1. NikkiNoodle
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    NikkiNoodle Active Member

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    How do you choose?

    Discussion in 'The Art of Critique' started by NikkiNoodle, Sep 4, 2011.

    Since reviewing is a big part of this site I was wondering what is it about a piece of work that makes YOU want to review it?

    Sometimes I will be looking through new posts to see what I can help with and be struck by something, be it grammar or spelling or pacing or whatever, but often I'll run across a piece that I'm just not interested in critiquing. It just doesn't speak to me, I guess. The funny thing is that I don't even have to particularly like a piece of writing to want to help with it, I just find myself more drawn to helping with certain pieces and I haven't done any critical thinking as to WHY. Have you? Come up with any answers?

    And if you have, does it make a difference in your writing?
     
  2. Midnight_Adventurer
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    Midnight_Adventurer Active Member

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    Like you I just browse through the new posts and if I can identify any problems I think I can offer advice on then I'll critique that piece of writing. Although doing a full critique can sometimes be time consuming and require a lot of concentration. Then again, most of the time that particular post I could help with already has a dozen people offering advice so I leave it to them, lol.

    I guess for me to take the time to critique I have to truly understand the issues in someone’s work and then feel confident enough that I know the proper advice to give them.
     
  3. J.P.Clyde
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    J.P.Clyde Prince of Melancholy Contributor

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    A catching title and a nice beginning. If the beginning sentences don't grab me I move on.
     
  4. popsicledeath
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    popsicledeath Banned

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    I'll review a piece I believe I can learn from or if the writer has specifically requested a critique. I believe it's paramount for a writer to learn how to sharpen their own instincts and critical eye by reading and engaging with other writers' work, taking the 'what would I do approach' and working through how to improve a draft (one isn't personally indebted to).

    That said, I think I've only reviewed a few stories here, because it usually feels like the same 'advice' needs to be given over and over, and after years of it--in classrooms, writing groups, other online workshops, etc--I'm tired and just not up for it anymore, and find discussions better for me to learn, and probably for others to as well, as it's too easy to dismiss someone's 'advice' as feedback you don't agree with, whereas in a discussion one is hopefully tasked with actually thinking through all sides of a discussion point.
     
  5. VM80
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    VM80 Contributing Member Contributor

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    Haven't reviewed for a bit (probably should, but anyway...)

    Sometimes I like to review those that I think need a fair bit of work. That takes time though, and at the moment, I don't feel like repeatedly correcting the same/similar issues found in many pieces posted.

    Otherwise, something that speaks to me. I mostly look in the novel section, although short story has its moments.
     
  6. Mallory
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    Mallory Mallegory. Contributor

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    Like J.P. Clyde said, a catchy title is what draws me to click on something in the first place (unless the author is someone I see around a lot on the boards, in which case I'll be interested in checking out their work).

    The main thing that turns me away from stories in the review room is when the author clumps everything into one giant block of text, with no spaces between paragraphs or even new paragraphs when someone speaks.

    If it's other problems, like bad grammar or a boring beginning, I'll [politely] note this in the critique with general suggestions on how to do it better.

    I won't fix each grammar mistake line-by-line, but I'll briefly summarize what their general problems seem to be and what the right way to do it is.
     
  7. NikkiNoodle
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    NikkiNoodle Active Member

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    I can identify with the catching title part, and I have noticed myself doing that as well. I will also read the other critiques to see if someone already addressed issues that I noticed. Sometimes I just feel the need to say, "Hey, well done you!" But reviewing certainly has made a difference in the way I see my own writing.

    popsicledeath, I can see your point there, but it seems that I've noticed the same advice getting recycled more in the discussions than on the review boards (read lots, write more, don't abuse a thesaurus, the dreaded "show, don't tell," watch out for those adverbs, ect...) is that just me?
     
  8. Cogito
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    Cogito Former Mod, Retired Supporter Contributor

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    I look for something that the writer has obviously put some effort into. If they say, "I threew this together last night after six shots of Tequila, and it's a rough draft," expect me to pass it by. Likewise if the first paragraph is laden with spelling errors that any freeware spelling checker would have caught.

    But if it looks like the writer can assemble a basic sentence and makes an effort to spell and punctuate correctly, then I'll consider it for critique.

    Sometimes I just can't get into it, and I pass it up for something that grabs my interest better. But sometimes I'll try to put my finger on why it didn't pique my interest. and respond to that.
     
  9. Heather
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    Heather Contributing Member

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    I haven't written a review in a little while, but usually I skim down the list of threads first and see if there are any which only have one or two comments - if a thread has 12 comments already, I am unlikely to be able to add anything new other than repeating previous critiques.

    I point blank refuse to critique anything which is a first draft, and it actually really annoys me if I have spent the time reviewing someone's work for them to go "it was a first draft anyway" - why should the reviewer take the time to go over it, if the author hasn't even bothered?

    Other than that, if I have something to say about the piece, I say it. If not, I move on.
     
  10. colorthemap
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    colorthemap Contributing Member

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    I usually pick a manageable piece(aka nothing too long)
     
  11. NikkiNoodle
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    NikkiNoodle Active Member

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    That makes sense ;0)
     
  12. A J Jaafari
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    A J Jaafari Member

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    I realize I'm new here, and just learning how the site works. Still, I offer this from my limited experience: I reviewed something a week or so ago that didn't have obvious problems. It was one of those where it just didn't speak to me, and I had to sit and think for a while about why that was.

    What it came down to was that I didn't know who the characters were, thus I didn't care about them. At first, all I felt was that I didn't care, but then I realized that with properly fleshed-out characters, my reaction might have been completely different. The author seemed to accept the feedback well. I would suggest that that's a very important angle to take in critiques: why wasn't it interesting enough for you to even feel like you wanted to write a critique?

    A J
     
  13. Cogito
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    Cogito Former Mod, Retired Supporter Contributor

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    The key thing to keep in mind is that critiquing is at least as much a learning experience for the critiquer as for the critiqued. In many cases, the writer of the piece will never even read the critique, which is why we encourage critiquing even very old pieces of writing. The Writing Workshop is the one area of the site where thread archaeology is actively encouraged.

    Because it is primarily your learning experience, choose a piece of writing that is a challenge to critique. As A J just wrote about, a piece where you aren't really sure why it misses the mark for you in whole or in part, and when you don't immediately know why, is an excellent choice to critique.

    At some point you will be looking at your own piece of writing, and trying to figure out why it lacks sparkle. It's easier to see ther problems in someone else's writing, but there will be those "Ah hah!" moments when you realize you have been doing exactly the same thing you are pointing out in someone else's writing.
     
  14. NikkiNoodle
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    NikkiNoodle Active Member

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    Good point, and certainly something to consider for future critiques!
     
  15. AMasonCarpenter
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    AMasonCarpenter Member

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    Grammar and spelling Nazis aint invitered to my barbeecue. Unless of course the barbecue is being held to celebrate the release of my exciting new thriller that happens to be ABOUT spelling and grammar Nazis. People aren't computers though, syntax is nice, but we should not let a few errors crash our program. I, personally, am quite fond of sentences that wander off into the sunset like a cowboy on a horse at the end of a particularly sad western movie that you once watched with your cousins at grandmother's house while waiting for the rain to stop so you could go outside and play. I could have put another two hundred words in that one and still had room left over for a subject clause.

    AMC
     
  16. Cogito
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    Cogito Former Mod, Retired Supporter Contributor

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    Grammar and spelling are important, though. It is enough to warrant an immediate rejection at a submission editor's desk.

    No one should be posting an excerpt for critique that isn't a clean copy, and if grammar and spelling are still the dominant attribute, it should be pointed out.
     
  17. AMasonCarpenter
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    AMasonCarpenter Member

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    Would I be evil if I pointed out a grammatical error in that last post by Cogito?
     
  18. art
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    art Contributing Member Contributor

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    No, not evil, but you would be displaying signs of maladjustment.:)
    I choose stuff that I feel I can offer some meaningful help with. Preferably stuff that I like.
     
  19. JackElliott
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    JackElliott Senior Member

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    If it doesn't interest me by the first few paragraphs or I spot errors, cliches, etc., I move on.
     
  20. Heather
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    Heather Contributing Member

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    Isn't the point of reviewing, that you spot the errors and cliches, and point them out to the author, so that they can decide if they would like to change it? :)
     
  21. JackElliott
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    JackElliott Senior Member

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    No, not really. I wouldn't invest the kind of time required to do a line edit, for example, unless I was being paid. As a reviewer, I expect the writer has polished his work to the best of his ability. Often that is not the case.
     
  22. Heather
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    Heather Contributing Member

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    Well it depends what type of mistake you are on about. Is a cliche really a mistake? Sometimes they work, sometimes they don't, and as a reviewer, if you think a particular thing doesn't work, I would personally think you would point it out during a review. Yes, if someone has spelling mistakes everywhere and say it's a first draft which they haven't look over, I think, why should I invest my time? But otherwise, even though the writer has worked and worked on it, there may still be mistakes which I'll point out if I find.
     
  23. Quezacotl
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    Quezacotl Contributing Member

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    If I have someone I want to say after I read it, I'll say it.
    I have added incentive to do that when I want to post something though.

    Ich bin ein stolzer Grammatik-nazi.
     
  24. A J Jaafari
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    A J Jaafari Member

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    LOL! Wie schoen! Und ich auch!

    I'm with most of the views I saw on this thread: grammar matters. Sometimes (happily not yet on this site) I've seen things that were so poorly written that I felt like I was beating the meaning out of it, and I just wanted to give up reading it altogether.

    Worst example ever: an English class back when I was in college. We reviewed each others' rough drafts, and I was reading about how hip-hop music began in New York's five burros. That's only the most memorable error; after the first paragraph I was a little angry I had to work so hard to figure out what the author even meant. The prof was making us read and review it, though, so I had to trudge and slog and plod through the swamp of almost-english.

    For balance, I expect the author didn't like my use of words he wasn't familiar with, and had just as hard a time as I did. :)

    A J
     
  25. topeka sal
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    topeka sal Senior Member

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    Mason, I'm with you up to a point. I'm not a fan, especially in daily life. My bro and mother are both grammar freaks and I often find their over-concern tedious and beside the point. I'm also a fan, like you, of unconventional grammar when it works, which is something that is subjective, having more to do with the ear, I think, than any tangible rule. I guess what I object to is knee-jerk grammar correction.

    On the other hand, I agree with other posters that in some cases it is an issue (especially if repeated or habitual) that needs critical attention. Fortunately, there are plenty of others who will perform grammar critiques so I usually don't. (Thanks, btw!) Instead, I focus on the larger issues (as I see them). If, that is, I have anything to say at all.

    Mind, I've only written two (I think) reviews so far on this site (though many in my life). I'm slowly getting my feet wet here.
     

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