1. DeathandGrim
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    DeathandGrim Contributing Member

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    Friends no good for proofreading

    Discussion in 'General Writing' started by DeathandGrim, Mar 6, 2013.

    I sent out my current draft to a couple people to proofread for me and get their opinion on the story and honestly I got not much out of it

    "I think its good."
    "Love the characters"
    "Its good, keep up the good work."

    blah blah I wanted any type of in depth analysis or at least a comment on the storyline, this is all generic and annoying

    This is the most descriptive critique I got "I like it, flows pretty well. Just noticed some errors, an extra word here and there. Other then that pretty clean and well put together in my opinion."

    Of course I'm under the paranoia that my friends are only telling me what I want to hear and that's no good because what I want to hear is like what did you actually think of the characters and story, don't be afraid to tell me it sucks or there's some inconsistency somewhere I wouldn't garrote you for it :mad:
     
  2. GingerCoffee
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    GingerCoffee Web Surfer Girl Contributor

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    Of course they are being nice. You have to read between the lines of their comments.

    After much refining I finally let my adult son read one of my chapters. He liked it, he really did. I know because his comments about what to change were exactly right. And, I know when my son is truthful much more so than my friends.

    He's also been great to flesh ideas out with, he's interested in the subject even though we both know the book is not in a genre he ever seeks out.

    Have you thought of joining a writer's group where people critique each other's work? That's been most useful for me.
     
  3. DeathandGrim
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    DeathandGrim Contributing Member

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    I should find a writers group somewhere in Virginia

    I mean I think that I have a good work so far at least in my opinion but that's the thing I'm the creator of my story I'm supposed to like it but when I sent the draft out to a couple friends to read I noticed that the responses I got back were among the generic "I like it" variety which is annoying to me. Me personally I'm freaking hungry for critique over here and I'm not getting what I want, which is a simple quick analysis on maybe how things were worded or the characters, storyline, etc. Just something like that but whenever I get these quick say this so he'll shut up variety I get the impression that my work was more forgettable than a food menu. And this tears away at me because I'm stuck in this constant vortex of mistrust and paranoia as if my friends may be lying to get me to go away
     
  4. thirdwind
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    thirdwind Contributing Member Contest Administrator Reviewer Contributor

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    Your friends may not read a lot and/or know enough about writing to give the type of feedback you want. Joining a critique group is probably the way to go.
     
  5. Red Rain
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    Red Rain Member

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    I have to say, this is one of the reasons I joined this forum. The only person who gives me honest feedback is my daughter. And she will rip my story apart, lol. But all her input is about the grammar, not the content.Don’t get me wrong, it’s nice to have a proof reader living under my roof, but at the same time, I would like input about the content as well.

    I think you should just take it for what it is, your friends are your friends and they won’t ever give you feedback that might hurt your feelings or crush your dreams. You’ll need to get that from people outside of your circle.
     
  6. psychotick
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    psychotick Contributing Member Contributor

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    Hi,

    I use my sister as a proof reader - she tears my work to shreds, but I think it's the better for it.

    Cheers, Greg.
     
  7. shadowwalker
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    shadowwalker Contributing Member Contributor

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    Not everyone can give a good critique. Just the nature of the beast. Find people who have done it, or at least are writers themselves. They'll have a better idea of what to look for and how to explain what they think. Of course, what you decide to do with comments/suggestions/advice is still up to you.
     
  8. GingerCoffee
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    GingerCoffee Web Surfer Girl Contributor

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    Very important point. Of the four writer's groups I tried, one in particular had a really excellent critiquer. I lucked out.

    It also helps to hear different critiques as sometimes they offer different things. It can help you see what was just the individual critiquer's preference and what was actually important for you to edit in your own work.

    For example, I know my favorite critiquer wants my protag to be someone she's not. But his comments helped me explore who she really was by thinking about her on a deeper level.

    @ DeathandGrim: you can go to the Meetup site and find the writers groups near you, like this one:

    Northern Virginia Writers Guild

    Click on the Meetup logo and you can put in your location and how far out you want to search.
     
  9. DeathandGrim
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    DeathandGrim Contributing Member

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    Well this was very helpful thank you
     
  10. jazzabel
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    jazzabel Contributing Member Contributor

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    Lots of people find giving critique a thankless task because writers get defensive or even downright resentful if you tell them anything other than their work is perfect. I stopped offering truthful critiques a long time ago for this reason. Personally, I want to see readers hooked, talking about my characters and plot with anticipation, trying to solve a puzzle, bug me for more. Anything less means I have real problems with my manuscript.
    What I found helpful is to ask specific questions. my husband reviews my work. He does a first pass for obvious grammar/spelling mistakes, and once it looks right, we discuss separate issues such as pacing, his emotional responses ( or lack thereof), whether he had to backtrack or re-read any sections, and overall issues such as interestingness.
    In the beginning I had to reassure him that I needed to know every detail of his critique, and that I won't get offended (even though I might sulk a little), but now he is comfortable with it.
    He is my first beta, the second is my sister ( who has no qualms about offending me, lol) and then when the manuscript is finished, her husband reads it as well ( blunt man if I ever knew one) But that kind of honest feedback is really essential because it gives me a realistic chance to improve my writing.
     
  11. GingerCoffee
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    GingerCoffee Web Surfer Girl Contributor

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    Just came from my writers group tonight. I love what I learn from them. I know I'm getting more than I have to offer back, but I also felt I was giving more to one of our new members than I had been able to give when I first joined the group. When you are a new writer like I am, I don't see how you can grow if you don't have people review your work. And strangers, definitely better, at least in the beginning. A good instructor would be similarly helpful, a bad one, not so much.

    Had a good night, just sayin. :)
     
  12. Ian J.
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    Ian J. Active Member

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    I don't think friends (unless they are already adept at proofreading and critique) are normally a good source for critiques. They are normally either not interested, or not sufficiently versed in what critiquing is. Short of professional reviewers within the traditional publishing industry, forums such as this one and local writers groups would probably be the best sources of valuable critiques. Some have mentioned family members being helpful due to being somewhat willing to tear into a work, but even those I wouldn't be too sure of. It sounds like they might be biased just a little too much against the writer due to their relationship with them, so their critiques might not be entirely 'safe'. Arguably, a good critiquer needs to be dispassionate about the work but enjoy the genre.
     
  13. Mckk
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    Mckk Moderator Staff Supporter Contributor

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    Well what did you expect? Your friends are not writers - how can you expect non-writers to analyse and critique your work, when even writers sometimes don't do a good job?

    I've just sent out my novel to my test readers, and only one of them is a writer. So I just sent them a list of questions too. Ask them specific questions like "How did you feel about James?" or "Which part interested in you most in the story? Which part didn't? Can you tell me why?"

    Of course it still doesn't guarantee useful feedback, but it hopefully would be less generic than what you got out of yours lol :p My thinking was simply, well, how should they know? Even I had trouble thinking up the questions and had to really sit down before I got it written, and I'm the author who should KNOW what problems there could be and what needs to be looked at. Given that, how can I expect my readers to know? They just wanna read, they don't wanna work - they're readers.

    So next time, send them questions that they should look at before starting to read.
     
  14. idle
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    idle Active Member

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    Questions are useful, but I prefer not to ask them before they read my story - I'm afraid it might influence their opinions. The last time I gave my story to some people to read, I prepared a few questions about things I was unsure about, but first let them read it and tell me whatever they had come up with themselves. These comments I thought most important. Then I asked my own questions, and then I asked about things that the other readers had pointed out.

    It might be different for a whole novel (if they don't remember enough afterwards to answer your questions), but for a short story I think it's best not to ask anything beforehand.
     
  15. jazzabel
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    jazzabel Contributing Member Contributor

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    I didn't think it was necessary to mention that, but of course you are right, when choosing betas, most important is to ensure they are not there to undermine you.

    All I wanted to illustrate is that if you encourage people to be honest, they can be. Especially if they are just readers because they will be less likely to mitigate uninteresting work by trying to "soften the blow" like a lot of pros do. Readers might also be more honest about the book not holding their attention, which is in my opinion the biggest issue for new writers - stories they tell just aren't interesting enough.

    Imagine an agent or a publisher tell you that your work just isn't interesting enough, and that the prose labours on, the sentences are unnecessarily oblique and your conflict is weak and unreletable (this would be a fair assessment of most of the bad prose I've reviewed). It just doesn't happen. And fellow writers sometimes commit a faux pas of badly re-writing your stuff instead of actually offering a critique which is just infuriating. Writers in general tend to be obsessed with their own work so they are seeing yours through those glasses.

    I want to know what readers think, because it's the audience I need to satisfy. Pros will only recognise a potential hit when they see it, and the best way for any of us to know whether we have one, is to have some readers fall in love with our story first.


    PS. With questions, the most useful one is to ask the reader to mark on the manuscript any places where they:
    1. Had to track back, and for what reason.
    2. Had to re-read a sentence.
    3. Had an emotional response to a scene or a character and what that emotion was.
    4. Thought something didn't make sanse or wasn't believable.

    You can then analyse their comments and see if it corresponds with your intentions or if they are in conflict. Then you figure out a way to fix it. You can always go back to the reviewer and ask them to review the new version (of the paragraph or a sentence, not the whole thing).

    Since I'm writing a huge comment, might as well mention my pet peeve - never ask people to review your entire manuscript straight away. That's too presumptuous. Send one chapter and tell them they can read more if they want. And if you need them to do you a favour, feed them small chunks as they are more manageable. Unless they ask to read the whole thing, which means they loved what they read so far, and that's a really good sign. Dumping an entire manuscript on others is the main reason for a loss of a beta reader.
     
  16. shadowwalker
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    shadowwalker Contributing Member Contributor

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    I'm going to amend something I said up above - I wouldn't say critiquers need to be writers, but if they haven't done a crit before, they should be. However, I have found that getting crits from non-writers can be just as valuable. In fact, there's a good chance the crit won't get bogged down in technical crapola that really doesn't improve the story at all. Non-writers will give you insights from a reader's POV - and that's really more critical to success, IMHO.
     
  17. dirtywizard
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    dirtywizard New Member

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    The best way to get real honesty out of your friends, is to be a little deceitful... for example:

    "Uh, some guy just gave me this to read and I think it's packed with errors. Would you read it for me and tell me your thoughts before I give him my feedback? You know... just in case it's a matter of opinion before I go ahead and upset him"

    Prepare for a barrage :)
     
  18. idle
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    idle Active Member

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    That can only work once. And if your friends know that you write, they'll get suspicious anyway.
     
  19. dirtywizard
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    dirtywizard New Member

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    Absolutely correct. It's a subjective technique unfortunately.
     
  20. mammamaia
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    mammamaia nit-picker-in-chief Contributor

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    this is why i always tell new writers to never let friends, family, or anyone they're sleeping with critique or even see their work... the result can't help but be either kind white lies, or bad advice from non-professionals who just don't know enough about writing to be truly helpful, despite how well-meaning they may be...

    if you want a professional opinion on the quality of your writing, you can send me a brief synopsis and the first three pages... it's totally strings-free, but be prepared to hear the 'awful truth'...

    love and hugs, maia
     
  21. iolair
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    iolair Active Member

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    I'm lucky in that my brother gives great critique - but then he's had many, many publications (mostly magazine articles and columns).

    However, with 'general' friends and family, I think if you want meaningful critique you need to help them by giving them specific things to look for.
    "I'll buy you a drink for every sentence you find that's so long you can't read it without stopping to think".
    "Any places I've used adjectives and it reads better without them?"
    "Can you read this and tell me how you think Bill and Betty have grown during the story?"
     
  22. Keitsumah
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    Keitsumah The Dream-Walker Contributor

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    If you want in-depth critiqing i'd suggest Critiquecircle -its a website completely devoted to helping writers in editing. I myself use it and it has a very nice system. You critique others for points, and when you have enough points (usually three unless your work is over 5000 words) you can submit your story for one week for critiquing. People cannot see your story if they do not have an account and the website has very good security -though i'd suggest you put no more than your rough drafts up if you want to be safe. You wait for your story to go up for one week, and then it stays up for critiquing for one week. If you get no critiques, your get your points refunded.

    For those who wonder, i learned of this website from a successful author who spoke with us at a writing workshop. I have used ti for a while and personally is a great way to get varied types of critiques.
     
  23. jwideman
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    jwideman Senior Member

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    Friends make lousy critics or even proofreaders. Mostly because a) they aren't writers and b) they want to stay friends.
     
  24. jannert
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    jannert Contributing Member Supporter Contributor

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    Oh, dear...

    Yes, I know how annoying a generic response can be, when you're looking for real feedback.

    Have you considered writing up a short list of particular things you'd like your readers to look out for? Give this
    list to your readers along with your story, and ask them to pay particular attention to the issues you've highlighted.

    I know when I gave out my first draft of my first novel to friends of mine who had ASKED to read it, I also gave them
    an accompanying letter, asking them questions like:

    ......................
    Is my first chapter interesting enough for you to want to read on? If not, what could I do to correct this?

    Are my flashbacks, necessary and vivid, or just distracting?

    Can you spot anything that is just plain wrong? (Like tigers in Africa. Or the fact that it takes my character 2 hours to walk from Point A to Point B in Chapter Two, and then takes him a half-hour to walk the same route in Chapter Seven.)
    .......................

    I think it's difficult for some people to offer constructive criticism, especially if they haven't a clue about what writing is like.

    The best marker you can receive from a reader, that lets you know they understand your story, is
    when they start discussing what actually happens in your story, rather than going on about your good/bad writing style or making pleasant, but unhelpful comments like 'yes, that's good, I liked it.' The people who say: 'but how come Fred didn't go to the restaurant after all, when he told her he'd be there?' are the readers you should really listen to. These people will be your target audience.

    Just keep trying, and keep looking for people who are willing to read and critique your stuff. I just joined this forum because
    I hope to link up with other writers in the same 'boat,' so to speak. This is my first posting!
     
  25. DeathandGrim
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    DeathandGrim Contributing Member

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    I'll do that promptly
     

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