1. erebh
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    erebh Contributing Member Contributor

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    critiquing stats - a bit crap :(

    Discussion in 'The Art of Critique' started by erebh, Jun 8, 2013.

    Writing workshop - novels - first 25 pieces put up for critique

    Ok I have too much time on my hands today but looking at the stats for reviews and these are those for the first 25 pieces put up for critique

    25 pieces of work
    2655 Views
    217 reviews - including rewrites and answers to queries about the piece.

    Some of the pieces have as little as 1 reply.

    Is there anything we can do to encourage more critiquing?

    I know long pieces, especially over 1000 words put me off. Maybe if we could compile a list of pet hates and post a sticky...

    "To encourage more critiques of your work

    A) please limit your word count to X words
    B) include the word count in the thread title
    C)
    D)
    E)


    Anybody else want to add to this and encourage more critiquing?
     
  2. Thomas Kitchen
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    Thomas Kitchen Proofreader in the Making Contributor

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    A couple I can think of is stick to the standard font and split up your paragraphs. I'll admit that like you, long pieces can put me off as I am a very lazy person. However, if we do include a word limit, I may be tempted to review and critique a few more pieces. Good idea, there. :)
     
  3. Cogito
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    Cogito Former Mod, Retired Supporter Contributor

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    I'd say don't sweat it. You'll learn far more by giving critiques than you will by receiving them anyway. The best thing you can learn from the Workshop by receiving critiques is how to leave your ego elsewhere when you consider the comments you receive, and how to filter the recommendations to find the ones that will actually work for you.

    And if you REALLY want to learn, don't critique the low hanging fruit, the easy pieces to pick apart. Find the piece that doesn't quite click for you that you don't know why. Dig at it until you see where it isn't succeeding for you, and try to figure a way to fix it.

    Then go back and re-read your own writing with what you just discovered in mind.
     
  4. jannert
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    jannert Contributing Member Supporter Contributor

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    Hmm... just did the math. 25 pieces up for review, 217 critiques and/or re-writes. That's an average of 8.68 responses per submission. That's pretty good, actually. Even if only 4 of these are very helpful, at least that's 4 helpful responses to take away and work on.

    Of course, some of these will have received more or considerably less response than others.

    I wonder if there might be a way (and I see Wreybies and a couple of other members/Moderators are already on the case) to single out the submissions that receive few or no responses, and resubmit them for a second chance? That might be a way to tackle the problem.

    As for me, I submitted a piece a few days ago, received around 6 responses, and they were all very helpful indeed. I've re-written the piece, incorporating most of the changes people suggested. These changes also included one fantastic breakthrough suggestion for me. So I'm really happy with what I've learned here.

    If I didn't feel critiques were helpful to me as a writer, I probably wouldn't bother hanging around the forum. I think it's a give and take situation. Yes, you can learn from giving critiques (although just giving an opinion without any suggestions for improvement is not a critique, it's a vote), but you can also learn from the helpful responses you receive for your own submitted pieces. It works both ways.

    I think the advice from members on this forum is of a very high standard, most of the time. We don't always agree with each other, but I think we respect each other. That's great, for an online community.
     
  5. blackstar21595
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    blackstar21595 Contributing Member

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    Maybe members aren't critiquing the works of people who don't critique often?
     
  6. GingerCoffee
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    GingerCoffee Web Surfer Girl Contributor

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    Definitely this.^ I look at a wall of words and move away.

    Sometimes one needs more words to complete the concepts, but those could be split into sections allowing the critiquer to address the whole piece or just a section of it.
     
  7. minstrel
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    minstrel Leader of the Insquirrelgency Staff Supporter Contributor

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    I, too, tend to stay away from the submissions that are too long - say, over 1000 words. If the writer wants a detailed, sentence-by-sentence critique, he has to understand that he's asking a lot of the other members if he submits something longer than that. A detailed critique takes time and effort. (Of course, as Cogito has pointed out, the critiquer learns by doing critiques, but you can only push that point so far. Once a critiquer has found the same common errors in many pieces he's critiqued, and has corrected those errors in his own work, he doesn't get that much benefit from finding them yet again in a new piece. The writer of the new piece, though, gets a great benefit from it.)

    I think one reason some submissions don't get many responses is that they're actually written quite well. There aren't many flaws to point out. If a writer has done his work well, he doesn't get that much notice in a forum like this, because the critiquers just don't have much to say, other than "Good job." Of course, it's nice to get a pat on the back when you've done well, but maybe the critiquers don't think their critiques will count as "constructive," as far as the forum is concerned, if they only consist of "Good job." So the critiquers go in search of badly-written work to critique, so that they can be more constructive.

    It's just a theory.
     
  8. jannert
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    jannert Contributing Member Supporter Contributor

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    I think Minstrel has hit on one of the weaknesses in this forum, and I'm not sure how to address it. I know, myself, if I decide to critique a longer piece, I always copy/paste it, put it into my iPages format, print it off and go away to read it on old-fashioned paper. I find my attention span is greatly increased by getting it off the screen.

    If you are a novelist, or write short stories that are longer than 1000 words or so, you NEED to submit longer pieces. If all you're looking for is a line-by-line critique of your style, then fine, just submit wee snippets. But if you're writing longer pieces —and novels are apparently what actually 'sell' out there in the cold, cruel world—you need feedback on how your story works as well as your style.

    And how can you get that kind of feedback, unless you submit the whole thing, in the case of a story? Or, in the case of a novel, an entire chapter.

    There is a tendency on this forum, probably because of the preference for short submissions, just to pull a piece apart, sentence by sentence, re-word what the author has written—and then move on. This is fine, to a point. However, getting too bogged down in stylistic worries can really derail a story, which may be in need of more basic, structural work. Critiquing for style alone is like meticulously painting and decorating a house, a house that's badly nailed together and about to fall down.

    Does the story work as a whole? Does the pace work? Are loose ends left dangling? Does it start with a bang and end with a whimper, or vice-versa? Are the characters believable, do they remain in character throughout the piece? Are there holes in the plot?

    Unfortunately, it's difficult to get this kind of feedback without submitting longer pieces for consideration. So we get herded in the direction of "long is bad, short is good." Not necessarily.

    I don't know how to address this issue on the forum, though. Wish I did.
     
  9. chicagoliz
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    chicagoliz Contributing Member Contributor

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    One thing I've noticed is that on this site there tends to be more line by line critiques than on another site I am on. The line by line critiques are not always helpful (and I've seen a few with which I disagree.) Sometimes, even a few sentences can be helpful -- something like,
    "I really liked this and thought the story flowed well. I was a little confused at the beginning, because I wasn't sure whether it was Mary or Jane who was looking for her father. I got a little confused in the dialogue because it wasn't always clear who was speaking. Also, at first I thought Terry was a girl, so I was a little confused until later when it became clear he was a man -- you might want to make that obvious earlier."

    That kind of critique isn't as time intensive as a line-by-line, which can sometimes be useful, although it can be daunting as a reviewer to start. I think some reviewers should allow themselves to be a little less intensive, but still give some valuable, specific critique. Sometimes, even an initial impression or a single observation can be very helpful.
     
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  10. Cogito
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    Cogito Former Mod, Retired Supporter Contributor

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    I often focus on a single paragraph or two, because I typically find more than enough there that is representative of the entire piece. If I were to go into the same depth for a full coverage, I'd not only be repeating myself too much, I would be overwhelming the writer.

    I'd mush rather focus on three to five "sins" that repeat throughout the piece, so the writer can address them throughout his or her writing and get the greatest bang for the buck.

    If I see something I particularly like, I'll generally mention it, but I wont go digging for something to praise for the sole sake of sugar frosting the critique. I will, however, always suggest a strategy or recommendation for how to resolve a possible problem. I may not always be sweet, but I do try to be helpful.
     
  11. PirateRob
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    PirateRob New Member

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    A) please limit your word count to X words
    B) include the word count in the thread title
    C) Make it interesting. (easier said than done, but more people read and review pieces that grab their attention)
    D) Use a spellchecker and give your work the best polish you can. (This sounds stupid but if there are many blatant, careless errors, people's eyes tend to glaze)
    E) Understand that your work competes for the short attention span of multitudes of members.

    (I'm rationalizing a bit here, as I have struggled with the angst generated by too few comments myself in other venues) :)

    JMO - Don't read this as snarky, I'm really trying to help.
     
  12. Cogito
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    Cogito Former Mod, Retired Supporter Contributor

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    The word count is not necessary. You aren't posting a finished piece, and the word count will change in subsequent posts as you revise or add other excerpts. Members will look at your excerpt, and if they see a wall of text with no visible spacing, they'l likely try another thread,

    By all means, yes, use a spellchecker. Also proofread it, because spellcheckers miss a lot. Follow the guidelines in How to Use the Writing Workshop, put up the cleanest piece of writing you can produce, and wait patiently.

    Meanwhile, continue to critique other pieces of writing.
     
  13. Caramello Koala
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    Caramello Koala Member

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    Of course having a word count isn't necessary in that regard, but it is useful to have in the title in order to allow potential reviewers to know in advance how many words they are about to read. Personally I am much more inclined to click the thread and therefore review a story if the post title includes its word count, and I doubt I'm alone there. Considering the OP's question of how to get more people to review their work, including its 'current' word count in the title is a valid point to consider.

    Btw 'erebh', 217 reviews spread across 25 pieces of work is pretty good if you ask me. You are obviously comparing that number to the number of views (2655) and are wondering why the number of reviews can't be closer to the number of views. When I look at the enormous list of stories out there that are open to critique the first thing I look at is post count. Stories that have received more than 15 responses I don't bother to look at. Why? Because I assume that a short story or novel excerpt that has received 15 critiques/replies shouldn't need any more attention. Its knots should have been untangled already. So far I've found the quality of critiques to be very high so I doubt anyone would need more than 2 or 3 good critiques to have enough information to better their work. Wanting 100s, or heaven forbid, 1000s, of critiques is plain unrealistic and greedy. A good critique is so invaluable you should be happy to get one in the first place. A lot of people on writing websites charge good money for a very vague critique of their work. I'll add to the list so far.

    1) please limit your word count to X words (5000 max I'd say, but expect a lot less reviews than a 1000 word story)
    2) include the word count in the thread title. (So the reviewer can decide beforehand whether they have the time)
    3) Make it interesting. (Easier said than done, but more people read and review pieces that grab their attention)
    4) Use a spellchecker and give your work the best polish you can. (This sounds stupid but if there are many blatant, careless errors, people's eyes tend to glaze)
    5) Understand that your work competes for the short attention span of multitudes of members.
    6) Quickly scan your work beforehand and fix any misuses of 'it's' and 'its' (This is so common and it really shouldn't have to be corrected by someone else)
    7) Please state your intention at the beginning. (Are you less concerned about editing and more eager to hear thoughts on character development or plot? Be specific about how you would like your piece to be edited beforehand and you will not only save reviewers and yourself the time, but you will get more out of it)
    8) Grammar mistakes, wordiness, useless repetition, and tense shifts are distracting and get in the way of good constructive criticism. Tidy it up before posting.

    In regards to the last point: the less grammatical errors you have, the more time reviewers can spend combing more important issues such as story structure. A reviewer (I'm assuming) isn't going to read the reviews of others before writing their own (as not only is this time consuming, but it leads to bias and therefore not as unique of a perspective), so a lot of the time a story full of tense issues and grammar mistakes, tedious repetition etc, will receive a lot of responses that are more or less the same. But then again, often these writers don't know they are making these mistakes and so the reviews are helpful to them. But people get tired of correcting the same mistake over and over again, and often when they see a poorly written piece they will immediately (subconsciously) dismiss it. It's like, if a person can barely play their instrument, how do you expect them to write a good song?

    Going back to the OP's question... The way I see it is if you critique someone's work they will be more likely to critique yours. So the best way to get more attention on one of your own pieces is to offer your eyes to more of everyone else's. Also, keep an eye out for reviewers who you think are particularly helpful and observant when it comes to critiquing other people's work, and when it comes to submitting your own, send them a PM politely requesting their help.
     
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  14. jannert
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    jannert Contributing Member Supporter Contributor

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    I understand PirateRob's concern, but 'short attention spans' of people doing critiques are often not very helpful to the writer.

    What are people to do if they write longer pieces, or need an entire chapter critiqued, or something like that? Novels are what actually 'sell' out there in the big bad world, and they are, by definition, longer than 1000 words—longer than 5000 words! (Longer than 50,000 words, omigod.) A novel's structure and characters develop over time, and people doing critiques need to take the time to read a bit 'more' than a few hundred words.

    I feel that this forum lacks that extra niche, that would allow people to receive detailed and structural critiques of long pieces. I think that's why we get so many superficial (however accurate) critiques that just take sentences apart and / or comment mostly on style, grammatical errors, etc. Members are 'discouraged' from posting longer pieces. A shame, really.

    Surely there should be a place for all kinds of writing to be considered by people who DO have the time?

    ..........................

    I agree with other people responding to this post, who have said that in order to grab attention, a piece does need to be reasonably free of grammatical slop, bad spelling, etc. I believe any budding writer needs to master these basics, before they present their efforts to people for critique.

    I'm not saying we don't all make mistakes, but some pieces are so badly-presented, with so many glaring errors, that I know I do pass them over, when I choose what to critique. Probably other members do too. It's kind of like ...geez, where do I start???

    If you were a musician, you wouldn't expect the Julliard School of Music to consider you for admission if you couldn't read music. Or the Bolshoi Ballet to take you on if you had never danced. There are basics you need to master before anybody's going to take you seriously.
     
  15. hippocampus
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    hippocampus Active Member

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    I tend to avoid critiques if I don't have anything constructive to say - for example, I just don't like the writing.

    I also avoid large blocks of text (thousands of words) or posts that already have several excellent posts critiquing it. Unless I have something unique to add, I don't see the point of jumping in with my repetitive two cents.

    It's also easier for me to critique pieces that fall into a genre I like. So I tend to skip romances, comedies, etc. and gravitate toward sci-fi, crime, or thriller stories.
     
  16. hippocampus
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    hippocampus Active Member

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    Isn't this what we're told to do in order to be allowed to post our own work? I remember reading in the rules somewhere that critiques that aren't specific enough don't "count" toward the coveted "allowed-to-post" status.
     

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