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Christyp
10-19-2013, 07:07 AM
I'm asked quite often to beta or critique for my fellow authors. The most I can usually do is tell someone if I'm confused, if something doesn't work or is too convenient, or if I really like a book. I am not as talented as so many on here who can catch very important, yet such small things. I can review a book I love, but I can't when I dislike a book. Generally, unless the book is TERRIBLE (50 shades terrible) I usually can't pinpoint why I don't like a book, thus can't do a decent critique.

Does anyone else have this problem? Do you get these same requests and stare numbly at the computer screen realizing you'll have to tell your friend you can't, or send a half a**ed review/critique?

mccardey
10-19-2013, 07:10 AM
It's probably not you, Christy - it's probably just that you and the book aren't a good fit. In which case I think consensus is that it's perfectly fine to send a quick note saying you just don't think you're the person for that book.

Different if you hated it. If you hate it, you'll usually be able to identify why, and phrased nicely, that can be very helpful.

Christyp
10-19-2013, 07:13 AM
It's probably not you, Christy - it's probably just that you and the book aren't a good fit. In which case I think consensus is that it's perfectly fine to send a quick note saying you just don't think you're the person for that book.

Different if you hated it. If you hate it, you'll usually be able to identify why, and phrased nicely, that can be very helpful.

This sounds strange but I love to go through the SYW board and see people's edits. I don't know why, but those red and blue marks just tickle me. Hell, I don't even mind when the red marks are on mine; just means someone REALLY knows their stuff!

BrigidGH
10-19-2013, 07:39 AM
Everyone critiques differently; just because you give more generalized comments doesn't mean your criticism is worse than others. I tend to be the same way I think ... When people ask me for feedback I usually don't get too nitpicky, especially with longer books. But when I'm on the receiving end sometimes I prefer more general comments; getting back a book with comments all over it is a bit overwhelming, but knowing upfront just what works and what doesn't is very helpful in my opinion.

Pearl
10-19-2013, 07:44 AM
I agree with mccardey that sometimes you and the book aren't a good fit. It can be frustrating to be in a critique group and having to critique pieces that aren't your taste, but that's the way it goes.

I also find that if the book or piece is mediocre, I don't have much to say about it. If it doesn't grab me or bore me, and instead just sits there, I'll be all "meh" about it. Not that its bad, it is just not good either, and it falls in between. It just has little or no effect on me.

quicklime
10-19-2013, 08:06 AM
This sounds strange but I love to go through the SYW board and see people's edits. I don't know why, but those red and blue marks just tickle me. Hell, I don't even mind when the red marks are on mine; just means someone REALLY knows their stuff!


Christy, a lot of it is simple experience. My first run through QLH, I got my ass handed to me.

And then some.

It was fucking brutal.

But I picked myself up and decided to learn to crit. My crits now look NOTHING like those from two months post-assripping. You learn as you go. And....I am still lop-sided. I think I do well at issues of voice and mock rewrites and picking out stuff like echoes......but I am deeply uncomfortable (*said in his most manly, assured voice) with suggesting broad-stroke changes, like "add a scene where she kills a baby" or "drop in a romance scene here."

You wanna learn, it takes time. And it never stops. But as long as you work at it, it happens.

Christyp
10-19-2013, 08:15 AM
Christy, a lot of it is simple experience. My first run through QLH, I got my ass handed to me.

And then some.

It was fucking brutal.

But I picked myself up and decided to learn to crit. My crits now look NOTHING like those from two months post-assripping. You learn as you go. And....I am still lop-sided. I think I do well at issues of voice and mock rewrites and picking out stuff like echoes......but I am deeply uncomfortable (*said in his most manly, assured voice) with suggesting broad-stroke changes, like "add a scene where she kills a baby" or "drop in a romance scene here."

You wanna learn, it takes time. And it never stops. But as long as you work at it, it happens.

I love to read other people's work, and I love finding diamonds in the rough; I guess it's like you said - I just need a lot more practice critting for others.

Layla Nahar
10-19-2013, 04:51 PM
Christy,

I'd like to recommend a book we read for a writing class I took. The book is called 'Writing Without Teachers' by Peter Elbow. Chapter 4 is about giving (and receiving) feedback. I found it very enlightening and helpful.

Fran
10-19-2013, 05:03 PM
I can't critique either. I don't really think I know anything about writing. I learn a lot reading SYW but I don't use it myself, because I don't think it's fair to ask other people to critique my work when I don't know how to return the favour.

My gran thinks everything I write is brilliant and I'm sure she wouldn't lie. ;)

buz
10-19-2013, 05:11 PM
Sometimes it depends on the book. If it's really good, I can have a hard time remembering to slice its guts out...:p

A lot of it is just practice. Prodding your own reactions over and over and forcing yourself to express them in detail and looking for the sources of those reactions. I've spent the last...two years now?...critting short pieces, evaluating manuscripts, beta-ing, getting critiques myself, etc., to the point where I'm now almost always reading but very rarely am I reading published books* (i.e., solely for pleasure, although some of the books I've critted were really good). :p And while there's still a severe difference in what I notice in others' work and what I notice in mine (hint: I'm blind to my own shit), and while I'm still not the bestest evars, there is a very marked change in what things I can pick up on from when I first started. It's a process that happens over time.

Getting critiques can also really help, as people will point out stuff that I may never have considered paying attention to, and then I learn to look out for that in my own work...and it translates to others' stuff. :)

*Note: I am totally not saying this is a good thing. It is bad. I am a bad lit-dweeb. :( I don't even know if I can call myself that anymore...

Old Hack
10-19-2013, 05:20 PM
Critiquing isn't a Big Sekrit Skill that some people have and some don't.

All you have to do is say what you liked about the work, and then point out the bits that you didn't like so much.

So long as you do so without being unkind or rude, you're good.

If you still find it difficult, imagine you're in a bookshop. You pick up a book: why do you carry on reading it? why do you put it down when you do?

Putputt
10-19-2013, 06:17 PM
Like others have said, practice, practice, practice is the way to go. I still cringe when I think about the first few crits I gave on QLH. Even now there are times where I see crits from smart peeples like Buz and I dwindle into a puddle of self-doubt and go, "Buhbuhbuh, why didn't I think of that I should jump off a cliff right noawwww."

Then I see quicklime's crits and I remember that no matter how crappy my crits are, there's always quick's... :D

*ducks*

shadowwalker
10-19-2013, 06:23 PM
I agree with Old Hack - critiques are not rocket science. Some of the most helpful comments I've gotten were from people who "didn't know how" - they were just honest.

Matthew Hughes
10-19-2013, 07:18 PM
So long as you do so without being unkind or rude, you're good.

I've done a lot of blue pencil cafe sessions at writers conferences, where you get fifteen minutes to read a few pages then offer what help you can. I early on adopted the (possibly apocryphal) rule from the Hippocratic Oath: first do no harm.

EMaree
10-19-2013, 10:33 PM
Like others have said, practice, practice, practice is the way to go.

Yeap! I really had to practice to become a decent critiquer -- at the start I wasn't any good at highlighting the positive (learning the "sandwich method" helped a lot) and I brought too much of my opinion to the stage. I'm still not the best at concrit, but I'm miles better than I was. :)

Christyp
10-20-2013, 05:57 AM
Christy,

I'd like to recommend a book we read for a writing class I took. The book is called 'Writing Without Teachers' by Peter Elbow. Chapter 4 is about giving (and receiving) feedback. I found it very enlightening and helpful.

You rock, Layla! Thanks!!!

Christyp
10-20-2013, 06:04 AM
Critiquing isn't a Big Sekrit Skill that some people have and some don't.

All you have to do is say what you liked about the work, and then point out the bits that you didn't like so much.

So long as you do so without being unkind or rude, you're good.

If you still find it difficult, imagine you're in a bookshop. You pick up a book: why do you carry on reading it? why do you put it down when you do?

So what do you do when you agree to crit someone's work and you can't stand their voice? I've learned to agree to just take one chapter and see if I like where the story goes, but I have a friend (a writer who I became friends with on FB) who is a great writer, I'm just not into her kind of stories. I always feel bad when she asks me for an opinion because while the writing is good, how do I tell her I just don't like her style of books?

Did any of that make sense? Seems like when I get on here lately is after I've spent all day working my booty off so I'm exhausted by the time you get me!

buz
10-20-2013, 06:11 AM
So what do you do when you agree to crit someone's work and you can't stand their voice? I've learned to agree to just take one chapter and see if I like where the story goes, but I have a friend (a writer who I became friends with on FB) who is a great writer, I'm just not into her kind of stories. I always feel bad when she asks me for an opinion because while the writing is good, how do I tell her I just don't like her style of books?

Just say you don't think it's a good fit. She should be able to understand--no one likes everything. ;)


Did any of that make sense? Seems like when I get on here lately is after I've spent all day working my booty off so I'm exhausted by the time you get me!

Haaaaa...I'm often really stupid from sleep deprivation when pooting around the forums...wheeeeee

Old Hack
10-20-2013, 10:57 AM
Buz got in there before me, and is on the button.

Tell your friend that you don't mesh with the sort of writing she does, and that makes you the wrong person to critique it. Easy!

gingerwoman
10-20-2013, 11:38 AM
Critiquing isn't a Big Sekrit Skill that some people have and some don't.

All you have to do is say what you liked about the work, and then point out the bits that you didn't like so much.


I would not consider that a critique I would consider that just beta reading.

gingerwoman
10-20-2013, 11:41 AM
So what do you do when you agree to crit someone's work and you can't stand their voice?
Please don't tell them you don't like their work. I think you should just tell them that you simply don't have room in your life to critique anyone's work.

gingerwoman
10-20-2013, 11:42 AM
I've done a lot of blue pencil cafe sessions at writers conferences, where you get fifteen minutes to read a few pages then offer what help you can. I early on adopted the (possibly apocryphal) rule from the Hippocratic Oath: first do no harm.
Yes exactly.

Chris P
10-20-2013, 11:55 AM
My typical participation in SYW goes like this:

Post 1: Member XZY posts excerpt.
Post 2: ABC provides crit.
Post 3: DEF provides crit.
Post 4: Chris P provides crit.
Post 5: ABC: "@Chris P: You see, that part worked for me."
Post 6: DEF: "@Chris P: Yeah, what ABC said. I'm not sure why you thought that needed to be changed."
Post 7: GHI: "@Chris P: What writing planet are you from? Would you even know good writing if it danced on your nose?"


Humor aside, in all things be honest. I try not to provide my input as "this is how it is," but "what I thought when I read it." I ask myself what advice, and how delivered, is going to be of the most use to the writer. I don't think I do him or her any favors when I ignore stuff that really doesn't work for me, nor when I deliver my opinions with a sledgehammer.

Old Hack
10-20-2013, 12:11 PM
I would not consider that a critique I would consider that just beta reading.

"Just" beta reading sounds a bit dismissive of beta-readers, don't you think?

The part I missed out of my post was that you could also say why things did or didn't work for you: I assumed it was obvious that you'd include such reasoning. Would that make it more of a critique in your view, Ginger?


Please don't tell them you don't like their work. I think you should just tell them that you simply don't have room in your life to critique anyone's work.

But then they hear you are working with another writer, and before you know it they're offended and upset.

Better, perhaps, to be open about it and say it's not a genre you read so you don't feel able to offer your opinion (if that's true, of course), or to tell them their style isn't to your taste. Be honest. Don't wriggle out of it with excuses.

jacefancy
10-20-2013, 01:20 PM
That's a good thing.

Assiduous critiquing is an ability better reserved for editors anyway, not a writer.

Old Hack
10-20-2013, 03:31 PM
That's a good thing.

Assiduous critiquing is an ability better reserved for editors anyway, not a writer.

Editors edit. They don't give critiques.

If we can't critique other writers' works, we can't easily revise our own.

Critiquing other writers' works is one of the most effective ways I know of learning how to recognise what's wrong in our own works. It's good on several different levels, which I'm sure are discussed elsewhere on AW, in more appropriate threads.

Ken
10-20-2013, 03:54 PM
... beyond horrible, I don't believe I could even beta someones
novel even if I wanted. For starts, I am the slowest reader im-
aginable. For another, I'm just no good at it. Lastly, my reading
comprehension has never been great. Probably around 5th grade
level. Shameful to be sure :-(

shadowwalker
10-20-2013, 06:02 PM
I have critiqued works whose genre/subject is something I'm not all that excited about - but the authors knew this from the start. Things that were genre-specific I either left alone or they 'adjusted' my comments based on the genre; otherwise, I looked purely at the writing - phrasing, contradictions, characterization, etc. So it can be done - you just have to shut off the "surface interest" and amp up the "writing interest" - but I wouldn't make a habit of it. ;)

Wilde_at_heart
10-20-2013, 06:35 PM
....

Better, perhaps, to be open about it and say it's not a genre you read so you don't feel able to offer your opinion (if that's true, of course), or to tell them their style isn't to your taste. Be honest. Don't wriggle out of it with excuses.

That really is the best one imo, though I'd still be more vague and put 'right fit' or someone might want you to explain why.

Any writer should be able to understand that though - not everything is to everyone's taste. Nor should it be. If I was pleasing everyone I'd wonder what I was doing wrong ;)

And again, OH, you nail it on this page as well that critiquing is the best way to learn. While plenty of people 'thank' me for my comments and so on, I'm doing it as much for myself. Having said that, if I really don't like something at all, I don't say anything - I mostly comment on samples where there's already something I like in it, even if I think it still needs quite a bit of work.

TellMeAStory
10-20-2013, 07:28 PM
Now I'm confused.

What's the difference between critiquing and beta-reading? Are there other categories I should know about?

shadowwalker
10-20-2013, 07:45 PM
Now I'm confused.

What's the difference between critiquing and beta-reading? Are there other categories I should know about?

A critique is just reading through and making comments/suggestions as to where the story might be improved and/or where there were particularly well-done areas. Betas critique, but usually on a one-to-one basis and more in-depth than one might find on a forum or website. Typically they also work on the whole story, rather than just parts of it (as one might find on forums/websites).

quicklime
10-20-2013, 08:37 PM
That's a good thing.

Assiduous critiquing is an ability better reserved for editors anyway, not a writer.


ummm, no.

CrastersBabies
10-20-2013, 08:48 PM
I used to be horrible at critiquing. What you have mentioned that you do is actually pretty good, imho. It's good to give response-like critique. There is someone in my writing group who does not have the technical language (craft), but her response comments will often trigger exactly what craft element is "off" for me.

I'll never forget my first workshop in undergrad. I think I was more nervous about offering critique than getting it. I was scared to death that the instructor would call on me and I'd have nothing to say. But listening to others give their insight helped me develop my critiquing skills considerably. There was "that guy" who brought up POV issues, and "that girl" who knew when character motivation wasn't present. Nobody came to the table with all the answers, but collectively, we each added our voice and it made for a nice package to the writer whose story was being workshopped.

As you get better, though, you start to hone your skills and can build your critiquing powers. But what you have going right now is good. If you want to build on that, just join some writing groups, sit, listen and so forth. I usually don't critique online or put my work up (except for a few query letter hell things), so maybe online critiquing will help? I find it to be too much, too many nitpickers on stuff that can freeze a writer as opposed to encouraging them. But that's me. Others will get a lot out of that experience.

Just don't think you have to know everything.

:)

Pearl
10-21-2013, 04:26 AM
I went to a critique group today. Prior to this meeting, we had to read each others' work. There was one piece that I simply could not get into, no matter how hard I tried. Maybe it was the style or the futuristic terms that confused me, but I had difficulty reading it.

When I told the writer this, she was actually cool about. I was apologizing and she literally told me not to worry. She understood her piece was not my taste and there was no way she could force me.

So lesson I learned here is that it is OK to be perfectly honest with the person who's work your critiquing. As long as the writer takes it in stride, its all good.

jacefancy
10-21-2013, 05:12 AM
If we can't critique other writers' works, we can't easily revise our own.

I don't agree with this.

quicklime
10-21-2013, 06:55 AM
I don't agree with this.


you don't have to, but if you can't critically look at someone else's work, exactly how do you propose to turn the same critical eye towards your own???

that's why I also disagreed...I don't believe a critical eye is a luxury, if you intend to get better.

Karen Junker
10-21-2013, 07:47 AM
I just read a post on FB by a proofreader who says that a pronoun is not capitalized after dialogue that ends in an exclamation or question mark. Which means I have made mistakes on critting other people over the years. I am sure I make other mistakes, I just don't know what I don't know.

I have come to believe that my crit style is not for most people. I'm honest, I say what goes through my mind as I read and I try (and am apparently sometimes wrong) to correct grammar, punctuation, spelling and typos. Of the over 80 people I've critted for from AW, only a handful have ever gotten back to me with a response of any kind. This has led me to believe that they did not find my style helpful, were hurt, or maybe they were eaten by Bigfoot.

I still critique for someone new almost every day. It helps me to see how I can improve my own work (which is going slowly because I spend all my time critting and almost no time writing).

And Quick, I wish you'd get a new pic -- you give me nightmares.

Little Ming
10-21-2013, 08:19 AM
I don't agree with this.

I don't think you have to critique. But it is one of the most effective ways to improve your own writing.

Just do whatever works for you.


And Quick, I wish you'd get a new pic -- you give me nightmares.

You must have missed the brain-puppy. And that guy in a lab coat. Truly terrifying.

:D

Old Hack
10-21-2013, 10:34 AM
I don't agree with this.

Hello, Jace, and welcome to AW. I don't think our paths have crossed before.

Could you explain? Give us some context to your opinion, and perhaps broaden your reply out a bit? As it is, it doesn't lead to much of a discussion and as AW is a discussion board, it might be a good idea.

Aislinn
10-21-2013, 11:11 AM
Personally, my critiquing improves in lock-step with my writing, as I develop the analytical tools to figure out exactly what is going wrong in a story and what is going right.

Having said that, I also get a lot of value out of readers who simply say what didn't work for them. It gives me the freedom to figure out what to do with the story myself. So I try not to be too prescriptive in critiques for others because what I'm really seeing is what I'd do to the story to make it go the way I'd want it to go.

On the topic of writing you just can't bear, I agree that you should be tactfully honest about it not being a genre you can help much with. But if that person is reading and providing helpful critiques for you, you kinda have an obligation to critique for them in return.

In general, if you want to get useful critiques from other writers I believe you have to be prepared to provide them to the best of your ability too. Even an 'I didn't get this at all' critique helps a writer understand how a portion of readers might react to their work.

DancingMaenid
10-21-2013, 11:35 AM
To the OP: I wouldn't sell yourself too short. Critiquing is a skill that can be improved with practice, but that doesn't mean that the feedback you have right now is worthless. Stuff like pointing out that you were confused by something can be very helpful.

There will probably always be people who pick up on things that you don't notice, and that's okay. I think that's why getting more than one set of feedback can be helpful sometimes--not everyone will see things the same way.

But I think if you keep practicing reading things with a critical eye, and critiquing, you'll get better at identifying reasons why you do or don't like something. However, that doesn't mean that bigger picture criticism ("I had trouble understanding what was happening in this scene" or "The MC doesn't interest me a lot so far") is never going to be useful. Comments like that are less helpful if the writer doesn't know how to fix the problem, but can be very helpful if the writer just needs help seeing if there's a problem in the first place.

Matthew Hughes
10-21-2013, 11:46 AM
Thirty years ago, when I was freelancing speeches in Vanouver, I met the western head of TeleFilm Canada, the government agency that invested in movie and tv production. She signed me up to do reader's reports (critiques) on scripts they were considering. I read scripts that were not yet ready for production and had to delineate their strengths and weaknesses, and offer suggestions for fixes.

Seeing how stories were done wrong taught me more about how to do them right than reading published novels that had been written and edited by pros. Later on, when I was writing fiction and critiquing at a local writers club as well as with a smaller, invitation-only group, I was still learning useful lessons from other people's missteps.

CrastersBabies
10-21-2013, 08:19 PM
I think critiquing has helped me become a better writer and editor, but sometimes I struggle to see the same things in my work (that I see in others'). I think it's only a matter of time, though, before I get better at it.

Ken
10-21-2013, 11:46 PM
... there's a lot on the line with critiquing though.
It's not merely a matter of trying your best.
If you mess up you're giving a writer advice that may lead them to mess up
an otherwise fine ms. Maybe that's okay with a caveat, like the title of this
thread. "I'm no good at critiquing, so plz DO NOT put much importance
on my critique. I may very well be wrong!" That might do, especially if others
are also offering critiques or serving as betas. I might be comfortable
with something like that myself if I was to be a beta or the like.

Shadow_Ferret
10-22-2013, 12:43 AM
If we can't critique other writers' works, we can't easily revise our own.

Critiquing other writers' works is one of the most effective ways I know of learning how to recognise what's wrong in our own works. It's good on several different levels, which I'm sure are discussed elsewhere on AW, in more appropriate threads.
I've been struggling with this since day 1. I was horrible in school trying to analyze fiction. I just could nit figure out what about the piece worked and why. With critiquing, its more of the same. I just can't figure out why certain things work or don't work. I know what I like but that isn't the same as knowing what's good -- recognizing quality.

And since I can't recognize it in other works, I sure as hell can't spot it in my own work. Critiquing seems to be a skill that just escapes me.

BethS
10-22-2013, 01:01 AM
If we can't critique other writers' works, we can't easily revise our own.

Critiquing other writers' works is one of the most effective ways I know of learning how to recognise what's wrong in our own works.

^This, definitely. I learned so much through critiquing.

Aislinn
10-22-2013, 01:09 AM
I've been struggling with this since day 1. I was horrible in school trying to analyze fiction. I just could nit figure out what about the piece worked and why. With critiquing, its more of the same. I just can't figure out why certain things work or don't work. I know what I like but that isn't the same as knowing what's good -- recognizing quality.

And since I can't recognize it in other works, I sure as hell can't spot it in my own work. Critiquing seems to be a skill that just escapes me.

I was like this too until I started reading about the craft of fiction, in books & on sites like this. I could often tell when a piece of writing didn't work (including my own) but I had to have help to identify and name the reasons. I started with 'Self-Editing for Fiction Writers' by Renni Browne and Dave King (no affiliation to me.)

I've always enjoyed a very wide range of fiction and I wasn't particularly analytical about it until I had to be, to improve my own work.

Old Hack
10-22-2013, 01:15 AM
I've been struggling with this since day 1. I was horrible in school trying to analyze fiction. I just could nit figure out what about the piece worked and why. With critiquing, its more of the same. I just can't figure out why certain things work or don't work. I know what I like but that isn't the same as knowing what's good -- recognizing quality.

And since I can't recognize it in other works, I sure as hell can't spot it in my own work. Critiquing seems to be a skill that just escapes me.

English Lit classes have put so many people off so many good books.

When I was at school I really struggled with English Lit. I didn't understand how people knew all that stuff about the books we were reading. It took me years to realise they were just expressing their opinions, and that so long as you can find ways to support your opinions in your essays, you're good.

If you like something about someone's work, say so. Say, "I really like the way you describe that bit about the dog," or, "I thought that bit of dialogue was really exciting," or, "I think I'd enjoy having dinner with that character you've created." All these things are valid, and helpful.

If you want to say, "I really like the way you describe that bit about the dog because...." then that's fine too. It's not essential, although it is helpful. Don't worry if your "because" is "because it reminds me of a dog I knew when I was a kid," or, "because it's not how I think of dogs so it's surprising and fun." Just tell the person whose writing you're talking about how it made you feel, or what it made you think. That's all critiques are for.

The more you do, the braver you become. So long as you're respectful and thoughtful, you have nothing to worry about.

buz
10-22-2013, 03:13 AM
... there's a lot on the line with critiquing though.
It's not merely a matter of trying your best.
If you mess up you're giving a writer advice that may lead them to mess up
an otherwise fine ms. Maybe that's okay with a caveat, like the title of this
thread. "I'm no good at critiquing, so plz DO NOT put much importance
on my critique. I may very well be wrong!" That might do, especially if others
are also offering critiques or serving as betas. I might be comfortable
with something like that myself if I was to be a beta or the like.

This is often a fear of mine--that people will take me too seriously. :p

I think that, ultimately, everyone should cultivate a habit of trying to evaluate advice as well as they can using outside sources and internal evaluation before taking it to heart--and this doesn't just apply to writing. ;) No advice should be seen as an imperative by either party, and I think this is the ideal way to go about life in general.

But I'm always worried that the person on the other end doesn't feel that way...:p Or that their opinion of me is too high. So I try my best to trash that opinion in as reasonable a manner as I can manage. But it seldom works :(

WOE IS I

Little Ming
10-22-2013, 03:46 AM
This is often a fear of mine--that people will take me too seriously. :p

I think that, ultimately, everyone should cultivate a habit of trying to evaluate advice as well as they can using outside sources and internal evaluation before taking it to heart--and this doesn't just apply to writing. ;) No advice should be seen as an imperative by either party, and I think this is the ideal way to go about life in general.

I think I have the opposite problem. I except people to know I'm full of shit, so even if my opinion turns out to be totally batshit-loony wrong, well, you should have known that. :tongue

(Also, I count on the fact that since this is a forum and there are many more knowledgeable people giving their opinions too, it will eventually balance out my batshit-loony-wrongness. ;))


But I'm always worried that the person on the other end doesn't feel that way...:p Or that their opinion of me is too high. So I try my best to trash that opinion in as reasonable a manner as I can manage. But it seldom works :(

WOE IS I

I've noticed this too. Sometimes I wish you were just a little, tiny bit more firm in your opinions.

slhuang
10-22-2013, 04:00 AM
I think I have the opposite problem. I except people to know I'm full of shit, so even if my opinion turns out to be totally batshit-loony wrong, well, you should have known that. :tongue


What? WHAT?

*goes to edit all the posts in which I agreed with you*

Dammit, and I was only copying off your paper because I thought it would make me sound smart. Gah! Now you tell me!

Edited to contribute to the thread: On a serious note, critiquing other people's WIPs is the single most valuable thing for my own writing I've ever done.

Little Ming
10-22-2013, 04:16 AM
Dammit, and I was only copying off your paper because I thought it would make me sound smart.

Oh dear, that will never work. The only way to sound smart is to have an opinion so out of this world no one can agree with you because no one knows what the hell you're saying.

buz
10-22-2013, 04:21 AM
Oh dear, that will never work. The only way to sound smart is to have an opinion so out of this world no one can agree with you because no one knows what the hell you're saying.

MACAQUE OBELISK. POOT POOT FRACAS BEETLE.

How's that for firm opinions :D

ladyleeona
10-22-2013, 05:23 AM
I think I have the opposite problem. I except people to know I'm full of shit, so even if my opinion turns out to be totally batshit-loony wrong, well, you should have known that. :tongue

(Also, I count on the fact that since this is a forum and there are many more knowledgeable people giving their opinions too, it will eventually balance out my batshit-loony-wrongness. ;))



I've noticed this too. Sometimes I wish you were just a little, tiny bit more firm in your opinions.

Bolding mine. That's totally me, haha. And now I'm fearing there's more of us who feel batshitty than I originally assumed. (Aka, I'm no longer lonely...fweinds? ;) )

I don't feel like I give good crits, at least not on manuscripts. Query crits I feel pretty confident about--that might be because I somehow manage to write decent queries. Manuscripts, however.... I know when something works for me and when it doesn't, but many times I have trouble articulating the whys/why nots. I've learned a ton about story structure and set up and subplots and blahblahblah, but when I beta for someone it all seems to go out the window and the best I can manage are replies like, "um, this is, um, like, good. me likes. um, um. yeah. *insert smiley face*"

I think part of it comes from not wanting to hurt feelings. Other times it happens because I'm reading manuscripts by writers who are much better than me. *shrugs* It's tough. Won't say it's not always beneficial for ME (it is), but I'm not so sure the people I'm reading for would find the feeling mutual.

Kylabelle
10-22-2013, 05:23 AM
MACAQUE OBELISK. POOT POOT FRACAS BEETLE.

How's that for firm opinions :D


POOT POOT is not firm enough, and hardly original.

:D

buz
10-22-2013, 05:31 AM
POOT POOT is not firm enough, and hardly original.

:D

Look, other people may have written POOT POOT before, but no one has written it like I can. *haughty dress-twirly pivot into my quarters*

chompers
10-22-2013, 05:33 AM
I don't know how I rate as a critiquer. I do tend to do it line by line, but sometimes I feel as if people don't feel that I'm very helpful. Or maybe they think I'm too harsh. I don't know.

I get thanks, but sometimes I think it's just the obligatory thanks. You know, for spending time doing it, not because they felt it was useful.

Mutive
10-22-2013, 08:13 AM
This is often a fear of mine--that people will take me too seriously. :p



I fear the same thing. Like, I will always give my opinion because, hell, I read a lot, and my opinion isn't necessarily more right or more wrong than anyone else's. But shit, it's not like it's more right. It's just one opinion. It's a bit frightening when someone takes it as the Word of God. Since I can assure you, it's not. It's an opinion. Which I suspect is often shared by others, but sure as hell isn't shared all the time. (And I suspect is never shared by everyone. Unless it's something like the difference between its and it's, in which case, okay, if you're not agreeing with me, maybe there is a problem...)

shadowwalker
10-22-2013, 08:31 AM
Whether a writer takes your "bad" advice or doesn't take your "good" advice is up to the writer. And typically, if someone gives "bad advice", someone else will counter it and thus the author still has to make the final decision.

In other words - not your responsibility. Just be honest in your comments.

SKDaley
10-22-2013, 08:47 AM
I don't know that I suck at critiquing, it just seems like everyone before me has said what I wanted to say, only better. Then I get sucked into a vortex of self-loathing and doubt about my own writing skills, or lack thereof. Then I read more stuff in the SYW forum, say 'fuck it' and make some comments.

Seriously, I could read other people's critiques all day long. It is truly an educational experience. Like having a hundred books on 'how to improve your writing' in one handy-dandy place. I plan to get better at critiquing. Luckily, like writing, it is a skill that can be learned and improved upon.

slhuang
10-22-2013, 08:49 AM
MACAQUE OBELISK. POOT POOT FRACAS BEETLE.


That's it, I'm copying off of Bu's paper from now on.


I fear the same thing. Like, I will always give my opinion because, hell, I read a lot, and my opinion isn't necessarily more right or more wrong than anyone else's. But shit, it's not like it's more right. It's just one opinion. It's a bit frightening when someone takes it as the Word of God. Since I can assure you, it's not. It's an opinion. Which I suspect is often shared by others, but sure as hell isn't shared all the time.

Heh. I didn't realize this until this moment, but I'm actually egotistical enough that it's never occurred to me to question whether my opinion* is always right. (Wow. That's a boatload of ego right there, me.)

* eta: opinion as a critiquer, I mean. I doubt my opinion on all sorts of other things all the time . . .

(This is probably why when a book or movie does really well even though I hate it, I end up getting really invested in hating it. Even if I just think it's mediocre, the fact that so many people love something I think is mediocre makes me crazy. It feels like the Emperor's New Clothes and I'm the only one who can see that he's nekkid. I've never actually been involved in a hatedom -- I try to keep my crazy off the Internet -- but I do believe I understand the urge. :tongue)

Mind you, I'm not going to get all snitty if someone doesn't take my crits or something. But it's never occurred to me that my opinion as a critiquer might have the possibility to be, uh, actively detrimental instead of awesomely helpful. :D Hmm. Maybe I'd be a more considerate critter if I kept in mind that *gasp* I might possibly be wrong . . . *waddles over to corner, flops down, starts pondering*


(And I suspect is never shared by everyone. Unless it's something like the difference between its and it's, in which case, okay, if you're not agreeing with me, maybe there is a problem...)Yurrrr my friiiiiiend, Mutive. *squishes your flower petals really tightly*

DancingMaenid
10-22-2013, 10:13 AM
... there's a lot on the line with critiquing though.
It's not merely a matter of trying your best.
If you mess up you're giving a writer advice that may lead them to mess up
an otherwise fine ms. Maybe that's okay with a caveat, like the title of this
thread. "I'm no good at critiquing, so plz DO NOT put much importance
on my critique. I may very well be wrong!" That might do, especially if others
are also offering critiques or serving as betas. I might be comfortable
with something like that myself if I was to be a beta or the like.

I worry about that, too. I actually had that happen to me once--a writer immediately made a change that I'd suggested and it really didn't work as well.

But I think it's a two way street. Writers have to learn how to judge and apply the advice they get, and if I make a suggestion that I later decide wasn't very good, but the writer thinks it was a great idea, well, that's their prerogative. On the other hand, this is partly why I don't mind vague critiques sometimes. I think as a beginning critiquer, it can feel like you need to look hard for things you don't like, which might lead to some criticisms that are overly nitpicky. But if you just try to be honest, I think that usually works. And if someone is most comfortable offering a general comment like "I found this scene confusing," I'd rather have them do that than try to force something more detailed critique that they feel unsure about.

chompers
10-22-2013, 01:03 PM
I think it depends on the feedback on whether it can be right or write. Things like grammar, punctuation, spelling, those can have a definitive right and wrong answer.

But opinions? I feel no matter who is saying it, it can't be right or wrong. It may not be the best solution for the story, but it holds its weight in gold nevertheless. You will always take something from it. Okay, so maybe if it didn't work for this particular story, you can tuck it away and maybe it might be useful on another story. Or, it gets your braining thinking on a tangent that eventually brings you to that "eureka" moment.

NOBODY knows everything, and EVERYBODY has something they can still learn. Everyone's got their strengths and weaknesses.

That's my two sense.

Aislinn
10-22-2013, 02:11 PM
You will always take something from it. Okay, so maybe if it didn't work for this particular story, you can tuck it away and maybe it might be useful on another story. Or, it gets your braining thinking on a tangent that eventually brings you to that "eureka" moment.

Yep, and sometimes what you take from the advice is that your gut is telling you the exact opposite. But you needed to hear the advice to fully realize how wrong it was for you.

That's why I'm usually not too heavily invested in the advice I give. Too often have others' pearls of wisdom fallen into my patented pearl crusher.

quicklime
10-22-2013, 03:38 PM
And Quick, I wish you'd get a new pic -- you give me nightmares.


:-(


I'm way better-lookin' as an indigo snake than in person.....

Wilde_at_heart
10-22-2013, 06:08 PM
I think that, ultimately, everyone should cultivate a habit of trying to evaluate advice as well as they can using outside sources and internal evaluation before taking it to heart--and this doesn't just apply to writing. ;) No advice should be seen as an imperative by either party, and I think this is the ideal way to go about life in general.


Very well put.
I try but often forget to qualify my opinions with an 'imo' or 'shaker of salt' and so on as I sometimes have a fairly declarative way of putting things but really, it is up to the author to learn to discern good advice from bad for themselves, ultimately.

When I crit I do expect writers to mostly heed what everyone says about something that doesn't work, and not re-work something entirely based on a single comment or poster.

WriteMinded
10-22-2013, 06:50 PM
I'm asked quite often to beta or critique for my fellow authors. The most I can usually do is tell someone if I'm confused, if something doesn't work or is too convenient, or if I really like a book. And that is a LOT, Christyp. Maybe you could just state that up front. That way you would know that the writer isn't expecting you to sniff out every missing comma or catch every factual glitch, like the impossibility of a trispacor jumping higher than 9 centimeters or finding a potato growing in dark age Britain.


I am not as talented as so many on here who can catch very important, yet such small things. I can review a book I love, but I can't when I dislike a book.

Generally, unless the book is TERRIBLE (50 shades terrible) I usually can't pinpoint why I don't like a book, thus can't do a decent critique. Is it genre, maybe?


Does anyone else have this problem? Do you get these same requests and stare numbly at the computer screen realizing you'll have to tell your friend you can't, or send a half a**ed review/critique?No, but I've read something so well written that there were no confusing parts, no grammar errors, nothing much for me to say. I kept thinking that I was cheating the author. The best I could do was point out a couple of boring parts.

buz
10-22-2013, 07:11 PM
:-(


I'm way better-lookin' as an indigo snake than in person.....

I agree.

*squees over cute snake*

ebbrown
10-22-2013, 08:14 PM
Yeah, I suck at critiquing. It's only because I'm a sissy and I'm afraid to hurt someone's feelings. I admit it. :Shrug:

Old Hack
10-22-2013, 09:53 PM
There are lots of people in this thread who are explaining very beautifully how they can't critique because they don't know how to put into words what they think, and I think they should think about that.

Heh.

Little Anonymous Me
10-22-2013, 10:52 PM
I'm a tentative critiquer because I'm always struck by 'Who the hell am I to say anything?' So I try to find structural/grammatical flaws and stay away from stylistic snafus, because hey. One man's poison and all that.

Ken
10-23-2013, 01:15 AM
I worry about that, too. I actually had that happen to me once--a writer immediately made a change that I'd suggested and it really didn't work as well.

But I think it's a two way street. Writers have to learn how to judge and apply the advice they get, and if I make a suggestion that I later decide wasn't very good, but the writer thinks it was a great idea, well, that's their prerogative. On the other hand, this is partly why I don't mind vague critiques sometimes. I think as a beginning critiquer, it can feel like you need to look hard for things you don't like, which might lead to some criticisms that are overly nitpicky. But if you just try to be honest, I think that usually works. And if someone is most comfortable offering a general comment like "I found this scene confusing," I'd rather have them do that than try to force something more detailed critique that they feel unsure about.

... a general comment like that would be helpful like you say.
Even with that, though, I might hesitate. My reading comprehension
is the pits like I mentioned. So what is confusing to me may not actually be.
Sorta like a kid reading a book for an adult and being confused.
Huh, huh, huh, huh, huh ...
Stuff like that is why I don't beta or offer many critiques.
And it's not something I could improve with practice.
It's just how I am. Was always crummy with reading.
And here I am trying to be a writer!
G'luck with that, lol :-)

AnneGlynn
10-31-2013, 03:34 AM
I think I'm good/non-cruel but honest critiquer but I always request only one chapter from any project. So far, those "one chapter" critiques take up as much time as I can spare (generally, at least two hours and sometimes a multiple of that) and I don't feel as if I'm abandoning an author that expected me to trudge through all 175,000 words of her opus.

Of course, the last time I raised my hand in class, I received a first chapter that was 20,000 words long.

RedWombat
10-31-2013, 08:16 AM
I don't critique writing. I did too much art critique back in the day and I have learned well enough that doing so turns me into a twitchy wreck--I don't enjoy the emotions involved at all, and since I can't imagine anything I say being so vital to a book's future as to be worth wringing myself out over, I just avoid it.

Mind you, I'm not entirely sure I agree it's not a different skillset--with art, anyway, being able to articulate "what is wrong with that? Something is wrong, but what?!" into "The ears are set way too high on the head and the line of the branch leads off the corner of the page and drags the eye with it" is NOT a common skill. There's often someone in the class who gives good critique and can't draw their way out of a paper sack--they have the eye and not the hand.

I've always thought of it like teaching--there are very good artists who cannot teach for crap. "How did you get that effect?" "Dunno. Poked it until it happened." "How do I choose a color scheme?" "Dunno--I use whatever's on the table. Err...and maybe some raw umber."

But writing and art are different disciplines, so there may be more crossover there. (Certainly they say the best way to learn something is to teach it!)

Tirjasdyn
11-04-2013, 04:41 AM
I'm a tentative critiquer because I'm always struck by 'Who the hell am I to say anything?' So I try to find structural/grammatical flaws and stay away from stylistic snafus, because hey. One man's poison and all that.

You're a reader and what you say now is far kinder and easier to fix then when it gets out in the published real world.

As others have said: your opinions matter because:

1) You may make a chorus the writer should listen to (ie: If everyone in the group says the same thing you should take a hard look at that, if only one person does then don't worry about it unless it rings true to you).

2) What you see and say you see others will too. Just like the internet law that says if you think of it there is already porn for it, if you think of it so will other readers.

3) You may see something that the writer, having slaved over the stupid book for millions of words, has completely missed.

Who are you? A reader. Who should a writer listen to other than readers? And really, wouldn't you rather hear the bad before it's published and you're screwed?

desinty
11-04-2013, 10:01 PM
When I read someone else's work, I typically ask them what they would like me to focus on. Sometimes, as you can see from responses here, people want just an overview of what works and what doesn't. Others want a very detailed crit.

When I got my MS back from an author friend, I freaked, put it aside for more than a year and about just started over. I failed to tell the author what I needed (actually I probably didn't know at all what I needed). Looking back, I needed to know in general what worked and didn't work. What I got was almost a line by line crit. While this was still helpful, I had so many large scale issues, that the minor tense shift or eye color change was insignificant. Somehow, though, I couldn't focus on the larger issues because I was overwhelmed. Now, I don't blame her and eventually I would have needed that type of crit; I just feel that if I had a more general one initially, then I could have focused on fixing those large scale issues without breathing into a paper bag all day.

I guess my point is everyone has their own style and needs. Someone else could have been perfectly happy to get the crit I got. And, frankly, I am. I just wasn't ready for it yet. I'm a bit wiser now. I've picked up my MS, blown off the dust and I'm settling back into the groove.

I feel it hard to crit established authors' works because I feel I couldn't possibly have anything to offer them. Me? Still-aspiring-author help successful ones? But, they just tell me to shut up and help. ;)

Good luck critting for others.

ConnieBDowell
11-05-2013, 07:58 AM
desinty, I'm so sorry you had that experience! It's a classic new critiquer mistake, wanting so much to fix everything that you overwhelm your partner.

This is really a case in point for prioritizing critique issues, not only based on the needs and wants the writer states, but on those he or she can't spot as well. Big picture concerns should always trump line edits. If you read a MS that needs both, mention it, but focus on the big stuff in your critique. That's got to get fixed before the writer can work on the MS line by line.

SunshineonMe
11-05-2013, 09:35 AM
I love critiquing, but I don't understand the line by line process yet. I'm trying to learn it by reading the other critiques! I'm inexperienced yet!