know it does for some.

I suppose my point is that we, as strangers on an internet forum, can't predict exactly where and to whom our words are going. We can't look at faces, body language, tone of voice. We don't have real-life relationships, safety zones, etc, etc, etc. But we are also *not* the gatekeepers. We are people responding to others asking who are asking for help.

Yes, there's a big, harsh world that we all need to prepare for:

shaldna: "And then what happens the first time the writer gets a negative review from a reader? Will their head implode? Or will they just shrug it off because they are obviously the shizz?"

But I didn't say we should avoid negative critique or "mollycoddle". Far from it, actually. What would be the point of that? We need to know what we're doing *wrong* as well as right. We need to know what works and what doesn't. All I'm saying is we should offer our critiques, especially when we need to be negative, with sensitivity. Consider that not everyone here is at the same stage on their writing path, and not everyone is made of the same substance. Doesn't mean they shouldn't pursue this career... they are still learning.

Snitchcat
07-27-2011, 06:51 PM
Harsh, vs. non-harsh, vs. blunt, vs. rude / nasty. I guess for me that's all a matter of viewpoint.

Critiques can be nasty, yes, and I've seen some soul-destroying crits. But overall, I find writers a nicer bunch (and I've been very lucky to encounter great groups of writers) than, say, aspiring artists looking to appear as if they have a grasp on your viewpoint and are the "be all, end all" of artistic crits.

Personally, however, if I find a crit particularly nasty, I'll take a moment to throw a private tantrum first then calm down and finally review why I found it so nasty. If there's anything in it that strikes true, I'll note it, else I'll throw it away. There's no call to be deliberately nasty or tactlessly blunt.

On the other hand, IMO, if a writer can't take a blunt (read, "honest") critique, perhaps the writing world isn't for them? Your work will be read by your target market (whatever stage you're at) who aren't mind readers (well, I hope they aren't; having my mind read would be most unpleasant) and if the work doesn't stand on its own, then it needs work.

As for the so-called crit I received from at least one aspiring artist was, "Manga / anime is s***" (my sketches are manga/anime-influenced).

And the one so-called "brutally honest" assessment of a character whose motivation I was having trouble with, said "[revenge] is a p*** poor motivation". I responded with, "Thanks everyone for your opinions; off to do some work on this" and I left the crit session.

squeaky pram
07-27-2011, 07:12 PM
Harsh, vs. non-harsh, vs. blunt, vs. rude / nasty. I guess for me that's all a matter of viewpoint.

***

On the other hand, IMO, if a writer can't take a blunt (read, "honest") critique, perhaps the writing world isn't for them?



Yes, Snitchcat, it's a matter of viewpoint, but also terminology. I'm beginning to think that many of us are talking about the same thing in this thread but defining our terminology differently. For some, I think they're defining "blunt" as meaning "honest", full stop. I see it, on the other hand, as meaning honest but often lacking further explanation--curt, without augmentation--which can feel harsh and not terribly constructive, especially to beginners.

If we're all simply talking about "honesty", then I think we're pretty much on the same page.

quicklime
07-27-2011, 08:02 PM
We're writers, for goodness sake! Crafting language for a particular audience is what we do! Yes, writers need to develop thick skins, but I've seen too many sensitive, insecure yet *extremely* talented writers give up on themselves because of unnecessarily harsh criticism. What's the point? Our first task as fellow writers is to nurture one another.


1. I have no such first task. Sorry, we disagree on that....1000%. I'm more than willing to help other writers, but I have no duty or obligation to do so, any more than "my first job as a biologist is to nurture and foster love of science in those who are too soft to stick with the rigors of coursework", which seems to sort of be the implication here.

2. As a follow on that, in grad school AND in writing I have heard multiple people, multiple times, say "If I can dissuade you from doing it, then you probably aren't going to make it anyway" and I agree 100%. Inspiration is a personal thing, and publishing is hard--if someone is going to leave over harsh crits they aren't going to stay through a million rejections, recommended changes, and a series of critical reviews. I've assisted a lot of people who wanted help, and left a lot of threads where it was clear those peopel wanted to be "nurtured" instead. The two aren't mutually exclusive, and there's nothing wrong with wanting to be nurtured, but anyone seeking help has no right to expect it, and I'm under no obligation to give it. What's more, I'm not that good at it. Want me to tell you the parts that made me feel like a dewey schoolgirl? You'll get a sentence or two. Want me to really go shoulder-deep in the guts? I can do that too, but not int he same manner.


I knew a few kids who flunked out of grad school because classes were hard, the routine was an abrupt change, and the teachers were unforgiving. Sometimes, the kids were flat-out railroaded. Usually not. But grad school wasn't a place for nurturing, it was a trial by fire. So is writing. Anyone scared away by "Look,, this isn't ready" or "You keep holding us at arms length, and these self-congratulatory paragraphs will probably make an agent's skin crawl because they see it a thousand times a week" should probably find something else to do with their time; this is a bruising business

icerose
07-27-2011, 08:09 PM
Yes, Snitchcat, it's a matter of viewpoint, but also terminology. I'm beginning to think that many of us are talking about the same thing in this thread but defining our terminology differently. For some, I think they're defining "blunt" as meaning "honest", full stop. I see it, on the other hand, as meaning honest but often lacking further explanation--curt, without augmentation--which can feel harsh and not terribly constructive, especially to beginners.

If we're all simply talking about "honesty", then I think we're pretty much on the same page.

I know I refer to myself as a harsh and blunt critiquer because that's how many other writers who I've critiqued have defined me. I'm a tell it like I see it kind of critiquer and there are tons of people who do not like that one bit.

I was asked once in a personal communication to please critique this piece they had written and please tear it apart and do my worst, they want to learn as a writer, they think they're ready to submit but they want to be sure, bla, bla, bla. So I agree.

I get this paper and it is completely formatted wrong. We're talking triple returns between paragraphs, no indentations, no chapter breaks whatsoever, some paragraphs aren't separated at all so it's the big run on glob, horrid grammar and spelling and sentences that either are run ons or incompletes. On top of it so as far as I could tell there is not a plot to be found, no main character just a collage of situations with various cardboard cutouts thrown in. Just far too much for a single critique to cover.

So I figure I'd address the formatting and grammar and spelling first. I need to be able to read the thing in order to get to the actual story.

I wrote back thinking that perhaps something had been lost in the translation that the formatting is off, did something happen?

She wrote back that it was how she meant it to look. That's how real books look don't you know? I wrote back that no, it's not, and sent her a link to a guide. I also said that she needed to fix the grammar and spelling and make it as professional as possible before sending it to me. And now that she knew that I expected her to at least try to polish her work before sending it to me, then she wouldn't make that mistake in the future.

I heard nothing from her for 2 weeks, then she sent me a letter telling me that I was the most horrible person she had ever met. I was just out there to stomp on other writers so I could feel better about myself. I was rude and mean and I'd killed her soul as a writer and she'd never write again because if I was the type of person out there in the world then the world didn't deserve her amazing work.

This lady was in her 30's. It was a headdesk moment for me. Really? Me telling you to format your work and even run a basic spell check is me being a horrible evil person?

So there you go. I am a harsh and blunt critiquer because I expect writers to pull their own weight and at least try to make their work readable. Sadly this experience is not unique.

squeaky pram
07-27-2011, 08:11 PM
1. I have no such first task. Sorry, we disagree on that....1000%. I'm more than willing to help other writers, but I have no duty or obligation to do so, any more than "my first job as a biologist is to nurture and foster love of science in those who are too soft to stick with the rigors of coursework", which seems to sort of be the implication here.

You're absolutely right. And if that's what I'd actually meant to imply, I'd withdraw the comment in favor of yours. But it's not what I meant at all.

As I tried to clarify in a later post, I think many of us on this thread are involved in dueling-terminology. I'm for honestly, and have said so... all the way. I think we're actually talking about the same thing.

The "first task" wording was over-statement. Thanks for the critique! :)

squeaky pram
07-27-2011, 08:20 PM
I heard nothing from her for 2 weeks, then she sent me a letter telling me that I was the most horrible person she had ever met. I was just out there to stomp on other writers so I could feel better about myself. I was rude and mean and I'd killed her soul as a writer and she'd never write again because if I was the type of person out there in the world then the world didn't deserve her amazing work.

This lady was in her 30's. It was a headdesk moment for me. Really? Me telling you to format your work and even run a basic spell check is me being a horrible evil person?

So there you go. I am a harsh and blunt critiquer because I expect writers to pull their own weight and at least try to make their work readable. Sadly this experience is not unique.

Big OUCH! I know what you're talking about, and it's childish, unprofessional, and, usually, delusional. Sad. But from what you've said, you're critique doesn't sound like my definition of "blunt". It sounds carefully considered and fully argued. That sounds helpful. And extremely generous. I don't call that kind of critique blunt. I'm talking about people who don't bother explaining... who give a brief, blunt opinion and leave it at that. Hit and run.

Sorry you've had such an experience. You're right... the one who asks for the critique needs to treat the critter with respect. It's a two-way street.

quicklime
07-27-2011, 08:23 PM
You're absolutely right. And if that's what I'd actually meant to imply, I'd withdraw the comment in favor of yours. But it's not what I meant at all.

As I tried to clarify in a later post, I think many of us on this thread are involved in dueling-terminology. I'm for honestly, and have said so... all the way. I think we're actually talking about the same thing.

The "first task" wording was over-statement. Thanks for the critique! :)


the part in bold I DO agree with.

But that's what makes things hard...I saw icerose's comments, well, I have been called a heartless prick, told I must have some sort of sexual inadequacy for how I framed one character's sex-magic dilemma because the query didn't frame it at all FOR me, and told I was a harsh and horrible person. One individual even went so far as to send me a note saying he felt sorry for my children.

On the flip side, I've also had many people pm me asking me to crit their work. Some of them have made little jokes about being almost afraid, but wanting to hear it. Most have thanked me after, which I"m not sure is warranted or not--I only know the one who got an agent for certain, and can't say her original wouldn't have done the job by itself. But they have generally asked for the bluntness.

So there's 2 sides, and a lot of "harsh versus mean" isn't just how we who crit choose to define, but how the writer getting critiqued wants to define it.

Al Stevens
07-27-2011, 08:23 PM
Critics should be less harsh.
Critics should be honest.

Isn't that a contradiction? Can they be honest if they can't be themselves?

firedrake
07-27-2011, 08:25 PM
So there's 2 sides, and a lot of "harsh versus mean" isn't just how we who crit choose to define, but how the writer getting critiqued wants to define it.

This is what I've been fumbling about trying to say!

quicklime
07-27-2011, 08:35 PM
This is what I've been fumbling about trying to say!


But I did better because of your fumbling shower-rape of the English language.

There's your fucking critique :tongue

firedrake
07-27-2011, 08:37 PM
But I did better because of your fumbling shower-rape of the English language.

There's your fucking critique :tongue

*weeps*
*flails*

quicklime
07-27-2011, 08:40 PM
oh you know I loves you

squeaky pram
07-27-2011, 08:43 PM
But that's what makes things hard...I saw icerose's comments, well, I have been called a heartless prick, told I must have some sort of sexual inadequacy for how I framed one character's sex-magic dilemma because the query didn't frame it at all FOR me, and told I was a harsh and horrible person. One individual even went so far as to send me a note saying he felt sorry for my children.

I don't know you or your style, but I can't imagine what could illicit such mean and *personal* responses from people. That, imo, is as bad as a critter who goes on the attack. I can totally understand your anger.



So there's 2 sides, and a lot of "harsh versus mean" isn't just how we who crit choose to define, but how the writer getting critiqued wants to define it.

Yup. That is so true.


This is what I've been fumbling about trying to say!

Yes, in a way I have, too. (Fumbling is right! :) ) Everyone is so different and we don't know each other. That's why I talk about respect. In tone as much as content. The "blunt" terminology feels like a red-herring at this point. What some call honest, others call blunt; what some call blunt, others call mean, etc. Makes it difficult. Of course, even with the best intentions, we'll sometimes get it wrong.

And everything I say about respect applies for the critiquee as well.

quicklime
07-27-2011, 08:47 PM
I don't know you or your style, but I can't imagine what could illicit such mean and *personal* responses from people. That, imo, is as bad as a critter who goes on the attack. I can totally understand your anger.



.


no anger, mostly amusement. Several of those I laughed at, others I just shook my head.

I try to offer what I can, and it gets taken or refused; i can't control that, and the folks that mad at me are usually mad at a few other folks as well, because none of us "get it" or want to spend an inordinate amount of time hand-holding the writer-to-be

squeaky pram
07-27-2011, 08:52 PM
Critics should be less harsh.
Critics should be honest.

Isn't that a contradiction? Can they be honest if they can't be themselves?

Lets put it another way.

Critics should be honest, but they should, if at all possible, be sensitive in their use of language and try to offer *real* critique (meaning explanations, suggestions, etc), not just one-liners, which can be (mis)taken as harsh. That's really all I mean to say.

thebloodfiend
07-27-2011, 08:56 PM
Hmm... I think the main rule we should follow is critique the work, not the writer.

A writing style can suck, but a writer can't. And, if you're a good critic, you'll explain why the writing sucks.

Al Stevens
07-27-2011, 09:13 PM
Lets put it another way.

Critics should be honest, but they should, if at all possible, be sensitive in their use of language and try to offer *real* critique (meaning explanations, suggestions, etc), not just one-liners, which can be (mis)taken as harsh. That's really all I mean to say.

I agree, they should. We all should. But if they cannot, that's okay with me, too. As long as they have something constructive to offer. I don't want to marry the critic, just get some helpful direction. The vomit comment eventually led to that. Had I blown it off as being mean, uncivil and unnecessary, I would have missed out on some sage advice and garnered no improvement to my work.

Our "first task" is to write the best we can. (But if I could make lots of money and get laid a lot, I might change my priorities.) I'll use whatever measures it takes. Even if I have to hire Daniel Webster to break my contract.

squeaky pram
07-27-2011, 09:51 PM
And, if you're a good critic, you'll explain why the writing sucks.

In a nutshell!! That's exactly what I'm getting at. Thank you for putting it so succinctly!

squeaky pram
07-27-2011, 10:02 PM
Our "first task" is to write the best we can.

Yup. Agreed. I meant our "first task" (regretting my terminology! :) ) as critters on an anonymous internet writing forum. Not in general.

And I agree... if someone's style of critique rubs me the wrong way, but is well meant, I just try to turn off my own knee-jerks and get what I can from it. If someone is a blatant bully, I fume a bit and then ignore. It's all you can do once you've put yourself out there. But as a critic, I try to remember that some people are more vulnerable than others or are maybe just getting their feet wet. Honest but gentle. That's just my approach. I save the "tough love" for later... sometimes, I agree, it's the only way to get through to someone, if at all.


. I don't want to marry the critic


Ha! I've already married one! No escape!

Al Stevens
07-27-2011, 10:54 PM
I don't want to be either one of these guys:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hFgiUm4lQig

Mutive
07-27-2011, 11:09 PM
I don't know you or your style, but I can't imagine what could illicit such mean and *personal* responses from people. That, imo, is as bad as a critter who goes on the attack. I can totally understand your anger.



Never underestimate the pissed off writer.

I had one where I delivered a critique that was basically "I wasn't sure whether or not this happened, so you might want to clarify as I was confused". (Worded pretty much the same way.)

The critiquee went on to leave a comment about how I was an idiot for missing something so critical in his work. When he was banned from the community, he then went on to spam me with PMs about how I was a horrible bitch, had made him upset for days, and was a monster who loved to torture and discourage new writers. (Among other things. Needless to say, I'm editing a bit for space.)

After he'd been blocked there, he then stalked me to my blog (which isn't about writing) and started leaving nasty comments there until I deleted them and blocked him.

I'm incredibly glad that this guy has no idea where I live, or I might have found him showing up at my house with a machete.

Some writers are really, really unhinged. And nothing seems to make them more so than a critique. Even, sometimes, one that wasn't meant to be particularly harsh. People are *strange*.

AmsterdamAssassin
07-27-2011, 11:49 PM
The reason I don't crit the 'be gentle with me'-writers, is because they can be the most volatile if you look under the skirt of their story and not only notice the toilet paper hanging from the crack of the ass, but also the brand, age and whether they bought it on sale.

If someone tells me their story is their baby, I imagine an unintelligible story that crawls, dripping green poop from a saggy diaper.

My story has to stand on its own legs and it better walk without stumbling, or I'll give it a swift kick in the butt.

And if your story has a gimp leg and drools on his shirt, I will point it out to you.

RobJ
07-27-2011, 11:58 PM
The reason I don't crit the 'be gentle with me'-writers, is ...
Honestly? You're starting to repeat yourself.


The reason I don't crit the 'be gentle with me'-writers, is because they can be the most volatile if you look under the skirt of their story and not only notice the toilet paper hanging from the crack of the ass, but also the brand, age and whether they bought it on sale.

If someone tells me their story is their baby, I imagine an unintelligible story that crawls, dripping green poop from a saggy diaper.

My story has to stand on its own legs and it better walk without stumbling, or I'll give it a swift kick in the butt.

And if your story has a gimp leg and drools on his shirt, I will point it out to you.
Forgive me, but I'm going to just take this one little opportunity to let you know that a great many writers achieved their phenomenal success without you.

Sorry, I really couldn't help myself :D

AmsterdamAssassin
07-28-2011, 12:08 AM
Forgive me, but I'm going to just take this one little opportunity to let you know that a great many writers achieved their phenomenal success without you.:D

You hurt me. I will not forgive you. I'll be your nemesis.

NeuroFizz
07-28-2011, 12:47 AM
Another person here who quit doing SYW crits due to angry responses. I've noticed an evolution of many writers here (including my own evolution) that seems to follow the same trajectory. And it has to do with the separation of the writer from his/her writing--the ability to see that comments about the writing are not comments about the writer. The lack of this separation seems to be a developmental stage that most writers eventually pass through, although some seem to get hung up here (others never have this issue). For people who have not found this separation, it is virtually impossible to avoid hurting their feelings, even with serious, well-thought out crit comments.

Also I, for one, have no patience for the "it's not what was said, but how it was said" response to crits. To me, this frequently is just a cop-out because the tone of a crit is interpreted so much from the emotion of the writer reading the crit, that totally innocuous crit comments are frequently deemed nasty or mean spirited. (I'm not talking about obviously nasty or sarcastic crits, which do happen and should be reported) One example that floored me was a reaction to the following statement in a crit:

The writing here should follow the proper temporal sequence--the action should come before the character's reaction. [It followed a highlighted sentence so it was clearly giving the specific example without re-writing the sentence for the writer]

This was cited as the primary example of how I "obviously got my jollies by talking down to new writers" and was followed by statements about how I obviously fed my ego in the SYW forum, and probably at the expense of everyone else in my life.

Another point is that critting takes time. I didn't always have the time to do a line-by-line comment session even though the posted sample really needed it. Sometimes crit comments are brief because of the time available to do the crit. This means we don't always have the time to hold the author's hand as we walk through our comments. And we shouldn't have to. All comments, even the brief ones, are designed to be helpful, yet their brevity is frequently seen as dismissive or "talking down."

Finally, I did try my best to follow crit comments with suggestions for improvement (short of re-writing sections for the author), but there were many times when the writing was so obscure or meandering that I could not offer good solutions to the problems I detected. As both a reader and a writer, there are times when I can see a problem but not a solution short of taking the time to experiment with the writing (which is not the job of the critter, but of the author). So, I take some issue with the suggestion that crit comments should be accompanied by suggestions for improvement. Of course that is desirable, but certainly not always possible--either from a writing stance or a time-involvement stance. And keep in mind some writers react poorly when a critter re-writes a sentence or section of a posted sample, even if the critter clearly indicates this is just one example of how it could be done.

Critting for any writer who is willing to consider various opinions on suggested improvements can be a pleasure, particularly if he/she finds something useful in those crit comments. But even then, critting is a chore, is time consuming, and for most of us, is done with the singular goal of trying to help. The number of trolls who provide crits for any other reason, including self-stroking of their egos, is way over-estimated by new writers posting in SYW. And this has driven many of us away from that forum.

DancingMaenid
07-28-2011, 06:11 AM
Critics should be less harsh.
Critics should be honest.

Isn't that a contradiction? Can they be honest if they can't be themselves?

I don't think so. I think honesty, helpfulness, and "being yourself" can be different things.

For example, I have the opposite problem. I can be too nice and too hesitant to point out things I have a problem with in a story. This is mainly why I don't like to critique, but I do have to critique sometimes if I want to get my stuff critiqued. So I can't "be myself." I have to push myself to be brave enough to say what I'm thinking and try to give the writer something useful to work with. I know that being myself could actually really hurt the writer if it means I don't give them a helpful critique.

On the flipside, some people may need to temper their harshness in order to really be helpful.

Bracken
07-28-2011, 06:17 AM
I don't think so. I think honesty, helpfulness, and "being yourself" can be different things.

For example, I have the opposite problem. I can be too nice and too hesitant to point out things I have a problem with in a story. This is mainly why I don't like to critique, but I do have to critique sometimes if I want to get my stuff critiqued. So I can't "be myself." I have to push myself to be brave enough to say what I'm thinking and try to give the writer something useful to work with. I know that being myself could actually really hurt the writer if it means I don't give them a helpful critique.

On the flipside, some people may need to temper their harshness in order to really be helpful.


Same here. ^

Anyway, that whole "I have to be myself, no matter who it offends" philosophy reminds me of conservative extremists who say deliberately incendiary and offensive things and dismiss anyone who objects as "PC nazis".

You can be "honest" without insulting others.
I refuse to believe you can't.

Cybernaught
07-28-2011, 06:37 AM
I think in majority I've had more constructive critiques than I've hard harsh. No one has ever seemed to go out of their way to insult me as a writer. I've certainly had well-deserved brutal critiques on my work itself. Critique is a truly humbling experience, and I'm grateful that there's a community to keep my ego in check and force me to refine my craft to the best of my ability.

I think writers are the most encouraging of their peers than other artists that I know. I attended acting school before I took to writing seriously, and they were among the most cutthroat artists I'd ever been around. I was in a Studio program and the Musical Theater students used to roll their eyes at us whenever they had the opportunity, like we weren't worthy of being actors if we couldn't belt out a solo and do a box step. Perhaps it's because we were all young and a little too cocky, and maybe I've just grown since then. But I've found myself a comfortable home in the writing community on these forums, and have had the fortune to talk shop with some truly brilliant, inspiring people.

Satsya
07-28-2011, 10:37 AM
I heard nothing from her for 2 weeks, then she sent me a letter telling me that I was the most horrible person she had ever met. I was just out there to stomp on other writers so I could feel better about myself. I was rude and mean and I'd killed her soul as a writer and she'd never write again because if I was the type of person out there in the world then the world didn't deserve her amazing work.


Now, I think there's a reasonable explanation for her reaction.

Obviously in those two weeks while you were waiting for a response, your writer decided to switch careers. Not content with writing behind the scenes, her new intention was to be out on stage, acting in great dramas. Her first role was to be in a theatrical production of Sunset Boulevard, as Norma Desmond. Unfortunately for her former editor(s), she happened to be a full-time method actor and had begun rehearsals right away.

…But honestly, I am sorry you had to deal with that person in that state. It sounds like the woman had some pent-up problems of her own to deal with.

Aerial
07-28-2011, 02:12 PM
You can be "honest" without insulting others.
I refuse to believe you can't.

You can be honest without insulting reasonable people. You can't be honest without insulting anyone.

Mostly because insult is not just how an opinion is offered, but how it's received, and that you have no control over.

Aerial

scarletpeaches
07-28-2011, 02:17 PM
You can be honest without insulting reasonable people. You can't be honest without insulting anyone.

Mostly because insult is not just how an opinion is offered, but how it's received, and that you have no control over.

AerialWonderful way of putting it.

I've known writers who are so attached to their writing that the least criticism of it is taken as a character assassination of them, and that sort of person flips out. The worst of them are actually pretty dangerous to be around because of their hair-trigger tempers.

shaldna
07-28-2011, 02:30 PM
Wonderful way of putting it.

I've known writers who are so attached to their writing that the least criticism of it is taken as a character assassination of them, and that sort of person flips out. The worst of them are actually pretty dangerous to be around because of their hair-trigger tempers.

This is part of the reason i don't like doing crits.

I've come across too many people who are in love with their work to the point where they can't detach themselves enough from it to see the flaws, or to realise that you are just trying to help.

In the end you can't help people who won't help themselves.

Katrina S. Forest
07-28-2011, 03:27 PM
I think a writer and critter need to part ways when the critter is attacking the author and not the work. At some point, that level of negativity is unhealthy. I think a critter needs to be "on a writer's side," if you will.

I had one critter who said a lot of hurtful things about both myself and my work. (Edit: I went on a long list of them, but I've decided to cut that out. In a nutshell, they discouraged me from continuing to edit my current WIP, implied surprise that I'd had any success in my writing career whatsoever, and elaborated on how poor my work was compared to others the critter had read.)

What saddens me is that I tried to stick with this critter as long as I did, because some of the points she made in the crit were valid. But it was not worth sorting through all the abuse. I'd much rather search for a person who can point out the flaws without making me feel like a complete and total failure at the writing craft.

Bufty
07-28-2011, 05:55 PM
I'm not on anybody's side but don't recall critting a person as opposed to the writing.

And I usually go through a finished crit, tweaking to make sure things aren't open to mis-interpretation. I find them very time-consuming.

Sometimes I have to wonder if critters have spent more time working on a critique than the writer spent on editing that same submission.

ETA - Not to mention those revisions that come rocketing back within minutes of the crit.....:rant::rant::rant: (thanks J. :D)

thebloodfiend
07-28-2011, 06:01 PM
Sometimes I have to wonder if critters have spent more time working on a critique than the writer spent on editing that same submission.

In some cases, I've felt like that was the case. Once, I spent a lot of time correcting sentence structure and dialog in order to improve the flow of the story. I did not sign on for editing. I was merely trying to help. I expected the writer to correct the following chapters according to what I'd done as the story was difficult to read. Nope. Instead, they sent me two more chapters, which I corrected with more detailed instructions on grammar, dialog etc... I never heard back from them. Now, I won't offer my assistance unless I'm familiar with the writer's work and I know they won't take my time for granted.

I mean, it was simple stuff, like the difference between "that" and "who", varied sentence structure, and natural dialog.

Katrina S. Forest
07-29-2011, 11:17 AM
I'm not on anybody's side but don't recall critting a person as opposed to the writing.

I mostly meant that the goal of the critter is to help the writer improve. (As opposed to the critter just being out to stroke their own ego.)


And I usually go through a finished crit, tweaking to make sure things aren't open to mis-interpretation. I find them very time-consuming.

I usually do the same, especially if I know the person hasn't received a lot of crits before. If we've exchanged work several times, then I get a bit more comfortable.


Not to mention those revisions that come rocketing back within minutes of the crit.....:rant::rant::rant: (thanks J. :D)

I've never had to deal with that -- geez, that must be frustrating.

dpaterso
07-29-2011, 12:39 PM
I'm maybe at the far end of the warped personality spectrum, 'cause frankly my dear I don't give a damn how the writer being critiqued reacts. I've told them what I thought of their writing sample and given them the best suggestions I could (tempered with diplomacy). If they can't handle it and/or choose not to apply said suggestions then big shrug from me, I'll probably just ignore any future threads. <skips happily through life>

-Derek

firedrake
07-29-2011, 12:51 PM
<skips happily through life>

-Derek

*tries to dispel mental image of DP skipping though threads*

:D

Wayne K
07-29-2011, 01:02 PM
To tell the truth I've dealt with worse from other critters than from the writers. Even after making it clear that my suggestions were, you know, suggestions. Golden critters have attacked them, so I don't bother anymore. Even when I pointed out that one piece was in the wrong genre i was attacked.

I need my serenity, so I said fuck it and don't bother any more

mccardey
07-29-2011, 01:11 PM
To tell the truth I've dealt with worse from other critters than from the writers. Even after making it clear that my suggestions were, you know, suggestions. Golden critters have attacked them, so I don't bother anymore. Even when I pointed out that one piece was in the wrong genre i was attacked.

I need my serenity, so I said fuck it and don't bother any more

*sigh*

People are funny old things, aren't they?

:Hug2:

scarletpeaches
07-29-2011, 01:15 PM
Some people want to write a better book. Some people just want to be wanked off.

Wayne K
07-29-2011, 01:20 PM
I want both

mccardey
07-29-2011, 01:24 PM
I want both

Do you know, if you say Wayne K out loud very quickly three times in a row....

Fruitbat
07-29-2011, 02:24 PM
Once in a while I'll get a snotty response and it makes me mad.

But then I get that a critique can feel like a slap to someone who isn't used to them. I think I've only had one critique that was truly nasty. She called me an idiot. ;o(

My dream: A computer button that would slam the recipient's laptop lid down and clamp their dumb head till I released it, after I made them think about what they did.

:)

AmsterdamAssassin
07-29-2011, 03:42 PM
My dream: A computer button that would slam the recipient's laptop lid down and clamp their dumb head till I released it, after I made them think about what they did.

:)

You're not really vindictive, are you? ;)

Fruitbat
07-29-2011, 03:46 PM
You're not really vindictive, are you? ;)

Just you wait till Captain S. hears about this! *clamp* :tongue

AmsterdamAssassin
07-29-2011, 03:54 PM
Just you wait till Captain S. hears about this! *clamp* :tongue


His head, with stretched to bursting foreskin, would make a real mess if your button existed.

icerose
07-29-2011, 06:53 PM
I'm maybe at the far end of the warped personality spectrum, 'cause frankly my dear I don't give a damn how the writer being critiqued reacts. I've told them what I thought of their writing sample and given them the best suggestions I could (tempered with diplomacy). If they can't handle it and/or choose not to apply said suggestions then big shrug from me, I'll probably just ignore any future threads. <skips happily through life>

-Derek

This is the attitude I know I need to develop. I hope to develop it in the future and return to critiquing because I really do enjoy doing it.

Perhaps we need two sets of thick skins. One as a writer and one as a critiquer.

Karen Junker
07-29-2011, 09:46 PM
I think I've mentioned before that I've critted at least a first chapter (if not an entire manuscript) for over 60 people from AW. *Seven* of them have thanked me.

One of them now has an agent. It is for this kind of result that I still try to help people.

There is nothing more gratifying to me than being thanked in the acknowledgment section of someone's book.

The rest I ignore as best I can.

timewaster
07-29-2011, 10:15 PM
This is the attitude I know I need to develop. I hope to develop it in the future and return to critiquing because I really do enjoy doing it.

Perhaps we need two sets of thick skins. One as a writer and one as a critiquer.

I've worked as a pro mss doctor and I teach and you can only do what you can do. I try to be polite but people employ me for my expertise and if someone doesn't agree with what I say or finds it harsh - well that is my opinion based on what I've learned as a writer and teacher but they are completely free to regard me as an arse if they wish (and who is to say that they are wrong)
You have to be robust as a writer but also as a teacher/critiquer/reviewer.
No one has a monopoly on truth but an honest, serious professional will try to give guidance on improving a mss. That's what I do. I have no axe to grind or point to prove. I want to help and if something is shit I will say so as nicely and constructively as possible. If someone doesn't want that honesty then I tend to think that is their problem. I do the best that I can and move on...

Cybernaught
07-29-2011, 10:41 PM
I try to model critiques based on the writer. If they are green, or rather young, I'll note what they can do to improve their writing at a basic level, and ensure that my tone is encouraging and positive.

More seasoned writers, who are looking for deeper critique into the craft itself, get a more thorough, constructive critique that I'm sure they can handle. Even still, I make a firm point to be respectful and humble.

This has worked the best for me, and I haven't had any writer argue with me yet. In the end, I'm only trying to help them while also train my own critical eye. I look at critique as a learning experience for us both, and as someone already mentioned, critique is an art in itself.

C. K. Casner
07-31-2011, 06:30 AM
I work in customer service so you could say I have a pretty thick skin. I know the callers are pissed off at the situation and not me. This doesn't stop me from flipping the phone off with a smile when they become abusive(you must smile, it can be heard in your voice) or grumbling after the call is ended. At least the customer is happy for the time being.

I've worked on my ms for six years and I am damn proud of that accomplishment. Is it going to be a New York Times bestseller? Doubt it. Researching and writing the novel was easy compared to paring down a historical ms of 100,000 that spans 20 years of the mc's life from conception into a 250 word query or a 2 page synopsis.

I posted the synopsis in SYW and got one of the nastiest crits. It wasn't only aimed at my work, it was aimed at me as a person. I was so pissed, I wanted to throw the monitor out the window. After I calmed and posted a scathing reply, (I stewed about this for a couple of days) I turned the post into a mod and received one of the most insincere apologies from my crit. I still thanked them, but I also told them how it made me feel. I know they don't give a shit, but at least I feel better and a little more dignified. If I hadn't taken time away, I would have sunk down to their level and been no better.