1. perfectionist
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    perfectionist Member

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    How to ask for a review

    Discussion in 'The Art of Critique' started by perfectionist, Jan 14, 2009.

    I'm going to approach this one with an analogy from another pursuit of mine: the game of Go. If you don't know what it is (and that's OK) then imagine I'm talking about chess.

    Now, there is a very well-loved website that organises reviews of games; players submit a game record and the system selects a significantly stronger player to review the game. That strong player looks through the moves of the game and responds with a few pointers that will improve the weaker player's game: "You should not attack if you have nothing to gain from it; Your sense of direction here wasn't good, this is why; This is what would have happened if you played here instead," and so on.

    The thing is, (and this, finally, is my point) it is considered rude in that forum to post a game without taking the time yourself to look over the game and explain (1) what aspect of your play you want advice on (2) what you were trying to achieve in various points of the game.

    Bringing it all home then, I've noticed that many stories posted in the review room are posted without comment, or with a throw-away "so, tell me what you think!" at the end. It's a real turn off to me as a reviewer who loves taking time to think through a piece and give my best response when the author hasn't given any guidance on what they hope to get from the review.

    Now I sound like i'm complaining... that's not my intention. I just want to open the topic for discussion.

    So, (to coin a phrase,) tell me what you think!
     
  2. Cheeno
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    Cheeno Contributing Member

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    I know what you're saying, but I don't think it's an issue here. There are all kinds of writers posting material for review, and all kinds of reviewers, at many levels of experience. As far as I've seen in my time here, members have generally received a varied and comprehensive response to their work, apart from the few 'one-liner merchants' who thankfully tend to fade away or actually cop on. I see it more as a learning forum anyway, so looking for specifics might limit the number of members willing to review. You can always pm official Reviewers for a more personal response, if that suits?
     
  3. Cogito
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    Cogito Former Mod, Retired Supporter Contributor

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    I find I get the most useful responses if I don't try to "steer" the reviews. Unless I already know I have a weakness I'm trying to address, I find I'm better off letting the readers give their feedback without pushing them in any particular direction.
     
  4. Heather Louise
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    Heather Louise Contributing Member Contributor

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    I think that if you know what you need to improve in your work, but are not sure how to do it, it can be benificial to point that out the the reader. However, often someone posts a peice and it simply unsure of what needs changing or what is missing, they just know that something needs to be done.

    Also, if they specifically say what they want to work on, the reviewer may feel as though he/she is not allowed to mention any other flaws they have found, as the person only asked for critiques on specific thing.
     
  5. Xeno
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    Xeno Mad and Bitey Contributor

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    I'm with Cog on this one. I know what I think I'm bad at, but I can't know for sure until someone tells me. So, if I thought I was bad at say, descriptive writing, I wouldn't tell the reviewer, I'd just see if he/she tells me and assume it's alright if he/she/it doesn't.
     
  6. Zcreative
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    Zcreative Contributing Member

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    I guess I agree with Cog. My writing experience is limited, considering my age, and anything that a reviewer sees that could be corrected would be a great help. I think that when I post a work for review, it's good enough to present to say, a teacher, for a grade. So when a reviewer looks at my piece, telling them that you think that somethings wrong with it kind of says that its not really complete. But that's just my opinion.

    Z ;)
     
  7. Etan Isar
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    Etan Isar Contributing Member Contributor

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    Not everyone here has enough experience to know what to ask about. Someone posting theur first piece won't necessarily be able to point out dialogue or metaphors as an area of weakness. In fact, many new writers have no idea how good their work is until someone comments. With Go, you know who won and who lost, and so it is easier to pick specific areas, but an inexperienced wirter may not have any real concept of how good or bad their work is. That's the key difference between the two, in my opinion.
     
  8. perfectionist
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    perfectionist Member

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    Thanks to all of you for your considered responses.

    I must say I didn't expect to be quite so alone in my opinion, but i really do see your point.

    It's a very different thing, as Etan said, but also the point that it takes a significant amount of experience to be self-critical enough to realistically take account of your own weaknesses as a writer makes some sense to me.

    I don't think people should take it to the other extreme either, saying "I want to know how to improve the dialogue, and nothing else," or some other blinkered request. There's a definate holistic aspect; every part of the writing can affect every other part.

    I'll be more tolerant, as a result of your feedback. Nevertheless, I don't think anyone should ever be shy of asking for specific advice related to a peice.

    ~Tom
     
  9. Islander
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    Islander Contributing Member Contributor

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    I can see a point in posting a story for review without any background information whatsoever, and that is seeing how it stands for itself.

    For example, if I'm not sure whether my characters and descriptions are good enough, and express that when posting the story, my uncertainty may rub off on the reviewers, and cause them to be extra critical of those parts.

    Or if I post a short story and mention that it is the first in a series, the reviewer will know why the ending leaves so many questions unanswered, and be forgiving of it - while someone who reads the short story in published form, not knowing or caring that it's part of a series, may find it confusing and unsatisfactory.
     
  10. Cogito
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    Cogito Former Mod, Retired Supporter Contributor

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    I agree completely with this. There are times when you, as a writer, KNOW some aspect or other just isn't working. If that's the case, by all means mention it when you post the piece.

    On the other hand, even if that is what YOU feel is where the piece is stumbling, a critic may feel that the real problem lies elsewhere. So the writer should not get his or her back up if the critic decides not to focus on what the writer indicated.
     
  11. Etan Isar
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    Etan Isar Contributing Member Contributor

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    Ditto Cog. Especially in his response to the part of your post he quoted.
     
  12. Mesuno
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    Mesuno Member

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    I'm not sure what people do generally, but when I put something up I have generally taken the time to polish it significantly myself. By the time I've written it, reread it 50 times, rephrased, reordered, expanded on bits etc I feel like I've lost some perspective on it.

    It ends up being what I like but I don't have the faintest clue any more if what I like about it agrees with what others think.

    From that point of view fresh eyes who give their own take, without my bias affecting them, are the most valuable.

    I guess though for me I prefer to be told things about broad structures, characterisation, plotting etc rather than minute SPAG, as I think I have a pretty good grasp of SPAG and can correct it in my own writing reasonably well.
     
  13. Bartholomew
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    Bartholomew Member

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    I love Go.

    That's really all I got. If I give an opinion on someone's work and it helps them, excellent. If it helps someone else, that's good too.

    If it doesn't help anyone at all, well, I'll sooner eat monkey hair.
     
  14. litilraven
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    litilraven Member

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    reviews...

    When I first joined this site, less than a week ago (?) I was ready to jump into reviews and read so that I could post. Now that's not so.

    I still want to do that, but now it's on the back burner. I am learning SO MUCH just by reading these posts, that I feel it's important to keep reading them.

    I have more of a grasp of reviewing now.

    I appreciate everyone's opinions, experience, and knowledge. I also want to thank all that were a part of forming this site, and for those regulars that have been around a long time. Because of you, my education is continuing.

    Thank-you.
     
  15. lipton_lover
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    lipton_lover Contributing Member

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    When I write something, I typically have a focus, something I want to improve. It doesn't take over the piece, but it's the focus. For instance, the last thing I wrote is heavier on dialogue than I'd normally do, because I consider it my weakness. Anyways, when I post those stories, I point out what I was concentrating on, what I think may need closer inspection than I can give, because I've gone over it too many times to be able to read closely, or because I just don't know what to look for.
    I think this works because the more thorough critiquers can then concentrate there for me, and the general reviewers who are just as helpful can take it or leave it.

    On that note, the one liner commenters are just as helpful. If someone posts saying they liked it, even if they don't specify a part of it, I know what I wrote was just accepted as good by someone. If they say they didn't like it, I know I need to work on it. They're not AS helpful, but still worth considering.

    Nate
     

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