1. Tesoro
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    Tesoro Contributing Member Contributor

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    How Am I Supposed To...

    Discussion in 'General Writing' started by Tesoro, Jul 31, 2011.

    I was wondering, now that I am in the process of editing my novel, when I let people read it: friends/family, and they comment on things, How should I respond to their criticism/opinions? Should I try and explain how I meant/thought/why that is or just listen to them without saying nothing or reacting n any way?
    I don't think I'm extremely sensitive to bad critiques, if they are constructive, but when people start questioning the characters way of acting or the plot I don't know what I should say. is this a legittimate form of critique or should I just ask them to limit it to the things I'm interested in such as character development, language, tone, writing techniques etc etc etc.
    I don't know if this is just me but those who have read my stories so far seem to have more to say about the character reactions and the overall story-theme than about the quality of the actual writing. Is that a good or a bad thing? or is it just them not wanting to or now feeling capable of giving constructive critique?
     
  2. Steerpike
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    Steerpike Felis amatus Supporter Contributor

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    My personal opinion is that you simply thank them for their time and for giving you feedback. You can then consider their comments on your own time and decide which ones are of value to you and which ones are not.

    When I let people review a work for comment, I want them to make any and all comments that come to mind. If I disagree, I'll disregard them, but I don't want to miss out on commentary because I've tried to limit them.
     
  3. Tesoro
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    Tesoro Contributing Member Contributor

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    I know, it feels weird too, but usually they never say anything about the things I am really curious to know, which is kind of frustrating, If you get my point. Maybe I should just try and find someone different who can give the kind of constructive critique I'm looking for. usually when I ask them what they think they seem to think I wanna know if there is anything bad with it and start pointing out the weirdest things... :D

    I'll let my aunt read it (if she wants to) and since she is a journalist she might have a different view on it, what do you think?
     
  4. Trish
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    Trish I've been deleted.. again Contributor

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    I agree with Steerpike. Probably part of it is that you say "friends/family" and what you seem to be looking for is more of what you would get from a writer. Unless I'm reading it wrong.
     
  5. Steerpike
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    Steerpike Felis amatus Supporter Contributor

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    Oh, I don't think there is any problem at all telling them the things you are most curious to know about. I just wouldn't say "don't tell me X or Y." Leave it open-ended, but if you have a few issues that concern you the most, ask about them specifically. That's what I do.
     
  6. Tesoro
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    Tesoro Contributing Member Contributor

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    I guess you're right and the problem is I don't know any writers (in real life) around where I live, plus I'm writing in a different language from everyone on here... I don't know where I can get this kind of critique from, really....

    Steerpike, you're right too, I'll ask them leading questions, hehe, and not replying in any way to whatever they say. that might be a way.
     
  7. Cogito
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    Cogito Former Mod, Retired Supporter Contributor

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    Note every crioticism and thank the critics for their feedback. Acknowledge that you will take them into consideration. Don't defend, and especially don't explain. If they missed your intent, either they were not paying attention, or you didn't make it clear enough. Assume the latter, and consider how to strengthen themessage of your intent.

    If you explain, you bias your readers, and you will lose much of the value of their neutral reading of your work.

    Take each suggestion and explore it. Don;t immediately dismiss it as off target. Try to understand why it is off target, and you may discover that the needed change precedes where the criticism was directed. Something allowed the reader to wander off track.

    Even a mean-spirited criticism can contain useful insights. Untrained criticism provides clues to possible problems but may require more work to find the real value.

    These are among the skills we try to develop in the Writing Workshop.
     
  8. Show
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    Show Contributing Member Contributor

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    I think you need to evaluate their advice and consider it.

    For me personally, some stuff I changed right away. I understood what was wrong with it and why it needed to be better. Others took more time. I discussed the change back and forth with the editor and tried to have a little back and forth about it. Sometimes they convinced me that their change was better and I changed it and others I kept it because I didn't agree with their advice. Either way, I felt stronger about the whole thing when I was done.
     
  9. thewordsmith
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    thewordsmith Contributing Member Contributor

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    Two problems adherent in the "friends and family network"
    1. They are not going to be able to be completely unbiased in their comments; and
    2. They may not have sufficient grasp of writing, from a writer's perspective, and what you are trying to accomplish with your story. It may be too easy for them to insinuate context which is not there. (Come to think of it, many writers can do that, too!)

    Thank your f'n'f then go find yourself a local face-to-face writers' group. You may well be able to find a more objective group of critics that way.
     
  10. JeffS65
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    JeffS65 Contributing Member

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    I'm not sure that when you ask someone to review what you write that the question they should be answering is more complicated than 'what do you think?'

    If people don't understand what you need to know, your asking them to not focus on the writing but on what you want them to focus on. This would lead to bad results from your reviewers because they just want to read it.

    Keep the 'ask' simple and let them tell you what's wrong and then follow Cogito's advice.
     
  11. Sundae
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    Sundae Contributing Member

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    This. If your readers aren't commenting on things that you are most curious about, or scenes of which you are anticipating your readers to have a strong reaction to, then, in my opinion, you haven't conveyed your ideas properly or to the full extent.

    This was a prevalent thing that I noticed when I was co-writing with someone. Our readers tended to comment and have a stronger reaction to certain scenes over others. And if you later evaluated the comments, there was a high reaction and talk of the scenes written by one person over the other's.

    In my experience, it's more about how well you're executing your plot, ideas, and wanted experience than anything else. Your scenes SHOULD get a reaction, especially the ones you want your readers to have a reaction to, if they don't, I think there is area to improve.

    I think having friends/family/non-writers reader and comment is invaluable because eventually, these will be your readers, and your story needs to appeal to them just as much as it should appeal to a fellow writer.

    If your readers aren't commenting on the technical aspects of writing (and they are non-writers) then, that is actually a good thing because an average reader doesn't pay attention those details as much as how the plot is played out. However if they do comment, then zero in on it. If they like it, you're doing something right. If they have constructive criticism or even the tiniest brief comment on some aspect of your writing that is neither good or bad, then I think you're teetering on the edge and your work could use work because the technical aspects of your writing was noticeable. And of course, if the average reader notices something they don't like about the technical aspects, then you have work.

    Avoid having to explain actions, reactions, plot flow etc. Your words should do that for you.

    If the comments you are getting tend to be general, overall, vague, then yes, you should know not to put too much weight on them, but at the same time, do not discard them. In my experience, readers should have something to say about at least one scene, one zero-ed in event in your plot that is worth talking about in a greater detail.

    Good luck.
     
  12. Tesoro
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    Tesoro Contributing Member Contributor

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    thanks to all of you for your precious advice, I'll keep these answers in mind. And you are right, one shouldn't have to explain stuff they didn't get. in that case there is probably something wrong. excellent point.
     
  13. pyrosama
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    pyrosama Member

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    I don't ask friends and family to critique my stories. I give them a copy of my work for their pleasure. Sometimes they won't even read it, but that's okay. They are busy people and they realize that my writing is a hobby to me.

    My sister once found a story that I had sent her several months earlier and I received a phone call after she read it and she goes, "My God, I had no idea!"

    I took that as a compliment, no critique necessary. :)

    Sometimes it's enough just to know if they liked it or not. The real critiques will come from complete strangers who don't care if they hurt your feelings or not.
     

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