1. yagr
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    yagr Contributing Member

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    Critiquing the critiques

    Discussion in 'Support & Feedback' started by yagr, Aug 30, 2014.

    I realize that reviewing can be a bit of a tender subject but I have no confidence in my ability to do so. I have read the arguments that practice will improve one's critiques but frankly, I reject the idea. If I knew that I was making valid points, then I'd get better - but I could have just given a critique worthy of the world's best reviewers, editors and literature masters and it's all guesses. Not knowing if I've made valid points, I simply flounder through the next one.

    I do understand the reason for the way things are set up here in regards to posting one's own work and giving reviews - and think it's a good system. What I am wondering is if it may be possible to have some folks who are knowledgeable about such things, critiquing the critiques. If I felt confident about my opinions on a piece, I'd be more willing to give a critique. As it stands now, I remain reluctant to critique and at the very least, want to send a condolence letter along with whatever review I'm giving.

    Yes, I've done a fair amount of reading in my life and I know what I like and why - but that isn't very helpful to anyone. I am much more interested in what a book says than how it says it. Idea's are much more important to me than presentation; in my world, substance always trumps style. I wouldn't mind expanding my world to include an appreciate of style, but I feel like a little kid who dressed themselves in bright yellow and green plaid pants and a fire engine red checkered shirt imagining myself looking dapper. Just because I think it looks good doesn't mean anyone else is. Likewise, a positive and encouraging critique from me means you've sold your writing to a crowd of one. My thoughts and feelings about your writing are probably not transferable and so I've now misled someone on top of everything.
     
  2. daemon
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    daemon Contributing Member Contributor

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    I have no opinion to offer on how the forum should handle critiques of critiques, but I do have a philosophy of critique that you might appreciate:

    The #1 thing to keep in mind is that when you critique, and you call something good or bad, you are not making a statement of fact -- you are identifying something in the text that you personally like or dislike. You are valuable as a critic because you are you. You are not the author. The author's goal is to write something that is enjoyable to people other than the author. The only way to know for sure if that goal is accomplished is to ask people who are not the author (e.g. you) what they like and dislike, and why.

    Never worry whether your points are "valid" or "worthy of the world's best reviewers". They are valid. Period. The author wants to know what you think, so whenever you say what you think, you are making a valid point.

    And never ever feel pressured to mention anything in the text other than what jumped out at you and you can identify. They say "write what you know" and that applies equally well to critiques. If nothing jumps out at you, then that is perfectly fine. You do not need to say anything.

    There is only one direction you can go: from being a helpful reviewer to being an even more helpful reviewer. I know you said you disagree that practice makes you a better reviewer, but it is true. You become a better reviewer by learning how to explain in clearer terms why you like what you like and why you dislike what you dislike. The only way to learn how to do that is to spend more time thinking about the "why" question.
     
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  3. peachalulu
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    peachalulu Contributing Member Reviewer Contributor

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    First, I wouldn't stress too much about whether or not you're giving a good critique. The critiques aren't just to help out the writer they're to help hone your own editing skills and remind you that you are communicating to readers. The best thing you can do is pick out what doesn't work for you as the reader - you don't even have to be in writer mode which means technical
    jargon and grammar point outs aren't musts.

    If you're having trouble spotting things in the text that need correcting maybe just leave that piece or leave a word of encouragement. I've come across a few pieces on here where I've felt didn't need a lot of advice, and not being a grammar expert, couldn't really offer any polishing ideas, so I just gave a like or a left a comment.

    I went over one of your recent critiques and I found it quite good - you pointed out redundancies - gave examples for what you meant, things the writer could've phrased better, you pointed out errors in flow and even noticed spots where the character could've used some pizazz. If you want to know if you're giving a good critique I'd say yes and keep doing what you're doing.
     
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  4. chicagoliz
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    chicagoliz Contributing Member Contributor

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    You can just give your own reaction to the piece as a reader -- you don't have to offer a suggestion for improvement, or even point out something that you think is "wrong." Observations such as, "I got confused when X did Y," or "I thought it got a little slow in the third paragraph," or "I had trouble figuring out who was speaking when the characters were having lunch" are all valid and helpful. If you got confused somewhere, someone else did, too. And it's helpful to the writer to know that -- often the fix is easy, just adding a line or a dialogue tag.

    Don't worry so much about being a "critic." Just be a reader.
     
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  5. edamame
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    edamame Contributing Member Contributor

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    I don't think you should worry whether your critique is somehow valid or not, because at the end of the day, every critique is subjective. And a writer has to decide for themselves anyway, whether they will change something because of a critique and how much impact it will have on their edits.
     

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