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E.Murray
02-04-2014, 06:59 PM
I've had somewhere around a dozen beta readers for multiple novels (and done beta work for nearly as many). There's one overriding thing I've learned in the process - fear the "encourager".

My initial reader knew she was the first one to read my first attempt at writing a book. The text was sprinkled with a balanced 50-50 mix of "ha! good line!" and "I'm not quite feeling John's motivation. Can you strengthen it a bit?" At the end she gave me a super encouraging wrap-up and praised all the things that were good. She said I definitely had a good story with some tweaking. So I spent a couple weeks on a re-write, carefully preserving the things she liked and adding things here and there to address the "weaknesses". Then I sent it to 30 agents (over the course of a couple months). Got 2 partial requests! And 30 rejections.

I decided I needed a fresh set of eyes. This time, I got a brutal critter. The mix was about 10% "hey, that was nice" and 90% "what the hell is this guy doing? Has he forgotten everything that came before?!? What an idiot." And she was right! The story sucked. My second reader pointed to the same problems as the first one, but now I could see that John really was an idiot, not just a great character who needed a couple lines to clarify his motivations (as implied by reader #1). I felt stupid for burning all the best agents. So I took a hatchet to the whole thing, without even considering preserving the "nice lines". Know what? It got exponentially better. Now, I look specifically for harsh (but fair) readers. Sure, it hurts, but it's like working out. If you aren't willing to endure the discomfort, don't expect to improve. You have to seek the pain.

Here's why. As a writer, I want to think that my stuff has merit, so I cling to positives. When a reader says, "This bit is hilarious," I say, "I know! I was so proud of it!" And my tendency is to hope that overrides some of the negatives (as in hoping that the hilarious bit justifies a chapter that drags otherwise... it doesn't). And when you find something that needs fixing, don't state it as a suggestion - such as "you might want to think about this character arc". Say, "This character arc doesn't work. You haven't earned the change of heart you're trying for."

My claim? There's no place for "nice" in beta reading. I think it was Uncle Jim who said that a reader is the most selfish person in the world. We go to a book looking for something to entertain us. The author's hopes or situation or background don't matter a whit. So as a beta, you can't think about the author's feelings if you want to improve the story.

Note that this isn't the same thing as being rude. You can still be mannerly (for instance, it's not OK to attack the writer). But don't hold back a comment about the story just because you're afraid of hurting the author's feelings. If part of it blows, say so (with only minimal sugar). Don't go back and think, "I've given six negative comments in a row. I need to find something nice to say." If there are seven negatives in a row, point them all out with no apology. It's supposed to be writer and critter working together to find weak writing and kill it.

The world's most dangerous beta is the one who cares about your feelings.

Maryn
02-04-2014, 08:35 PM
I respectfully disagree. There's always room for nice, so long as it's honest. If I find lots to praise, then I'll praise. If I find lots that's weak or outright wrong, then that's what I'll note, with as much tact and humor as I can muster.

There are, of course, many styles of criticism, all of them correct, but to say that people who praise and encourage are dangerous is, IMO, wrong.

Maryn, pleasantly disagreeable

thedark
02-04-2014, 08:40 PM
Well said E.Murray. You neatly summed up my beta-reading philosophy. I beta read to help others strengthen their manuscript, not to be so gentle and fluffy they miss out on constructive feedback.

I also like that you emphasized being mannerly, not rude or cruel. I've seen some fairly brutal critiques on other forums that were designed to eviscerate the writer, not offer constructive feedback. I always get a warm fuzzy from reading the SWY forums - even if the critiquer is tearing someone's work apart, they're doing it to help, and they're always doing it nicely (even if it takes a moment to see that). I critique honestly and include comments on a draft's strong points, but I'm not shy about pointing out areas that need work.

Here's to specific honesty in beta reading.

Parametric
02-04-2014, 08:40 PM
My experience of giving harsher critiques is that most recipients went straight into defensive mode and were unable to process what I was telling them. So now I add an awful lot of sugar to help the medicine go down.

AllenC
02-04-2014, 08:41 PM
I totally agree; If they take the job to read and criticize your work you need to pay attention to it.

In between good and bad critique; good helps you know some people will already like what you have, while a couple of thumbs down will point you in the right direction to make your work better.

StoryG27
02-04-2014, 08:55 PM
I think the definitions of words like "harsh" and "encouraging" vary as much as people. I've done some crits absolutely tearing apart chapter after chapter but genuinely liked the premise and character, so I state that as well. If something makes me laugh, I'm putting that in the crit as well, good or bad. With similar crits, I'll receive different reactions. Some think I'm harsh, and some think I'm helpful and encouraging. :Shrug:

For me, I hope for betas with great fundamentals and a sense of humor because they tend to make me see my work for what it is but do it in a way that doesn't make me want to throw my computer out a window.

E.Murray
02-04-2014, 09:01 PM
We all need different things, for sure! My demon is the one whispering, "It's fine. Send it to every agent on the planet." Somebody else's may say, "You can't put two words together. Crawl into a hole." We'd need different amounts of sugar. My post was partly from my own perspective and history.
But I also think there's a universal truth in there (ok, "universal" is overselling it...). Praise earned is a beautiful thing. Praise to be nice is dangerous. A reader who picks the book up in a bookstore won't be nice, so a beta who buries you in candy-coated gummy bears with sprinkles isn't doing you a favor (assuming your goal is publication)

Putputt
02-04-2014, 09:10 PM
I've had somewhere around a dozen beta readers for multiple novels (and done beta work for nearly as many). There's one overriding thing I've learned in the process - fear the "encourager".

My initial reader knew she was the first one to read my first attempt at writing a book. The text was sprinkled with a balanced 50-50 mix of "ha! good line!" and "I'm not quite feeling John's motivation. Can you strengthen it a bit?" At the end she gave me a super encouraging wrap-up and praised all the things that were good. She said I definitely had a good story with some tweaking. So I spent a couple weeks on a re-write, carefully preserving the things she liked and adding things here and there to address the "weaknesses". Then I sent it to 30 agents (over the course of a couple months). Got 2 partial requests! And 30 rejections.

I decided I needed a fresh set of eyes. This time, I got a brutal critter. The mix was about 10% "hey, that was nice" and 90% "what the hell is this guy doing? Has he forgotten everything that came before?!? What an idiot." And she was right! The story sucked. My second reader pointed to the same problems as the first one, but now I could see that John really was an idiot, not just a great character who needed a couple lines to clarify his motivations (as implied by reader #1). I felt stupid for burning all the best agents. So I took a hatchet to the whole thing, without even considering preserving the "nice lines". Know what? It got exponentially better. Now, I look specifically for harsh (but fair) readers. Sure, it hurts, but it's like working out. If you aren't willing to endure the discomfort, don't expect to improve. You have to seek the pain.

Here's why. As a writer, I want to think that my stuff has merit, so I cling to positives. When a reader says, "This bit is hilarious," I say, "I know! I was so proud of it!" And my tendency is to hope that overrides some of the negatives (as in hoping that the hilarious bit justifies a chapter that drags otherwise... it doesn't). And when you find something that needs fixing, don't state it as a suggestion - such as "you might want to think about this character arc". Say, "This character arc doesn't work. You haven't earned the change of heart you're trying for."

My claim? There's no place for "nice" in beta reading. I think it was Uncle Jim who said that a reader is the most selfish person in the world. We go to a book looking for something to entertain us. The author's hopes or situation or background don't matter a whit. So as a beta, you can't think about the author's feelings if you want to improve the story.

Note that this isn't the same thing as being rude. You can still be mannerly (for instance, it's not OK to attack the writer). But don't hold back a comment about the story just because you're afraid of hurting the author's feelings. If part of it blows, say so (with only minimal sugar). Don't go back and think, "I've given six negative comments in a row. I need to find something nice to say." If there are seven negatives in a row, point them all out with no apology. It's supposed to be writer and critter working together to find weak writing and kill it.

The world's most dangerous beta is the one who cares about your feelings.

Mmm...I disagree. Actually, with your anecdote, the major problem I found isn't the beta being too gentle, it's the fact that you only had one beta look it over before sending it out.

I have a group of betas who are bursting with awesomeness. They're all sooper intelligent and quick to catch weaknesses in my MSs. However, they catch different things. One of them is amazeballs at LBL edits. After a round of betaing from her, my MS has more lines written in red than black. She doesn't miss a chance to strengthen the writing. But she admits to being unable to see the forest for the trees. She tends to place more attention on the writing rather than the plot. So I save her eyes for a later round, after the beta who is good at spotting plot holes the beta who is great at catching flimsy characters have had their say. Amazing as they are, I wouldn't want to just rely on one of them to beta my MSs, and I certainly hope I'm not the only beta they have for their MSs.

Some of my betas are gentler than others. The gentle ones would say things like, "I don't think this works, I'm sorry!! *huuuugs*" The not-so-gentle ones would say, "Wtf is this shit? It doesn't work at all. Cut it out you stewpid hippo!" Two entirely different methods of delivery, but the message remains the same. The passage isn't working. Fix it. I don't think it's the beta's fault at all if they're nice and the author then latches on to it and fools themselves into thinking the work needs less work than it really does.

I disagree with this especially: "Here's why. As a writer, I want to think that my stuff has merit, so I cling to positives. When a reader says, "This bit is hilarious," I say, "I know! I was so proud of it!" And my tendency is to hope that overrides some of the negatives (as in hoping that the hilarious bit justifies a chapter that drags otherwise... it doesn't). And when you find something that needs fixing, don't state it as a suggestion - such as "you might want to think about this character arc". Say, "This character arc doesn't work. You haven't earned the change of heart you're trying for.""

It's not your beta's job to know that you have a tendency of ignoring suggestions and hoping that the positives would override the negatives. The beta's job is to read your work with a critical eye and tell you what works or what doesn't work for them in a way they find suitable. A gentler beta might not work for you, but that doesn't mean they don't work in general. It's up to you to know your beta well enough such that when they say "think about changing this character arc" they REALLY mean think about it, not just dismiss it as fluff.

It's good that you have identified which types of betas you prefer, but it's really not a catch-all rule that would work for everyone else. Stating this like it's a fact rather than your personal preference isn't very helpful at all.

shadowwalker
02-04-2014, 09:20 PM
Yeah, I'd have to agree that the problem wasn't with the beta - it was rushing to submit after only one (and no re-evaluation after the changes?).

I also disagree with "no nice" and "harsh". I find the comments by your second beta to be unnecessarily rude. There's no cause for that. I've beta'd a few stories in my day - several of which were first attempts - and I never even considered calling someone's character "an idiot". Betas - particularly if they're fellow writers - should be able to get the point across without nastiness. There's "honest and constructive" and then there's being an ego-tripping jerk.

E.Murray
02-04-2014, 09:53 PM
Granted, I should have never sent the book out after only one read. Newbie mistake. That's why I've had 9 since then on the story and am *almost* ready to try sending it around again. My complaint was that the first beta was so saccharine-drenched that I thought the book was much better than it actually was. One could argue that I should have been savvy enough to know it was terrible. But that's what I was hoping for out of the beta.

And, Putputt, I could not agree more about the value of variation in beta styles. I have found absolutely brilliant readers through AW, but they each have their own focus. A good reader truly is worth his weight in gold, but they won't all be alike (or even similar) so you need a whole slew of them.

Also, shadowwalker, I'm going to respectfully (and I really mean that, as I follow your posts and do, indeed, respect you) disagree about the second comment being unnecessarily rude. Calling the writer an idiot would be unacceptable, absolutely. But if one of my characters is coming across that way, I want to know. If the word that pops into the reader's head is "idiot," I'd prefer to see that exact word in their comments. I wouldn't think the reader was an ego-tripping jerk. Instead, my curiosity would be heightened so my first thought would be, "Idiot? I don't see that. Point to where the impression comes from." If they're going to say harsh things about my characters, they should be able to back it up.

Maybe the example I gave was a bit extreme (although I've had that comment). But, I still stand by my initial claim that a beta reader should never say anything with the goal of being nice. The only goal is to strengthen the writing. Warranted praise only.

But, I'll freely admit, I may just be a big old meanie-head jerk. ;)

Maryn
02-05-2014, 12:30 AM
We're going to get along famously, since I'm a jerk-headed meanie.

Maryn, high-fiving you

Blinkk
02-05-2014, 06:29 AM
I don't think "nice" and "harsh" should be the focus here. I think honesty should be the focus. Readers are allowed to have all types of reactions. I've read books where I think, "Wow I can't believe the MC got caught by his teacher in the liquor store. What an idiot." This was an honest reaction. I didn't have any filters on. Calling someone's MC an idiot is okay, sometimes. As long as it's an honest reaction, it's alright. Like the hippo said, the method of delivery is what sets people apart. A nice person can call your MC not the smartest tool in the shed, while another beta might say wtf is this moron doing? They're both honest, and it's up to the author- not the beta- to use the reactions to benefit the story.


As a writer, I want to think that my stuff has merit, so I cling to positives. When a reader says, "This bit is hilarious," I say, "I know! I was so proud of it!" And my tendency is to hope that overrides some of the negatives (as in hoping that the hilarious bit justifies a chapter that drags otherwise... it doesn't). And when you find something that needs fixing, don't state it as a suggestion - such as "you might want to think about this character arc". Say, "This character arc doesn't work. You haven't earned the change of heart you're trying for." Well that's all fine and dandy, but you just described how you handle critique. I can take a kind crit and nod my head at the good stuff and run straight to the "I think you should fix XYZ". It's nice to hear positive words every now and again, but unlike you, I don't dote on them. Not everyone handles crits like you do, which is why there's no right or wrong way to give a crit.

slhuang
02-05-2014, 09:25 AM
As others have said, I think the truths one might find in the OP vary a LOT according to a particular writer's innate inclinations in responding to criticism.

I don't get hung up on praise. Usually, all a beta has to do is point something out -- with anything from, "Um, I'm not 100 percent sure this is working, at least not for me, sorry" to "MY EYES ARE BLEEDING GAAAAAAH" -- and suddenly I see exactly what the critter meant and it all becomes clear as crystal and I cry, "WHY DIDN'T I SEE THAT, THE WEAKNESS, IT IS OBVIOUS!" And then I fix it. (After burying my head under the blankets for a day or so saying, "HOW ON EARTH WILL I FIX IT." :D)

Now, a lot of this has to do with how well my betas mesh with me. I'm very lucky and very grateful.

Sometimes there'll be some feedback I don't get a sudden crystal-clear sense of agreement with. That's when I look for what my other betas said. If two betas agree there's a problem, then it gets changed whether it's one of my darlings or not. But this is where praise comes in handy, because if my betas are both praising AND critting, I can see where they disagree and that gives me a better metric as to whether something should be changed. And it also helps me as a writer to know where I'm doing well. My betas give me both praise and crits, and it's invaluable.

And I especially need the praise part because I'm self-publishing. Believe me, if my final round of betas -- from people I trusted -- hadn't been roundly complimentary, I would've recruited more betas. My betas function as my objectivity for when I'm ready to move toward publication. If they refused to praise me whether they liked the writing or not, I'd end up on a hamster wheel of beta-ing and never publish a book ever. (And well, let's be honest, for me it would be the same if I were trade publishing, except replace "publication" with "submission.")

Here's what I find valuable about my betas:

1) They mesh well with me. A huge percentage of their crits make me say, "Gah! OF COURSE YOU'RE RIGHT!"
2) They're honest. Both with their crits and their praise.
3) They're discerning. They're really, really good at putting into words what's bothering them in any given section or about any given character.
4) They have high standards. They set very high bars for good writing, and they crit accordingly.
5) They're enthusiastic, whether they're enthusiastically telling me they hate my MC or they're enthusiastically telling me they love my prose. And I'm choosing the word "enthusiastic" particularly -- I mean that when they crit, no matter how vigorous it is, I never feel attacked. In fact, I feel stunned and lucky to have people so invested in my work.
6) They're vocal. I would hate to hand a ms to someone and have it come back with "very nice" or "needs work" (or, yanno, something a little less extreme, but you see what I mean). My crit partner, for instance, comments a few times per page giving me her reactions, whether she thinks something needs to be changed or not. I LIKE knowing what she's feeling -- I can see if it matches what I WANT her to be feeling.

Obviously, other people's lists may differ, but this is why I feel like I'm the luckiest duck in the duck pond when it comes to my betas. :D


I don't think "nice" and "harsh" should be the focus here. I think honesty should be the focus.

Thisssssssssss.

I think it's just as useless to say a crit should be 90 percent constructive and 10 percent praise as it is to say a crit should be half constructive / half praise or that a crit should be 10 percent constructive and 90 percent praise. I try to be honest. If something rocks, I'm going to say so. If I think something should be changed, I'm also going to say so. After that, it's up to the writer to decide whether s/he agrees. I consider my only obligations to be honesty and helpfulness, not a particular percentage of constructive criticism or praise.

My betas are freakin' fabulous and I wouldn't trade them for anything, and as far as I know none of them strive to be particularly gentle or particularly harsh. They're just, y'know, very honest and very articulate. :D

katci13
02-05-2014, 09:47 AM
We all want betas to say SOMEthing nice about our story. At least I do. I don't have a problem at all with harsh critique as long as they don't go on and on and on about it, you know. Like, telling me what the problem is and why they think that is fine. But three paragraphs later, if they are still harping about it, I just don't want to talk to them anymore. Last time I got feedback, my friend went on and on about this one issue (which wasn't really an issue, just something that hit a sore spot with her) for FIVE emails. Long emails. It was past annoying at that point. I did everything I could to get to stop without going off on a tangent. On one hand it's great she got so emotional about it, but really...super not helpful.

Putputt
02-05-2014, 02:42 PM
I don't think "nice" and "harsh" should be the focus here. I think honesty should be the focus.

Heh, said in two sentences what I was struggling to say in like 4 paragraphs. :D

Basically, nice =/= dishonest.

I was thinking about my past experiences as a beta. I've come across MSs which I thought were really polished and basically ready to submit. I remember one MS where I think my comments were 80% "Omg this is so fucking good wtf I hate you so much" and 20% "Hmm, you're getting repetitive. Cut that shit out". I wasn't trying to be nice at all. I genuinely thought the MS was just THAT good. If the person then turned around and said, "This is so full of praise it's not helpful" I'd tell them to stick their head... *ahem* somewhere dark and unpleasant. :D

kkbe
02-05-2014, 04:41 PM
I keep coming back to that comment a certain beta made to me: you don't want me to like you, you want me to be honest with you.

It was tough for me to take criticism initially, it really was. I wanted to defend and that doesn't do crap to make somebody a better writer. I think the onus isn't on the beta, it's on the writer: to be able to look at her work, and at critiques of her work, objectively; to be able to zero in on the substance of a critique (or lack thereof :)), analyze and apply, if that will make her novel a better novel. Even before that, it would behoove the writer to choose her betas wisely, to know their strengths and weaknesses, to trust them like Putputt says.

I know all this and I admit, I still screw it up sometimes. But when I compare myself now to how it was when I first started seeking crits, I know I'm getting better, learning more. A lot of that comes from experience; some, from the school of hard knocks. :)

E.Murray
02-05-2014, 06:24 PM
All good stuff, here. Maybe I should clarify my point lest you think I'm saying something I'm not (not that my point is more valid than the others here). I'm not looking for a jerk. I don't hate positive comments. I just don't want the reason behind any comment to be because the reader wants to be nice and give me a compliment. I have no problem with gushing praise (and have given jumping-up-and-down-hollering-yippee praise multiple times). I hope I wasn't misconstrued as saying the only valid crit is one that is 90% negative. I was simply saying that if the story deserves 90% negative comments, then give it 90% negative comments. Don't be afraid to hurt my story for the greater good.

Honesty so far above niceness that it can't even see niceness anymore. That's all I'm sayin'.

Lookinglass
02-05-2014, 06:55 PM
My experience of giving harsher critiques is that most recipients went straight into defensive mode and were unable to process what I was telling them. So now I add an awful lot of sugar to help the medicine go down.

This. This 100%. I'm a pretty honest "big-picture" beta reader, but I always like to soften up the writer with what they did well before I get into what they could have done better. Before, I used to think, Welp, if they're too defensive to accept my suggestions, then it's their loss. But I've realized since then that it's my loss as well. I put in that time to point out these issues because I genuinely wanted to help their work shine.

I also think it's important to acknowledge what writers to well, so we can show them we "get" their work--we get what they're aiming for. If they accept our praise, then it's harder to dismiss our critiques with that excuse.

juliatheswede
02-05-2014, 07:46 PM
I have beta'd lots of MSs and I'd have to say that more often than not, if I dare being honest---even though I'm trying to be constructive and NICE about it---the writer gets so hurt I get an upset email back. This almost always applies to new writers. I'm tired of people expecting their first book to be sensational.

So even though I agree wholeheartedly with E Murray, I sugarcoat my crits a lot these days since, in my experience, a lot of people just can't handle the truth.

khobar
02-05-2014, 08:54 PM
I'm not looking for a jerk. I don't hate positive comments. I just don't want the reason behind any comment to be because the reader wants to be nice and give me a compliment.

I agree. However, the title of the thread threw me off-track. We must expect comments across the spectrum - it's up to *us* to properly interpret the comments. One cannot really do that with a single data point.

The possible exception: if you are writing horror, for example, then one data point from, say, Stephen King, is probably going to be more valuable than 10 or 20 data points from friends and family. ;)

shadowwalker
02-05-2014, 09:05 PM
I guess my whole point with "not being a jerk" is that the whole objective of being a beta is to help improve the story. If you're being a jerk, the writer is not going to listen (or listen as well) as if you just be normal human being polite. Sure, there are writers who have hissy fits if you don't find their story Absolutely Purrfect! but for the most part, people respond better to an objective voice than they do an objectionable one.

khobar
02-05-2014, 09:37 PM
I guess my whole point with "not being a jerk" is that the whole objective of being a beta is to help improve the story. If you're being a jerk, the writer is not going to listen (or listen as well) as if you just be normal human being polite. Sure, there are writers who have hissy fits if you don't find their story Absolutely Purrfect! but for the most part, people respond better to an objective voice than they do an objectionable one.

I would say if one is being a jerk, then the writer is correct not to listen as well (or not at all despite the possibility that even a jerk might actually have something to offer).

Remember - there are people out there who live to tear others down. Writers *must* develop a thick skin and look at comments objectively, or else the jerks win.

shakeysix
02-05-2014, 09:57 PM
I confess. I am a serial encourager and this is why i don't beta read. Except for a couple of writer-friends who get me, I flat refuse. Twenty some years of being a meanie- jerkface high school/college instructor has turned me into a grape headed encourager. I purely hate finding fault with anything and when I do, I couch my observations with honeyed words and lots of sunshine. Don't get me wrong--the sharp words and sarcasm are still at the back of my mind but being a meanie- jerk face is not as much fun as it sounds.
On the other hand I take brutal crits well. So is life--s6

summontherats
02-06-2014, 01:00 AM
All good stuff, here. Maybe I should clarify my point lest you think I'm saying something I'm not (not that my point is more valid than the others here). I'm not looking for a jerk. I don't hate positive comments. I just don't want the reason behind any comment to be because the reader wants to be nice and give me a compliment. I have no problem with gushing praise (and have given jumping-up-and-down-hollering-yippee praise multiple times). I hope I wasn't misconstrued as saying the only valid crit is one that is 90% negative. I was simply saying that if the story deserves 90% negative comments, then give it 90% negative comments. Don't be afraid to hurt my story for the greater good.

Honesty so far above niceness that it can't even see niceness anymore. That's all I'm sayin'.

I totally agree with this. When I ask for a beta, what I give--and what I really want--is complete honesty. I want them to point out every single time they felt something was confusing, unclear, or was mechanically unsound. I always feel like a complete jerk every time I beta something, but I feel like I'm being unfair otherwise. Am I really helping if I go back and delete half my comments because it seems like I've written too many? Am I helping as much as I can if I ignore a bunch of things that I was supposed to look at?

It doesn't have to be harsh just because it's a lot of feedback on what to improve, right? It's all in how you say it. I try (and often fail, but I try) to use unemotional words, and I want my recommendations to be clinical, factual, and dry. I also try to explain the logic behind what made me suggest something, so the reader can say "Oh, I see why they were thinking about this, and I agree/don't agree." And then they can take or leave my suggestions and do whatever they want with it. That's it.

(That said, I think I come off much more harsh than I intend to when I beta. Augh. This approach makes logical sense in my head!)

Deepthought
02-06-2014, 03:45 AM
What I do when I beta read (only did it once so far) is that I try to ask questions about an issue in the story, instead of trying to tell the author flat out. So if MC did X, but contradicts his personality, I'll say, "MC has been doing this and that, so why is he doing X? He has this kind of personality, I thought, because you said before that he does this and that. Why would he suddenly do that?"

Also, when I read the post, my first thought was an animated movie of a beta fish attacking a bunch of sharks and stuff.

jtrylch13
02-06-2014, 04:19 AM
Everyone has very good and valid points. Reading through this I find myself mostly say "I agree. I agree." so it's not helpful to site every point, but I will say two things:

First: I think the keyword we are looking for here is PROFESSIONAL. In critiquing and accepting critique we should be professional. Yes, we are in an unconventional business, we are artists, and different rules apply to our "workplace", but I always find if you act like a professional, then if some one takes it wrong, you've done your best to present the information properly.

Second: I think many posters have misunderstood E. Murray's point. I don't think he was saying that his early failure was the beta's fault. He clearly states his problems in accepting praise because he needs to. I think the point was a "beware to the writer, don't allow yourself to hear what you want to hear."

atthebeach
02-06-2014, 05:40 AM
Similar to several above-

When I Beta, I try to get a sense of what type of crit the person wants, and then praise where I can. But, when it comes down to it, I can be very detailed in my critiques. So, I then try hard to have my praise separate the person from the corrections I suggest in their work. Ya know, for example, your voice really comes through in general, but you have no transitions from paragraph to paragraph and that jerks the reader away from the story (then give suggestions). Now, if it is grammatical errors- I can be ruthless, but that is easy to sweeten by saying we have all needed that.

I do not think that couching some corrections with sweetener hurts the critique at all. In fact, as some above mentioned, I think it "helps the medicine go down" - and BtW, if that cliched idiom were in the reading, I would chop away at it :)

But, I have not done Betas online, so I am learning what questions to ask when I do (I like the coffee analogy here, asking which way do you want it).

I still would not be able to crit without at least adding a touch of sugar. Too many years of grading and critiquing my students and other colleagues and discussing their works in person made me that way. So, for me, my crits are, hmmm, call it- honest with a smile?...

atthebeach
02-06-2014, 05:44 AM
Oh but yes, I now realize jtrylch13 was bringing us back to the OP and the point.

Certainly I am skeptical of any crit that is only dripping with honey. Flattery is great, but I want to improve my work, not just get an attaboy for completion. :) and several Betas definitely. AW is a great place to learn and share this writing journey.

ETA: and now I realize I meant to add this as an edit to my above post, not add a new post. At least I finally looked up what ETA is :)

HSLane
02-06-2014, 08:30 PM
When I beta-read, I'm pretty unsparing of criticism, questions, and/or comments, but I try my best not to sound rude; it's the difference between "You're doing it wrong" to "I don't think this works". And no matter how critical I am, I always try to slip in nice words and comments to make sure they feel like they've done something right.

I prefer detailed critique, but I tend to shrivel up in the face of rudeness and even the mildest insults - I have a tough skin in real life, but when it comes to writing, it might as well be paper.

chompers
02-06-2014, 10:08 PM
I have to disagree as well. I think it falls into how the AUTHOR handles the comments. When I correct grammar and punctuation, I state those as fact. When I comment on the plot and characters, etc., I give those as suggestions, because ultimately it's the author's work. Even if I absolutely hate something, it's still their choice whether to change something. So I think it's a matter of how detailed the beta is. Give reasons why something works or doesn't work.

aus10phile
02-06-2014, 10:12 PM
I guess I just want people to be honest. If they love it, I'd like to know that. If the beta reader only points out problems, then I'll assume he/she thinks nothing is working. I need to know what's working so I don't screw up that part in revision by over-editing. But I tend to latch onto the criticisms more than the praise, so it's maybe a personality preference.

Blinkk
02-06-2014, 10:33 PM
I have to disagree as well. I think it falls into how the AUTHOR handles the comments. When I correct grammar and punctuation, I state those as fact. When I comment on the plot and characters, etc., I give those as suggestions, because ultimately it's the author's work. Even if I absolutely hate something, it's still their choice whether to change something. So I think it's a matter of how detailed the beta is. Give reasons why something works or doesn't work.

+1

juliatheswede
02-07-2014, 05:25 AM
I have to disagree as well. I think it falls into how the AUTHOR handles the comments. When I correct grammar and punctuation, I state those as fact. When I comment on the plot and characters, etc., I give those as suggestions, because ultimately it's the author's work. Even if I absolutely hate something, it's still their choice whether to change something. So I think it's a matter of how detailed the beta is. Give reasons why something works or doesn't work.

Um, I think that last line goes without saying. I don't think I've ever had a beta who told me "This sucks!" in any of my stories without at least stating why the beta felt it sucked (well, not many even use such as strong a word as "sucks"). Obviously comments about plot and character etc is only the beta's opinion. Still, I've found that writers get unnecessarily upset when I tell them they need to get the opinion of others to have a fuller picture of the state of their MS. I get upset that they're upset when it must be obvious to them it took me a couple of hours to go through their chapters since I do give detailed reasons why I don't think something worked. And yes, if I find that what I send back has a lot of "negative comments," I always begin my email by praising what I think was good in the chapters. Common sense tells me it'll be too hard to handle otherwise.

CarbunkleFlux
02-08-2014, 08:52 PM
Constructive criticism, and lots of it, is golden to me. I definitely want to hear what's wrong with my story and suggestions to improve it from a beta.

But like, I also want to hear what I do right, too :\. What you like about my story, what your general opinion of it is. If I get nothing but what's wrong, it can be pretty disheartening because I get the impression that the reader didn't think it had any merit at all.

I think a balance of the positive and the negative is important, as well as honesty and detail.

benluby
02-08-2014, 09:20 PM
I have several beta's, and they predominately are good, but I have one that is stunningly good. Obviously, her opinion isn't the final say, as that is mine after evaluating all the criticism and comments I receive from others, but she doesn't pull any punches.
I appreciate her comments, as they are blunt and direct, be it 'WTF is this shit?' or 'if you change one word of this I'll break your fingers', she has a knack of finding what works and what doesn't, and I appreciate her candor and honesty.
Some of the others tend to be very 'I love it' types, with minimal criticism, and that is not conducive.

E.Murray
02-08-2014, 09:23 PM
Agreed. Positive comments aren't bad if deserved. Who wants to only hear the bad? If they come from a concern for the writer's feelings, though, rather than writing that's actually strong, they are deadly. That was the initial point, not that we should be jerks to each other.

Likewise, if negative comments (which are really needed to strengthen the story) are left out because the reader doesn't want to hurt the writer's feelings, that's dangerous.

I don't think that "balance of positive and negative" should mean that the reader tries to give an un-earned positive for every negative or leave out needed negatives to keep some artificial ratio. Obviously, it would be ideal if every story in every iteration were good enough to praise. But if it's not, don't shovel praise onto it. Kindly tell them the parts that don't work (and why) and point out the places where they get it right. But if the ratio is 80% "doesn't work" and 20% "works fine" make the comments reflect that. Don't force a 50-50 ratio to be nice.

And, benluby, I agree. My best beta readers have tended to be the ones who are passionate enough about the story and characters to threaten me with bodily harm. :)

CarbunkleFlux
02-08-2014, 10:13 PM
Agreed. Positive comments aren't bad if deserved. Who wants to only hear the bad? If they come from a concern for the writer's feelings, though, rather than writing that's actually strong, they are deadly. That was the initial point, not that we should be jerks to each other.

Likewise, if negative comments (which are really needed to strengthen the story) are left out because the reader doesn't want to hurt the writer's feelings, that's dangerous.

I don't think that "balance of positive and negative" should mean that the reader tries to give an un-earned positive for every negative or leave out needed negatives to keep some artificial ratio. Obviously, it would be ideal if every story in every iteration were good enough to praise. But if it's not, don't shovel praise onto it. Kindly tell them the parts that don't work (and why) and point out the places where they get it right. But if the ratio is 80% "doesn't work" and 20% "works fine" make the comments reflect that. Don't force a 50-50 ratio to be nice.

And, benluby, I agree. My best beta readers have tended to be the ones who are passionate enough about the story and characters to threaten me with bodily harm. :)

I don't think it means you should make things up or leave things out either.

I just think that a beta reader should be encouraging as well as scathing. After all, you want them to improve the story, not scrap it because they think the whole thing is garbage. Unless it is, at which point I'm sure you can find an encouraging way to frame that and give suggestions so they don't feel like they're at an impasse.

It IS possible to have a middle ground somewhere between 'being too soft because you don't want to hurt their feelings' and 'so brutally honest that you crush their soul'.

benluby
02-08-2014, 10:57 PM
I don't think it means you should make things up or leave things out either.

I just think that a beta reader should be encouraging as well as scathing. After all, you want them to improve the story, not scrap it because they think the whole thing is garbage. Unless it is, at which point I'm sure you can find an encouraging way to frame that and give suggestions so they don't feel like they're at an impasse.

It IS possible to have a middle ground somewhere between 'being too soft because you don't want to hurt their feelings' and 'so brutally honest that you crush their soul'.


Part of it also comes down to the writer and the quality of the story. You need to have a hide like a rhino to take criticism, even honest critiques. (No such thing as objective, because all critique of writing is subject to the opinions and tastes of the reader.)
If I wrote a seventy thousand word steaming pile of fecal matter, I'd rather be told that than have them say 'but you spelled everything perfectly and the punctuation set my heart aflutter'.
Tell me the story is shit and let me move on. If you find a character interesting, then say 'keep Joe Blow, but flush the rest', I'll understand what you mean.
But again, how we take it, just as how it is delivered, is highly subjective. Rather than reaching a consensus on this topic, we'd probably have better luck herding cats in a hurricane.

jorodo
02-11-2014, 08:31 AM
I'm the opposite from most of you, I skim right over the praise and focus on the bad. My beta's have given plenty of praise but I really could care less about that at this point. I just want to know what does not work.

sussu
02-11-2014, 11:28 PM
I always brace myself for the worst and expect people to find something wrong with my story. I wish more writers would do this. It helps the hurt.
And I am disappointed when it is all sugar coated because it sounds dishonest.
I prefer a Beta reader to say I like that you did this or that, but you could have made this even better this way or that way.
However, few people are able to put into words why they do not like something. When I read people's critiques, I see that many people look at the grammar and punctuation to avoid explaining why they have a problem with the story. It takes a lot of experience to be able to find out what exactly is wrong with someone's story.
Some people even say that a novel is 90% writing and 10% plot,which I think is ridiculous. Come one, who reads a novel for the beautiful writing? It's the plot, how believable the story is and the tension in the plot that makes us all turn the page.
So when someone does not like your novel, they find your writing style at fault.
Getting the big picture is harder for a lot of people.

As a writer, I have been through stages. When I was learning my craft, I had a rhino skin. Now that I am starting to get a little better and understand how writing works, and I have spent so many hours revising my work, negative comments are like a blow.
You have to take in consideration how long and how hard the writer has spend on his or her manuscript.
That counts.

Blinkk
02-12-2014, 12:40 AM
However, few people are able to put into words why they do not like something. When I read people's critiques, I see that many people look at the grammar and punctuation to avoid explaining why they have a problem with the story.

Hmm, I wonder who your betas are. I have betas that are wonderful about fixing plot holes and character issues. I'm currently working on a story where one MC's personality needs a major overhaul. My beta gave me spot on advice on how to fix the personality. She specifically said, "Not sure the problem is what the character is saying, but how she's saying it. It's the formality that's killing the persona." This new rewrite is coming out beautifully based on her suggestions. Each beta has their own style of editing and lumping everyone in one category is a little off-putting. Maybe your experience has been betas who are heavy on punctuation and grammar, but there are wonderful ones out there too who focus on plot and character issues.


Some people even say that a novel is 90% writing and 10% plot,which I think is ridiculous. Come one, who reads a novel for the beautiful writing?

I do agree it's the minority... but... Stephen King, Bag of Bones. Just saying, cause it's one of my favorite books in the world.

I applaude you for having rhino skin. Not many people do. Especially those who are just starting out.

Becca C.
02-12-2014, 12:50 AM
I don't mind if a critique is all praise if the beta reader can tell me exactly why they love what they love and back everything they say up with facts. If they think I handled a particular aspect really well, I'd love to hear something useful like "your book did [X thing] in a much more sensitive/open-minded/whatever way than [X popular book] did, because [reasons]."

I just want betas to tell me the truth, whatever that truth is.

E.Murray
02-12-2014, 02:26 AM
However, few people are able to put into words why they do not like something. When I read people's critiques, I see that many people look at the grammar and punctuation to avoid explaining why they have a problem with the story. It takes a lot of experience to be able to find out what exactly is wrong with someone's story.

I agree very much with this. When I first started swapping stuff, I could pick up the easy ones right away - "You have this guy suddenly taking charge when a page back he was scared to death. Why?" But, the real issues were too hard to get a grasp on. I'd find myself saying, "This part drags" without being able to figure out why I thought that. It took quite a bit of time before I understood enough to sort out the language and say, "Your sentence length and passive verbs are making this bog when it needs to move fast." Being a useful beta that can hone in on the real issues in a substantive way is a learned skill.


Some people even say that a novel is 90% writing and 10% plot,which I think is ridiculous. Come one, who reads a novel for the beautiful writing? It's the plot, how believable the story is and the tension in the plot that makes us all turn the page.
So when someone does not like your novel, they find your writing style at fault.

I've never heard that "statistic". I've heard that a novel is 90% story and 10% plot, though. And that one, I'll have carved on my tombstone.

sussu
02-12-2014, 08:33 PM
Maybe this forum should have a file that would list all the things Betas could look for because when a story fails and bores the reader, it is often for the same reasons:

- The characters are cliche or the story is unoriginal
- It is all external conflict with too little or no internal conflict
- There is no story but a succession of events (which means the character has no well-defined goal or problem to overcome or the hero has a problem, but he or she is not trying to solve the problem)
- The stakes are too low (the reader does not feel it is worth turning the page to see if the hero will be successful)
- The character has no big weakness he or she has to overcome (so no growth)
- The world/the setting is confusing or poorly described
- There is no tension (that's a major one)

I am sure there is more to look for. I am sure you can come up with more. Betas might appreciate to have something to work with. Because writers are so much into their stories it becomes hard to go through the list and decide this or that is lacking. Betas are our new pairs of eyes.

AlwaysJuly
02-14-2014, 08:10 AM
Personally, I really appreciate hearing both good and bad, it just has to be honest. I don't think a crit that fails to point out the good is as useful as it can be; it's important to know what IS working as well as what isn't.

That said, I appreciate the crits that push me as a writer, that are demanding and tough. I think there needs to be a bit of balance.

And of course, the very best crits aren't just "This part didn't work for me" but "This part didn't work for me because of X and I think you should work on Y". I have a friend who did such a fantastically helpful crit for me like that, one that left me with lots of hard work to do but also left me feeling energized to get to business, and now I have to hold myself back from being all, "PLEASE CRIT EVERYTHING I WRITE."

EMaree
02-16-2014, 09:06 PM
Yeah, count me in with the betas who find too much honest or blunt critique results in the writer getting too defensive to learn. It's not a great way to beta, in my experience.

I wouldn't call what I do "sugercoating", though -- I don't soften my critique. I just find parts I like and try to focus evenly on good as well as bad. It's a change of focus more than anything else.

beckethm
02-16-2014, 10:06 PM
However, few people are able to put into words why they do not like something. When I read people's critiques, I see that many people look at the grammar and punctuation to avoid explaining why they have a problem with the story. It takes a lot of experience to be able to find out what exactly is wrong with someone's story.


I'm coming in late, but I feel compelled to respond to this. I do not agree that a critique focused on grammar and punctuation necessarily means that the critic is incapable of deeper analysis.

For me, reading a manuscript riddled with grammar and punctuation errors or other craft issues is like looking at a painting that's covered in layers of dirt and grime. The painting could be a masterpiece, but I can't tell that unless you clear off the muck. Same with those craft issues in writing. If all I can see are technical mistakes, I can't tell whether the story's any good, and frankly, I don't think it matters. A writer could have the best story idea in the world, but if he or she can't communicate it in a coherent way, it's worthless.

I do agree that critiquing things like story structure, plot, and characterization--which should be what a beta read focuses on--engages a different skill set than critiquing the technical elements of writing. It's a much less exact science, and it can be hard to identify why something isn't working. And you're right that some people simply don't have that critical skill. I just wouldn't assume that a critique focused on technical flaws is a sign of weakness on the part of the critiquer. It may be that those technical things are what the writer most needs to work on.

starbelly35
02-22-2014, 10:34 PM
I

My claim? There's no place for "nice" in beta reading. I think it was Uncle Jim who said that a reader is the most selfish person in the world. We go to a book looking for something to entertain us. The author's hopes or situation or background don't matter a whit. So as a beta, you can't think about the author's feelings if you want to improve the story.

Note that this isn't the same thing as being rude. You can still be mannerly (for instance, it's not OK to attack the writer). But don't hold back a comment about the story just because you're afraid of hurting the author's feelings. If part of it blows, say so (with only minimal sugar). Don't go back and think, "I've given six negative comments in a row. I need to find something nice to say." If there are seven negatives in a row, point them all out with no apology. It's supposed to be writer and critter working together to find weak writing and kill it.

The world's most dangerous beta is the one who cares about your feelings.
My goodness, how I so agree with this! I actually had a beta who kept my work for months with no feedback. After hounding her quite a bit, she sent me a message telling me that her critique would be "too harsh" for a newbie. Talk about making me angry! A harsh, honest critique would have been much more helpful than a candy-coated "it has great potential" or, "I hated your protagonist so I'm not even going to tell you what I think". Be honest, but polite! That is what I would like to see in a beta. :):)

Lauram6123
02-23-2014, 06:05 AM
My goodness, how I so agree with this! I actually had a beta who kept my work for months with no feedback. After hounding her quite a bit, she sent me a message telling me that her critique would be "too harsh" for a newbie. Talk about making me angry! A harsh, honest critique would have been much more helpful than a candy-coated "it has great potential" or, "I hated your protagonist so I'm not even going to tell you what I think". Be honest, but polite! That is what I would like to see in a beta. :):)

Really? She never even gave you any feedback at all? That is just awful. Leaves you imagining what she would have said and driving yourself crazy.

khobar
02-23-2014, 07:28 AM
My goodness, how I so agree with this! I actually had a beta who kept my work for months with no feedback. After hounding her quite a bit, she sent me a message telling me that her critique would be "too harsh" for a newbie. Talk about making me angry! A harsh, honest critique would have been much more helpful than a candy-coated "it has great potential" or, "I hated your protagonist so I'm not even going to tell you what I think". Be honest, but polite! That is what I would like to see in a beta. :):)

I had a beta who was very reserved in providing any feedback. Then she started giving some feedback that was kinda generic but didn't quite make sense either. Eventually she told me she hadn't actually read my work but if I could format it for iPhone she'd try harder.

Uh, yeah. It's frustrating and annoying, and I wished she had just been honest up front, but in this business you just have to move on. You're right - a harsh but honest critique would have been very helpful. Oh well...

Lauram6123
02-23-2014, 09:38 AM
I had a beta who was very reserved in providing any feedback. Then she started giving some feedback that was kinda generic but didn't quite make sense either. Eventually she told me she hadn't actually read my work but if I could format it for iPhone she'd try harder.

Uh, yeah. It's frustrating and annoying, and I wished she had just been honest up front, but in this business you just have to move on. You're right - a harsh but honest critique would have been very helpful. Oh well...

You know, that really bums me out. When I agree to beta somebody's work, I take it very seriously! If I got something that I couldn't read...for whatever reason, I feel like it's my duty just to tell the person, be honest about the situation and move on. It's not fair to just leave someone hanging!

Putputt
02-23-2014, 02:37 PM
I had a beta who was very reserved in providing any feedback. Then she started giving some feedback that was kinda generic but didn't quite make sense either. Eventually she told me she hadn't actually read my work but if I could format it for iPhone she'd try harder.

Uh, yeah. It's frustrating and annoying, and I wished she had just been honest up front, but in this business you just have to move on. You're right - a harsh but honest critique would have been very helpful. Oh well...

@_@

I think you win the Crappiest Experience With A Beta award. Sorry you had to go through that. I've never heard of such an awful beta experience before.

phantasy
02-23-2014, 11:25 PM
Yeah, count me in with the betas who find too much honest or blunt critique results in the writer getting too defensive to learn. It's not a great way to beta, in my experience.

I wouldn't call what I do "sugercoating", though -- I don't soften my critique. I just find parts I like and try to focus evenly on good as well as bad. It's a change of focus more than anything else.

Ditto for me. No offense, but some critters seem to have made it something of a sport to barrel down on other's writing. I've learned not to get defensive but I much prefer listening to someone's tough crits when they also: have something positive to say, encourage to keep writing and are respectful. It took the writer MORE time to write this as much you did to crit. You're not a god. Honestly, I've never experienced such the toughness as an artist. I don't see why people think if you're nice you're going to make the person weak or something? That's ridiculous. It shouldn't be an army bootcamp unless the person asks for it.

Okay, rant over.

benluby
02-24-2014, 12:15 AM
You know, that really bums me out. When I agree to beta somebody's work, I take it very seriously! If I got something that I couldn't read...for whatever reason, I feel like it's my duty just to tell the person, be honest about the situation and move on. It's not fair to just leave someone hanging!

This is another thing I look for in my beta's. How fast they read what I wrote. I've had them tear through the story in short order, letting me know they are going to provide me the feedback, but they've read it, and the speed in which they do this at times really lets me know that they liked the story. Granted, it may need tweaking and prettying up, but they more than likely enjoyed it.
I like honest beta's. The ones that come in with guns blazing. My job as a writer isn't to sit in the corner and sob about critique, it is to take that critique to make the book as good as I can.
My opinion is, it's better to have one person gut it and make it better, than a page full of bad reviews on Amazon.

EDIT: Maybe I am just demented, but there's more than one person that posted in this thread I'd love to have as a beta if they liked my genre. Finding this type of beta reader is like finding fifty dollars on the sidewalk. You don't just walk past, you pick that bugger up!

railroad
02-24-2014, 12:39 AM
:)
This is another thing I look for in my beta's. How fast they read what I wrote. I've had them tear through the story in short order, letting me know they are going to provide me the feedback, but they've read it, and the speed in which they do this at times really lets me know that they liked the story. Granted, it may need tweaking and prettying up, but they more than likely enjoyed it.
I like honest beta's. The ones that come in with guns blazing. My job as a writer isn't to sit in the corner and sob about critique, it is to take that critique to make the book as good as I can.
My opinion is, it's better to have one person gut it and make it better, than a page full of bad reviews on Amazon.

EDIT: Maybe I am just demented, but there's more than one person that posted in this thread I'd love to have as a beta if they liked my genre. Finding this type of beta reader is like finding fifty dollars on the sidewalk. You don't just walk past, you pick that bugger up!

Forgive me, but you've done it twice so I thought I'd mention this. You don't need an apostrophe when you are making something plural, i.e. beta's.

benluby
02-24-2014, 01:00 AM
:)

Forgive me, but you've done it twice so I thought I'd mention this. You don't need an apostrophe when you are making something plural, i.e. beta's.

Okay. It is a habit that I need to break, and also why I have an editor that is a friend of mine. As you can tell, I really need one.

Lauram6123
02-24-2014, 01:51 AM
:)

Forgive me, but you've done it twice so I thought I'd mention this. You don't need an apostrophe when you are making something plural, i.e. beta's.

It's funny on a beta thread to correct the posters! Ha! :D

railroad
02-24-2014, 02:12 AM
Hah, well I was just corrected on another thread so paying it forward, lol.

benluby
02-24-2014, 02:16 AM
Hah, well I was just corrected on another thread so paying it forward, lol.


On a writing forum I'm surprised it isn't littered with corrections and grammatical bombs going off left and right.
I am still waiting to see a war between the various editors and wannabe editors break out.

onesecondglance
02-24-2014, 02:01 PM
Ditto for me. No offense, but some critters seem to have made it something of a sport to barrel down on other's writing.

If you see that happening here, report it to the mods. There are a subset of people who give critiques who showboat and snark, but as mentioned above, if you see that here, call it out. I'm no veteran, but I've been here long enough to know that's not part of the culture of this place.


I've learned not to get defensive but I much prefer listening to someone's tough crits when they also: have something positive to say, encourage to keep writing and are respectful. It took the writer MORE time to write this as much you did to crit. You're not a god.

It is useful to have a healthy respect for the opinions and time of others. Of course it takes less time to crit than to write - I don't recall ever spending eighteen months on a beta :rolleyes: - but that doesn't mean that time has been spent idly.

I would also say that the absence or presence of "positivity" and "encouragement to write" has little bearing on the quality of the crit. Some critters see themselves as softening the blow, others see themselves as getting straight to the point. It's a relationship thing: partly about the person giving the critique, partly about the person receiving it, and everything to do with their relationship.

If those aspects are important to you, then seek out those qualities in a beta; but remember they might not be important or useful to others, and a critter who doesn't do those things is not in any absolute sense a "bad" beta.

Putputt
02-24-2014, 02:15 PM
Ditto for me. No offense, but some critters seem to have made it something of a sport to barrel down on other's writing. I've learned not to get defensive but I much prefer listening to someone's tough crits when they also: have something positive to say, encourage to keep writing and are respectful. It took the writer MORE time to write this as much you did to crit. You're not a god. Honestly, I've never experienced such the toughness as an artist. I don't see why people think if you're nice you're going to make the person weak or something? That's ridiculous. It shouldn't be an army bootcamp unless the person asks for it.

Okay, rant over.

I've noticed that it helps a lot if the person posting for crits let critters know in advance that they prefer gentler crits. In QLH, this is definitely the case. So when you're ready to post something, just add a note like "Please be gentle!" The critters generally keep that in mind.