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  1. ParanormalWriter
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    ParanormalWriter Contributing Member

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    Constructive crits

    Discussion in 'The Art of Critique' started by ParanormalWriter, Jul 14, 2008.

    Hi. I'm just making this post because I've noticed a tendency (not necessarily on this site) for some reviewers to be a little...unhelpful, when critiquing others work. I'm not complaining for my own sake, as I've yet to post anything here, but I think clarifying what should be included in a review may help some who are new to critiquing.

    1. Don't assume the writer you're reviewing is a newbie. They may or may not be new to the craft, but making them feel inexperienced doesn't benefit them much, and implying you're own work or experience is superior doesn't do anything but make them feel badly.

    2. Couch your comments with some good manners. Nobody says you have to lie about your first impressions of the work, but coming off as insulting and offensive only discourages the writer and/or makes them angry. In that case, your purpose of "helping" is defeated, since an angry or discouraged writer is unlikely to heed your advice.

    3. Of course it's important to note any errors you encounter in the writing, but soften the blow a little by trying to find something you liked about the writing, even if it's only the character names or the writer's use of description.

    4. This isn't contradictory to #3, even if it seems like it at first. Be honest. Telling someone their work is great and needs no revision isn't helping them improve any. The trick is telling them in a way that encourages them to work harder, rather than in a way that makes them throw away their notebook.

    5. Be concise. Give particulars. Telling someone, "I liked this" or "This didn't work for me" is a waste of their time and yours. Be sure and list the things you did or didn't like about the piece.

    I'm not jumping down the throat of anybody in particular. It's just that sometimes when reviewing the comments of my fellow reviewers, I find myself wondering if they're reviewing for the right reasons. Often, the impression that comes off is that they review only to show how much they know and how experienced they are, rather than to encourage and otherwise help their fellow writers improve their skill. I know this is usually not the case. Most of the time, we're all just in a hurry when we review and don't take the time to phrase things as we mean to. That being said, let's keep in mind that receiving reviews (especially insulting or contradictory ones) can be very upsetting and confusing. So let's add a little encouragement once in awhile, shall we? :)
     
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  2. FantasyWitch
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    FantasyWitch Contributing Member

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    Well said!
    *applauds*
    I have seen this on another forum that i left and its just nasty to recieve!
     
  3. Cogito
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    Cogito Former Mod, Retired Supporter Contributor

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    I think I may be guilty of this sometimes, especially if I've spent the last hour chasing down the spammers and the post-and-runs.

    I generally try to be constructive in my suggestions, but I don't always think to raise what is best about the piece.

    It's a good reminder. Thanks for posting it.
     
  4. Wreybies
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    Wreybies The Ops Pops Operations Manager Staff Contest Administrator Supporter Contributor

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    I must agree! I always (try to) employ the S.O.S. method when I write a critique.

    Strength - What made me want to read the piece.
    Opportunity - What I think could improve the piece.
    Strength – What I really got out of the piece, overall.

    ... in that order. :D
     
  5. NaCl
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    NaCl Contributing Member Contributor

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    I like that Wrey...SOS...cool acronym.
     
  6. CDRW
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    CDRW Contributing Member Contributor

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    Yeah, I need to work on that a lot more.
     
  7. Cogito
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    Cogito Former Mod, Retired Supporter Contributor

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    Yes. A big HELP! :)
     
  8. ParanormalWriter
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    ParanormalWriter Contributing Member

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    I like the S.O.S., Wreybies. A good idea. :)
     
  9. Suomyno
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    Suomyno Member

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    Well said. I know that these things sometimes slip my mind and I can get rather rough while writing my reviews- I'll point out issues I have without cusioning it at all which, I'm sure, comes off harsh to some people and I sometimes forget to point out strong points because I'm focused on finding points that need improvement.
     
  10. Etan Isar
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    Etan Isar Contributing Member Contributor

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    I tend not to cushion because there's usually so little that could honestly be cited as a "good" side. Not that the whole thing is terrible, just that I can't find anything technical to compliment on, and I don't like general feedback. I'll have to try harder.
     
  11. Fluxhavok
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    Fluxhavok Active Member

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    good idea wreybies... the strength sandwich. i'll try to use that.
     
  12. hellomoto
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    hellomoto Contributing Member

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    Here are my thoughts on your post.

    I think it was a very good story and you could defiantly prolong it!!!!

    Keep the good work up!!

    Sorry, lame joke. :D
     
  13. ParanormalWriter
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    ParanormalWriter Contributing Member

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    Lol. Funny, hellomoto. Thanks for the friendly "review". :D
     
  14. hellomoto
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    hellomoto Contributing Member

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    No problem. Really, it was a stunning story! Ever considered getting it published?:D
     
  15. Torana
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    Torana Contributing Member Contributor

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    I wouldn't say that Etan. Just find an image, maybe a few words in the piece, flow in some areas, that you thought weren't too bad. I know sometimes it can be difficult, but in every persons story, within a poem, there is something that is good. It is just keeping an eye out for that.

    I always try to tell a person where they have gone right with a piece, as much as I do where they have gone wrong with a piece, as I feel that it helps them to know that if they did something right just as much as it does if they have done something wrong. Sometimes if I can't find anything, I look to the message within the piece and comment on that... You don't always have to compliment on something technical. I know general feedback isn't as helpful, but it is good to let people know if you think something is good wether it is technical or not.
     
  16. Scribe Rewan
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    Scribe Rewan Contributing Member

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    I get the feeling that sometimes people (no one on this thread) get confused as to what consructive critiscm means. I've read a couple of comments by people on other threads who seem to think that CC means lying, or being nice about a horrible peice.

    They think that when reviewing a sentence like this; 'It wers darc and scaree and ther were lods of scaree tings in the jungle what the people were in', in order to give 'CC' they have to go 'That's brilliant and so atmosperic. I love it, you should definitley send this to a publisher.'

    I'm not bringing this up in a nasty way, or to try and attack anyone, just saying that some people seem genuinely confused by the term constructive critiscm.
     
  17. Cogito
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    Cogito Former Mod, Retired Supporter Contributor

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    Last summer I had a review request for a "humorous" script. I frankly wouldn't have touched it with a review, because there really was nothing positive I could say about the piece, no matter how hard I looked. It was loaded with ethnic stereotypes, horrid dialogue, no discernable plot - just awful. So I returned my review via PM in order not to unduly embarrass the author, and apologized that I had nothing positive to say. I listed the problems, one by one, but I hated hitting the Send button.

    I fear I have become a bit jaded. There are other pieces posted here that are not much better than that early review, and I find myself much more willing to simply say openly that the best approach is to toss it and start over.

    Whether this is a bad thing, or a good one, I haven't really decided. Is it really better to try to give someone hope that a major revision will fix the story? Or is it better to be straight and say this piece is a throwaway, and here is why?

    Is a false hope better than taking the risk of discouraging the person from ever trying to write again?
     
  18. Cheeno
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    Cheeno Contributing Member

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    Personally, I feel it's better to be honest, while being as constructive as possible. Agents or publishers rarely pull their punches when considering submissions. It's not in their interests, especially when they're inundated with unsolicited material. If aspiring writers hope to at least get off the slush pile, they need to be aware of the basic requirements. Giving false hope, or softening the impact does no favours. Constructively done, criticism has a better chance of achieving its objective - putting someone on the right track.
     
  19. Scribe Rewan
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    Scribe Rewan Contributing Member

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    I suppose you can suggest it and then if its still bad then tell them it's a throwaway. I try to be honest, but nice at the same time. If a peice is terrible and has nothing going for it then I would probably say something like 'maybe your trying to write in the wrong style/subject matter/ genre' or something like that.

    I personally feel that these two are essentially the same. At some point in time a bad writer will meet someone who tells them they are terrible. I think it's better to try and tell them that the peice they wrote isn't good at all, rather than boost their ego. They may become arrogant, and then when someone tries to tell them that a peice they've written isn;t very good, no matter how politley they do it, they might explode and get bitter.

    Just my humble opinion.
     
  20. ParanormalWriter
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    ParanormalWriter Contributing Member

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    I agree that telling someone their work is amazing when it's terrible doesn't help them any. That's why I use the phrase Constructive Critisicm. The idea is that you should criticize, if needed, but also that any criticism you offer should be of a helpful nature. This means no comments like, "This sucks" or "You're wasting your time". Instead, I'd suggest things like, "This is just one opinion, but if I were you I would consider a rewrite" or "I feel this needs some serious work on grammer and punctuation". I also find it helpful to use phrases like "I think" and "I feel". After all, reviewing in a very subjective business and what one reviewer suggests may be totaly contradicted by the next...
     
  21. Sato Ayako
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    Sato Ayako Contributing Member

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    I agree with this except for one thing: if the writer is writing like a newbie, I'm going to assume that he is one. A writer with any degree of experience should know the basics of grammar and punctuation and at least have a handle on spelling. They should also know how to format dialogue (don't laugh, I see the problem all the time here), among other things.

    True, but don't expect the writer to endlessly soften their review. Sometimes a piece has so many things wrong with it you really can't find anything nice to say.

    And "insulting and offensive" means different things to different people. A pain-staking review of everything wrong in the piece may insult one writer but delight another. The idea here is to soften. With the English language, the further words are apart, the softer their impact. So I could say, "Your characters were boring" or I could soften the blow and instead say, "I can see how much you tried to make your characters interesting, but I'm afraid I found them very boring."

    Spot on! If you can't comment on the piece itself, try looking at the ideas, the "things behind the curtain". Many writers who do badly on a piece have such wonderful ideas.

    Occasionally, a writer here doesn't really want honesty. They want to be read and hear: "awesome, rite moar!" From what I've seen, the best writers are those who can take the harshest criticism and be motivated by it. The real writers don't care so much about the sting of a review, they care about how they can improve. The real writers will write no matter what you tell them.

    I agree with this, too. Plus, if you tell someone you didn't like something, then don't bother to mention why, some people might take it as an affront. I always wonder if the reviewer was just being lazy or forgot.

    A sound list with sound advice. Thanks for posting it!
     
  22. penhobby
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    penhobby Contributing Member

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    I always ask for and am delighted to get in depth reviews. The more detailed the better.
    Why? Because my English is atrocious. A pet peeve of mine is actually something I do to people sometimes. Pointing out a mistake in a vague manner 'That sounds wrong to me or try and reword that.'

    The reason I do this, is because what little English I know, I learned from reading books. So I know there is something wrong with the structure of a sentence by reading it, but couldn't begin to explain in any detail what exactly the problem is.

    My recent understanding of grammar (and it’s not a lot) has come directly from my reviewers and the grammar and punctuation threads. I have also been reading through a couple of writing books recommended on this forum.


    Having said this, I wish to make just one point.
    I have spent a lifetime feeling stupid because of my poor understanding of grammar. I believed and still do, to certain degree, that I was hopeless when it came to English. A good reviewer has the ability to point out mistakes, while also encouraging the writer to keep going and not give up. Please, don't underestimate how much I appreciate the time and work that each reviewer put into my stories. Each new thing I learn builds my confidence a little more.
     
  23. Cogito
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    Cogito Former Mod, Retired Supporter Contributor

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    This is one reason I prefer to write a summary review rather than a block-edit review. I can pick out what I see as the 1-5 most severe of the SPAG errors, and point out the usage rule that will correct each one as a category. That way, the writer doen't just have a bewildering and daunting portrait in red, but instead a handful of rules to help avoid those problems in the future.
     
  24. Haribol Acharya
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    Haribol Acharya Member

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    This is a good advice. That criticism must me constructive is a positive idea. Many quartics have flaws of this kind and they are not specific about what they critiqued and in this situation hardly any artists can benefit or learn from the critiques.
     

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