1. DefinitelyMaybe
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    DefinitelyMaybe Contributing Member Contributor

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    How should writers go about interpreting and making use of critiques

    Discussion in 'The Art of Critique' started by DefinitelyMaybe, Oct 1, 2012.

    As per the subject. Not being the expert, I don't want to be the one to drive discussion if any happens.

    But what should writers do with critiques and feedback?

    Myself I like to always follow the advice, but keep a backup of my piece. That way I can think about the post-advice piece, and then decide what I want to do. Accept the advice if it improves the piece, go back to what I had if I prefer that, or do something different if that's what I decide. Not that I've yet done that enough to really quote it as a policy.

    I started this thread after seeing discussion in the writing workshop on a number of threads where it was questioned whether writers had followed advice perhaps a little bit too literally.

    The main thread on "Receiving a Critique" cautions not to be too defensive. http://www.writingforums.org/showthread.php?t=6165 But perhaps it's possible to go too far in the other direction, and not be defensive enough.
     
  2. DanesDarkLand
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    DanesDarkLand Senior Member

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    I believe, as a site, that this community does a wonderful job on encouraging the individual writers and helping them to progress as a writer. However, sometimes, the result is not what it could be.

    I have learned, through trial and many errors, that opinions will vary on an individuals writing. Some people may say that there is too much description and too many adverbs, or too much action, too much dialogue, too much etc..... What one person considers a clean and lean style of writing, others will find too sparse and lacking in backgrounds that will help the reader paint a picture, or paint the scene.

    When we give critiques, the entire purpose of giving one in the first place, is to help ourselves understand what may be lacking in our own writing. I could shred someone's work, but learn nothing about the experience and think I'm helping the writer out. In truth, I should be learning to look at my own writing and figure out where I may be going wrong.

    I give kudos to reviewers for taking the time to read and critique a writer's work. I hope that some writers will look at the critiques in the manner they are meant - as an opinion and a helping hand, not as rules, or laws.
     
  3. Pheonix
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    Pheonix A Singer of Space Operas and The Fourth Mod of RP Staff Contributor

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    I don't think you can take everything everyone say to seriously. The majority of people on this site are amateurs (myself included). It's great to get feedback, but everything will have their own opinion, and that doesn't necessarily they will be right (myself included :)) Take things with a grain of salt. And remember writers are opinionated and occasionally *ehem* overly confident. I've found that if you get a good number of reviews, try and build an average. And there are somethings that are your decision and you're not obligated to take every suggestion you get. Because that's just what they are, suggestions.

    And I'm not saying this to undermine the review process on this site, I think it's great. You just have to understand what it is. This isn't professional editing or critique, it's a community driven free site. You can get A LOT of good suggestions, but you can get a lot of really bad suggestions to. Just be reasonable, and don't take everything to heart.
     
  4. DefinitelyMaybe
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    DefinitelyMaybe Contributing Member Contributor

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    I find critiques are very good at getting me to think about things that I wouldn't have thought about otherwise. Often this leads to me being able to improve a piece that I couldn't previously improved. On the other hand, even if something is very much worth thinking about, the bottom line is that the writer doesn't have to agree and follow through.

    I'm reading "Self-Editing for Fiction Writers" by Browne and King. At the beginning of chapter two they give an example of writing, that I really enjoyed reading. Then they say that most readers will have considerable difficulty in being engaged by that text. And they say that there shouldn't be that much telling about the author. This is interesting, and I am definitely going to experiment with doing things their way. But it also makes me think about what I should be writing. If I have, in some minor respects, atypical traits as a reader, then this could prevent me writing material that has wide appeal. But then, should I? At least it gives me something to carefully think about.

    In some ways I think critiques could be seen as giving people options for doing things differently. Options that (at least for the couple of pieces I've put up so far) the author may not have thought of. But even if someone giving a critique offers up an option that would improve the work by some non-existent objective standard, that still doesn't mean that the writer needs to choose that option. But I prefer to have a lot of options to choose from, and critique helps. An awful lot.

    So, there doesn't need to even be an obvious "right" or "wrong" in terms of the critique. Many basic things can be right or wrong. Spelling, grammar, facts. But even when there isn't an objective right or wrong, opinions still open up alternative ways of writing the piece.

    Certainly that's what I'm thinking when I critique, I'd never expect an author to just do what I say. However, if this isn't discussed in the open air, perhaps there is the possibility of writers and those giving critiques to be speaking at slightly cross purposes.
     
  5. shadowwalker
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    shadowwalker Contributing Member Contributor

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    Critiques are opinions. Writers need to look at what's being said and determine whether or not it's actually useful for their story. I neither accept nor reject without first considering what's being said and why.
     
  6. peachalulu
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    peachalulu Contributing Member Reviewer Contributor

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    First of all I take a breath. If I feel myself bristling, I leave the critique alone for a bit before
    going over what the reviewer said. Maybe they're full of hot air, maybe
    they've got a genuine point. As a writer I tend to be sparse and usually I get a lot of reviewers
    demanding more description. But irronically if I post something description - it doesn't
    get near as many people critiquing it - does that mean there's nothing to critique? - ha! I
    wish. More likely that they've seen a sea of descriptive passages and got scared off from
    attempting a critique. Based on that logic ; I get more attention by being sparse, and less when
    I'm descriptive ( yet the critique in the sparse is to be more descriptive ), I can't win.

    So, what do I do with such contradictory results? Take everything with a grain of salt.
    I first examin whether their comments have merit - without sacrificing my style. ( by style I don't
    mean odd, gratuitous rule breaking ) I have to watch, myself when I review that I don't alter anyone's
    style. And if I follow the advice it should make the story clearer, the flow better it should
    add to the story. If the advice if off it will usually stick out in the writing and not suit
    the piece. I ended one sentence on a preposition - people offered re-writes but in the
    end , a lot agree that the sentence breaking the rule sounded better.

    When I critique I like to show the writer that maybe they can chose a less general
    word something more concrete, to combine sentences, to tighten, I point out
    plot holes, inconsistencies, things that are cliche or stretch the readers belief.
    I give sample sentences to show what I mean. Not to show off. I don't want
    them to write like me. I just want to show them a different route they could
    take, how certain words, slanted a certain way can affect character and tone.
    I don't focus too much on grammer, it's important, but sometimes it scares me
    how a critiquer will go over a piece pointing out all the grammical errors giving the
    writer false hope that a few changes will make their piece readable. If I'm being sloppy
    or derivative, I want someone to tell me - gently though, lol!
     
  7. Cogito
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    Cogito Former Mod, Retired Supporter Contributor

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    First, examine the problem they are addressing with the critique. For now, assume that there is a problem, and it somehow manifests in what the critiquer is perceiving.

    Note you are accepting (provisionally) that there is indeed a problem. But don't assume it is precisely what and where the critiquer noticed it. Sometimes, a reader will be thrown off track by misinterpreting something earlier in the piece. So your first task is to follow their thought process, and see if you come to the same flaw site.

    Now look at the proposed change. Even if you don't agree with the location of the original flaw, you might agree that the proposed fix is worthwhile. Examine the proposed change in terms of what it is meant to accomplish. Whether or not you agree with applying it there, is there a general principal worth considering for your writing in general?

    Notice that nowhere in this process do I suggest accepting and applying the recommended change blindly. The point is not a quick, localized fix. The point is to find ways to improve your writing, not just one sample of it.
     
  8. ranjit23das
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    ranjit23das Member

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    Great discussion all. I am very direct when critiquing other people's work and don't mind direct, robust feedback of my work. To the points made earlier, I welcome crits of storyline or taking different points of view over crits pointing out typing erros.

    Again, reframing what others have said, each reader is different so will provide feedback from different perspectives. However, if several readers are pointing out the same error in the storyline then I take note. My rule of thumb is three - if three or more people point out a particular flaw, I take it seriously.
     
  9. JJ_Maxx
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    JJ_Maxx Banned

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    I love doing critiques, because it has helped me so much in my own writing. Think of it as taking a 'look under the hood' of someone elses car. You could troubleshoot someones exhaust, and then find that you can more easily fix your own exhaust. I don't know how many times I have been reading my own work, only to smack my forehead and say, "I just told someone else they shouldn't do that!" It is very helpful!

    I find that writers get too close to their work, and sometimes read things the way they created them, which could be different than how a first-time reader reads it.

    There are two types of critiques:

    Critiques we can DEMAND: Grammar, spelling, tense errors, etc..
    Critiques we can DEBATE: Plot points, story arcs, choices of adjectives, etc...

    I love it when a critique has a good mix of both of these. I want to know the things I did that are WAY wrong, and the things I did where the reader tripped a little bit. I love a lot of critiques. :)
     

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