1. Brandon P.
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    Brandon P. Member

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    Conflicting critiques

    Discussion in 'The Art of Critique' started by Brandon P., May 25, 2011.

    Has anyone ever received critiques of their work that conflicted with each other? I recently submitted a piece of writing for critique to two different forums, but what people said on one forum was very different from what they said on the other. In the first forum, they suggested I add more description to slow down the pace, whereas the posters on the other forum complained that I had too much description and needed to remove most of it for tighter reading. I feel totally confused right now!

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  2. funkybassmannick
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    funkybassmannick New Member

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    Take every critique with a grain of salt. Sometimes people don't clearly state the point they want to make, and other times people don't look closely enough into your story to even make that point valid.

    In response to these two conflicting critiques, what do YOU think? You should never make a change in your story unless you agree with what the critic says. If you agree with one of these and not the other, then go with that.
  3. StrangerWithNoName
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    StrangerWithNoName Longobard duke

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    One reader, one critique.
  4. Eunoia
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    Eunoia New Member Contributor

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    Agreed. If you agree with what the critic has said, then make the change. Otherwise ignore them.
  5. popsicledeath
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    popsicledeath Banned

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    Conflicting critiques often come about because a reader/reviewer knows something is wrong, but isn't exactly sure what. Some issues in fiction can be so complex it's not easy for even seasoned reviewers to point to exactly what is weak in a manuscript. Also, sometimes there can be multiple issues confusing the matter, which can further make it hard to pinpoint precise issues.

    What often happens in these cases is reviewers simply then choose to discuss easy, surface issues, whether they're valid or not, since they may not be sure of deeper issues, much less how to address them. It's one fault of peer-lead writing groups. Often everyone is on the same level, nobody is the 'expert,' so discussions/critique/review just ends up being about stuff that's easy to grasp that is often subjective anyway, like whether a piece needs more or less detail/descriptions or the most common subject being in-depth discussions on POV when the POV is almost always the most minor offender in a piece.

    Another issue is often that online writing critique groups require reviews to then participate, so reviews are often quick and not very deep. What can happen is one reviewer reads only the first half of a story that needs more details and descriptions, so comments on that, while another readers the whole thing, but only remembers the end that got bogged down with too many details, so comments the story needs less.

    Basically, it may be that reviewers simply aren't equipped with handling the in-depth issues in a piece, so are covering stuff they are comfortable dealing with, whether it's valid or not, or it may be that both less and more of something is valid, but you're just getting generalized reviews by people trying to get through them asap so they can post their own work, so it's not addressing where the manuscript is in need, just finding something at all that is in need and commenting on it generally, making it seem like it pertains to the entire piece.

    Without seeing the piece in question, I'm not sure of course, so am just talking trends and what I've seen occur in the past with similar confusion.

    This is also why I'm often backward, and find the place for me to learn about craft isn't in getting advice on my own work (usually from others not really qualified to give it), but to review/critique other writers' work and think through what I would do were in my manuscript. And in general, the best reviews in terms of helping the writer directly aren't the 'this is your problem' types, but simply reader reaction, so you can understand what effect you're creating or not in a reader, and then work yourself through it to tweak or fix the effect you're creating.

    Too many writers are addicted to the validation, praise and easy answers they often get from workshops. My advice is skim through reviews/critique, not obsess, and just go back to revising on your own trusting that in the back of your mind you'll better see problem areas from the critiques you got, and that you'll be able to ignore the 'advice' that in revision doesn't work out to be valid. Basically, return to your manuscript, not to someone elses manuscript, which is basically what a critique becomes.
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  6. psychotick
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    psychotick Member

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    Hi,

    There are six or seven billion people on the Earth and every one of them if they read your work would probably have a different opinion. That's where your skill as a writer and the vision you have for your work come into play. Take what they say, listen and think about it, but in the end its your decision as to what you do with it, and which if either you'll agree with.

    Cheers.
  7. ScaryMonster
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    ScaryMonster Member

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    If you post to a certain forum and read other members work, and also read their critiques you very quickly learn to respect the opinions of certain people.

    Its a good idea to consider the postings of everyone who comments on your work, but only as a general indicator.
    Some people are new to critiquing writing and you have to consider that, but they can still come up with some insightful observations.

    If one crit on another forum conflicts with another then the issue might just be a matter of taste and there's also the lemming effect, if one person voices strong opinion then others are likely to jump onto that band wagon. That's just human nature.
  8. AvihooI
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    AvihooI Member

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    I think even negative criticism can illuminate on things you intended to do in your work.

    In your case, if it's about lacking or superfluous description. Then most certainly the reviewers are referring to different paragraphs. Otherwise, they probably have different world-views on the level of detail that should be. Either way, you should detail just as much as you're comfortable with - regardless of criticism. It doesn't make sense to have less detail when you clearly wish to make a point. It also doesn't make sense to detail more when that extra detail adds nothing to the piece.

    As for general reviewing, you should read carefuly to see who reviews sincerely and who does it in a rush. Sometimes even the fiercest of criticisms are just as frank. A rule of the thumb would be to read a review and ask yourself "does this actually move me to go and improve my work?" -- If nay, then you shouldn't feel obligated to take that review seriously.
  9. Cogito
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    Cogito Former Mod, Retired Supporter Contributor

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    If you haver conflicting critiques, and you will, that is when you get to practice your own critiquing skills.

    What you need to do is follow the reasoning of each critique, which is one reason it's important to provide that reasoning when you give critiques.

    When you are able to understand the reasoning behind each recommendation, you are in a better position to decide which one works better for you in this particular piece of writing. But you can also learn from the suggestion you choose not to follow. Other writing situations may be better addressed by that other recommendation.

    And there will be times that you will find a suggestion is simply a bad idea. That's okay, too, if you hav e gone tfhrough the reasoning and understand why it is fallacious.

    Never fiollow advice you cannot understand. Neither should you simply reject it. Research it until you know why the recommendation was made. Sometimes, it meansthe critiquer misunderstood what you were trying toi accomplish, in which case you should try to determine how the critiquer was able toi misunderstand your intent. It may be that you need to clarify sometheing elsewhere in your writing.

    You can learn from nearly every critique.
  10. Sage Dufraine
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    Sage Dufraine New Member

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    Just like any piece of artwork, there are no set rules when it comes to writing. While there may be rules when it comes to spelling and grammar, there aren't when it comes to whether or not to add more description or none at all. It all depends on your own tastes and style. I doubt there is any writing in the world that every reader has liked and not found anything negative, in their eyes, to comment on.
    I agree with what some of the others have said too, I would take it all into account and learn from all of the critiques, but in the end I would write what sounds best to me and what style I find most enjoyment in
  11. thewordsmith
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    thewordsmith Senior Member Contributor

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    It's almost a given that you will receive varying and, in some case such as this, wildly contrasting views. In the case of your particular critiques, I would guess the timbre of the two forums is quite different and the participants tend to lean in different directions. it is to be expected.
    And that's not to say all comments from one board are right and from the other all wrong.

    When that happens, it brings into play your own need to be able to read your work with a critical eye and determine which comments are valid and which may be less so. I've seen people give comments recommending changes when, obviously, they have no awareness of the story or how those 'suggested improvements' would impact the storyline. When you see things like that, just toss them out and keep reading. Balance the comments against what you know about your story and consider which ones may or may not have validity.

    Unfortunately, that also means you may ignore good advice based on your own passionate attachment to your writing! The hardest part is to be able to disengage ourselves from the writing process.
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