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SomethingOrOther
01-11-2013, 04:27 AM
I've noticed there are lots of threads about receiving critiques, but fewer on other critique-related stuff. So I'm starting a thread (as I typed I'm starting a thread, I heard warning sirens and the wild screams of people running for cover :().

So what's on your mind about giving critiques? Here's what's on mine:

1. The more basic and frequent a piece's mistakes, the harder it can be to crit precisely, I've found. It's not just because of the quantity of errors, which can make incisive line-by-lines a big time investment, inevitably leading to insight-weakening mental fatigue. It's because writing that needs a lot of work is generally a minefield of potential misperception. With more mistakes come not just more chances to misexplain why mistakes are mistakes but also (and more insidiously) a lot more "red herring mistakes"—things that aren't actually wrong but sure look like it. Is this the case for y'all, too?

2. [Bad sex analogy, redacted.]

3. I always worry I'm being too mean. The mindset that helps me crit the best is that of ruthless, aggressive perceptiveness, fueled by chin rubs and forehead scrunches of concentration (that's the way thinking works, right?). It's kind of hostile—to errors, not people, but hostile still. And sure enough, that mindset usually colors the way I read my own critiques.

(Btw, sorry about the title—next time I'll try to be a lot less wordy. :))

buz
01-11-2013, 04:42 AM
I'm starting a thread

AAAAAAHHHHHHHH *pulls bloomers up to boobs and runs off with wiggly Olive Oil arms*

...

Critiques. Hm.

I still have a lot to learn in terms of explaining what the hell it is I think needs to be improved. I learned how to say filtering and as-you-know-Bob and burly detective syndrome and distant and head-hopping but...there are so many other things I just don't understand how to nail down with terminology and express well without some horribly contrived metaphor, ostrich-based example, or weird rainbow color scheme...

I also still have trouble with run-on sentences.

ETA: Also, the possibilities that I'm totally wrong are pretty significant... :D

Hildegarde
01-11-2013, 04:46 AM
So what's on your mind about giving critiques?

Sometimes it is hard to find that balance between giving an honest critique and giving a harsh critique. It doesn't help that I have a massive foot that lives suspiciously near my mouth. If you haven't worked with a writer before, you also don't know what their tolerance level is (even more tricky).

I organize a local critique group so I'm always looking for helpful insight. Here are a few links I pass along to new members.

Eleven Rules On How to Get Great Critiques
(Hey Alex, if you are around - thanks for this!)
http://alexshvartsman.com/2012/02/24/jake-kerrs-eleven-rules-on-how-to-get-great-critiques/

Handling Critiques Without Getting Defensive
http://querytracker.blogspot.com/2010/05/handling-critiques-without-getting.html

Handling Exceptionally Bad/Good Manuscripts
http://suite101.com/article/how-to-critique-a-bad-manuscript-problems-in-fiction-critiquing-a275488

Milford-Style Workshopping
We use a modified form of the Milford Style in my group, but there is also lots of information about how to give and receive critique effectively.
http://cascadewriters.com/milford-style-workshopping/

Hildegarde
01-11-2013, 04:52 AM
I still have a lot to learn in terms of explaining what the hell it is I think needs to be improved.

Oh, soooooo this!

A really new writer with lots of technical problems is sometimes easier because you can focus on that. The worst are the ones that are sooo close to being stellar. What is that tiny thing that will put it over the edge?

Or maybe it's me! Maybe I just don't like this person's style. Maybe I'm stomping on the next GREAT VOICE IN LITERATURE.

That's probably my biggest fear in giving critique. I always remind people that my suggestions might not be right for them.

slhuang
01-11-2013, 05:09 AM
I feel bad admitting it, but I can't crit something that needs too much work.

Especially if there are grammar mistakes all over the place in addition to severe content/pacing issues . . . I just start to feel overwhelmed looking at it, and I don't even know where to begin in order to be helpful. Also, I usually try to strike a positive tone in critiques, and when there are too many things to comment on it's hard not to come across as, well, mean. So I usually just don't.

Sometimes I want to tell people I DO crit that the fact I felt I could crit them means I already really like something about their writing, but I don't want other people in my crit groups whom I haven't critted to feel bad, particularly because sometimes there were other reasons I didn't crit (too busy, etc.). But yeah, often the fact that I offer input at all means there was something I liked!

gell214
01-11-2013, 05:20 AM
My main problem when critting somehow similar to buzhidao's, The terminolgy. I find something that I think should be improved but I don't know what the error is called, what the solution is called, etc.

I have, like buzhidao, also learned some terms along the way. Like:
- show not tell/ show then tell/ telling/ etc.
- as yo know bob
- filtering
- white room effect
- head hopping
- etc.

I learn a lot by reading how other's crit. A couple of my favorite critters are Will and Donkey. You learn terms, possible problems, possible solutions, etc. from reading extensive crits like theirs. And then, hopefully, I get to pass on what I learn by critting other people's work. ;)

Hiroko
01-11-2013, 05:46 AM
I worry that I focus too much on form and grammar than plot and consistency. Hey, I might just be better at the former set rather than the latter. Nobody's complained about it to me thus far, so...

shadowwalker
01-11-2013, 06:00 AM
As others have mentioned, I don't remember half the grammatical terminology. I used to know that stuff, back when it mattered (English tests in high school). So if someone wants to talk prepositions and first person past participle - forget it. I'll tell them instead that what they're actually saying is Bob's feet are removing his socks, or they're planning to move the table three days ago.

If there are a lot of spelling or grammatical errors in the first page or so, I'll note them and ask that the writer fix it before I go any further. It's just a waste of both our times otherwise, because I can't read it until it's fixed.

I don't worry about being too mean because I try to remain polite, regardless of how bad the writing is. If the writer gets snarky, well, then I tend to lower the boom a little harder. If there's confusion but the writer can explain what they're trying to say, I'll help them figure out how to say it. If they insist I'm misreading it, we're pretty much done.

I just remember they've asked me for help, not a bashing, so that's how I try to respond. And I try to stick to the things they've asked for help on, although if I notice other things that really hinder the story, I'll point them out as well.

Buffysquirrel
01-11-2013, 06:26 AM
1. The more basic and frequent a piece's mistakes, the harder it can be to crit precisely, I've found. It's not just because of the quantity of errors, which can make incisive line-by-lines a big time investment, inevitably leading to insight-weakening mental fatigue. It's because writing that needs a lot of work is generally a minefield of potential misperception. With more mistakes comes not just more chances to misexplain why mistakes are mistakes but also (and more insidiously) a lot more "red herring mistakes"—things that aren't actually wrong but sure look like it. Is this the case for y'all, too?

Pretty much. I've stopped critiquing anything that makes me feel physically ill. It's a shame, but there's only so many times I can type out the it's vs. its explanation. Key tip here is that you don't have to fix everything for the writer. Pick out one thing they're doing right to praise and one thing they're doing wrong to help them with, and you can know you've helped. You're not their copyeditor.


3. I always worry I'm being too mean. The mindset that helps me crit the best is that of ruthless, aggressive perceptiveness, fueled by chin rubs and forehead scrunches of concentration (that's the way thinking works, right?). It's kind of hostile—to errors, not people, but hostile still. And sure enough, that mindset usually colors the way I read my own critiques.

I can't comment on whether you're too severe as I haven't read any of your critiques. But the sandwich approach can take some of the sting out of a critique. Praise one thing, criticise one thing, praise one thing...sandwich.

jeffo20
01-11-2013, 06:43 AM
1. The more basic and frequent a piece's mistakes, the harder it can be to crit precisely, I've found. Something I did with the last one was I just stopped pointing out certain things after the third or fourth time. I think I explained in detail what I thought was the problem either where I encountered it the first time, or in a covering letter. In some cases, I stuck in a shorthand note, but not a full-out explanation, because I'd done it several times already.


2. Dang, I missed it!


3. I always worry I'm being too mean. I've worried about this, too, but I'm trusting that the person I'm critting for knows I'm not trying to be mean, and if I find myself using questionable language, I try to change it, or soften it by writing, "That doesn't sound right, but..." or something.


[B]I worry that I focus too much on form and grammar than plot and consistency. Hey, I might just be better at the former set rather than the latter. Nobody's complained about it to me thus far, so...I'm like this, too. I start out reading (and this goes for reading over my own work) with the aim of focusing on broad things like story and character, but find myself picking on typos and repeated words that are repeated and stuff like that.

Karen Junker
01-11-2013, 07:34 AM
I find it helps to read things in passes with a goal for each pass. First, I point out every typo and mistake I can find--then the writer goes in and fixes that stuff. It's time consuming, but sometimes they just don't know or they've missed something.

Then I go over the story for things like head-hopping, anachronisms, character growth arc and so on.

Then I do a pass for general flow, plot consistency, etc.

By the time I'm done, I've either made a good friend or lost them forever.

Thanks to the link to our website, Hildegarde. Randy Henderson wrote that article and we love him for it!

benluby
01-11-2013, 08:08 AM
I feel bad admitting it, but I can't crit something that needs too much work.

Especially if there are grammar mistakes all over the place in addition to severe content/pacing issues . . . I just start to feel overwhelmed looking at it, and I don't even know where to begin in order to be helpful. Also, I usually try to strike a positive tone in critiques, and when there are too many things to comment on it's hard not to come across as, well, mean. So I usually just don't.

Sometimes I want to tell people I DO crit that the fact I felt I could crit them means I already really like something about their writing, but I don't want other people in my crit groups whom I haven't critted to feel bad, particularly because sometimes there were other reasons I didn't crit (too busy, etc.). But yeah, often the fact that I offer input at all means there was something I liked!

Agreed. I have no issue helping you apply the wax to your work, but I just can't rebuild it if needed.

Of course, first thing I do is read it as a reader, and see if it is something I like. The flow is more important than the grammar in my opinion.
If it grabs my attention and rolls, I may just ignore most of the other petty things. You can, after all, tighten a bolt to the point it snaps off, and loses the power it had.
If I read it and it's not grabbing me, then I'll try to see why, but if it's not something minor, or it's really a case of just boring as hell? I won't even comment. I'll go eat cookies.
If it's minor tweaks? I'll recommend.

A S Abrams
01-11-2013, 09:35 AM
The level of critique I give is based on the level of writing I come across. If it seems to be a beginning writer, I give a light critique that tells them something they're doing right and then one thing that would improve the writing the most if changed. I feel it's important to point out the positive because the writer is asking for the critique because he or she can't tell the good from the bad. So I say what's good and why. And what can be improved and why.

I also feel that saying why I like or dislike something helps the writers to learn to see the mistakes or good stuff for themselves. Moreover, they can judge for themselves whether or not my advice is sound and be better able to know whether it will work for them or not. Lastly, if I leave out why, then the writer can't tell how I'm affected and may think everything is good when I say I liked it. However, if I told them why they may find that that I'm reaching the wrong conclusion about something and decide to change things even though I said I like it.

I prefer to receive a little feedback on my critiques. I want to improve them because I have to critique my own writing and the thing I hate the most is silence after I've given an extensive critique. Just tell me if it was useful, please.

Putputt
01-11-2013, 12:48 PM
One of the people I recently gave a crit to suggested that I may be getting carried away and forcing my own style on her MS. Ahh!!! I think she was right too...:gone: I can be an overbearing hippo sometimes, so I was glad she pointed that out.

Umm...other than that...sometimes, a certain passage might not be working for me, but I don't know what it is about it that isn't quite working. Then I look at what others have said and I have an "that's it!" moment and wonder why so many people are so much more articulate than I am.

kkbe
01-11-2013, 05:45 PM
Right, hippster. Recently I *started a thead* lamenting my own difficulties relative to giving critiques, to wit:


Redacted*
So.

*As so gently reminded by one I deeply respect and entirely agree with, I have to knock that shit off. :)

quickWit
01-11-2013, 06:00 PM
I'd just like to point out the weakness of voice, lack of heart and general poor writing present in all the posts above.

You all should be ashamed.

Carry on.

:)

BethS
01-11-2013, 06:06 PM
These days, my time being what it is, I generally won't touch anything that's so rife with problems I wouldn't know where to start.

But otherwise, if there are a number of errors, I'll focus on a couple of major issues and leave the piddly issues alone. Though I might mention that there are a lot of punctuation errors, leaving the writer to go read up on commas and colons.

If I find something to praise, I'll praise it. Otherwise, I don't. This is bad form, I know, but OTOH, people I critique learn that when I offer praise, I really mean it.



2. [Bad sex analogy, redacted.]


At least tell us whether it was a bad analogy about sex, or an analogy about bad sex. :D

Jamesaritchie
01-11-2013, 06:26 PM
I only critique writing that's good enough to help.

Buffysquirrel
01-11-2013, 07:00 PM
*shrugs*

Nobody's born able to write at all, never mind well.

Susan Littlefield
01-11-2013, 07:38 PM
I was in a critique group and now have a reputation when it comes to critiques. One of the members said to someone else, "You've never had a real critique until Susan has critiqued your work." I took it as a compliment.

I'm not mean, but I am brutally honest. Most of the time I can suggest a fix for the problem, sometimes I can't. I always tell what I do like about a piece first, followed by what I don't like. There is always some of both.

I can't tell you how much I learned from critiquing, as well as having my work critiqued. I'm not part of a writing group anymore (just my writers club, which is business and education), but I will never forget what a great experience it was.

If you critique my work, I expect you to be brutally honest as well.

Phaeal
01-11-2013, 07:38 PM
I find myself gravitating more and more towards only critiquing work that's almost there. My experience is that the almost-there writers benefit far more from critiques than those who are starting from zero and who tend to be overwhelmed and confused by comprehensive editing.

I think it's better for newbies to "self-school" in the fundamentals of writing by reading books on writing and by applying the fundamental principles to their work. Also helpful is conscious reading of favorite books, looking for how each writer achieves his or her effects. And then there's taking advantage of Internet resources, such as blogs and forums. The wider the range of the newbie's reading the better, so she not only learns the lingo but realizes that there are no absolute rules, just those tantalizing maps that point out danger zones but also encourage exploration down wavering sidepaths.

SomethingOrOther
01-11-2013, 07:58 PM
I still have a lot to learn in terms of explaining what the hell it is I think needs to be improved.


My main problem when critting somehow similar to buzhidao's, The terminolgy. I find something that I think should be improved but I don't know what the error is called, what the solution is called, etc.

My crits tend to be dense in terminology, lol. Most of it comes from reading lit crit/commentary and, if not that, simply making shit up. :D

(But it's not for no reason, and everything's understandable in context.)

From a few of my recent crits:

SV inversions
Proper Noun Avalanche territory (made up)
contextual backing
unintentional-humor landmines (made up)
poorly choreographed actions
abstract summary
referent
borrowed-from-kitsch-film campiness (made up)
lampshaded
satirical frame
descriptive schema (made up)


At least tell us whether it was a bad analogy about sex, or an analogy about bad sex. :D

The first one. :)


I'll tell them instead that what they're actually saying is Bob's feet are removing his socks

Well this wouldn't work were you to critique my story, "Bob and the Army of Sentient Feet."

Said critique might not happen though because I haven't actually written that story.

backslashbaby
01-11-2013, 09:35 PM
I think I impose my style too much in my crits. Or I do that as my suggestions for how to improve it (my ego! Damn) when I can't see anything else that's wrong! It really messes with my head. I have a hard time telling what's truly boring or what is just not my style. It's a problem :(

I'm pretty good with folks who just need some basic writing pointers. Past that, my own personal taste gets in the way, and I feel bad about it.

kkbe
01-12-2013, 01:54 AM
The toughest thing is keeping my personal style at bay. I know how I'd write the thing!

But I didn't write the thing.

So I endeavor to limit my critique to comments and suggestions that might make the ms before me clearer, cleaner, and tighter, thereby respecting both the writer and his/her work.

I endeavor to do that, but I don't always succeed and I feel bad about that.

Karen Junker
01-12-2013, 02:22 AM
The toughest thing is keeping my personal style at bay. I know how I'd write the thing!



See, that's the thing. In the past, I have gotten a lot of help from writers who *did* give me a suggestion about how they would rewrite a sentence. In many cases, they were better writers than I am and they have taught me sentence-level craft which I have passed on to other writers through the years.

Jamesaritchie
01-12-2013, 02:32 AM
*shrugs*

Nobody's born able to write at all, never mind well.

Nope, but anyone is capable of learning the basic mechanics and fundamentals before asking for critiques.

kkbe
01-12-2013, 02:54 AM
Jamesaritchie: Nope, but anyone is capable of learning the basic mechanics and fundamentals before asking for critiques.

Alas, some people fail to recognize the errors of their ways.

blacbird
01-12-2013, 03:12 AM
I find it helps to read things in passes with a goal for each pass. First, I point out every typo and mistake I can find--then the writer goes in and fixes that stuff. It's time consuming, but sometimes they just don't know or they've missed something.

More often than not, they've just been lazy. This is a step I won't take. I will not critique a draft filled with typos and misspellings. It's a waste of time. One or two such things every other page or so won't bother me, but ten or twelve on every page (and I've seen lots of manuscripts of this sort) just make it impossible to do a substantive critique. It's way too distracting. And I believe it's the writer's responsibility to clean this stuff up before handing the piece to someone for review.

Not to mention that it's in the writer's best interest to do so. When I see a manuscript filled with such sloppiness and lack of care, I begin to think pretty quickly that the overall story is equally ill-considered and not worth further comment.

caw

Jo Zebedee
01-12-2013, 03:57 AM
Alas, some people fail to see, or do not recognize, the errors of their ways.


Nope, but anyone is capable of learning the basic mechanics and fundamentals before asking for critiques.

I have typed and deleted several times tonight and hope this isn't out of order.
Firstly, to assume, particularly new writers, will know their writing is lacking, in what is often a vacuum, is unrealistic, so they have to ask for critiques to improve. Granted if someone keeps asking with the same basic errors then there comes a time to say hang on!
I have had some very helpful crits over the last day or two, really good, very thought provoking and i thank everyone for taking the time. I hope i have also given some helpful ones, on the threads and by pm arrangement.
I have also had some which made sweeping statements and offered little that was positive. Only a couple but...

Devastating. Leaving me confused and blinking.

I am by no means a newbie to receiving, or giving, crits, and don't think i am any more sensitive than many.

The negative crits i received here, and i will say again very much in the minority, i cannot stress this enough - and this is, i think, the crux of what i want to say - would have stopped me writing two years ago, when i first, shyly, presented my work, complete with apostophes in the wrong place, commas where they can't exist and implausible plot jumps. In my tracks. The voices were so confident, i was sure they were right, even now.( just to say, btw, not query hell which i found an entirely positive, if painful, experience)

If we give a crit we have to remember there is a person at the other end who has, in most cases, done their best and who has been brave putting it up. We were that person once, might still be that person, and to crush it, make hard crits without clear advice as to what might fix it, is to my mind giving criticism and not a critical review. So much of what is here is good, but the bad might just be what sticks and stops someone from writing.

shadowwalker
01-12-2013, 06:53 PM
If a writer states that they need help with grammar, I'll look at how badly they need help. Some people who want to be writers have never paid attention to grammar because it was boring or some such other 'problem'. Others get confused about things that it makes sense to get confused about, because there could be a couple of ways to do it. If it's the former, they need to do some sweat work and then come back to writing for crits; if it's the latter, well, that's part of a critique. But most answers for the technical aspects of writing can be found by a little googling followed by study - but it's harder that way than having someone else point out all the problems.

benluby
01-12-2013, 07:10 PM
I realize this is a writers forum, so let me preface this first and foremost by pointing out this isn't directed at any member.

1. Grammar Nazi's: We have people who can punctuate and spell anything. Their stories, however, are slightly flatter than a pancake. We have others who have to look at their ID to spell their names, but the creativity just falls off them in waves.
Bad grammar can be fixed.
Shit stories cannot.

And no, I'm not making excuses for lazy writers. I am talking about those who literally have little grasp on punctuation and spelling.

ap123
01-12-2013, 07:17 PM
I think, for some people when they're new to the process, they honestly can't recognize certain basic "newb" mistakes in their own work, even if they've read warnings about these mistakes. Not talking about comma usage, but things like tense agreement and POV, let alone show-don't-tell. That's where the whole critique thing is useful. It's really hard for most writers at any stage to disengage and look at the piece they've poured their hearts into with a truly critical eye. With experience it gets easier.

A more experienced writer would like to see a more polished version presented for critique, but I've seen many new writers present pieces because they think they are polished.

I'm just getting back to a regular routine and rhythm after a long hiatus. I know there's something wrong even as I'm working, and I can tell you the general problem (too distant, not enough show), but while I'm not inexperienced, I am out of practice, and those writing muscles need to grow stronger again.

Bufty
01-12-2013, 09:57 PM
A lot can be learned from reading profiles and scanning the posting histories of submitters before critiquing their submissions.

slhuang
01-12-2013, 10:45 PM
Bad grammar can be fixed.
Shit stories cannot.

And no, I'm not making excuses for lazy writers. I am talking about those who literally have little grasp on punctuation and spelling.

The thing is, for me . . . I don't only read for ideas and story. I read to enjoy the prose. I remember being party to a discussion on whether we, as fans of a very popular series, were looking forward more to reading the next book or to having finished the book so we would know what happened in it, and I am definitely in the former camp* -- if I just want to know what happens, why not read a synopsis? (Which I admit I have done when certain series lost me!)

And grammar and punctuation are, to me, an inseparable part of well-crafted prose. How can a writer build dynamic sentences with no understanding of the mechanics? I've never seen it done. And no matter how good the story might or might not be, I'll never see it if I find the prose unreadable. In fact, I've enjoyed mediocre stories that were written exceptionally well, so I would even place the prose above the content in importance (for me!).

Coming back around to the subject of critiques, unreadable prose (which is often but not always at least partially the result of bad grammar/punctuation) is one of those things that overwhelms me when I see it in a fellow writer's work, and I tend not to critique because of it. It may be easy to say, "this should be a semicolon instead of a comma," but an overabundance of errors is often a manifestation of a lack of a deeper understanding of how to use grammar and punctuation to compose better prose, and that's a much harder thing to explain.

(* Of course, in the same discussion I was shocked at how many people looked forward to being done with the book more than reading it. So clearly my way of reading is not the only way of reading! IMHO and all that.)

allmywires
01-12-2013, 10:59 PM
1. Grammar Nazi's:

I hope that was intentional...


I think, for some people when they're new to the process, they honestly can't recognize certain basic "newb" mistakes in their own work, even if they've read warnings about these mistakes. Not talking about comma usage, but things like tense agreement and POV, let alone show-don't-tell. That's where the whole critique thing is useful. It's really hard for most writers at any stage to disengage and look at the piece they've poured their hearts into with a truly critical eye. With experience it gets easier.


This was exactly me, before I got any decent critiques on my work. It hurt me to read people eviscerating my work and I honestly couldn't see what was wrong, but now when I look back at old stuff I realise that my POV was all over the place, my prose was stuffed with unnecessary bloated description that desperately needed trimming. And you have to be separate from it to truly see what's wrong, which you never can be when you've written it yourself.

Polenth
01-13-2013, 12:32 AM
There's a lot to be said for using plain language and avoiding too much writing community jargon. As an example, most of the time when someone tells someone they need to "show not tell", we end up with more threads asking what that means anyway, and people don't agree what it means, and people disagree about whether specific examples are showing or telling. None of this helps the original person, as it's not as though telling is something they should never do. The reason it was brought up in critique is their writing was distant and dry, and that's what they need to focus on.

Grammatical terms can have similar issues. When a person has basic mistakes, throwing the grammar book at them is likely to end up confusing them. Highlighting a specific example is more likely to help.

But I don't really critique much anymore. Too many people want line-by-lines, and I'm not interested in rewriting people's work. Only in offering overall comments.

benluby
01-13-2013, 02:13 AM
1. Grammar Nazi's:


I hope that was intentional...



This was exactly me, before I got any decent critiques on my work. It hurt me to read people eviscerating my work and I honestly couldn't see what was wrong, but now when I look back at old stuff I realise that my POV was all over the place, my prose was stuffed with unnecessary bloated description that desperately needed trimming. And you have to be separate from it to truly see what's wrong, which you never can be when you've written it yourself.


It most certainly was meant to be there. Getting upset about a Grammar Nazi on a writers forum is like getting upset about someone having beer at Oktoberfest. Some things are just givens.
Nor am I even remotely attempting to claim to be some artistic genius. I have learned a LOT since I got here, and more still every day.

SomethingOrOther
01-13-2013, 02:24 AM
Bad grammar can be fixed.
Shit stories cannot.

Why do you say this? I disagree completely.

benluby
01-13-2013, 02:26 AM
Why do you say this? I disagree completely.

Bad choice of words on my part. I just don't know of many cases of someone being taught to be creative.

SomethingOrOther
01-13-2013, 02:26 AM
I've always felt the idea that creativity can't be taught (or is very hard to teach) is a load of bull. :)

I'll elaborate later. Football's on.

Chase
01-13-2013, 03:05 AM
Grammar Nazi's: We have people who can punctuate and spell anything. Their stories, however, are slightly flatter than a pancake. We have others who have to look at their ID to spell their names, but the creativity just falls off them in waves.

Allmywires may have been referring to Grammar Nazis being misspelled.

The rest of the rant implies those who took time to learn the mechanics of writing can't write, and those who haven't a clue to spelling, punctuation, and grammar will effortlessly churn out bestsellers.

I agree with Slhuang. Syntax is as imprtant as style and story, and vice versa is true.

Jo Zebedee
01-13-2013, 03:10 AM
Allmywires may have been referring to Grammar Nazis being misspelled.

The rest of the rant implies those who took time to learn the mechanics of writing can't write, and those who haven't a clue to spelling, punctuation, and grammar will effortlessly churn out bestsellers.

I agree with Slhuang. Syntax is as imprtant as style and story, and vice versa is true.

What rant? Amw gave an honest appraisal of their experiences. As one of those who eviscerated their early work, few show a better aptitude to taking criticism and looking to make it better. Which is what we give a crit for. (I think it was the possessive apostrophe being referred to, btw. The nazis don't own the grammar? I might be wrong, not my strong point, possessives.)

benluby
01-13-2013, 03:14 AM
Allmywires may have been referring to Grammar Nazis being misspelled.

The rest of the rant implies those who took time to learn the mechanics of writing can't write, and those who haven't a clue to spelling, punctuation, and grammar will effortlessly churn out bestsellers.

I agree with Slhuang. Syntax is as imprtant as style and story, and vice versa is true.

Leave it to me to misspell it. And no, I didn't state nor even hint that all those who could properly punctuate and spell were horrible storytellers, nor was that my intention.
Nor am I indicating that all those who are horrible at it are wonderful storytellers.
All I am saying is that neither are indicative of creative ability. Nothing more, nothing less.
Although, realistically, poor writing ability will most likely doom a query, relegating a story, no matter how good, to never being read by an agent/editor.

Chase
01-13-2013, 03:53 AM
Leave it to me to misspell it.

Ha ha ha, it's Skitt’s Law of Correction (also known as correctile dysfunction): Any attention focused on an error in another's prose will invariably contain at least one error of its own.

I do it repeatedly.


I didn't state nor even hint that all those who could properly punctuate and spell were horrible storytellers, nor was that my intention.

I did say implied rather than stated but would like to apologize for reading too literally.

DeleyanLee
01-13-2013, 04:10 AM
When I think about giving a critique, I look for someone who would be open to the type of commentary I give. I do not think it's a beta's job to correct grammar or line edit or anything along those lines. I think my task is to help the writer tell the story they're trying to tell as well as possible.

So my biggest concern when giving commentary is that I won't be able to see the story the writer wanted to tell. I may see the story that's on the page, but I don't know if that is really the one the writer thought they were telling. And I won't know if I got it until I have a conversation with them after I've read and thought about it.

Grammar and line editing will have to be worked on in due course, but if a writer isn't getting the story they think they're telling on the page, all the other errors are secondary.

This, of course, is assuming that the writer has the basic skill level to be readable. If that isn't there, I don't bother offering commentary. I do offer a list of appropriate reference manuals they need to master.

Cornelius Gault
01-13-2013, 06:33 AM
Firstly, to assume, particularly new writers, will know their writing is lacking, in what is often a vacuum, is unrealistic, so they have to ask for critiques to improve. Granted if someone keeps asking with the same basic errors then there comes a time to say hang on! [remainder snipped]


I think it would be interesting and useful if someone invented a "critiquing macro" (or whatever equivalent might exist in AW) so that when someone selects [InfoDump] from a dropdown list, it creates a link to a really nicely formatted AW page explaining what that is. This would be useful to avoid doing searches and asking all sorts of questions about a particular critique terminology. Certain grammatical things could be included, such as "Subject-Verb Agreement", "Inconsistent Voice" or whatever the group considers important. Is there any way to do this (perhaps an Admin could answer this?).

I could do this in Word (I am a programmer), but I don't know how it would translate into something that could be used for AW. What if the work was critiqued in Word offline and the results copy/pasted as a response in AW?

I don't want to limit anyone's style in critiquing, but it might lessen some people's harshness in a critique or help a writer understand the critique better without getting angry.

Would this be a good idea or bad?

Cornelius Gault
01-13-2013, 06:49 AM
And no, I'm not making excuses for lazy writers. I am talking about those who literally have little grasp on punctuation and spelling.

I hae noticed sometimes that the writer is not from the United States and sometimes other people may give them a hard time if they don't know that. Certain grammatical errors, figures of speech, etc, may make sense in their country, but I guess that depends on where the book is intended to be targeted.

At other times, the age of the author may or may not be apparent and writing things "childish" (because the author is a teenager, for instance) to an adult-oriented audience may come off negatively. If the audience is teenagers, that would be acceptable.

My basic qualm (of the few reviews that I have seen or done) is basic spelling and grammar that would be caught by most basic spell-checkers (Word, etc). I guess one can't expect that everyone has Word (for instance), but there are free versions out there (Open Source) that could do basic spell-checking.

Cornelius Gault
01-13-2013, 06:52 AM
It most certainly was meant to be there. Getting upset about a Grammar Nazi on a writers forum is like getting upset about someone having beer at Oktoberfest. Some things are just givens.
Nor am I even remotely attempting to claim to be some artistic genius. I have learned a LOT since I got here, and more still every day.

I think he mean that "Nazi's" wouldn't be possessive in your sentence, not that it was inappropriate or something else. BTW: That's one of my pet peeves, when people make things possessive that are not or vice versa.

benluby
01-13-2013, 07:25 AM
I think he mean that "Nazi's" wouldn't be possessive in your sentence, not that it was inappropriate or something else. BTW: That's one of my pet peeves, when people make things possessive that are not or vice versa.

Smack in head readily accepted. As I've said, I've learned a lot while here, and, even though I had to restart my story, it's better this time and flows a lot smoother.
On the issue of Word and other programs having checking spelling as you type, there are quite a lot of writers who, for some reason, keep their eyes on the keyboard. (I know, they aren't touch typists).

slhuang
01-13-2013, 07:58 AM
On the issue of Word and other programs having checking spelling as you type, there are quite a lot of writers who, for some reason, keep their eyes on the keyboard. (I know, they aren't touch typists).

Yes, but those typists can at least run spellcheck afterwards, right?

The spelling thing, to me, is a matter of courtesy (talking repeated blatant spelling errors, not homophones or the occasional typo). If a writer can't be bothered to run the piece through a spellchecker before asking for other people's time, I find that to be impolite. The time and skill of critiquers are incredibly valuable offerings, and it bothers me when I see a lack of respect for that. (And I'm much less likely to critique as a result.)

Karen Junker
01-13-2013, 08:01 AM
Spell checking doesn't always work. I just read a chapter of a novel which talked of 'sparing' instead of 'sparring'. The writer simply didn't catch it. The novel has been requested by a NY editor and I have offered to do a quick read to note typos. If I can help someone clean up a manuscript that is otherwise brilliant, I don't mind noting a few hundred errors.

Bufty
01-13-2013, 03:35 PM
It's a fine idea, Cornelius, but regrettably it's that old case of 'taking a horse to water but.....'

Sadly, experience shows that too many folk just can't be bothered to use any search facilities to access the wealth of information already available here no matter how many avenues or links to it are available.

It's amazing to discover how many folk don't even bother to spend time browsing, reading stickied threads, or to introduce themselves, or to read anything at all before posting. ;)




I think it would be interesting and useful if someone invented a "critiquing macro" (or whatever equivalent might exist in AW ? ;) ) so that when someone selects [InfoDump] from a dropdown list, it creates a link to a really nicely formatted AW page explaining what that is. This would be useful to avoid doing searches and asking all sorts of questions about a particular critique terminology. Certain grammatical things could be included, such as "Subject-Verb Agreement", "Inconsistent Voice" or whatever the group considers important. Is there any way to do this (perhaps an Admin could answer this?).

I could do this in Word (I am a programmer), but I don't know how it would translate into something that could be used for AW. What if the work was critiqued in Word offline and the results copy/pasted as a response in AW?

I don't want to limit anyone's style in critiquing, but it might lessen some people's harshness in a critique or help a writer understand the critique better without getting angry.

Would this be a good idea or bad?

Jo Zebedee
01-13-2013, 03:50 PM
Yes, but as a critter it can be useful. I crit on another website that has a stickied thread for grammatical stuff, and if I find a crit with a lot of grammar errors on it I can just say, look, here's the first paragraph, here's what you're not quite getting the rules of, now go and have a look at this thread. ? Just a thought.

Lexxie
01-13-2013, 04:35 PM
I am a little afraid of critting here... I am not a writer myself, but I am a prolific reader, and I have to write academic papers, so I think my grammar is usually OK.

I have been beta-writing for someone I know though, and it seems that what I put my effort into is how the story flows, if it makes sense to me, and I even point out where I think the story will go. That way, if the writer has gone a little too heavy on the foreshadowing, she will know that I maybe guessed a plot-point before I was supposed to.

I would like to crit more, though, because I find it very interesting, but I think it is difficult to find someone my style might work for, and also, I am pretty awed by you people a lot of the time :)

allmywires
01-13-2013, 04:42 PM
The way I see it, grammar and syntax is useful for short, intense critiques such as on SYW here. An overview - whether the plot works, whether the characters are believable etc - is much better for a full beta read. I'd find those kind of comments a million times more useful than, 'your comma is misplaced' every five lines because to be honest, I tune out to little stuff when I'm reading someone else's comments and only focus on the big problems.

Bufty
01-13-2013, 05:56 PM
There is no 'standard' form of critting here.

Anyone who feels they can offer an observation (no matter how small) on a submission is perfectly free to do so.

The main benefit of critically reading the work of others is that it helps one more easily spot the flaws in one's own work.

It is also an illusion to think that by complying with all critters' comments the critiqued work is automatically raised to publishable standard.

Ton Lew Lepsnaci
01-13-2013, 06:23 PM
I think it would be interesting and useful if someone invented a "critiquing macro" (or whatever equivalent might exist in AW) so that when someone selects [InfoDump] from a dropdown list, it creates a link to a really nicely formatted AW page explaining what that is. This would be useful to avoid doing searches and asking all sorts of questions about a particular critique terminology. Certain grammatical things could be included, such as "Subject-Verb Agreement", "Inconsistent Voice" or whatever the group considers important. Is there any way to do this (perhaps an Admin could answer this?).

I could do this in Word (I am a programmer), but I don't know how it would translate into something that could be used for AW. What if the work was critiqued in Word offline and the results copy/pasted as a response in AW?

I don't want to limit anyone's style in critiquing, but it might lessen some people's harshness in a critique or help a writer understand the critique better without getting angry.

Would this be a good idea or bad?

I think that's an interesting idea. It could improve AW's SYW further. In fact, if you're getting interest from AW mods, I wouldn't mind helping out. But I assume AW has plenty of programming capacity "in-house".

I understand Bufty's point, but plenty of AW'ers do stick around and learn, read the stickies and follow links.

I've dwelt a little on Janice Hardy's blog The Other Side of the Story (http://blog.janicehardy.com/). It is a blog for writers, packed with just such links. She uses them when critiquing work in "Real Life Diagnostics (http://blog.janicehardy.com/2013/01/real-life-diagnostics-make-them-turn.html)" where she comments on submissions to help out beginning writers, inserting appropriate links to relevant topics throughout. This approach is similar to your idea and is very helpful.

SYW could indeed benefit from such links.

shadowwalker
01-13-2013, 06:32 PM
I am a little afraid of critting here... I am not a writer myself, but I am a prolific reader, and I have to write academic papers, so I think my grammar is usually OK.

Sometimes I think it can be better to get a crit from a reader instead of a writer. I mean, we're writing for readers, after all. ;) And readers don't get as caught up in the technical "stuff" - but they're darn clever at catching those character inconsistencies and forgotten comments in dialogues...

eqb
01-13-2013, 08:35 PM
There is no 'standard' form of critting here.

Thank goodness for that. I'd probably stop critiquing if I had to follow a set format.


It is also an illusion to think that by complying with all critters' comments the critiqued work is automatically raised to publishable standard.

QFT.

One danger of trying to please everyone is that you risk ironing out all the voice from a piece. My approach is to consider all the feedback and address the concerns my own way.

benluby
01-13-2013, 09:04 PM
I am a little afraid of critting here... I am not a writer myself, but I am a prolific reader, and I have to write academic papers, so I think my grammar is usually OK.

I have been beta-writing for someone I know though, and it seems that what I put my effort into is how the story flows, if it makes sense to me, and I even point out where I think the story will go. That way, if the writer has gone a little too heavy on the foreshadowing, she will know that I maybe guessed a plot-point before I was supposed to.

I would like to crit more, though, because I find it very interesting, but I think it is difficult to find someone my style might work for, and also, I am pretty awed by you people a lot of the time :)

Reality is, when I finally do get the nerve to submit a portion of what I am writing on here for critique? I am much more concerned with what the reader thinks than the grammatical content of the writing.
I would rather know if the story rolls along, with pauses for the reader to catch their breath, or drags them kicking and screaming along the ride, or should be sold to Sominex as the best sleeping aid ever devised.

slhuang
01-13-2013, 09:26 PM
I am a little afraid of critting here... I am not a writer myself, but I am a prolific reader, and I have to write academic papers, so I think my grammar is usually OK.

I have been beta-writing for someone I know though, and it seems that what I put my effort into is how the story flows, if it makes sense to me, and I even point out where I think the story will go. That way, if the writer has gone a little too heavy on the foreshadowing, she will know that I maybe guessed a plot-point before I was supposed to.

I would like to crit more, though, because I find it very interesting, but I think it is difficult to find someone my style might work for, and also, I am pretty awed by you people a lot of the time :)

Don't be afraid! :)

Bear in mind, you don't have to be able to identify why something didn't work for you -- you can just say "this confused me," or, "I felt the character was flat" and leave it to the writer to figure out how to fix it, and that IS a helpful critique. In fact, when I have work critted, that's personally what I prefer, because then I can change it myself while still maintaining the voice. So if that's what's stopping you, please join in the critiquing! :D

(My writing partner sticks in what are basically reaction comments -- "not sure what this means" or "LOL" or "I love/hate this character right now" -- and then leaves it to me to decide if her reactions are what I intend and how to clarify anything that's not working the way it should. And it's INCREDIBLY helpful.)

Lexxie
01-13-2013, 11:47 PM
Well, maybe I will stop by in the critique forum every now and then now :) I do enjoy reading something that is all new and shiny! And it's exciting to think that I could even help with my little comments.

quicklime
01-14-2013, 02:03 AM
Reality is, when I finally do get the nerve to submit a portion of what I am writing on here for critique? I am much more concerned with what the reader thinks than the grammatical content of the writing.
I would rather know if the story rolls along, with pauses for the reader to catch their breath, or drags them kicking and screaming along the ride, or should be sold to Sominex as the best sleeping aid ever devised.


I can't speak for all, but for me, you can't simply split the two apart from one another; I don't read in a vacuum, so I may forgive a typo or two, but five or six i'm no longer reading a story, I'm hunting typos. if I see a few typos in something in QLH or another section of SYW, I don't lose much sleep over it. if I see a bunch of them, though, I usually conclude that either

1. this person is no way ready for prime time, and maybe won't ever be
or
2. this person hasn't bothered to do their own heavy lifting, at all, and part of the crit is supposed to be proofing rudimentary grammar for them.

one of the above is fairly likely to make me walk away, because I don't want to hurt feelings. The other is almost a guarantee I'll leave the thread. care to guess which is which?

as i said, you can't just separate the two.

quicklime
01-14-2013, 02:05 AM
Well, maybe I will stop by in the critique forum every now and then now :) I do enjoy reading something that is all new and shiny! And it's exciting to think that I could even help with my little comments.

lex,

fwiw i learned more following (AND PARTICIPATING IN) SYW threads in six months than in five years of reading "how-tos". It is a great tool, but you gotta actually jump in there.

benluby
01-14-2013, 02:18 AM
I can't speak for all, but for me, you can't simply split the two apart from one another; I don't read in a vacuum, so I may forgive a typo or two, but five or six i'm no longer reading a story, I'm hunting typos. if I see a few typos in something in QLH or another section of SYW, I don't lose much sleep over it. if I see a bunch of them, though, I usually conclude that either

1. this person is no way ready for prime time, and maybe won't ever be
or
2. this person hasn't bothered to do their own heavy lifting, at all, and part of the crit is supposed to be proofing rudimentary grammar for them.

one of the above is fairly likely to make me walk away, because I don't want to hurt feelings. The other is almost a guarantee I'll leave the thread. care to guess which is which?

as i said, you can't just separate the two.

I'm referring to one or two, not a page rife with it. I am talking about someone with reasonable grammar skills. Not someone who is allergic to all the keys that don't have letters on them.

Chase
01-14-2013, 02:18 AM
I am much more concerned with what the reader thinks than the grammatical content of the writing.


I can't speak for all, but for me, you can't simply split the two apart from one another; I don't read in a vacuum, so I may forgive a typo or two, but five or six i'm no longer reading a story. . . .

I was hesitant to comment 'cause you can’t unbeat a dead horse by beating it some more; however, I agree wholeheartedly, Quicklime.

Content is the arrangement of words with meaning. A writer can't reasonably ask a critiquer to guess meanings of misspelled words, figure the intent of haphazard punctuation, and follow confusing grammar.

Perhaps a simple warning would help: No syntax at this time. An editor will fix it later. Read for content only.

eqb
01-14-2013, 02:27 AM
I would rather know if the story rolls along, with pauses for the reader to catch their breath, or drags them kicking and screaming along the ride, or should be sold to Sominex as the best sleeping aid ever devised.

Depends. If your grammar is basically okay, then okay. I'm happy to point out the occasional infelicity. If your grammar sucks wind, but you don't want to hear about it, then I will happily pass over your SYW contributions.

benluby
01-14-2013, 02:36 AM
Depends. If your grammar is basically okay, then okay. I'm happy to point out the occasional infelicity. If your grammar sucks wind, but you don't want to hear about it, then I will happily pass over your SYW contributions.

Again, I'm talking typical punctuation and grammar mistakes, not fourth grade writing level mistakes.

quicklime
01-14-2013, 02:40 AM
well, fair enough, ben, and nobody is sure what "a few" means, as it doesn't exactly have a universal definition. but there it is: every typo incurs some risk of losing a critiquer, informing their opinions of you and your work, etc. That isn't to say I don't have typos myself, but it is something to be aware of--you can't just say "nah, i only wanna know about the PACE, man," because depending how many, that can in and of itself completely kill the pace and flow.

benluby
01-14-2013, 02:43 AM
well, fair enough, ben, and nobody is sure what "a few" means, as it doesn't exactly have a universal definition. but there it is: every typo incurs some risk of losing a critiquer, informing their opinions of you and your work, etc. That isn't to say I don't have typos myself, but it is something to be aware of--you can't just say "nah, i only wanna know about the PACE, man," because depending how many, that can in and of itself completely kill the pace and flow.

I can't give a specific number because tolerance levels are highly subjective. What I'm willing to tolerate may not be close to how you'd react, and for me to attempt to say 'this is the acceptable number of grammatical errors tolerable' is, at best, extremely arrogant on my part.
There are spelling and context errors that will drive me over the deep end, that others (my wife included) just look at me and tell me to calm down. (Bear vs. bare, for example.)

eqb
01-14-2013, 03:01 AM
Again, I'm talking typical punctuation and grammar mistakes, not fourth grade writing level mistakes.

And yet, I've seen posts in SYW with tons of basic grammar mistakes, and the posters whine about how they didn't need an LBL, and everyone was just bein' *mean.*

Those were ones with apostrophes for plurals, homophone errors, and bizarre thesaurus mistakes. Those I do not have time for, other than to give them a brief overview of their mistakes.

benluby
01-14-2013, 03:10 AM
And yet, I've seen posts in SYW with tons of basic grammar mistakes, and the posters whine about how they didn't need an LBL, and everyone was just bein' *mean.*

Those were ones with apostrophes for plurals, homophone errors, and bizarre thesaurus mistakes. Those I do not have time for, other than to give them a brief overview of their mistakes.

Yep. And I'll click out of those in a moment. Especially those who just flat out state that they aren't interested in the critiques.
These forums are definitely NOT a place to post if you want everyone to jump up and down and hold parades about the greatness being displayed.
I like how a lot of those on here will point out that they enjoyed it if warranted, and then point out the errors.
Some writing is...well, I can only say it displays a lack of creativity and the story just reads like a technical manual.
I try to read first for the story itself. See if it grabs me. Then I read it to see if there is anything that can be done to make it better.
I don't post a lot on the grammatical side simply because we have quite a lot of reviews where they cover that in detail.
Those that want advice and help and are literate? I'll gladly help. Those that get bent over it? I just run.

eqb
01-14-2013, 03:13 AM
Those that want advice and help and are literate? I'll gladly help. Those that get bent over it? I just run.

Same here.

benluby
01-14-2013, 03:30 AM
Same here.

Clarification and unity of purpose achieved! Time for a celebratory Mikes hard lemonade!

slhuang
01-14-2013, 03:32 AM
Again, I'm talking typical punctuation and grammar mistakes, not fourth grade writing level mistakes.

Sounds like we're actually all on the same page about the grammar/punctuation/spelling thing! :) When you first mentioned not minding fixing people's grammar mistakes, I was envisioning the sort of submit that *is,* well, tangled and unreadable, whereas it sounds like you were envisioning a few typos, heh. I don't mind the occasional trip up either, especially when people are receptive to their critiquers (as you and eqb have said).

benluby
01-14-2013, 03:37 AM
Sounds like we're actually all on the same page about the grammar/punctuation/spelling thing! :) When you first mentioned not minding fixing people's grammar mistakes, I was envisioning the sort of submit that *is,* well, tangled and unreadable, whereas it sounds like you were envisioning a few typos, heh. I don't mind the occasional trip up either, especially when people are receptive to their critiquers (as you and eqb have said).

Agreed. I should have been clearer on my definition of acceptable levels.
Re-reading my post, it sounds like if it's even close to literate I have no issue with it.

DanielaTorre
01-14-2013, 10:18 AM
OMG. I stumbled across this thread by chance and I have never been more self-conscious about my writing than I am now.

When I post here, I welcome any clarification I can get, even if it goes off topic. I figure I'd be knocking out several birds with one stone. It also makes me aware of certain things I need to work on and I appreciate any feedback I can get. There's no harm in somebody pointing out typos, superfluous words or clunky dialogue when in reality you're looking for feedback on adverbs. Sure, it can get irritating because it might seem nit picky, but we are writers after all. Why not strive to be the best that we can be?

When I crit, I tend to keep it short. I mainly give my reaction to the work because to do anything else would imply that I'm more experienced, which obviously I am not. Often I think that I'm nobody to be pointing out people's writing faux pas because my own work is riddle with them. I leave line by lines for those who have a better grasp of the technical stuff. ;)

I cringe at the thought of having my work beta'd. The time will come and I'll hate it, but at the end I'll be a better writer for it. :)

So to all you betas and crits: thank you. You're all appreciated. :kiss: