1. Baywriter
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    Baywriter Contributing Member Contributor

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    How to Receive Criticism

    Discussion in 'The Art of Critique' started by Baywriter, Apr 14, 2012.

    There's a lot on this board about giving criticism, and I thought we should discuss proper ways and improper ways to receive criticism. My husband (Sidewinder) and I made a little video about the wrong way to respond to criticism of your work. You might be interested in it.

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GVQYtmO8tp8&feature=relmfu

    What do you think is the proper way to respond to criticism? When is it okay to debate with your reviewer? What shouldn't you do?
     
  2. The Tourist
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    The Tourist Banned

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    My biggest advice is to not confuse "what you do" with 'who you are.' If your story has merits, but sucks, your worst critic might have ways to fix it.

    Granted, I couldn't get my preface past a critic here, but hey, as you might guess, that's just me. I'd like a chance to show the story, not just be judged when they roll the credits.

    Having said that, all you have to do is disagree and cite examples. Then you can tell me I'm ugly. But those barbs are two different things, and I want to talk to professional and semi-professional writers if I'm to stand the white-hot spotlight of a publisher.
     
  3. Aramis
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    Aramis Member

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    Provided the critique is constructive and written with the best intentions (no point-scoring please) there should be no need to respond except with a 'thank you for taking the trouble' unless there are specific points that the critiquer has queried or struggled with.

    I have no time to waste with critiquers who have only skimmed the piece and then either ripped it to pieces or fawned upon it. I am looking for real analysis and comments that can improve the piece and I can accept whatever comes my way. I am not a child.

    Loved the video- lots of potential writers really do need to take a look at themselves and stop being so immature.
     
  4. michaelj
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    michaelj Senior Member

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    I think sadly that some people would prefer to give bad criticism and nitpick work rather than give praise. This is common even with established authors.. These are the guys who you gotta watch out for, but you also gotta listen to them aswell... There criticism may have meanings after all. I hate critics who only read the first paragraph and skim read the story and give their 2c and making it obvious that they haven't read the story, so you correct them (pointing out that it's not hinted or implied but its actually written down you're wrong) and they get all pissy saying you can't take it, bla bla. Good critics will tell you flat out: it sucks but why it sucks and if its got potential they will tell you what's good but what's bad.
     
  5. Just Jon
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    Just Jon Member

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    "Thank you for your ignorance." Loved that line. :D

    I don't think there can be much response to criticism without suggestions for change, other than to say thanks. If you need to explain the story to a reader, then maybe your explanation needs to come out in the story itself.

    When the critic gives suggestions, definitely explore those ideas (either by yourself or directly with the person). They may not be right, but you will likely find the right change along the way.
     
  6. The Tourist
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    The Tourist Banned

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    Ahh, there's a problem I face. If the critic corrects my spelling, disputes a 'fact' or finds continuity errors, I have no problem. But what disturbs me is when something like a librarian who never had her nose bloodied at Vassar questions my decisions on male confrontations. Or my personal choices in religion.

    The 'story' will never change. How I present that story to the reader by conveying the proper points and tone is where I need help. Change the story and you're writing your own book, not mine.
     
  7. Just Jon
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    Just Jon Member

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    Or tells you it's ok to chamber a .308 Winchester round in an FR-8. :D

    I see your point though. I would want to respond with "How the hell would you know?". But then again, so many of your readers would likewise have the same reaction as the Vassar woman. It would make me wonder what is missing from the story that doesn't allow them to understand.

    If I were confident enough in my writing, I could explore other avenues without fear of losing my position on it. Unfortunately, I often begin to doubt and then end up holding too tight to my original opinion. Must let go. Must let go. :)
     
  8. Cogito
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    Cogito Former Mod, Retired Supporter Contributor

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    This was definitely amusing, and I have seen all these characters here. However, I think a better thread title would have been How Not to Receive Criticism. The clip really doesn't say much about how to receive critique other than to say "Thank you." Good advice, but it doesn't touch the core problem of not tripping over your ego or your insecurities.

    Your Pompous Poet fails to grasp the core problem: "What we have here, is failure to communicate." Who cares who or what he alludes to, if it isn't clear to the reader? The Rude Poet has the same basic problem: A closed mind gathers no thoughts. If either of these people looked at the specific criticisms for ways to make the poem reach the audience better instead of examining their descending colons from the inside. they might actually improve.

    The other two seemed like two faces of the same insecure person, The Blubberer. The solution is the same, though. Instead of forming a nice little fetal coil, they need to listen to the specific critiques to determine where the real problems are. Yes, some critiques are uselessly vague - those can go straight to la basura, although it's still wise to see if any legitimate problem can be gleaned from them.
     
  9. The Tourist
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    The Tourist Banned

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    You misspelled 'seen.' Just constructive criticism.

    However, I agree with your premise. Our goal should be conveying the overall idea to the reader.

    There's a strange dichotomy that then forms. Does a critic need criticism to criticize what he critiques? It's a valid question. I've seen some movie reviewers that obviously didn't see the same film I saw. Or they dismiss a popular film just because no one went to their art movie instead.

    I think that a good critic partners up with the writer to make a great story.
     
  10. shadowwalker
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    shadowwalker Contributing Member Contributor

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    I also think there are two things to be considered here. One is that the critiquer is not really a member of the target audience, and sees a problem where there may not be one if they had been. Two, is that there really is something off in the way the confrontation is described. It's not "wrong" per se - it just needs some rewriting to make it "more right".
     
  11. Aramis
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    Aramis Member

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    I can't agree with that - you can't make a silk purse from a sow's ear. All a critiquer can do is offer suggestions to make improvements- that's it.
     
  12. The Tourist
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    The Tourist Banned

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    If that's truly the case, then the story isn't worth writing at all. Drek is drek.

    I started from the standpoint that the plot is valid and interesting, but the writer needs a mentor to perfect it.

    How would you expect me to "punch up" a story about a strong female vampire lead who fights with a bow and arrow to protect her kid sister from a despotic government--on an ill fated cruise ship sinking on her maiden voyage in the North Atlantic?
     
  13. Aramis
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    Aramis Member

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    My point is that a critiquer isn't a miracle worker- if the material is weak a mentor cannot make it 'perfect' they can only add suggestions to improve the story.

    I wouldn't even bother to critique something as absurd as your example. Do you think a mentor could make this mishmash of story lines perfect?
     
  14. Kaymindless
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    Kaymindless Contributing Member

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    I think Scyfy needs to hire you for their movies :p

    Honestly, though, for your example, all a mentor/critiquer could do is ask why, why, why? Importance? Really? And then gracefully bow out.
     
  15. michaelj
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    michaelj Senior Member

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    I think you'll find that what you perceive as "mishmash" may be different to what others perceive as "mishmash". Just because you dislike a genre does not mean everyone else dislikes it. You may like political novels set in WW1 Russia, but what that be to my taste? Hell no. Try and be more polite with your comments if you want people to take heed.
     
  16. thecoopertempleclause
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    thecoopertempleclause Contributing Member

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    Simple enough there. The year is 2074 and a disease has ravaged mankind causing a large percentage of the population to suffer viral anaemia. With blood donor supplies at zero, those afflicted are forced to drain the blood from others. Some do it with compassion, leaving their victims alive, some take it by force, casting their donors to the floor a crumpled bloodless corpse.

    Kara is one such afflicted, she carries a bow and arrow as her weapon so as to not taint the blood supply of those she shoots, and so the arrow acts as a sort of plug, incapacitating her victims until she can retrieve it. It also helps because ammo is extremely scarce in this world, and only the all-powerful government has access to vast reserves of munitions.

    Kara's sister, Hope, has come to the attention of said government because she has a newly mutated blood-type which holds the key to curing the viral anaemia. Contact with an underground organisation has shown Kara that there's a doctor she can trust in America who can isolate the cure from Hope's blood. They make plans to smuggle her on board a cruise ship - laden with the rich and powerful, the only ones who have the permission to leave the country nowadays - but a mole reveals the plan to the government who target Kara and Hope on board the ship to try to kill them both before a cure can be found. This government never wants a cure to be found, because they designed it in the first place. A populace fighting amongst themselves is one who cannot fight them, and the drugs to control it do not come cheap.

    On board the cruiser, our heroes find themselves confronted with the men and women who hold all the secrets to their misery, and more than a few assassins who want them to disappear into the night. So merciless is this government, that they would rather see the entire cruise liner sink into the icy waters of the North Atlantic, than risk it reaching its destination...
     
  17. Just Jon
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    Just Jon Member

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    I would buy that book.
     
  18. AmsterdamAssassin
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    AmsterdamAssassin Contributing Member

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    You should write a book!
     
  19. art
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    art Contributing Member Contributor

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    Essential that you say thanks, but beyond that there are no imperatives.

    Given the aims of the workshop here, entirely legitimate to point out if the criticism is flagrantly defective. This is not defending your work but rather helping the critic to become a better critic. Oh yes.:)
     
  20. The Tourist
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    The Tourist Banned

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    I Love it! In fact, I'd read it!

    You have written the first piece of 'vampire' based fiction that doesn't turn my stomach. In fact the "arrow plug" explanation has a basis in fact. Many times in an accident where the victim is impaled, they leave the device in the wound until a doctor removes it.

    As for the cruise ship, it looks like you might have to make that a Italian tourist cruise ship. We might not believe that two White Star ships can go down in the same place, but with recent news events, the readers might believe in another Costa Concordia.

    Any which way, great story!
     
  21. Jowettc
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    Jowettc Contributing Member

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    No, I don't think so. If the reviewer makes a plainly incorrect statement on a rule e.g. grammar, then it may be apropros to highlight the fact in return, but as we already know from many topics discussed, grammar 'rules' can be bent for the sake of style and such arguments go round in circles, especially when English US and English UK are concerned.

    Other than that, the critique cannot be defective as it is someone's opinion. Whether you agree or not is not the point. The biggest issue with responding to a reviewer with an argument is 'Where does it end?'
    Answer: Nowhere, it just starts an argument thread.

    Better to nod, smile, say thank you very much and ignore them.

    if someone has taken the time and you disagree - fine. There will be reviews that you feel come closer to the mark and / or truth of what you had aimed for.

    Be polite, answer any questiosn the review has i.e. Why did you include this person at this point? etc. but don't counter-review the review or it never ends.

    My Two Cents.
     
  22. pet.
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    pet. Senior Member

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    I've been thinking about this problem recently, as it happens, as it's something which really interests me. I definitely stand by my statement (which, now that I think about it, was made in another similarly titled thread) that we shouldn't shy away from discussions about the work we post for critique. Like I've said, I see that as the point of a workshop. It would be easy to get the opinions of many readers - that's what friends are for - but the purpose of a writing community is to bring writers together.

    How about this for a reply-to-critique template?
     
  23. art
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    art Contributing Member Contributor

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    Don't be afraid of discussion, it can be most fruitful, as pet.^ notes. Argument requires one of the participants to be an idiot. 'Don't be an idiot in your responses to criticism' is always sound advice.

    Criticism can be plainly and objectively defective in many areas beyond mere grammar.
     
  24. The Tourist
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    The Tourist Banned

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    Hey, an idiot's money can buy your book, as well. And crossing paths with idiots is almost guaranteed. Of course, I had the luxury of dealing with "drunken townies" for a number of years, a course they do not teach in college.

    Excellent training. You learn by 'doing.' They never grasp the crux of your intentions. You cannot understand their answers, even if you get one. You can't really hit them without the risk of hurting your hand. Some don't feel the pain. And like lice, taxes, recalcitrant ex-wives and oil leaks on panheads, they'll always be back tomorrow.

    I have the perfect street credentials to take stinging criticism.
     

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