1. Alejandro89
    Offline

    Alejandro89 Member

    Joined:
    Mar 27, 2016
    Messages:
    48
    Likes Received:
    29
    Location:
    Costa Rica

    Feedback to young writers

    Discussion in 'The Art of Critique' started by Alejandro89, Mar 28, 2016.

    I've been to a couple of writing groups, and there is always the very young, at least in their writing career, who reads an abomination. I always try to be very civil, but other people tend to be more direct, which approach you think its better? In one side, you may make them never to write again, on the other, someone needs to give them the basics, whats your take on it?
     
  2. BayView
    Offline

    BayView Contributing Member Contributor

    Joined:
    Sep 6, 2014
    Messages:
    5,664
    Likes Received:
    5,159
    Probably, as with most things, somewhere in the middle.

    I truly don't think there's any benefit in making them think they're better than they are. At the same time, too much criticism can be overwhelming. I usually try the traditional "criticism sandwich" model (try to find something to praise to open and close with, and then put the suggestions for improvement in the middle). If they're paying attention they'll realize that the praised items are pretty unimportant (The title is interesting, I like that character's boots) compared to the majority of the criticism (I couldn't really follow what was going on, your dialogue doesn't sound natural to me, you need to use punctuation and capitals). But at least they get something.
     
  3. Alejandro89
    Offline

    Alejandro89 Member

    Joined:
    Mar 27, 2016
    Messages:
    48
    Likes Received:
    29
    Location:
    Costa Rica
    You are right, I was just thinking one time a girl about 17-18 years read a poem like "and i love you so much" and one of the older guys shred her to pieces, his tone was not agresive, but the poor girl seemed about to cry. I think there is only so much you can tell someone in one reading, otherwise they will get overwhelmed and feel like it's a personal attack. And some people feel it is their time to shine instead of trying to help others improve
     
    Witchymama and Tenderiser like this.
  4. Oscar Leigh
    Offline

    Oscar Leigh Contributing Member

    Joined:
    Jan 21, 2016
    Messages:
    4,425
    Likes Received:
    1,982
    Location:
    Australia
    Over-aggressive, condescending or selfish attitudes to advice are never a good thing.
     
    Witchymama and Alejandro89 like this.
  5. BayView
    Offline

    BayView Contributing Member Contributor

    Joined:
    Sep 6, 2014
    Messages:
    5,664
    Likes Received:
    5,159
    I think that's a good point - you can suggest something for the writer to work on without listing everything the writer has to work on!
     
  6. Tenderiser
    Offline

    Tenderiser Not a man Contest Administrator Supporter Contributor

    Joined:
    Aug 12, 2015
    Messages:
    4,288
    Likes Received:
    5,161
    Location:
    London, UK
    My approach is a mixture of Bay's and Alejandro's. I try to find something positive and I don't list EVERYTHING that's wrong. Start with the most obvious, or the thing that will create the greatest improvement.

    I find I am harder on "better" writers because I assume, to have got where they've got, they've had enough criticism in the past to have grown a thick skin. If someone can't string a sentence together I assume they've never shown their writing to a critiquer before.
     
  7. Alejandro89
    Offline

    Alejandro89 Member

    Joined:
    Mar 27, 2016
    Messages:
    48
    Likes Received:
    29
    Location:
    Costa Rica
    Dealing with more experienced writers can be dificult too, specially if they are the head of that particular group.
     
  8. Sileas
    Offline

    Sileas Member

    Joined:
    Jan 26, 2016
    Messages:
    93
    Likes Received:
    40
    Location:
    Right Here.
    My vote: Always, always, always, always praise!

    Your writing, like your singing voice, is so very, very personal. It's like pricking your finger and drawing a picture with your blood. It is so very YOU, so clear, undiluted, ultra-condensed YOU that it can be hard, especially for writers still working on experience, to separate themselves from their work. With a younger writer, I would do my absolute darnedest to even word "things to work on" in a positive way. Don't say "You need to work on your dialogue" so much as say "These characters are really clear, very likeable, and they seem very polished in your head. Listen to them a little bit more. They have more to say." Letting your own mind, that most personal of worlds, be displayed for others takes quite a bit of courage. If they are serious about wanting to write, their writing will improve as they mature, and praise can only encourage them to work harder at it, not slow down or stop seeking to improve. If they aren't serious, they will stop of their own accord, or at worst could even turn into the author who went nuts on one negative review linked in the critique forum here. He won't sell much, but the good ones, the ones who persevere, will.

    Pull out some of your own first stories/writing and have a look at it. How would you like to have been approached at that age with that material?
     
    Alejandro89 likes this.
  9. peachalulu
    Offline

    peachalulu Contributing Member Reviewer Contributor

    Joined:
    May 20, 2012
    Messages:
    3,829
    Likes Received:
    2,382
    Location:
    occasionally Oz , mainly Canada
    I try to critique how I'd want to be critiqued. Constructive help delivered with encouragement.
     
    Oscar Leigh and Wreybies like this.
  10. A.M.P.
    Offline

    A.M.P. People Buy My Books for the Bio Photo Supporter Contributor

    Joined:
    Sep 30, 2013
    Messages:
    2,032
    Likes Received:
    1,131
    Location:
    A Place with no History
    I tend to be rather critical, unfortunately.
    It's just how I learned to write, I guess.
    Mistakes and issues are meant to be addressed, not glossed over.

    I always make a point to explain why something doesn't work and how to improve it but I never look for what's good.
    If there is something, or isn't, it doesn't really stand out to me because I'm overly focused on what can be worked.

    I keep a neutral tone, I think.
    I just state the issue and explain it logically.
    Maybe a bit of warmth would be a good improvement from me?
     
    Tenderiser and peachalulu like this.
  11. Wreybies
    Offline

    Wreybies The Ops Pops Operations Manager Staff Contest Administrator Supporter Contributor

    Joined:
    May 1, 2008
    Messages:
    18,901
    Likes Received:
    10,090
    Location:
    Puerto Rico
    Esto mismo. Pienso en lo que yo busco. Investigo con el fin de mejorarme a mi. Cuando hago eso, me pongo en los zapatos del otro y los dos ganamos.

    This here. I think about what I want to get. I examine with an eye to bettering myself. When I do this, I put myself in the shoes of the other person and we both win.
     
    peachalulu likes this.
  12. BayView
    Offline

    BayView Contributing Member Contributor

    Joined:
    Sep 6, 2014
    Messages:
    5,664
    Likes Received:
    5,159
    Not necessarily... For some writers, it's better to get something unvarnished. I don't want people making up something positive about my writing if they really don't see anything - it could actually be counterproductive to my understanding of their actual reactions. If someone just hates a piece of my writing, I want to know that (assuming I've asked for a critique!). I think the critique sandwich is more for younger people or those who are really sensitive.
     
    peachalulu likes this.
  13. ChickenFreak
    Offline

    ChickenFreak Contributing Member Contributor

    Joined:
    Mar 9, 2010
    Messages:
    8,984
    Likes Received:
    5,502
    If a piece is packed full of dozens of categories of errors, I think that it makes sense to pick, say, two or three categories, offer several examples of errors in each category, and move on. If there's also some honest praise to give, yay, give it.
     
  14. A.M.P.
    Offline

    A.M.P. People Buy My Books for the Bio Photo Supporter Contributor

    Joined:
    Sep 30, 2013
    Messages:
    2,032
    Likes Received:
    1,131
    Location:
    A Place with no History
    Yeah, the thing is, I don't distinguish between new writers and older ones.
    So, maybe, I can work on being generally kinder and more prone to look for a little bit of good (even older writers need encouragement) just so I don't accidentally make people quit writing.
     
    BayView likes this.
  15. Tenderiser
    Offline

    Tenderiser Not a man Contest Administrator Supporter Contributor

    Joined:
    Aug 12, 2015
    Messages:
    4,288
    Likes Received:
    5,161
    Location:
    London, UK
    I don't think there's any harm in it. Sometimes there really won't be anything good about the writing (rarely) but phrasing your critique nicely can make a big difference.
     
  16. Indarican
    Offline

    Indarican Member

    Joined:
    Mar 14, 2016
    Messages:
    81
    Likes Received:
    46
    I try to make sure that I treat everyone with respect, kindness and courtesy even when giving a critique. I try to be as honest as I can without being all that negative, (if that makes sense.) For example instead of saying I don't like your wording in paragraph 8 I would say something like, The flow of paragraph 8 seems a bit off maybe try changing some of the wording...., I still try and get the point across that the flow is jacked up but I don't have to be mean about it. Since I do this for both older and adult writers I never really see the need to differentiate.
    Now if we are talking about young children, then they get nothing but praise from me.
     
  17. peachalulu
    Offline

    peachalulu Contributing Member Reviewer Contributor

    Joined:
    May 20, 2012
    Messages:
    3,829
    Likes Received:
    2,382
    Location:
    occasionally Oz , mainly Canada
    And sometimes you have to knock down delusions. I've gotten into arguments with people who thought their writing was good to go when I was like - are you kidding me? It reminds me of my best friend when I was eight. She was a horrible, horrible singer but her mother kept telling her how angelic she sounded. She'd stop by and ask to sing for my parents. A few choruses later and my dad would get this look on his face - get her out of here. I'd drag her off and after politeness didn't work, declared - you stink, you're no Madonna. But since I wasn't either she considered my comment useless.
     
  18. A.M.P.
    Offline

    A.M.P. People Buy My Books for the Bio Photo Supporter Contributor

    Joined:
    Sep 30, 2013
    Messages:
    2,032
    Likes Received:
    1,131
    Location:
    A Place with no History
    Yeah, what do you know if you aren't a professional?
     
    peachalulu likes this.
  19. Wayjor Frippery
    Offline

    Wayjor Frippery Contributing Member

    Joined:
    Feb 24, 2016
    Messages:
    609
    Likes Received:
    708
    Location:
    Tranquility Base
    Just thought I'd chip in and say I agree with this, although the cynical part of me thinks that encouragement is just icing on the cake (and today I'm feeling very cynical because my holiday has just finished). The uncynical part thinks that encouragement is being a decent human being, but I still don't think it has anything to do with the actual criticism.

    I guess I just want people to be civil and honest, which would be my answer to the OP. If the piece in question was a complete cluster f*@k and I was face to face with the author (in a writing group scenario), I'd ask them how much criticism they actually wanted and then try to break down the critique-giving over a number of sessions.

    We're all trying to communicate, aren't we? And sometimes it's so damn difficult to say what we mean. I think the best critiques - whether for young or old - challenge the writer to check that yes! that is what I was trying to say.
     
  20. peachalulu
    Offline

    peachalulu Contributing Member Reviewer Contributor

    Joined:
    May 20, 2012
    Messages:
    3,829
    Likes Received:
    2,382
    Location:
    occasionally Oz , mainly Canada
    Totally agree with this.

    But to me encouragement is only pointing out what worked for me as a reader. It's not really about being descent if I highlight a joke or a beautiful description or a great character and say love this - that's just my reader response. And it's part of the critique because it's showing them what they're doing right.
    I just critiqued someone, and for their chapter they didn't have a lot of the mc's responses. It was very dialed back. And I was never sure what the mc was thinking or feeling ( which I made mention of. ) But towards the end of the chapter there was this great character response and I was like - there, you have it in you. I highlighted the sentences and said good, you should do more of this because I know exactly what the mc is feeling and thinking. This way the encouragement helped to backup my critique -- Here's what you did and I understood the scene versus this is what you did before and I was lost.
     
  21. Wayjor Frippery
    Offline

    Wayjor Frippery Contributing Member

    Joined:
    Feb 24, 2016
    Messages:
    609
    Likes Received:
    708
    Location:
    Tranquility Base
    I agree completely with your definition of encouragement. My reservations were about using encouragement as a sugar pill rather than positive critique.
     
    peachalulu likes this.

Share This Page