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Cassiopeia
03-30-2007, 07:30 AM
I have a bit of a concern about the critics being written in this part of the forum and well, perhaps in others.

In the critics we are doing I am concerned that we might slip away from constructive criticism to actually making us all write the same?

What is a good way to word a critic? Are there words we should avoid using? What are some "hot"words that might cause people to misunderstand our intent and to be offended.

I would really like to have someone help us to understand the guidelines of a positive, effective and appropriate critics.

eric11210
03-30-2007, 08:01 AM
I think the most important things are:

1. Always remind people this is your opinion and don't take offense if they don't decide to accept your idea (the flip side of course is for the author: Always remember this is just one opinion and if you don't agree, don't get hot under the collar over it. Just say thank you and keep it in the back of your mind in case others have something to add).

2. Try to be specific in what you want a critique to say and try to be specific in what you think could be changed.

3. If you have nothing helpful to say, then don't say anything. I got so upset once when someone on another forum said my writing sounded like I was a little kid trying to write a novel (and who didn't offer something helpful in the way of what she thought could be improved, just wrote an incredibly insulting and pedantic comment). I've gotten over it since then, but I don't bother to hang out there anymore because everyone jumped on me when I complained. In short: Just try to be helpful and say, maybe try it this way. . .

4. If you don't have the time to write something, then wait until you do.

5. Always try to say something nice about the work. If you thought it was so awful that you can't find something nice to say, then don't say anything.

I'm sure others will have useful things to say as well.

Eric

AnnieColleen
03-30-2007, 08:20 AM
I think one of the best techniques to use is to give reactions as a reader. "This confused me." "This is what I thought was going on when I read that line." "This pulled me out of the story."

Pointing out things done well and emphasizing "in my opinion" are helpful, yes.

I think there are a couple of threads about this in SYW somewhere.

Pharosian
03-30-2007, 08:34 AM
Hi, Casiopeia!

Just a little correction: A critic (CRIT-ick) is the person giving a critique (crit-EEK). A critique is a review or evaluation.

In a critique group I belong to, we try to give our reviews a "what worked" and "what didn't work" structure. Let the person know what you thought was good, or what made you laugh or cry or feel some emotion. Then also let the author know whether any phrasing made you stumble, or that you didn't understand.

If you have the time AND the knowledge, you can offer suggestions for improving the grammar and punctuation and choice of words, etc.

* Always make sure your comments are aimed at the writing, not the writer.
* Don't use derogatory words such as "stupid," "moronic," "crap," etc.

I really agree with eric's item 3: if you can't find anything positive in a story, then it's probably best just not to try to review it.

As for your concern that getting a lot of feedback will somehow make us all write the same... If you mean we'll all use proper grammar and punctuation and write syntactically correct sentences, then I only hope you're right. But if you mean that it will somehow homogenize the style and we won't be able to tell one author's writing from another based on style, I don't think there's any danger. We each have different ways of choosing words and telling stories that are so ingrained in who we are and what our experiences have been that I don't think it's possible to lose that sense of individuality in our writing.

Cassiopeia
03-30-2007, 09:57 AM
Hi, Casiopeia!

Just a little correction: A critic (CRIT-ick) is the person giving a critique (crit-EEK). A critique is a review or evaluation. Thanks I thought something was amiss. :)


In a critique group I belong to, we try to give our reviews a "what worked" and "what didn't work" structure. Let the person know what you thought was good, or what made you laugh or cry or feel some emotion. Then also let the author know whether any phrasing made you stumble, or that you didn't understand.

If you have the time AND the knowledge, you can offer suggestions for improving the grammar and punctuation and choice of words, etc.

* Always make sure your comments are aimed at the writing, not the writer.
* Don't use derogatory words such as "stupid," "moronic," "crap," etc.

I really agree with eric's item 3: if you can't find anything positive in a story, then it's probably best just not to try to review it.

As for your concern that getting a lot of feedback will somehow make us all write the same... If you mean we'll all use proper grammar and punctuation and write syntactically correct sentences, then I only hope you're right. But if you mean that it will somehow homogenize the style and we won't be able to tell one author's writing from another based on style, I don't think there's any danger. We each have different ways of choosing words and telling stories that are so ingrained in who we are and what our experiences have been that I don't think it's possible to lose that sense of individuality in our writing.

I am concerned that our critiques be based on the very things you guys are mentioning and not if someone likes our writing style. After all, the variety of genres on this forum and even the cross-genres makes us diverse and really quite extraordinary. I have seen in the SYW forum people making comments like, your story just sucks. Or that is idiotic in some cases. One person even wrote that the author should just throw the piece away. Those aren't helpful critiques.

All three of you have made really good examples for me and I am very appreciative. Though I am not given to personal slanders with someone's writing, I just want to make sure I am not only polite and considerate but also helpful in articulating my thoughts on someone's work as a reader.

I do think there is a danger however that we can become so caught up in the genre we write in that we consider other's work with that same measuring stick in other genres where it might not appropriately apply. For example, I notice that AnnieColleen tends to write more literary and fantasy fiction. That is very hard for me to critique as a reader because I just don't read it very much and I am a mystery/suspense/thriller writer. So I leave it up to others to offer her a better critique. Don't be me wrong, I hope one day to be able to offer my opinion on other genres. I am just hesitant that I will be influenced by my own genre in evaluating their work. If that makes any sense.

I do like how AnnieColleen makes mention that we should say, "I am confused", or in your case, if it works or not for me as a reader. That takes a great deal off pressure of both the writer and the reader.

I agree with Eric that giving suggestions on what "might" be another way to write it is actually very helpful. And of course, like Thumper said, "If you can't say nothin' nice, don't say nothin' at all." But to be clear, saying that something isn't working for you as a reader isn't a bad thing to say. It is honest and can be helpful if specifics are given. I just cringe when I read things like, that is really a stupid story...give it up...start over...your writing is crap. I have even seen someone say, "well, I've seen worse." That just isn't helpful.

I would like to give an example that Pthom said to me. Which is the proper way to say something that is negative. "I have difficulty suspending my disbelief...." That is his reaction and not aimed at me.

For me as a writer, I want to see comments like:

1. That sentence is passive and it shouldn't be.

2. Corrections in my spelling and mis punctuations. (yes I make mistakes, I have a particular form of dyslexia so it helps.)

3. Comments on if people found my story plausible. (I loved it when MacBeth, I believe it was, said my last story in FF was cold blooded. It meant I actually got the feeling across I wanted.)

Those are just a few things I want to be talked to about.

Anyway...thanks for your comments you guys. I am forming ideas now for the next time I do a critique (thank you for correcting me :) ) and I hope to be of more help and maybe learn from doing the critiques how to better my own work. After all, I think Pthom made that point to me. Who benefits from the critique? The person receiving it or the one giving it?

:)

Pthom
03-30-2007, 10:05 AM
The person who benefits most from preparing a critique of another's writing ... is the critic.

:)

Think about it: To be effective, the critic must (or should) analyze the work to discover those things that work and those that do not. The more the critic strives to suggest solutions for what he perceives to be problems, the more he finds those little gems that work oh, so well, the more his own work improves. The recipient of the critique has only a page or so of suggestions of how he might make his work look like the critic's. And that's neither useful nor desireable.

Sure, often I find some great suggestions in critiques I've received and frequently I take the advice and make changes accordingly, but more often I just see that the critic has misunderstood my intent, hasn't gotten the story at all, or worst of all is just writing the critique because he feels he must.

The advantage of writing a critique that is pleasant, supportive and helpful is that you don't make any enemies. The advantage of writing that same critique after a careful analysis of the story arc, its core problems and its elegant solutions is that your own work will improve.

Cath
03-30-2007, 03:18 PM
I have a bit of a concern about the critics being written in this part of the forum and well, perhaps in others.

Casi - and anyone else here - I urge you to contact me if there are any critiques you feel are inappropriate and unnecessarily harsh.

It is our intention to help people write and polish stories to a publishable standard - this does sometimes mean being absolutely honest about a piece of work if you feel it's not very good.

However, we do have what we feel to be a clear guideline of what we expect from critics here: Critiqueing - a few guidelines (http://absolutewrite.com/forums/showthread.php?t=59164). If these are not clear enough, please do let me know and we'll amend them accordingly.


In the critics we are doing I am concerned that we might slip away from constructive criticism to actually making us all write the same?

I do hope that's not going to happen. One of the skills of critiquing is learning to recognise and develop an author's personal voice. Sometimes a little bit of tweaking isn't a bad thing.

I honestly don't think line critiques are a bad idea, sometimes, although they're not necessarily appropriate for all pieces of work.


What is a good way to word a critic? Are there words we should avoid using? What are some "hot"words that might cause people to misunderstand our intent and to be offended.

Annie and Eric have highlighted the techniques I learned as "proper" critique behaviour:

1. Take ownership of your critique. Use words and phrases that emphasise the critique is your opinion (I feel, I think).

2. State explicitly, if you feel it necessary, that this is your opinion only and can and should be disregarded if the author disagrees.

One techique I've found very useful is something called a "praise sandwich". In this, you highlight something positive about the work first, then identify areas you feel need improvement, and finish with something else positive.

I believe Peter is absolutely right to state that sometimes the person who gains most from the critique is the critic. For this reason, if no other, I wouldn't ask people to only critique genres or styles they like to write themselves. Gaining an understanding of how other people write can sometimes give you ideas and knowledge you wouldn't gain by only staying within your comfort zone.


I would really like to have someone help us to understand the guidelines of a positive, effective and appropriate critics.
I hope this answers your questions.

I do urge you, if you have a problem with a specific critique or critiquer to highlight it with me immediately.

jdparadise
03-30-2007, 06:14 PM
Now, here's a question I've faced as I look over the Drabble entries.

What should a successful micro-short do, exactly?

Knowing that would help me a lot in helping others.

Cath
03-30-2007, 06:49 PM
What should a successful micro-short do, exactly?
Great question!

I think micro-shorts are superb for turning the mirror back on human nature - make us think about ourselves and our reactions in one moment of time. Or it can be provocative or thought provoking. Or, just plain old entertaining.

Just my opinion, of course - I'd love to hear what other people think.

jdparadise
03-30-2007, 07:03 PM
One thing I came across in myself when critting one of maestro's micros is that I think I think the piece should resonate beyond the page.

That great (Hemingway?) example of a micro-micro short ("For sale. Baby shoes. Never worn.") gives a fantastic example of this; not only are the plot events of the story unpacked in my mind outside the confines of the story as I think about it, but all the emotions and circumstances that must have accompanied the need to make such a posting also come into play, and they're all in me, not the story.

That the meanings are all in me, not the story, are inherent to the fact that there are multiple ways it could be read: Did the child die? Or did the mother leave the shoe-buying father? Or did the seller just buy a batch of shoes for resale? What I brought to the story determined what I took out of it.

In fics longer than this, of course, more must be solidified for the reader, but I think maybe that allusion-to-larger-life-when-you-think-about-it is a part of what micro-fic is all about...

maestrowork
03-30-2007, 07:56 PM
I think we need to do it out of respect and to help. Also, critiques are just opinions, and the writers should develop thick enough skin to handle them. After all, if we just want a pat on the back there are other ways. If we really want suggestions and advice, we really must have thicker skin. That said, there is a difference between constructive criticism as opposed to just snark. Words to avoid include crap, shit, stupid, waste of time, terrible, stop writing, etc... They are all discouraging.

I don't mean to say we have to sugarcoat everything or say "good job" when it is not. But we don't have to be mean about it. If something needs work, we can just say "this can be better for the following reasons..." Without passing judgment like "this is a piece of crap."

It's also good to balance the good with the bad. The "what works" and "what didn't work" structure is a good one, so you don't come off as just being negative. I mean nothing is just ALL bad -- there has to be at least something good about it.

maestrowork
03-30-2007, 08:01 PM
Add:

At least for me, I don't critique style. It's a personal thing. Also, I don't suggest people to rewrite something because "that's how I would write it." I think that's counter-productive. Everyone writes differently. However, I do try to talk about universal techniques -- what makes something work and not, including natural dialogue, conflicts, POV, tone, etc. For example, one of the pieces I critiqued -- I told the writer to use present tense instead because in that case, the tense makes a difference. I didn't say write it a different way.

Cassiopeia
03-30-2007, 09:35 PM
Casi - and anyone else here - I urge you to contact me if there are any critiques you feel are inappropriate and unnecessarily harsh. While I appreciate the support, that is something I don't feel comfortable doing. For me it is the same as being a tattle tale. Mommy-Cath, so and so hurt my feelings. However, if I see someone else being treated with disrespect, that I am happy to report if it goes beyond reasonable dialog.


It is our intention to help people write and polish stories to a publishable standard - this does sometimes mean being absolutely honest about a piece of work if you feel it's not very good. Absolutely, it is wrong to mislead someone by saying that is really good when it isn't. I also think that people should be forthright with their opinions in both good and bad ways. It isn't just unpopular to say bad things in the open. Sometimes when the prevailing opinion is that something doesn't work for the majority but it does for the individual, it is hard to stand up to the crowd and say, "But I get it and I liked it." This isn't a popularity contest. As Maestrowork says we need to grow thicker skins. I agree we do need to do that not only as writers but as the one doing the critique as well. We need to be able to let others disagree with our critique so we might better learn from the exchange of ideas.


However, we do have what we feel to be a clear guideline of what we expect from critics here: Critiqueing - a few guidelines (http://absolutewrite.com/forums/showthread.php?t=59164). If these are not clear enough, please do let me know and we'll amend them accordingly. Thanks for the link :D




I do hope that's not going to happen. One of the skills of critiquing is learning to recognise and develop an author's personal voice. Sometimes a little bit of tweaking isn't a bad thing.

I honestly don't think line critiques are a bad idea, sometimes, although they're not necessarily appropriate for all pieces of work. A bit of advice for those who might do a line critique for me...when you stroke out something I am writing, my mind can't fathom it. My brain doesn't do well with it and I spend a good time fighting with my eyes and brain to comprehend that. I would prefer if those wishing to help me do what Pthom does and that is rewrite the suggestion in a different color in a subsequent paragraph. That I can comprehend. :D




I do urge you, if you have a problem with a specific critique or critiquer to highlight it with me immediately.Again, thank you for your support. I do not believe I will need to report anyone to a moderator as I am a grown up. If I can't talk it out with someone or don't want to, I am adult enough to accept that. I am more concerned with learning to write a proper critique than getting one. I believe what Pthom said to be true. *I* am the one who will benefit when I do venture to critique another's work.

Thanks Cath :)

Kim

eric11210
03-30-2007, 11:18 PM
Well what Cath mentioned is exactly why I spend my time here now and have stopped visiting that other place (which shall remain nameless). I found there was no moderating going on and people were spouting off without knowing what they were talking about.

Worse, when I complained and said, tell me what can be changed, don't throw around insults, everyone there jumped on me and insisted that I'm refusing to listen to criticism. . .

Why do I mention this again? Cassi, while I understand your feelings that you don't want to "tattle-tale" at the same time, it is sometimes necessary. I'm a mod on another forum (not a writing forum) and my entire job there is to make sure people stay on topic and to quietly remove flames before threads turn into a free-for all where people just have fun telling each other off.

So I do understand and greatly appreciate what mods do and I thank Cath and everyone else who puts in the time to make sure places like AW are useful instead of a waste of everyone's time.

Not to say I don't agree with how you feel Cassi. I'm just saying I've seen it from both sides of the coin and know that sometimes, it is necessary to be a tattle tale because some people just don't know how to behave themselves like adults. Ultimately, this doesn't just affect the one person who is being dumped on. People who might have something valuable to say will refrain from posting because they fear being dumped on and people (like me) will simply walk away and say, you know what? This is a waste of my time.

Eric

Cassiopeia
03-30-2007, 11:25 PM
Hi Eric, :D

I have also been a moderator on another forum and owned/admined my own forum. When I say I don't want to tattle tale, I haven't yet seen anything on this Sudden Fiction part of the forum that would constitute such an action. I think people need to be adult enough to talk things through amiably and not over burden the mods when they have so much to do. However, if someone is just out to be vengeful or flame another writer, then yes of course action should be taken.


Well what Cath mentioned is exactly why I spend my time here now and have stopped visiting that other place (which shall remain nameless). I found there was no moderating going on and people were spouting off without knowing what they were talking about.

Worse, when I complained and said, tell me what can be changed, don't throw around insults, everyone there jumped on me and insisted that I'm refusing to listen to criticism. . .

Why do I mention this again? Cassi, while I understand your feelings that you don't want to "tattle-tale" at the same time, it is sometimes necessary. I'm a mod on another forum (not a writing forum) and my entire job there is to make sure people stay on topic and to quietly remove flames before threads turn into a free-for all where people just have fun telling each other off.

So I do understand and greatly appreciate what mods do and I thank Cath and everyone else who puts in the time to make sure places like AW are useful instead of a waste of everyone's time.

Not to say I don't agree with how you feel Cassi. I'm just saying I've seen it from both sides of the coin and know that sometimes, it is necessary to be a tattle tale because some people just don't know how to behave themselves like adults. Ultimately, this doesn't just affect the one person who is being dumped on. People who might have something valuable to say will refrain from posting because they fear being dumped on and people (like me) will simply walk away and say, you know what? This is a waste of my time.

Eric

maestrowork
03-30-2007, 11:26 PM
Reporting abuse is not tattle-tale. As a mod, I really appreciate members sending me reports (the red triangle thingie) because I honestly can't patrol every thread. Sometimes it's just a misunderstanding and things can be smoothed over with some explaining, and sometimes they truly are abuse and I am able to put a stop to it. It makes the job easier for the mods.

Cassiopeia
03-30-2007, 11:30 PM
Reporting abuse is not tattle-tale. As a mod, I really appreciate members sending me reports (the red triangle thingie) because I honestly can't patrol every thread. Sometimes it's just a misunderstanding and things can be smoothed over with some explaining, and sometimes they truly are abuse and I am able to put a stop to it. It makes the job easier for the mods.You know, I get the feeling I wasn't specific enough. I am not saying that reporting to a moderator is tattle telling. Not when it is a real viable complaint. However, I have yet to see anything here in this new forum that warrants moderating. :D

As I said in my statement, For Me, *emphasis on me* I prefer to work things out amiably with the other person. I should be adult enough to do that. And I hope everyone will read that in the way I intend it. That is only a reflection on me and in no ways a comment on how others handle that situation. Please don't take my comment to mean anything other than how I feel about handling it for myself.

Cath
03-30-2007, 11:52 PM
What Ray said. :D

Yes, if you don't feel strongly enough to report something and feel you can handle it, I'm happy for you to do that. But I just wanted to let people know that I'm here if they do have a problem.

Thank you all - I think it's been useful to identify exactly what we do and don't expect from critiques. :)

eric11210
03-31-2007, 01:01 AM
Cassi, no worries. I was pointing out in more general terms than specifically about you or about this forum. I too have yet to see anything here that is a problem (then again, so far, I have yet to see anything on AW I thought was a problem).

Eric

Susie
03-31-2007, 02:11 AM
Casi, you got a lot of great advice. I have an article titled "How to Critique Without Being Offensive." If you'd like a copy of it, I'll be glad to pm it to you. Just let me know, k.

Cassiopeia
03-31-2007, 06:05 AM
Casi, you got a lot of great advice. I have an article titled "How to Critique Without Being Offensive." If you'd like a copy of it, I'll be glad to pm it to you. Just let me know, k.That would be great thank you :D

Jamesaritchie
03-31-2007, 06:53 PM
I think four main points are important with any critique.

1. Be absolutely honest. "If you can't say something good, then don't say anything" is nonsense. You have to tell the truth, and sometimes there is nothing good to say. And a writer can't improve unless he knows what he's doing wrong, and why it is wrong.

2. The critique should always be about the story, and never, ever about the writer. Nearly all the abuse I see comes when this rule isn't followed.

3. Lines such as "I like this," "I hate this," etc., have no place in a critique.

4. The writer should never, ever, under any circumstances, argue with the person doing the critique. If you don't like the advice, if you don't agree with the advice, ignore it. If you don't believe the person has a clue, do not read additional critiques by that person. But arguing about it is unnecessary, and really causes most blowups.

Cassiopeia
03-31-2007, 09:30 PM
I think four main points are important with any critique.

1. Be absolutely honest. "If you can't say something good, then don't say anything" is nonsense. You have to tell the truth, and sometimes there is nothing good to say. And a writer can't improve unless he knows what he's doing wrong, and why it is wrong.

2. The critique should always be about the story, and never, ever about the writer. Nearly all the abuse I see comes when this rule isn't followed.

3. Lines such as "I like this," "I hate this," etc., have no place in a critique.

4. The writer should never, ever, under any circumstances, argue with the person doing the critique. If you don't like the advice, if you don't agree with the advice, ignore it. If you don't believe the person has a clue, do not read additional critiques by that person. But arguing about it is unnecessary, and really causes most blowups.

I am not under the impression people aren't wanting a constructive critique even if it is negative. I think what they don't want is #3.

I am curious however why there shouldn't be a dialog between the writer and the person giving the critique. Though I wouldn't say arguing is helpful I think that if someone doesn't understand or agree with a critique a respectful discussion can benefit both. I do agree that responding to someone who is just being vengeful or flaming isn't a good idea. That is what I think causes blowups. However we are all human and forget sometimes to walk away.

I agree we should be honest about our opinions of a story but we should be respectful too. The delivery of a critique can sometimes be more powerful than the opinion itself. If someone is right in their critique but disrespectful, then the writer will ignore them and not listen to what they said however, accurate they might be.

KingRat
05-08-2007, 05:52 AM
One techique I've found very useful is something called a "praise sandwich". In this, you highlight something positive about the work first, then identify areas you feel need improvement, and finish with something else positive.



My father used to do that sandwich thing. He'd call me into the house, beat the crap out of me for using his tools, then tell me what a good job I did fixing my bike -- with his tools. :)

Cassiopeia
05-08-2007, 09:50 AM
Somehow I don't think that is what she has in mind LOL. Besides your Dad didn't start with something positive ;)