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  1. Crazy-catfish

    Crazy-catfish Member

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    Critique worry

    Discussion in 'The Art of Critique' started by Crazy-catfish, Jan 1, 2017.

    Being a new writer and what I would consider a complete novice who is still learning myself, how on earth do I give critique to someone else's work?
    I struggle (immensely) with grammar, so I can't help in that department. I've read a few pieces and think it's either good or not to my personal taste, but wouldn't know how to put that across as at the end of the day that's just my opinion. It might be brilliant for all I know, but I'm saying I don't like it!

    Arghh, I guess I'm really just asking how you're supposed to give a critique when you're probably the least qualified person to do so?
     
  2. Lifeline

    Lifeline The Dark - not in Wonderland Contributor

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    :D it helps to read through a few other critiques (particular inline, where the critiquers gave his recommendation right beside the 'wrong' part) and try to spot why the critiquer said what he said. If you have done this a few times, go on and try to spot troubles in a piece without first looking at what others wrote.

    It's not rocket science, and no one will get angry if you don't offer much. Just keep on :)
     
  3. Crazy-catfish

    Crazy-catfish Member

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    Thanks Lifeline :)
     
  4. Tenderiser

    Tenderiser Not a man Contest Administrator Supporter Contributor

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    Who do we write for? Readers. If you're a reader, you're qualified!

    Many of us prefer a reader's critique than a writer's one - that is, we don't want it full of technical jargon and suggestions for sentence structure, but we want to know:
    • Did you like the characters?
    • Did you enjoy it?
    • Was anything confusing or unclear?
    • Would you read on?
    "I hate the character Joe and would be happy if Sarah threw him down the stairs" is a really valuable critique, as 'amateur' as it sounds. If Joe is meant to be a sympathetic character, I know I need to change something. If he's meant to be a bad guy then I know I did my job. Some writers would go into more detail and explain WHY Joe comes off as a cockwomble but I can work that out for myself if I need to; it's a bonus, not a requirement.

    If you're nervous, maybe take those four questions I listed and write a critique around those? Or set yourself some questions you're comfortable answering and explain to the author you read the piece with those in mind.

    Most of us are just grateful that you took the time to read our work and comment. It's very rare you'll find someone bitching at you for your critique, and those who do bitch often end up banned shortly after...
     
  5. Lifeline

    Lifeline The Dark - not in Wonderland Contributor

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    No problem, we all started somewhere. But don't ask me how I critiqued at first or I have to go and hide under the bed ;) Your post reminded me of myself, back last October.
     
  6. Crazy-catfish

    Crazy-catfish Member

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    @Tenderiser Thank you. I didn't quite think of it like that. I will take your ideas with me when it comes to critique time!

    Lol Lifeline, was it that embarrassing? Jeez, that's gonna be me on my first one! :eek:
     
  7. Tenderiser

    Tenderiser Not a man Contest Administrator Supporter Contributor

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    I used to be a terrible critiquer. Maybe I still am and don't know it, but at least I *think* I'm helping these days :D
     
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  8. OJB

    OJB Active Member

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    Crazy- I am a member of a number of places that do critiques. Here are some simple things you can do to help.

    1. Read everything. I personally read poetry, comic books, essays, scripts, philosophy, novels, operas, and journalism. As you read you'll gain an eye on what is good and what is not.

    2. The easiest thing to critique is clarity. Did you understand the story? If not, what didn't make sense?

    3. Write. The more you read and the more you write the better you get (They really go hand in hand).

    4. You can always look at other people's reviews to get an idea of how people approach the process. I personally illustrate points, give examples from famous works, and suggest resources a writer can check out. As you read you will gain these resources yourself that will help both your writing and your critiquing.

    I wish you the best of Luck.
     
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  9. Crazy-catfish

    Crazy-catfish Member

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    @OJB Thank you sweet! That really does help. What i've found so far is when I've read a piece and I think "Hmm, I'm not kind of keen' or whatever, I'll think about saying what I thought, then I'll read the other glowing comments and think 'damn, I must be wrong!' lol I guess I just need more confidence to say my opinion.
     
  10. big soft moose

    big soft moose Contributing Member

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    On the whole i'd just as soon have crit from a reader as another writer - true its useful to have a writer who can pick up spag errors and such, but what I (and I'd guess most people) really need at the crit stage is to know do the characters work ? are the settings realistic ? does the plot grip you ? are there any boring bits or stuff you didn't understand ?

    Anyone who reads in the genre they are critiquing can give that

    ETA : rather than just saying you aren't keen , tell us why you aren't keen/what specifically doesn't work for you
     
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  11. Lifeline

    Lifeline The Dark - not in Wonderland Contributor

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    I take exception to 'easiest to critique is clarity'. That's actually the most difficult, because only commenting on obvious storyline issues isn't going to cut it for quality work. The ones who have had the dubious pleasure of getting critiqued by me can sing a song about that. 'Clarity' is also about individual word- and sentence order. Not to mention about paragraph order and word choices. ;)

    What @big soft moose said is true, that's the first stage. Once the author is satisfied that these kind of issues have been taken care of, other critiquers can fine-tune.
     
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  12. Crazy-catfish

    Crazy-catfish Member

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    @big soft moose Gotcha! I think I may be over thinking things. So my humble opinion is what is needed after all. This actually helps to ease my anxiety a heap. I actually think I can do this now! lol
     
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  13. BayView

    BayView Contributing Member Contributor

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    Add another voice to the "I'd rather have crits from readers than writers" camp.

    There are SOME writers who give great crits, but in general I think it's a lot more valuable to get the perspective of a reader. I used to have a list of questions I sent out to betas, something along the lines of:

    Did you find yourself losing interest anywhere? If so, where?
    Did any of the characters do things that you didn't understand?
    Were there parts you really enjoyed? Parts you really didn't?

    That sort of thing is all I'm looking for from a critique. If they point out the problems, then it's MY job to figure out the solutions.
     
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  14. big soft moose

    big soft moose Contributing Member

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    Exactly - beginner writers sometimes need more detailed crit of the "you could do it this way" type, but as bay view says for most experienced writers we just need to know what you think is wrong, not how to fix it (although i'm in noway saying i'm as experienced a she is)
     
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  15. Tenderiser

    Tenderiser Not a man Contest Administrator Supporter Contributor

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    That happens to me a lot, from both sides. I might get four beta readers saying it's great, then the fifth sending me reams of things to improve. All are valuable, but the fifth is most likely to help me improve the story.

    As a critiquer, I notice that some individuals ALWAYS praise a story. I think they want to be encouraging. Nowadays I'm pretty confident in my opinion, but when I wasn't I would post my critique without reading other replies.
     
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  16. Daniel I Russell

    Daniel I Russell Active Member

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    If you're honest and put your thoughts forward in a productive manner, the author can take something from it. Personally, if a reader has an issue with my work that's due to taste, I make note of it but don't let it get to me. If this same feeling is expressed by several readers, then perhaps it warrants a closer look. I think the worst thing you can do, and I see this in particular with Amazon reviews, is comments like 'this is crap' or 'I didn't like it'. That helps no one!
     
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  17. Dnaiel

    Dnaiel Active Member

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    There's also some good help in the sticky threads in this subforum.
     
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  18. Wreybies

    Wreybies The Ops Pops Operations Manager Staff Contest Administrator Supporter Contributor

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    It's not usually my style to take a segue to being authoritarian, but... @Tenderiser is dead correct here. If you give crit and someone is hostile back at you, DO NOT GET ENTANGLED. Report it. Someone else will probably report it too. In fact, lots of someone elses. The community here is very self-policing. We the staff don't really have to go looking for hidden trouble, especially not in the Workshop where there is an understood decorum that is very different to just shooting the shit in the rest of the forum.

    I say this because if you're nervous about giving crit, then you may be a little emotional about the effort you put into it, and that's perfectly fine, but that's how people get their hooks into you when they don't know how to take critique well. I will also advise you to engage the writer only, not the other people giving critique. That's how arguments start and, again, the decorum in the Workshop is not the same as open discussion elsewhere. The last thing I will say, and I know that there are few followers of this religion anymore, but remember that the act of giving critique is meant to help you as much as the person receiving the critique, if not more. Every writer needs to learn to be dispassionate and objective about their work in order to edit and revise. The critique process is an excellent way to practice that skill. Everyone in this thread has given excellent advice to you already; they have told you what it is they are looking for when they receive critique. When you give critique, think about what you are looking for as regards help with your own work, and give that.
     
  19. Cave Troll

    Cave Troll Who wants waffles...? Contributor

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    I agree with @Wreybies and @Tenderiser .

    Now for story time.
    About 8-9 months ago an ass got uppity towards someone elses words of advice.
    What they said to the critic was not all that nice.
    In the end they had lost a friend.
    Not even an apology could mend.
    (I have no idea why this is in rhyme):p

    Now it is more fun to take out my anger in much more colorful ways. :)
    Like finding something worth my exploring.
    Though in my adventures to find some thing new.
    Most of it would embarrass Pepe Le Pew. :p

    So stay objective and polite when giving crit.
    Lest you look like an ass and will feel shit.

    (Really not a poet, must be channeling Seuss.) :supergrin:
     
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  20. big soft moose

    big soft moose Contributing Member

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    One of the other big planks of giving crit is to respond to the OP not to someone elses critique of it - few things are more iritating that seing two members get into a dick measuring contest* about style of crit while the OP sits there thinking WTF

    (*Top tip If you have to measure it, you're clearly an inadequate - confident guys don't need to compare theirs to other peoples to know its big enough... ahem I think I may have chosen the wrong metaphor but you see what I'm saying)
     
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  21. Rosacrvx

    Rosacrvx Active Member

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  22. Scot

    Scot Contributing Member

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    I consider myself one of the newbies here and am still learning how to critique. When I first joined I read loads of other people's critiques and concluded my knowledge of grammar, sentence construction, pacing, plot lines, story arcs; in fact just about every aspect of writing imaginable, was woefully inadequate.
    Have I improved? Hard to say, as critiquing critiques is not encouraged. If an OP ticks 'like' I take that as positive feedback.

    I do know that I now spot all sorts of mistakes in some of the books I read that I would have missed six months ago.

    To @Crazy-catfish I say build on what you know. If you prefer any particular genre, then stick to critiquing that. If you are good at spotting typos or wrong word usage (their, there, they're), fire away. Or if you notice tense or POV changes that perhaps the author didn't intend, draw his or her attention to them. Nobody will criticise you for trying.

    Finally, if you say you like a piece and say why, and someone comes along later with a long explanation as to why they don't like it, that doesn't make you wrong!
     
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  23. Crazy-catfish

    Crazy-catfish Member

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    Thanks so much for your replies. You're all awesome! I've taken something different from each response and it's all helped enormously.

    Fanks all x

    PS @Cave Troll Love that!
     
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  24. Christine Ralston

    Christine Ralston Active Member

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    It is actually easier to find fault in another person's writing than your own because you can look at it more objectively. Offering feedback and critiques to others will also help you improve as a writer. I've enjoyed the critique exchanges that I've participated in and look forward to doing more in the future.
     
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  25. Jaiden

    Jaiden Member

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    My best advice when approaching a piece of work, is to act like there is nobody else there. Just you and the writers product. No other reviewers, readers, nobody.

    I also echo the mentality of explaining why parts of the text didn't work for you on an emotional or thought-engaging level, more than why syntax needs correcting or grammar adding/subtracting.
     

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