1. Mustang
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    Mustang New Member

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    How to obtain an unbiased critique of your work?

    Discussion in 'The Art of Critique' started by Mustang, Oct 24, 2012.

    Something I believe every aspiring writer needs is to obtain an objective and completely unbiased critique of his or her work. But how do we obtain this?

    Our first instinct might be to ask our family and/or friends, but I don't know how truly objective the people in our lives can be (even if they really try).

    I know that "critiquing services" exist, but they're costly -- and I tend to think some are even scams.

    An honest appraisal up front could spare us a lot of unnecessary work and frustration later on during the querying process (if, in fact, our work is not truly "publishable").

    Does anyone have any input on this topic?
     
  2. Sniper
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    Sniper New Member

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    I think learning how to be objective about your own work is one of the most valuable skills a writer can have (and one I lack so much...). But of course, the writer will always be biased to some extent. My next suggestion would be teachers/mentors in our lives, but even they're going to be objective one way or another, according to their own experiences. So... the Internet and writing workshops, maybe? A lot of people around here seem to be good at giving objective critiques, and from the writing workshops I've heard of, the same seems to apply. Hope that helped a little...?
     
  3. Selbbin
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    Selbbin I hate you Contributor

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    I refuse to let my family and friends read even one word of what I write. Their feedback would be useless and I don't want their opinions at all; I also don't their judgement about me, based on some of the dark themes that I write.

    However, other writers and people I do not know are far more useful, as they will read the text as intended and judge it on it's merits.
     
  4. Cogito
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    Cogito Former Mod, Retired Supporter Contributor

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    There's no such thing. Every critique is biased.

    Learn to GIVE critique, and you will better understand how to evaluate the critique you receive for its usefulness to YOU.
     
  5. chicagoliz
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    chicagoliz Contributing Member Contributor

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    They're hard to find. The best thing to do is to find a critique group, or some sort of workshop. I don't know where you live, but you could try searching meetup or asking around at local bookstores or any colleges that might have creative writing instructors. You could even try google searches for writing workshops or groups plus the name of the major city closest to you.

    You can also try searching for online groups.

    Even when you find people willing to read, you still have to make sure that you find someone who gets your genre and your writing. It's a process.
     
  6. Thumpalumpacus
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    Thumpalumpacus Contributing Member

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    I've got a couple of writers whose work I enjoy, whose knowledge of the language is superb, and who give me their opinions freely, knowing that I'm not going tailspin on them if it's not nice. They each know how to construct stories well, with dimensional characters. We maintain a small writer's group at the music forum where I spend most of my Internet time.

    I don't ask for family reviews.
     
  7. mammamaia
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    mammamaia nit-picker-in-chief Contributor

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    i always caution my mentees and clients to never show their work to family, friends, or anyone they're sleeping with...

    and to not believe everything everyone says about it on writing sites or in writing groups, because there, you're dealing with mostly other beginners, so it's too often a case of the blind leading the blind, despite how well-meaning the person may be...

    before you take advice given in such venues seriously, you should 'vet' the givers... check out their advice-giving history, how they are regarded by fellow members, and the quality of their own writing, before giving weight to their opinions and suggestions...
     
  8. chicagoliz
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    chicagoliz Contributing Member Contributor

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    This all depends on the specific circumstances, on the particular people involved, and on the relationship you have with those people. Some people are lucky enough to have family members or close friends who are wonderful beta readers and give invaluable advice.

    It is true that you should not believe everything everyone says. It is also true that not everyone knows what they're talking about. But more importantly, even among people who do have solid 'credentials' or are astute readers, there will be conflicting bits of advice. One person's favorite scene will be the same one another says is superfluous. One person will love your MC and be eager to read all about him and root for him. Another will hate him, find him unlikeable, irritating and annoying, and won't care what happens to him. It doesn't mean that either one is wrong or invalid. It's just how they relate to the story and how it strikes them. Generally, the best advice is to follow it if it resonates with you. If you agree with it, or had harbored a fear of exactly what the person mentioned, then you should see what you could do to revise or address that issue. If it strikes you as completely wrong, don't feel bad about disregarding it.

    However, there are certain things you should look out for, such as whether something makes sense, is confusing, or if some issue is 'glossed over' too quickly. If you hear the same concern raised by a number of different people, independently, you should seriously consider it.

    One does not have to have some sort of serious credential to be a good beta reader. Even if one does not have some sort of track record, particularly if they are somehow involved with a writing group or site, they are probably at least a decent reader. Ultimately, that's who you want to reach -- regular people who might read your book.

    The trick is not only to find people who are willing to read your story AND to give you their thoughts on it (beyond "It was good. I liked it."), but also to figure out how to assess the various pieces of conflicting advice you will receive. In the end it has to be what you think is best for the story. It can take years to find someone who gets your work, and has the time to read it and give his or her opinion. (You want someone who writes or at least reads your genre. If you write dystopian sci fi, find someone who loves that genre. It won't be nearly as helpful if you find someone who only likes and reads romance, but again, if that person is willing to read, you can glean some good feedback, just not as much as you probably want. A beta-reader relationship isn't likely to last for the long term if you like very different types of stories. Again, it's a process.)
     
  9. Reggie
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    Reggie I Like 'Em hot "N Spicy Contributor

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    I found a free critique service website for my work, and it helps too. :cool:
     
  10. brynneth
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    brynneth Member

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    I've been wondering the same thing and also fantasized about showing my work to a friend or loved one as if it was someone else's work, which realistically would be a terrible idea. Still, it has an appeal for me. So far the best option I've seen is this site, or I guess, any similar site. These are people who don't know you, but are also engaged in writing and likely to be diplomatic and understanding as well as unbiased. It seems good to me. What I have trouble remembering, and it seems important, is that everyone's tastes differ. I'll not make the mistake of asking my husband for his opinion on my writing again because he doesn't like the kind of reading material that I do. His negative opinion would almost be an endorsement if I could get past my hurt feelings about him not liking it. So, I guess try to remember that even if a review is perfectly unbiased, it still might not be the right opinion, just one of many.
     
  11. Mckk
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    Mckk Moderator Staff Supporter Contributor

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    There's no such thing as an "unbiased" critique. As much as I believe there IS a standard to good writing, people very often differ in what they prefer to read - something that could bore me to tears could thrill another person. And now I hate Twilight and think Meyer's a dull dull dull writer, but hey the world loves her - something about it appealed to people.

    In the end you'll get haters and you'll get lovers - for me, I see what the critic's reasoning is. If it sounds reasonable, I take it on board. Another thing I never ignore is a critic's impression - if his impression of a scene, character, whatever, is not as I intended it, then it doesn't matter if I agree with the critic or not. All I know is, someone feels this way based on something I've written, so others could feel the same and my message is not as clear as it should be. While I may not take on board their particular piece of advice on improvement, I will revise the writing according to what I think is best in order to alter the impression that the writing gives.

    But really, people's opinion differ and every piece of critique is just that - an opinion. For me, I'd pay more attention to the one with negative comments - praises are great but for me, I feel that there is always a reason why someone didn't like something.
     
  12. steve119
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    steve119 Senior Member

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    Every critique is biased in some way because different people have different opinions. They can be biased for reasons such as someone does not like the subject matter right down to thing like choices of spelling of a particular word (usually down to whether or not the reviewer is British or American). I would personally be more interested in whether it was a good critique or a bad critique. A good critique will still be biased but it will give reasons for why the reviewer liked or disliked it and why they feel you should perhaps change certain sentences. They may even suggest ways to improve the story telling and structure. Getting enough good reviews will tell you not individual opinion but (for want of a better term) Public opinion. Then you will be able to edit and restructure your story in a way that makes it appealing to a larger group of readers.
     
  13. Three
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    Three Member

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    Everything you'll ever hear/read from anybody is biased. Like Cog says, critiquing others will help.

    Try getting lots of critique with different kinds of biases. If somebody points out something that makes perfect sense to you, act on it. Even if only one person said it. On the other hand, if 12 people out of 20 say something you're not really sure about, they've probably got a point.

    And no, don't ever let anybody you know critique what you write. Certainly not family or lovers. EVER. First of all, it's very rare they'd give you good critique. They tend to just give praise which, although lovely, is hardly helpful. And if they do really tear into your work, it might discourage you a lot more than if it was just some random internet person. I don't know about you, but I get horribly nervous at the prospect of people close to me reading what I write. Especialy the creepy stuff. I'd be too scared that they'd think I'm crazy! (Not sure if they'd be right...)
     
  14. Fatback
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    Fatback Banned

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    Ask an elderly man, they are always brutally honest.... Even about the unsightly acne and awkward overbite on a young fat lads face... Damn you grandpa!
     
  15. mammamaia
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    mammamaia nit-picker-in-chief Contributor

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    both the neon color and italics are very hard on the eyes, fb... i strongly suggest you stick to the default black plain font, if you want to be kind to your fellow members...
     
  16. jack.m
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    jack.m New Member

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    Agree. Asking for "completely unbiased" critique takes the beauty out of it. You can't ask someone to completely ignore their education and experiences when reviewing your work, because that is what they use to evaluate the things around them.

    If you are looking for real criticism that holds depth, that comes from asking several people to review your work and listening to any patterns they tell you. For example, early in college I had to do a lot of "peer reviews," which is sort of the same as critique. One piece of advise I almost always got from these reviews was that I used the passive tense way too much. I denied it for a while, until I really looked at my writing honestly and saw all the passive sentences, and how that was really the default way I constructed sentences. That was the first time I really saw how to improve and started making an effort to improve it. I don't think I would have taken this issue seriously if only one person mention it. You can know something needs to be worked on when you have more than one person commenting on it.
     
  17. Crystal
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    Crystal Member

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    It would be hard to find just that since we all have a wide variety of different tastes, someone may absolutely adore a piece & fall under its charms & the other person may want to dip it in steak sauce & fling it out of the window for the dogs to chew. I personally love reading most anything & everything.
     

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