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Celia Cyanide
12-11-2006, 09:09 PM
We hear responses to critiques too often with statements like, "You just don't get it!" or "You've hurt my feelings! I worked hard on this!" But what do you think is really bad critique? Is there anything that you do consider unfair? Or just plain dumb?

Birol
12-11-2006, 09:45 PM
Not unfair. There are times when a critiquer is not critiquing the story that is in front of them, but the story that they would have written if they had been writing that story. There are also individuals who rely too much on the platitudes and "the rules of writing," such as "show, don't tell." They apply them too literally, as hard-and-fast rules, rather than as flexible guidelines.

In those cases, as with all critiques, you thank the person for taking their time, take what you can use, and discard the rest.

WildScribe
12-11-2006, 09:46 PM
I also don't like it when people skim and then presume to critique. JUST READ THE THING!

Julie Worth
12-11-2006, 09:49 PM
I also don't like it when people skim and then presume to critique. JUST READ THE THING!

What does it matter? If you haven't paid them, do what Birol said--thank them, use what you can and discard the rest. Keep the knowledge that they are ignoramuses inside, for your secret satisfaction. If you have paid, if the critiquing is part of a conference or retreat, then you MUST get revenge on these people. If you have the opportunity to critique their work, return their papers crumpled, covered with coffee and urine stains. Compare their writing glowingly to writers who were published only after committing suicide. Be imaginative.

piscesgirl80
12-11-2006, 10:04 PM
There was a funny article in the October issue of The Writer, on bad types of critiques, unfortunately I can't remember them all.

One type of bad critique is one that is vague and doesn't give the writer anything to work with. (i.e. "This sucks!" :D )

Another is when the readers don't like the genre of the given work, and suggest changes to make it more like their usual tastes, rather than accepting the change of pace. ("Yeah, I think 'Better Off Dead' is too violent. Why don't you replace the murders with tea parties?")

I wrote a poem a few years back about a girl with anorexia. A response which I considered an unfair critique was someone who said the concept of the lines where the character fretted over the calories in a bit of chocolate was "unrealistic."

I could understand if he thought the lines were the worst-written dreck that had ever been put on paper, that the poem was just horrible,etc., but with the thousands of girls with eating disorders, I was speechless that he thought an obsession with calories was unrealistic.
(Fortunately, other people in the group gave me more constructive criticism which helped improve the poem.)

WildScribe
12-11-2006, 10:06 PM
What does it matter? If you haven't paid them, do what Birol said--thank them, use what you can and discard the rest. Keep the knowledge that they are ignoramuses inside, for your secret satisfaction. If you have paid, if the critiquing is part of a conference or retreat, then you MUST get revenge on these people. If you have the opportunity to critique their work, return their papers crumpled, covered with coffee and urine stains. Compare their writing glowingly to writers who were published only after committing suicide. Be imaginative.

The people I was talking about were members of a critique group. In a way they were paid, since we mostly critiqued on an "I'll scratch your back if you scratch mine" kind of system. Anyway, I'm over it.

Celia Cyanide
12-11-2006, 10:06 PM
I once had a guy critique my writing process. He told me I shouldn't spend so much time finding the right words. I don't think it really matters how I do it, unless I don't like the way I do it.

Same guy asked another woman in the class if the evil spirit she had created for her WIP was documented in non-fiction books, and if not, why was she writing it?

Simon Woodhouse
12-11-2006, 10:07 PM
But what do you think is really bad critique?

When it gets personal. I don't mind criticism of what I've written, but when the critter starts using phrases like 'the author obviously doesn't know blah, blah, blah'.

I wrote a short story once in which a secondary character smoked a lot. One of the people critting took exception to this, and really started getting quite personal about it. I found it difficult to hold my tongue and not respond, but I managed it, and just thanked him for his time and left it at that.

VGrossack
12-11-2006, 10:24 PM
I'd say, it's best to work on developing as thick a skin as you can. Some people, it's true, can't critique or feel as if they have to focus on the negative. A play of mine was read aloud by a number of actors to a group of people who were supposed to critique it. The woman who was moderating was very negative, and made a point of saying, "Let's see what we can tell Victoria in order to make her play better!" (or something like that). The group sat there dumbly for a bit, and then another woman finally stuck her hand up in the air and admitted that she had enjoyed it a lot. Everyone else seemed to exhale and they started praising it with enthusiasm.

On the other hand, I've received plenty of criticism that I didn't like at the time but which was really spot on. And why should my work be perfect, even in the first - twentieth - or hundredth - draft?

A while back I wrote an article called "How to Get - and Take - Criticism." Most of the people here probably don't need to read it, but a few might find some helpful information in it. Here's the link:

http://www.coffeehouseforwriters.com/fictionfix/0511%20Grossack.html

Kind regards
Victoria Grossack
www.tapestryofbronze.com

veinglory
12-11-2006, 10:36 PM
I can generally ignore any unhelpful criticism of the writing, but when it becomes a critique of the writer in anyway that is more of a problem.

Roger J Carlson
12-11-2006, 10:47 PM
We hear responses to critiques too often with statements like, "You just don't get it!" or "You've hurt my feelings! I worked hard on this!" But what do you think is really bad critique? Is there anything that you do consider unfair? Or just plain dumb?My first response to an unfavorable critique is always: "They just don't get it!" But then I remind myself that if someone who is actively reading the thing to critique it can't understand something, how can I expect a casual reader to understand it.

If a reader "doesn't get it", then the writer has failed, at least for that reader. If a significant number of readers make the same mistake, the writer has certainly failed.

I don't remember where I heard this (maybe Uncle Jim), but if a reader tells you there's something wrong in your story, they're probably right. If they tell you how to fix it, they're probably wrong.

ETA: But if an editor tells you how to fix something, go out and celebrate!

Julie Worth
12-11-2006, 10:49 PM
I don't remember where I heard this (maybe Uncle Jim), but if a reader tells you there's something wrong in your story, they're probably right. If they tell you how to fix it, they're probably wrong.

ETA: But if an editor tells you how to fix something, go out and celebrate!

Right on!

Southern_girl29
12-11-2006, 11:15 PM
I think someone up thread said that they don't like vague crits. I don't either. I don't like it when someone says this doesn't work, but doesn't tell you why. I would even like it if they said, "This doesn't work. I can't tell you why, but it just threw me out of the story."

But, even if I don't like the crit they give, I always say thank you and move on. I did a crit for someone in my online writing group, and she came back at me like I didn't know what I was talking about at all.

VGrossack
12-11-2006, 11:56 PM
Warning: long post. Decided to post the old article here. Hope it helps!

Kind regards
Victoria

* * *
How to Get - and Take - Criticism
Victoria Grossack

One of the best ways to improve your writing in general and your work in particular is to apply the criticism of others. But where do you go to get such a critique? And how do you take it? Having your work critiqued can be occasionally painful; how do you deal with negative reactions?

Finding People to Critique Your Work

If all you want to hear is praise about your work, then you should turn to friends and family who never say a bad word to your face. This will prevent your ego from being damaged. However, if you want to improve your writing, you have to find people who are both willing to look at your work and who are competent at writing, or at least at analyzing what they read.

Where do you find such people? If they are not in your close circle of acquaintance, then you will have to step outside that circle. In many ways, it is good to step outside your normal circle of friends for literary criticism, because relationships can be strained by writing critiques. Your friends may provide you with great, right-to-the-heart-of-the-matter comments that help you improve your story by tall bounds. But you may write so terribly that your friends don’t know what to say and feel imposed upon by the request. Or you may write so well that you make your friends jealous. I have experienced all three reactions, including, I admit it, the second (but that was many years ago).

So you may want to turn to relative strangers for critique. There are many ways to do this. Some of them are free; others cost money. There may be writing groups that meet in your area. These can be great; for face-to-face meetings with other writers can inspire you and give you a shot of creative-laden energy. They can also be timewasters, spiraling down into social meetings – pleasant, perhaps, but not useful. The problem with these meetings is that they are constrained by time and space: whoever in the surrounding area can get to the library every other Tuesday, for example.

Another possibility is an online critique group. Now here I will do a plug for coffeehouseforwiters, which sponsors Fiction Fix. This site has an excellent critique group, CH Select which is where I sharpened my own writing skills years ago. If you search on the internet you can find others which may suit your specialty.

Some alternatives involve money but should not be dismissed out of hand just because of this. You may take a class or a seminar, either in person or on-line. Another possibility is to hire someone to look at your work individually. Some people may scorn the idea of going to “book doctors,” because they feel that they should not have to pay in order to learn to write. Perhaps these people can’t afford the money, but I don’t see why a service, if it offers you value and insight, should not be paid for. Another reason people are leery of paying for help is because they are afraid of getting ripped off, which of course is always a possibility. So if you are considering this, you should always check references.

People who give you criticism are often known as “critters.” I’ll be using this word occasionally in the rest of the article.

What to Give Them

Say you have found someone or some people you want to look at your writing. What should you give them? Unless you already have a working relationship with these people, please consider the following two suggestions:

1. Start with a sample. Unless you are paying someone to read thousands of your words, don’t begin by saying, “Could you give me a critique of my 80,000-word novel?” This sort of request strikes terror into a busy person. Instead, ask your potential critter to read and comment on a few paragraphs or pages. In fact, this is a pretty good thing to do with a book doctor, too – this way you could test your potential hire.

2. Give them your very best. Don’t think that poor grammar and typos are excusable, simply because you are not sending your work to an agent or an editor. Wait until you have finished your piece and re-read it several times before passing it along. Not giving critters your best is actually insulting because you’re wasting their time – you are telling them that they do not merit your very best. If you give critters a piece full of obvious mistakes, then you may ruin your chances with getting a good critique of the story. In addition, they may be reluctant to look at anything else.

Not giving critters your very best wastes your time, too. How? Well, good critters should be used to help you find the problems that you can’t find on your own. If all they do is point out the problems that you already knew were there, then how have they helped you?

How to Take Criticism

Receiving praise is easy. All you have to do is smile and say thank you. But what should you do when the response is less than flattering?

You may not be able to smile, but you should still say thank you. Someone has taken the trouble to offer you an opinion. Unless you have half-a-dozen qualified opinions to the contrary, you should listen.

Still, what if it hurts? You may be offering your masterpiece, your child, your very soul on the paper – the slightest criticism can sting. What do you do?

I’ll start by saying what you should NOT do: do not reply hastily and negatively, especially with insults. Tell them that you appreciate their taking the time to tell you what they think. Even if you know they have made a mistake – for example, if they have claimed that Benjamin Franklin never went to France, when you know that the opposite is true – point out this difference of opinion politely.

The most difficult chore is dealing with the possibility that what you wrote has genuine flaws. What do you do? Here are some suggestions:

1. Take pride in the fact that you wrote something. Many people dream of being writers; far fewer get around to actually writing their stories and novels. So by writing anything – even if it is not great – you have done a lot. The first step is to write. The second step is to learn to write well.

2. Distance yourself from your writing. One reason criticism of your writing can hurt so much is because you see it as an extension of yourself. Recognize that your writing is not you; try putting your ego away and concentrate on making your work better.

3. Remind yourself that others have taken a long time to learn how to write. Why it should be any different for you? Many people seem to believe that because they know how to read, they also know how to write. Perhaps you enjoy watching professional baseball – you understand all the rules, you know the statistics, and so on. Do you think that just because you know how to watch that you could hit a home run out of Yankee Stadium? Or think of professional figure skating: when it’s well done, it looks easy. But we all know that these things are not easy. Why should writing be any different? You have to do your exercises and learn the craft.

4. Take the criticism and apply it. When you accept the criticism, and apply it to your story, your work will get better. You will also start gaining that necessary distance from your work so that you can see – and fix - the flaws before others do.

Give as Well as Take

If you join a critique group, make sure you give critiques at least as often as you receive them. There are several reasons for doing so. First, it’s simple courtesy. Second, when you give a thoughtful critique of someone else’s writing, you are much more likely to receive a thoughtful critique in return. Third, as you give another person a thoughtful critique, explaining what you did or did not like about a particular paragraph, you will be simultaneously improving your own writing. You will be taking writing more seriously, and others may eventually take your writing more seriously too.

* *
Kind regards
Victoria Grossack
www.tapestryofbronze.com

blackbird
12-12-2006, 01:04 AM
I also don't like it when people skim and then presume to critique. JUST READ THE THING!

I agree. I've had critiques where it was obvious the reader didn't actually read the piece, or at least failed to do so closely. What I hate is when someone jumps on something that, had they read the piece closely, would have been evident in the writing. This happens quite often, say, at large writer's conferences, where the participants may be trying to cram their group's critiquing homework in with a half dozen other activities, as well as doing their own networking. It can also happen because readers are human and if they're trying to read your piece under less than ideal conditions-at work, during breaks, or late at night when they're tired, or in between changing diapers and dealing with screaming kids, or early in the morning before they've had their coffee (you get the idea), this likewise is going to affect the quality of the critique.

A good example: When I was a student in my MFA program, and our class had a story to workshop on a particular night, it wasn't unusual to find classmates hastily skimming over the writer's work during the last fifteen minutes or so before class. Sadly, a graduate student's life is a demanding one, and I'm not really faulting my classmates (sometimes we get in a bind and do what we have to do) but then I would really have to wonder about the quality of the "critiques." If you read through the piece too hurriedly and carelessly to catch what may be crucial elements of the story, you're certainly not doing the writer any favor-and thereby wasting your own time, as well.

I've learned to take most critiques with the proverbial grain of salt. There are several key questions you have to ask yourself, before deciding how much weight to give a critique: Is this person well-versed in your particular genre? Do they know what makes a piece of writing work in this genre? What is their own background and experience? Are they published and successful themselves? (If so, it might pay to heed their advice, or at least to give it a bit more credence).

Celia Cyanide
12-12-2006, 01:07 AM
I agree. I've had critiques where it was obvious the reader didn't actually read the piece, or at least failed to do so closely.

I don't mind having people at AW say, "I didn't finish it, and here is why." It's useful to hear why they lost interest. But I think that when you are in a critique group, it's bad manners to skim over a work when you want the writer in question to read yours thoroughly.

Roger J Carlson
12-12-2006, 01:18 AM
And sometimes the thing they criticize is not what's really wrong with it.

At a writers workshop I was in a group critique. My novel was a fantasy and most of the criticism was about how the magic worked. I felt then and still feel that the criticism was unfounded. I realized later that what was really wrong was the writing was slow and stodgy. Instead of recognizing bad writing for what it was, they focused on details.

I've heard it said here before that if your story is fast enough, the readers won't have time to study the scenery. My readers were looking at the scenery.

So sometimes if you really disagree with a critique, look a little wider. There might be another legitimate problem that is masquerading as something else.

Celia Cyanide
12-12-2006, 01:27 AM
So sometimes if you really disagree with a critique, look a little wider. There might be another legitimate problem that is masquerading as something else.

That is a very good point, but one that should also be remembered in reverse. If you are giving a critique, and you find yourself focusing on something that you really shouldn't focus on, ask yourself why.

Julie Worth
12-12-2006, 01:30 AM
That is a very good point, but one that should also be remembered in reverse. If you are giving a critique, and you find yourself focusing on something that you really shouldn't focus on, ask yourself why.

For me, it's generally that the writing sucks so horribly that there's no help for it. But I have to come up with something.

blackbird
12-12-2006, 01:51 AM
I couldn't resist. Here are some examples of what I've considered really BAD critiques of my work (all taken from real life):

I once received this, in response to the first chapter of my novel, which is about three contemporary Native American characters living in a small town in southern Tennessee. The very first paragraph clearly establishes the novel's setting. Yet I received this gem of a comment:

I don't get any sense of the setting. I can't picture any desert imagery here. (Ah, maybe because southern Tennessee isn't exactly the desert?).

And maybe because not all Native Americans live in the Southwest?

Or this one, which made for a nifty follow-up:

These characters don't act like Native Americans. (Maybe because they aren't stereotypes?).

Sheesh, gimme a break! Sorry, I just had to vent.:)

Yes, believe me, there is definitely such a thing as a bad critique!

maestrowork
12-12-2006, 02:33 AM
I agree with Lori that some of the worst critiques I had was the critter was trying to tell me "Hey, this is the way *I* would have written" or they didn't like the story because... well, they didn't like the genre. Other bad critiques -- focusing too much on the nitpicking like grammar, etc., offer nothing good to say about the ms. to balance the critique (it can't be all that bad, can it?) I've also learned to take what I can and put the rest to rest.

Stacia Kane
12-12-2006, 02:34 AM
I once had someone complain about the layout of my hero's beachfront backyard. He had a "guesthouse about the size of [heroine's] duplex", and the comment was: "But how big is the duplex? Take this out, and put in a series of small cabanas connected by pathways instead. That makes more sense."

Um...this is a private residence, not the Beverly Beach Club, and I've been to the area where this fictional house is located, and there are guesthouses. Why on earth would someone put a bunch of paths and cabanas in their backyard?

And why was this something you felt you needed to comment on? Ultimately, he has a guesthouse because that's what he has. It's like reading he drives a Mercedes Roadster and saying, "I don't like that car. He should drive something else."

It just really floored me...that his backyard guesthouse was so bothersome critter needed to tell me it was wrong to have it there. Nothing to do with the story or the writing (aside from it being one of the heroine's first impressions of him, and so showing he was wealthy)...but nitpicky enough that she even mentioned it later when someone made a casual remark about the guesthouse. "Cabanas!"

short_story
12-12-2006, 03:04 AM
Hello everyone. I'd just like to sneak some of my experiences in on bad critiques. I've had my stories critiqued in a group setting. A writer told me, "English must be your second language." And, "You need to go back to school, and study grammar." They'd say this, without offering anything to improve the story. I raised an eyebrow, and thought, okay, they're clearly not critiquing.
Here's the beginning of a story I wrote. But, before you read it, I'd like to say, no matter how you change it, someone else may or may not agree with the change.

*A bouncer, in a crowded Wisconsin nightclub, was threatened by an ex-con named Jake Daren; wilding a switchblade.*

Bufty
12-12-2006, 03:07 AM
I decline, to crit this sentence; on the grinds it may incriminate me.


*A bouncer, in a crowded Wisconsin nightclub, was threatened by an ex-con named Jake Daren; wilding a switchblade.*

aadams73
12-12-2006, 03:16 AM
"You need to go back to school, and study grammar." They'd say this, without offering anything to improve the story.


Maybe they are giving you something that can improve your story. Poor grammar is the first thing that stops me from reading on. I figure if a writer can't manage decent grammar*, then their story probably isn't crafted well either.

I put a query up for critique recently and everyone who chimed in gave me something I could(and did) use. They gave me exactly what I wanted and needed.

Funnily enough the crits that are least useful in my eyes are the ohmigodilovedit variety. And yes, I know I'm guilty of this one, although usually I'll just give the poster a rep point and tell them I enjoyed it. You can learn more from honest critcism than you can from excessive praise.


*Most of us slip up now and again though.

short_story
12-12-2006, 03:17 AM
I decline, to crit this sentence; on the grinds it may incriminate me.

Why not?

Bufty
12-12-2006, 03:21 AM
Why not what?

aadams73
12-12-2006, 03:27 AM
*A bouncer, in a crowded Wisconsin nightclub, was threatened by an ex-con named Jake Daren; wilding a switchblade.*


Completely incorrect use of punctuation(only the period at the end is in the correct place.) And the word is "wielding" not "wilding."

JeanneTGC
12-12-2006, 03:27 AM
Here's the beginning of a story I wrote. But, before you read it, I'd like to say, no matter how you change it, someone else may or may not agree with the change.

*A bouncer, in a crowded Wisconsin nightclub, was threatened by an ex-con named Jake Daren; wilding a switchblade.*


I'm game, though I have no idea why you put this up here. But, for whatever it's worth:

"In a crowded Wisconsin nightclub, a bouncer was threatened by ex-con Jake Daren who was wielding a switchblade."

BTW, the original sentence would have been enough for me to put the book down and not pick it up again.

Birol
12-12-2006, 03:36 AM
Short, I don't know if a discussion about how to critique is the best place to ask for a critique and, since you posted the request in a thread where individuals are discussing bad critiques, it could be interpreted that any comments you receive will be construed as a "bad" critique. Since you mentioned rewriting the sentence, I wonder if you're confusing editing with critiquing.

That said, my comments are: A single sentence is not enough for me to evaluate an entire work, though in this case what followed would have to be very strong indeed for me to continue on. The use of non-standard punctuation is jarring, as are the misspellings. It reads more like the opening of a newspaper article than the opening of a story.

short_story
12-12-2006, 03:47 AM
I see your point, aadams. However, improving a story by using excellent grammar isn't always the case. I've read books with excellent grammar, yet there were a lot of inconsistencies and other errors.

short_story
12-12-2006, 03:52 AM
I'm so sorry to have posted something I shouldn't have. I've done a bad, bad, thing. I'll leave now. :o

Cat Scratch
12-12-2006, 03:52 AM
I'm struggling with this right now, because the people whose feedback I am questioning are individuals whom I highly respect. Also, they have agreed to present my work in the spring (it's a play) and had asked upon acceptance if I was willing to do a few small rewrites, since what I sent to them it was a work-in-progress. I agreed, since I'm always eager to improve my work, and since they run a professional company, I knew they would give me insightful feedback.

Unfortunately, I'm stuck on a few items. In particular, they pointed out to me that one character, who is 19 in the play, speaks and acts very young. That was deliberate on my part, and part of the character's overall psyche. The fact that they caught on to it means that it came across, but the fact that it read as "wrong" to them could indicate a larger problem with how I executed her immaturity. However, they did not comment on the character as if her being immature was acceptable--they presented it as a "mistake." I'm reluctant to simply make her the proper maturity level for her age, because I feel her immaturity is important to her journey. But I was not given any helpful feedback as to how to make that work within the text. I was just told to get rid of it. It's difficult to do that without a dialogue about why I've chosen that direction, etc. But I don't wish to get into a "Well, you just don't get it" type of discussion.

So far I plan to make other changes and send it back to them with an explanation of why I've chosen to have the character remain so young-sounding, and suggesting that if they still feel it doesn't work, feedback as to specifics (why, how) might help me fix it so it reads better.

Still, it's difficult because there are places where I really DON'T feel as if they quite understood that what I was doing was deliberate. If something doesnt' work, that's one thing, but I get a little defensive when the reader simply assumes it's just a mistake.

Celia Cyanide
12-12-2006, 03:55 AM
"In a crowded Wisconsin nightclub, a bouncer was threatened by ex-con Jake Daren who was wielding a switchblade."

I would avoid starting with passive voice.

"In a crowded Wisconsin nightclub, Jake Daren, an ex-con with a switchblade, threatened a bouncer..."

Maybe even tell me why.

Celia Cyanide
12-12-2006, 03:59 AM
I once had a character who was very interested in heroin chic culture. She was American, and she mentioned the film Trainspotting. This was in a British class, about 10 years ago, when the film was only a year old. A guy wrote on my paper, "I doubt an American would know anything about this British cult film."

Birol
12-12-2006, 04:09 AM
Cat, it is acceptable to ask questions of critiquers, just not to attack them. It's a matter of how you present yourself. Seeking additional clarifiction is very much a part of the critique process.

ChaosTitan
12-12-2006, 04:19 AM
I see your point, aadams. However, improving a story by using excellent grammar isn't always the case. I've read books with excellent grammar, yet there were a lot of inconsistencies and other errors.


You're right. A bad story won't always be helped by excellent grammar, just as as horrible grammar won't always hurt an excellent story. I'm certain we can all come up with published examples of both.

However, a bad story told with terrible grammar is a sure path to a rejection. A good writer should know how to tell a great story with at least passable (if not impeccable) grammar.

short_story
12-12-2006, 04:30 AM
I would avoid starting with passive voice.

"In a crowded Wisconsin nightclub, Jake Daren, an ex-con with a switchblade, threatened a bouncer..."

Maybe even tell me why.

I know you won't believe this, but what you've written here, was my first choice. What I wrote was my third. Wow. Thanks Celia. I've canceled the story, but thanks for improving it.

Jake walked into the nightclub with a fake ID. The bouncer carded him, and discovered Jake was underage.
The confrontation between Jake and the bouncer spiraled out of control, this spawning the switchblade incident.

KTC
12-12-2006, 04:39 AM
We hear responses to critiques too often with statements like, "You just don't get it!" or "You've hurt my feelings! I worked hard on this!" But what do you think is really bad critique? Is there anything that you do consider unfair? Or just plain dumb?

I run a critique group with 7 other members. We meet in my home once a month. We've been going for a year and a halfish? We agreed on day one on a set of rules and guidelines. None of us has crossed these. We have worked together wonderfully. We feel it is important to be brutally honest AND humane. If we don't agree on the critique of a fellow writer, we do not dwell on it...we move on. The idea, from the very beginning, was take what advice you want and leave the rest behind. We find that 7 people are consistently agreeing with what works and what doesn't work. It's frightening, actually, how similar the critiques are. They let us know for sure what needs improvement and what shines. I can email you the guidelines, Celia, if you want. Just PM me. They have worked very well for me and my seven.

KimJo
12-12-2006, 04:52 AM
VGrossack, thanks for posting that article.

The only bad critiques, as in unusable, that I've received are the "I liked it" or I didn't like it" with no reason given as to why. On the other hand, I've received plenty of very useful critiques, which have helped me improve not only the story being critiqued but my writing in general.

Linda Adams
12-12-2006, 05:46 AM
Here's where I think a critique ends up being bad: When something in the piece or the comments gets under the critiquer's/critiquee's skin and makes them angry. They then take that anger on the person at the other end in attacks either on the story or personal attacks. I've had it happen three times as a critiquee and twice as a critiquer (four of them for the same reason, but all different people).

maestrowork
12-12-2006, 06:01 AM
I dislike critique groups if they're either a) too nice and tell me nothing of significance, simply to make me feel good about myself -- well, I can always just go to a bar if I need that; b) harsh for no reason other than to be harsh. You know that kind -- they're critical just for being critical. They nitpick everything, important or not, just because it's "their job" to criticize.

These are the two types of people I stay clear of.

Bayou Bill
12-12-2006, 06:13 AM
Poorly-done critiques no longer bother me that much except for the lost opportunity to get some helpful feedback.

What follows is a funny, tongue-in-cheek, how-to piece on writing critques. It can be found in a great UK site called: SAGP: The Self-Appointed Grammar Police!. http://sagp.miketaylor.org.uk/ Check it out.

Bayou Bill :cool:

==

How To Critique a Story
15th August 2002
Filed by: Officer Taylor

One of the most helpful resources for improving your writing is an on-line critiquing community such as The Internet Writing Workshop (http://www.internetwritingworkshop.org/) or Critters Workshop (http://critters.org/). In communities like these, a member submits a story to the group, and the other members respond with critiques, explaining where the piece is strong and where it is weak, and how it can be improved.

Unfortunately, the usefulness of these critiques is often compromised by a lot of namby-pamby liberal whitewashing: critiquers are frightened to tell it like it is for fear of upsetting the writer's fragile ego. This approach is often encouraged by feeble, bleeding-heart articles such as The Diplomatic Critiquer (http://www.critters.org/diplomacy.html), It's Not What You Say, But How You Say It (http://www.critters.org/whathow.html) and the IWW's softly-softly critiquing guidelines (http://www.internetwritingworkshop.org/faq.shtml#critique).

Articles like these major on nicey-nicey details of etiquette such as ``Don't quote `rules' of writing'', ``Critique the story, not the author'' and ``Assume the author knows what they're doing''. Though no doubt well-intentioned, in the long term such guidelines can only harm the recipient of the critique.

Here at the SAGP, we recognise that the only way to help aspiring writers to straighten their act out is to tell 'em straight, hit 'em hard, and leave 'em grovelling in the dirt. That's why, when we critique someone else's writing, we follow these few simple rules:
Always start a critique by pointing out that the story sucked. Even if it was actually pretty good, you'll be helping the author to lift his or her sights to higher levels, to aspire to yet better writing.

Always say at least three critical things before moving on to praise any of the writing. This helps the author to keep a level head. Inexperienced critiquers sometimes argue that it's hard to find three things to criticise in some pieces - but there is always something to pick on: a misplaced comma, a sub-optimal word choice, an extra space after a semi-colon or perhaps even something as vague as a negative or aggressive attitude.

Be explicit and uncompromising about the story's flaws. No purpose is served by prefacing criticisms with flummery such as ``It seems to me that ...'' and ``You might like to consider ...'' Remember that the purpose of the critique is for the author to improve his or her writing by learning from your wisdom and experience.

Be sure to finish on a negative note, to help prevent the author's ego becoming unmanageable. This approach also has the beneficial side-effect that it will discourage some authors from bothering to write at all. That's fine: they're obviously not mentally tough enough to make it anyway, so you're just saving them a lot of pain and heartache down the line.

Now let's try putting all these rules together: suppose you were asked to provide a constructive critique for the opening of Jane Austen's Pride and Prejudice (http://digital.library.upenn.edu/webbin/gutbook/lookup?num=1342):
It is a truth universally acknowledged, that a single man in possession of a good fortune, must be in want of a wife.
However little known the feelings or views of such a man may be on his first entering a neighbourhood, this truth is so well fixed in the minds of the surrounding families, that he is considered the rightful property of some one or other of their daughters.

``My dear Mr. Bennet,'' said his lady to him one day, ``have you heard that Netherfield Park is let at last?''
Mr. Bennet replied that he had not.

``But it is,'' returned she; ``for Mrs. Long has just been here, and she told me all about it.''

Mr. Bennet made no answer.

``Do you not want to know who has taken it?'' cried his wife impatiently.

``You want to tell me, and I have no objection to hearing it.''
This was invitation enough.

``Why, my dear, you must know, Mrs. Long says that Netherfield is taken by a young man of large fortune from the north of England; that he came down on Monday in a chaise and four to see the place, and was so much delighted with it, that he agreed with Mr. Morris immediately; that he is to take possession before Michaelmas, and some of his servants are to be in the house by the end of next week.''

``What is his name?''

``Bingley.''

``Is he married or single?''

``Oh! Single, my dear, to be sure! A single man of large fortune; four or five thousand a year. What a fine thing for our girls!''

You might critique it as follows:
What a crock!

I tried to critique your Pride and Prejudice but I couldn't get past the first chapter. Talk about density! Ridiculously long sentences, antiquated subject-matter and endless waffle.

If this is ever going to be any good, you're going to need to trim ruthlessly, and move the plot along much more quickly. Look at the opening: an abstract, philosophical statement. How does that advance the plot? And it's not even true - it's not a truth ``universally acknowledged'', is it? Perhaps you should try thinking before you write.

The characterisation is hopelessly unconvincing. No wife would address her husband by his surname. The Mrs. Bennet character is completely over the top, and your story would work much better if you cut her out completely. Her lines could be given to the cipher that is Mary.

You really don't have a clue how to write dialogue, do you? You have six consecutive speeches here without so much as a single tag to tell us who's saying what. You should intersperse the spoken words with ``action tags'', like this:
``What is his name?'' Mr. Bennet tapped his pipe thoughtfully on sideboard.

``Bingley.'' His wife's face had turned red with excitement, and she couldn't keep still.

``Is he married or single?'' Mr. Bennet stifled a yawn as he walked across the room to draw the curtains.
See how much more naturally it flows like that?

I could go on, but frankly there's so much wrong with this that there's really no point in picking nits. It needs a complete rewrite before it's worth spending any more time on.
One final point: you absolutely must change that title. Pride and Prejudice? How does that tell us anything about the story? You should use something vivid and evocative like First Impressions instead.
Now just think how much much better P&P could have been if Jane Austen had had the benefit of good, honest critiquing like that.

maestrowork
12-12-2006, 07:14 AM
Always start a critique by pointing out that the story sucked. Even if it was actually pretty good, you'll be helping the author to lift his or her sights to higher levels, to aspire to yet better writing.


Sorry, it lost me right there. It's the worst thing to do, no matter how thick-skinned the other person is.

I am not saying you have to sugar coat things, but my GAWD, "say the story sucks" even if it's pretty good? WTF kind of advice is that?

Julie Worth
12-12-2006, 07:15 AM
Thank you Bayou Bill! I agree with Office Taylor. Even though I want to be adored by agents and reviewers, I want to be eviscerated by critiquers, for how else will I achieve that adoration?

Julie Worth
12-12-2006, 07:17 AM
Sorry, it lost me right there.

Satire loses many.

maestrowork
12-12-2006, 07:41 AM
Ah, sorry, my satire meter is broken. I think I am going to listen to some Yanny.

Bayou Bill
12-12-2006, 07:55 AM
Ah, sorry, my satire meter is broken. I think I am going to listen to some Yanny.We all skip a groove every now and then, Maestro. After 18,000 posts, you're entitled. :)

Once your satire meter is fixed, go check out the Self-Appointed Grammar Police site. It's a hoot.

Bayou Bill :cool:

GPatten
12-12-2006, 07:56 AM
I decline, to crit this sentence; on the grinds it may incriminate me.


Bufty critiqued one of my miserable messes via a PM and gave me instructions on the use of quotation marks for continuing dialog in paragraphs. Iíll always be thankful for that. It helped me a lot. And back then, hardly anyone was doing any critiquing.

Bufty continued with its contents and further helped me. I thank you again.

For the fault of me only, I havenít submitted any more critiques as Iíve learned a lot and Iím not ready to submit.

I also gave a rep point and I donít think some people are doing that. Iíve critiqued a few my self, but I donít think Iím that qualified to do so.

I wish I were as good as some of you to offer assistance. I think I would do more harm than good.

Thank you again Bufty.

Scarlett_156
12-12-2006, 08:13 AM
As long as they're not throwing pop cans full of pennies, I'm ok with it. I usually ignore just about everything a critic says anyway, whether it's good or bad. I sit without fidgeting, making neither too much nor too little eye contact, and nod helpfully every thirty seconds or so. If they point at something I look at what they are pointing at. When they are finished (again, unless violence or threats seem about to erupt, in which case I back away and take the most convenient exit out of there) I smile and say, "Thanks for your input!"

Kentuk
12-12-2006, 08:16 AM
I also don't like it when people skim and then presume to critique. JUST READ THE THING!

Amen. Reading isn't that difficult, a third grader can do it. Why do people go into editing critting mode before they get a sense of the whole?

Silver King
12-12-2006, 08:55 AM
If you go to Share Your Work, sometimes you'll find the people doing the critiquing being criticized for their observations.

This doesn't seem right. Here's an example. (http://absolutewrite.com/forums/showthread.php?t=48522)

Bayou Bill
12-12-2006, 10:31 AM
If you go to Share Your Work, sometimes you'll find the people doing the critiquing being criticized for their observations.

This doesn't seem right. Here's an example. (http://absolutewrite.com/forums/showthread.php?t=48522)If I ruled the world of critiques, I'd make it mandatory for every critique writer to begin with the phrase: "IN MY OPINION...."

All critiques are personal and subjective. I shudder to think how I might have critiqued Joyce's Ulysses and I'd be all over Cormac McCarthy for his failure to use standard punctuation.

Bayou Bill :cool:

Birol
12-12-2006, 10:33 AM
I think writers should be mature enough to realize that it is only an opinion weighted by the critiquers experience. Why should a disclaimer be necessary?

Medievalist
12-12-2006, 10:40 AM
Amen. Reading isn't that difficult, a third grader can do it. Why do people go into editing critting mode before they get a sense of the whole?

Because that's exactly what an editor and agent do?

Birol
12-12-2006, 10:55 AM
I think Kentuk and Medievalist are both correct. Critiques serve different purposes. One, it is a dry run for the editor's or agent's desk. They're not going to sit there and carefully read each submission. You have to compel them to read further with each sentence, because, as soon as they get bored, they're going to quit. But, a critique also looks at how everything fits together and for any inconsistencies, etc. For that, you almost have to read the entire work through in its entirety first, then go through and mark it up.

Celia Cyanide
12-12-2006, 11:04 AM
If you go to Share Your Work, sometimes you'll find the people doing the critiquing being criticized for their observations.

This doesn't seem right. Here's an example. (http://absolutewrite.com/forums/showthread.php?t=48522)

Some posters did make good points, though. I don't think it's appropriate to say, "I don't like first person," in a critique. "I think third person would be better for this piece because..." would be a good thing to say.

VGrossack
12-12-2006, 11:05 AM
VGrossack, thanks for posting that article.

The only bad critiques, as in unusable, that I've received are the "I liked it" or I didn't like it" with no reason given as to why. On the other hand, I've received plenty of very useful critiques, which have helped me improve not only the story being critiqued but my writing in general.

Critiquing is plenty of work, and I don't think it's realistic to ask everyone to be able to do it. I disagree with an idea above - that anyone who can read can also manage to critique - just as I don't think that anyone who can read can manage to write. At least not well! Not at first, probably, and not without lots of practice!

Also, I would take all the "I liked it" responses with a medium-sized helping of salt - they could simply be given to you to make you feel good, or so that the person doing the critiquing doesn't have to face giving out unpleasant news. I only accept "I liked it" responses as genuine if accompanied by other confirmatory words or actions - such as a convincing and/or voluntary explanation of why s/he liked it, sending the story to his favorite aunt, or enthusiasm that I can perceive on my critter's face or hear in my critter's voice.

However, if someone says, "I don't like it," alas, there is almost surely something seriously wrong, even if that person doesn't know what it is. Heck, there's probably something seriously wrong even when no one bothers to tell me...

Cheers!
Victoria Grossack
www.tapestryofbronze.com (http://www.tapestryofbronze.com)

KTC
12-12-2006, 03:09 PM
I dislike critique groups if they're either a) too nice and tell me nothing of significance, simply to make me feel good about myself -- well, I can always just go to a bar if I need that; b) harsh for no reason other than to be harsh. You know that kind -- they're critical just for being critical. They nitpick everything, important or not, just because it's "their job" to criticize.

These are the two types of people I stay clear of.

I was so afraid of either of these two types of groups developing, Ray. I was very fortunate to find the writers I have found for my group. We are hard on each other, but fair and kind. There is no attacking and no flowery, "I liked it. It was great." Both of those are completely useless to the writer.

mistri
12-12-2006, 04:49 PM
Crits I would include as unfair or just lazy include:

After reading one chapter, telling someone they should scrap the whole manuscript .

After reading one chapter, commenting that various elements are not all explained upfront (in a long story/book, you're not going to know everything straight away - some things will reveal themselves as time goes on).

Telling someone that you only read it because you had to (this can happen in groups), but you hate it.

Fortunately I haven't had anything like that for a while. I've been happy with recent crits, though I was frustrated slightly by one person who'd obviously skimread the book (all comments were about the character's travels, when he only 'travelled' for a short period at the beginning and end of the book).

Celia Cyanide
12-12-2006, 05:43 PM
I dislike critique groups if they're...harsh for no reason other than to be harsh. You know that kind -- they're critical just for being critical. They nitpick everything, important or not, just because it's "their job" to criticize.

This is pretty rare, but a have encountered a few people like this, and I don't get what their deal is. Their tone just comes off like, "Look, I know you think this is perfect, but I found a lot wrong with it." And I do NOT think it's perfect. If I thought it was perfect, I would send it in for publication, instead of sharing it with a critique group. I was hoping to get some constructive feedback, not just a bunch of complaining.

I notice that the people like this are usually the ones who never have anything written themselves, but that could be a coincidence.

Roger J Carlson
12-12-2006, 05:57 PM
Unfortunately, I'm stuck on a few items. In particular, they pointed out to me that one character, who is 19 in the play, speaks and acts very young. That was deliberate on my part, and part of the character's overall psyche. The fact that they caught on to it means that it came across, but the fact that it read as "wrong" to them could indicate a larger problem with how I executed her immaturity. However, they did not comment on the character as if her being immature was acceptable--they presented it as a "mistake." I'm reluctant to simply make her the proper maturity level for her age, because I feel her immaturity is important to her journey. But I was not given any helpful feedback as to how to make that work within the text. I was just told to get rid of it. It's difficult to do that without a dialogue about why I've chosen that direction, etc. But I don't wish to get into a "Well, you just don't get it" type of discussion.

So far I plan to make other changes and send it back to them with an explanation of why I've chosen to have the character remain so young-sounding, and suggesting that if they still feel it doesn't work, feedback as to specifics (why, how) might help me fix it so it reads better.

Still, it's difficult because there are places where I really DON'T feel as if they quite understood that what I was doing was deliberate. If something doesnt' work, that's one thing, but I get a little defensive when the reader simply assumes it's just a mistake.If they don't understand it, you didn't do it right. Your job is to make them understand. I'd write back, explaining that you intended to have the character act immature for thus and so reasons. Then ask what you can do to make this work for the audience.

Dollywagon
12-12-2006, 06:53 PM
OK, I'm going to have to add my "bah humbug."

Childrens stories, PB's in particular. I've read numerous critiques whereby the critters are obviously reading in "adult mode," and given the posters a pretty hard time. Sometimes it is essential that we put on a different hat if we are going to critique otherwise we just end up sending the writer on a wild goose chase.

... and I don't always think critters have to be "experts" in their field. Look at Bufty, one of the best critters out there, but never cruel or arrogant.

Celia Cyanide
12-12-2006, 07:30 PM
Critiquing is plenty of work, and I don't think it's realistic to ask everyone to be able to do it. I disagree with an idea above - that anyone who can read can also manage to critique - just as I don't think that anyone who can read can manage to write. At least not well! Not at first, probably, and not without lots of practice!

I don't believe that "if you can read, you can critique" thing, either. I only crit when I have something to say that I really believe will be helpful, and I rarely do. Why do we even have subforums separated by genre, if anyone who knows how to read can critique?

VOTE_BOT
12-12-2006, 07:44 PM
I hate it when people assume I was a breech birth based on my writing style.

Celia Cyanide
12-12-2006, 07:53 PM
Are you sure it's not your avatar giving people that impression?

janetbellinger
12-12-2006, 07:55 PM
I t hink giving critiques is the same as raising children. Whatever we say should be done with the writer's or child's best interests at heart, never to satisfy our own inner demons. The writer, just like the child will sense whether we are speaking from kindness or nastiness. Personally though, I'd rather an honestly harsh critique to a dishonestly kind one. I'm in a group now where you can only say positive things, which leads to everybody telling everybody else their work is good, whether it is or not. I don't see that as helpful.

Sassenach
12-12-2006, 08:02 PM
I t hink giving critiques is the same as raising children. Whatever we say should be done with the writer's or child's best interests at heart, never to satisfy our own inner demons. The writer, just like the child will sense whether we are speaking from kindness or nastiness. Personally though, I'd rather an honestly harsh critique to a dishonestly kind one. I'm in a group now where you can only say positive things, which leads to everybody telling everybody else their work is good, whether it is or not. I don't see that as helpful.

Why would you waste your time in such a group?

PeeDee
12-12-2006, 08:02 PM
My theory on critiques is: If you say something useful, I'll use it. If you don't...then you've read my story, you've been my audience, and that's all I really want at the end of the day anyway. I thank you.

Scarlett_156
12-13-2006, 12:48 PM
^^ Ya, Julie_Worth, I was actually serious. If anyone has ever thrown a pop can full of pennies at you (or several) you would see mere verbal criticism truly cannot hurt.

FennelGiraffe
12-13-2006, 10:19 PM
However, if someone says, "I don't like it," alas, there is almost surely something seriously wrong, even if that person doesn't know what it is.Not necessarily. It could mean that person was the wrong reader for that work. If they dislike the subject or genre, they may not be able to see the quality of the writing.

One would hope people would have enough self-knowledge to refrain from commenting in that situation, but...

Julie Worth
12-13-2006, 11:09 PM
I think Kentuk and Medievalist are both correct. Critiques serve different purposes.

I think what is being missed here is that critiquing helps the critiquer first of all, for she has to think about and verbalize why she didn't like a piece of writing, and that thinking process helps her with her own writing.

Celia Cyanide
12-13-2006, 11:32 PM
I think writers should be mature enough to realize that it is only an opinion weighted by the critiquers experience. Why should a disclaimer be necessary?

I have been thinking on this one. I feel that it takes the edge off. I don't know why. The way we phrase things makes a big difference. Framing it as our personal opinion, instead of stating our opinion as fact, makes it easier to digest.

But that's just my opinion. I could be wrong. ;)

Birol
12-14-2006, 01:03 AM
Here's the thing, I feel that taking the edge off something softens it, and makes it lose its impact. It gives it a lesser value. Yeah, I know it's just my opinion and so does the author. There's no point trying to offer an out when we both know that the author can use or not use whatever they'd like. A critique isn't about the author's stomach, but about the writing.

Sassenach
12-14-2006, 01:29 AM
If a writer can't get the concept of "implicit," then perhaps she shouldn't ask for crits.

aliajohnson
12-14-2006, 01:31 AM
Here's the thing, I feel that taking the edge off something softens it, and makes it lose its impact. It gives it a lesser value. Yeah, I know it's just my opinion and so does the author. There's no point trying to offer an out when we both know that the author can use or not use whatever they'd like. A critique isn't about the author's stomach, but about the writing.

True, ideally we would all be able to separate a critique of our work from a personal crisitism. Realistically, however, some of us are simply a bit more unsure of our talent, or about ourselves. It only takes an extra moment to say one nice thing about what you've read, so why not make the effort? There's nothing wrong with adding encouragement. In fact, when I'm critiqued, I'm likely to listen more closely to someone I feel comfortable with than someone who says "change this to this." And nothing else. Perhaps it's not best that I react that way, but there you have it. Oddly enough, I've noticed that woman are more likely to do this than men--not exclusively, but there does seem to be a trend.

Birol
12-14-2006, 01:33 AM
Celia wasn't talking about saying nice things. She was talking about adding a disclaimer at the beginning that pretty much says: This is my opinion and only my opinion. Take it with a grain of salt.

That would cover both the good and the bad.

Kate Thornton
12-14-2006, 01:42 AM
*A bouncer, in a crowded Wisconsin nightclub, was threatened by an ex-con named Jake Daren; wilding a switchblade.*


You have a lot going on in this first sentence. I know a dozen writers could re-write it a dozen ways, but here's my take on constructive critting:

1. Spelling - wielding. But wielding is one of those verbs that's almost always connected to a knife or sword, the way "brandishing" is almost always connected to a firearm or sword. Maybe a different verb (like waving or jabbing) would work better here.
2. Semi-colon. The semi-colon can be your friend, but here it makes no sense to me.
3. Passive tense - consider re-tensing here to eliminate "was threatened by" - passive tense cuts the drama from something that needs to illustrate high drama.
4. Think about making ex-con Jake Daren your focus (i.e., your subject) instead of the object, unless the bouncer is going to prove much more important than Jake.

See - I didn't re-write your sentence for you!

aliajohnson
12-14-2006, 01:50 AM
Celia wasn't talking about saying nice things. She was talking about adding a disclaimer at the beginning that pretty much says: This is my opinion and only my opinion. Take it with a grain of salt.

That would cover both the good and the bad.

Ah. Didn't realize you were responding specifically to Celia. I think the basic idea still stands. Whether it's a disclaimer or an encouragement, it's softening up the critique. If I knew the person didn't respond well to that, I'd skip it (though it'd be hard for me), but I can't think of any other reason not to put it in.

writingmom
12-14-2006, 02:16 AM
Hi guys, I have a question. I cant find the query section that I saw before in AW, can anyone help ? Plus if anyone can give advice on that I would appreciate it. So far I have read books on the subject but I still cant figure me out. I have several versions of what I'd like to say, and each time I start I begin another. Very confused, thanks....Oh please send me a private also.

Celia Cyanide
12-14-2006, 02:23 AM
Here's the thing, I feel that taking the edge off something softens it, and makes it lose its impact. It gives it a lesser value. Yeah, I know it's just my opinion and so does the author. There's no point trying to offer an out when we both know that the author can use or not use whatever they'd like. A critique isn't about the author's stomach, but about the writing.

Hmm...I don't know if it gives it a lesser value. If everyone knows it's only your opinion anyway, and saying so doesn't make it less valuable.


If a writer can't get the concept of "implicit" than perhaps she shouldn't ask for crits.

You don't always ask for crits. Some writers are in classes in which it is a requirement. Sometimes people ask to see what you're written, even though you don't want them to.

Birol
12-14-2006, 02:31 AM
Sometimes people ask to see what you're written, even though you don't want them to.

If you don't want to show it to them, then don't. It's your work and your choice. It's no different than if someone says, "Hey, mind if I drive your car?" If you're not comfortable with them behind the wheel, just say, "I'd rather not. Thanks."

zorasaura
12-14-2006, 02:33 AM
Ive had very few bad critiques. The only two things Ive gotten are people that tell me how they would write the story and people that want me to write in a different genre. Guess I'm lucky? No, I think that most people that offer to critique have something useful to add.

Celia Cyanide
12-14-2006, 02:43 AM
If you don't want to show it to them, then don't. It's your work and your choice. It's no different than if someone says, "Hey, mind if I drive your car?" If you're not comfortable with them behind the wheel, just say, "I'd rather not. Thanks."

No, I don't have to. But I do allow them to read my work sometimes, and I ask them to please give me a critique in a way I'm comfortable with. Everyone wins.

ETA: Oh, crap, I meant to say hypothetically. I'm not supposed to be relating person experience this week.

Sassenach
12-14-2006, 03:28 AM
You don't always ask for crits. Some writers are in classes in which it is a requirement. Sometimes people ask to see what you're written, even though you don't want them to.

If you're enrolled in a class where crits are a requirement, then you've chose to take said class. JMHO, but I would tell those other people "no."

Celia Cyanide
12-14-2006, 04:50 AM
If you're enrolled in a class where crits are a requirement, then you've chose to take said class.

Yes, and the other option is not to graduate.


JMHO, but I would tell those other people "no."

Why? Also, how?

Birol
12-14-2006, 05:02 AM
Yes, and the other option is not to graduate.

Ah, I guess you're talking about being in a Creative Writing program at a college or university, Celia? The thing is, the students in those programs chose to major in them because they wanted to be writers. The good things that come out of the creative writing courses are getting past the golden word syndrome, learning to listen to both good and bad criticism, and to get past showing your work to people. Once you've faced your fellow student, would-be writers, submitting to an unknown editor is easy schmeasy.

Trust me. Been there, done that, got the t-shirt.


Why? Also, how?

Thanks for the offer, but I only show my work to my crit group before submitting it.

OR

Thanks for the offer, but I have enough beta readers right now.

OR

Thank you, but it's (nearly) ready to submit.


Keep in mind, that they're wanting you to show it to them because they think it's somehow mysterious or special to see your work. The think it has value, it's mystical. So, play off that idea and just smile smugly. If you want to give them hope, promise to keep them in mind the next time you're short a beta reader.

short_story
12-15-2006, 04:57 AM
You have a lot going on in this first sentence. I know a dozen writers could re-write it a dozen ways, but here's my take on constructive critting:

1. Spelling - wielding. But wielding is one of those verbs that's almost always connected to a knife or sword, the way "brandishing" is almost always connected to a firearm or sword. Maybe a different verb (like waving or jabbing) would work better here.
2. Semi-colon. The semi-colon can be your friend, but here it makes no sense to me.
3. Passive tense - consider re-tensing here to eliminate "was threatened by" - passive tense cuts the drama from something that needs to illustrate high drama.
4. Think about making ex-con Jake Daren your focus (i.e., your subject) instead of the object, unless the bouncer is going to prove much more important than Jake.

See - I didn't re-write your sentence for you!

Thank you, Kate. I really appreciate you helping me.

Kentuk
12-15-2006, 09:01 AM
From experience I doubt the wisdom of people who seek to assert authority by harsh negativity and I seek wisdom more then anything else when asking for criticism. Further I have trouble understanding why someone would crit something they can't say one good thing about.

JeanneTGC
12-15-2006, 09:38 AM
In a variety of management and sales training classes I've been involved in, the suggested best way to offer critique to anyone is taught as: Praise - Criticize - Praise

That way you start by giving the person on the receiving end something positive to soften the potential blow, particularly since not everyone can take criticism, even constructive criticism, well. And you end with something positive so that they can see that it's not all hopeless and have a better feeling about what it is they need to improve upon.

The nice thing about Praise - Criticize - Praise is that it forces the critiquer to come up with at least two positive things to say, which means that they have to FIND said nice things to say. Sometimes that's easy and sometimes it's hard, but it's usually worthwhile.

Judg
12-15-2006, 11:06 PM
Also, how?

In the event that somebody asks to see your work and you don't want them too, just say it in a way that doesn't target them personally.

For instance, I'm now doing a first draft. There is NO way I want anybody to see it, other than a couple of little places where I got inspired and things really flowed. Even they need some polishing. So I would just say that I'm not ready.

When I am ready, I intend to ask a number of non-writers to read it. I will specifically ask them not to tell me what to do, but to record their own reactions as they read. I'd like them to mark anything that makes them roll their eyes, where they get bored, where they really get caught up in it... Anybody who can read can offer that kind of input and it seems to me that it would be invaluable. If I get contrary comments in one part, that would tell me it's a question of taste and that I can't please everybody. (And I had better aim for pleasing the one who best represents my target audience.) If almost everybody has a similar reaction at the same point, I know I've really got a problem (or a very successful bit).

From writers I would be more prepared to take advice on how to fix it, but even then, I'd do so with great care. I'd really rather be told, "That phrase was too clichť" than to be told what I should have written instead.

Athenae
12-16-2006, 08:16 PM
But what do you think is really bad critique?

I once had a partial manuscript reviewed by someone (anonymous peer review, feh, anyway, I knew exactly who they'd sent it to) who told me I hadn't told him enough about Topic X. Topic X being covered in the chapter I had yet to write, which was clearly spelled out in every single communication I ever had with the publisher and the reviewer.

What really pissed me off was that I was rejected based on that single review, by someone who either couldn't grasp the concept of "partial" or didn't bother to read anything I had sent him.

A.