1. zerobytes
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    zerobytes Contributing Member

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    If you can't say something nice? - a question

    Discussion in 'The Lounge' started by zerobytes, Nov 16, 2006.

    I'm all about positivity but I was reviewing a piece on here the other day (I won't say what) and I found that I just didn't like it. I had several comments but nothing really positive to say. I ended up writing up some comments and then, when I found that I didn't have anything nice to say, I erased them and just left the post empty.

    I think we're all submitting here because we want critique and comments but are people okay with a negative review of their work? I, personally, would much rather that someone tells me that they think my writing sucks than not make any comments at all - I just want to make sure the rest of the community feels that way. I'm also not asking for permission (or recommending) to just post "I hated this" or "this sucks". If someone doesn't like a piece they should take the time to explain why not. Anyway, I was just wondering what y'all's thoughts are on this one.

    zb

    PS - that's number 100 for me...Senior status HERE I COME :D
     
  2. Raven
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    Raven Banned

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    I joined this forum because its full of writers. (some young new and old all of them have stories to tell and some like to post them.)
    The reason I joined was to talk with people with similair if not the same interest in fiction.
    I post my stories up because I know that I'm not perfect at writing and need advice on wording things correctly. If my stories are written so bad that the reader loses interest i would want to know so that i can write a story that the reader wants to read and finish.
    So I guess I'm saying if my stories are crap or badly written do tell me I'm not going to progress if no one does.
    As long as its not insulting I'm going to acknowlege whats been posted.

    We can't have praise all the time and yeah it sure is nice to get praise but honesty in the case of writing to hopefully be published is needed.

    Constructive Critique is whats needed and like it or not if the story is tripe we as writers need to know.

    I say tell it how it is. Just use tact and don't be insulting that way I doubt anyone will take offence in the slightest.




    ~Raven.
     
  3. Aurorah
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    Aurorah Member

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    I'm all for negative criticism as long as it's constructive. None of us would get anywhere or improve if we didn't offer constructive advice to each other once in a while.

    The negative comments I had received from my tutor on my writing course helped me greatly and I think I have seriously improved as a writer while acting on her advice. Yes, it's nice to get praise for a piece of writing but I'm not here just for accolades as they probably won't help me in the future. I like to know where I'm going wrong.

    I have been told in the past that I'm good with grammar and language issues so if anyone needs help with that aspect of their work then please let me know.
     
  4. PencilJockey
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    PencilJockey Senior Member

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    I fall in line with the rest of you in your opinions of criticism. I know for a fact that the Poetry Forum specifically states 'if you can't take criticism, don't bother posting' in pretty much those words. I also do my best to find at least one thing I like about a piece.

    If I don't like a piece I use diplomacy and explain what it is that I don't like. I also try to do the same if I like a piece. What bugs me is when posts are made in both extremes without an explanation.

    You liked it? Great! Why?

    You hated it? Alrighty. Why?

    It's all about tact. I think that if people cannot refrain from abrasive language in their critiques then they should keep it to themselves. No one wants to be bashed about their writing, even if it needs work.

    Great question, Zero, you senior you! :)
     
  5. IndianaJoan
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    IndianaJoan Contributing Member

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    Negative criticism is necessary to improve..just do it tactfully :)
     
  6. Peter
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    Peter Member

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    I also want to be told just how bad my writing is. I don't even care what tone the poster uses. Actually, I love it when someone is completely honest. But even I fall into the trap of being "nice" to someone. If you go all the way back to my first few posts you'll see my critiques are more like, "Oh, that's good. Well done". That sort of bollocks. And there are a couple of reasons for this. Firstly, like every other forum I've ever taken part in, it took me a while to work up the courage to say what I found wrong in other peoples' writing. I have no idea why I'm like that, it usually takes me a good few weeks before I'll say anything "bad". The second reason, is that I had slightly less knowledge than I do now. An example is with "Psychic Distance". I hadn't heard of this until a couple of months ago, so there was no way I could have told anyone else about it.

    And this is the reason why everyone here should fully critique others' work. We all have tips and pointers unheard of by others. And everyone here does, even those who think becaues they've only written one two hundred work short, they have nothing useful to say. They think their opinions are worthless. Nonsense. Their opinions are useful, essential even. Because their knowledge comes from what fiction they've read. Everyone here has read different things, and we've all consciously or unconsciously taken in tips in everything from point of view to techniques in language and theme. Myself, I've read mainly non-genre fiction, a little horror and thriller, and even less science fiction. So I've read no fantasy, no romance, no western. Even my reading of non-genre fiction so far hasn't included the likes of Maussepant, Zola, Homer, even Shakespeare. I'll eventually get round to them, but having someone point out what they've learned from writers I haven't read is always welcome.

    And that's the great thing about forums like these. A lot of people here haven't been to university or college, so they've had no access to essential teaching: they've had no access to literary "words" and "terms". I mean, if I've never heard the term "Psychic Distance" before, how can I study it then pass that knowledge on? So holding back what you know is hurting the writer in the long run. Becuase a complete knowledge and understanding of technique is essential. Even basic literary terms like "point of view", "verisimilitude" and "profluence" are alien to a lot of new writers.

    Another reason why you should fully critique others' work (as well as trying to critique everything else you read), is that you yourself learn more about writing fiction. You wouldn't believe how much I've learned in the last couple of years by critiquing stories on forums like this. Because what I've found is that every time I critique something, my ideas and knowledge, which are sometimes more abstract than anything else, become more concrete, because I'm being forced into writing sentences which are clear enough so that others can read. So if you're critiquing something, spend a little time thinking over everyhting you can say. You could even write up a list (characters, plot, pace, tone, theme, grammar and punctuation, spelling, etc) and tick off each at a time.

    Okay, my rant has said a little more than what the question asked. I'm finished now.:)
     
  7. Sapphire
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    Sapphire Senior Member

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    If my writing sucks, I'm like everyone else, I just want someone to come out and just say 'holy shit this sucks balls'. I don't care, it'll just be much better for me. But it would also be healthier to help the person who's writing isn't that good. Help out with what you think is wrong. Stuff like that.
     
  8. Daniel
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    Daniel I'm sure you've heard the rumors. Founder Staff Contributor

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    Some excellent replies here.

    Unless someone specifically asks for no serious/potentially negative critique, I say give it.They'll never improve otherwise - just don't make it personal. Make the criticism constructive.
     
  9. Hellbent
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    Hellbent Senior Member

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    Yeeeah, I prefer to hear negative critque. It's just more helpful since I've already been told that I'm a good writer. The only time I enjoy getting good critique is if somebody points out something really specific in my writing, or of course when somebody admits that I'm a better writer than they are.
    That's happened a lot and if feels great.:D
     
  10. Eoz Eanj
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    Eoz Eanj Contributing Member Contributor

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    As long as the negative crit is actually useful.

    People can say their work is craptacular by themselves what they cant say is how to improve it- how to raise it to the 'un-fetal' like level.

    I'm all for giving an honest opinion but it needs to be slightly intelligent, just saying you do or in this case don't like a piece doesn't cut it.. you need to elaborate a little and explain why.

    For example:

    Eoz.
    This piece was shite.. because it lacked a plot.. yes I can see you planted a seed but it looked like it did not develop into a plant.. so let me help you Eoz.. let me help you and together we shall raise a plant so great that it will rise above the soils of creation and TAKE OVER THE WORLD! BWHAHAHAHA!

    Ahem, yeah or something like that, that is only an example.
     
  11. Frost
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    Frost Contributing Member

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    Negative criticism is ok. But you MUST give reasons. MUST.

    'Nuff said.
     
  12. Lewbear
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    Lewbear Senior Member

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    I gotta say a critique is a critique, be it negative or positive. I like to hear positive words, but a negative critique is more use.

    When I started writing, I could never take critiscm of any form, but when you grow and develop you realise it's all good and you can learn from others around you.

    That said, it needs to be tactful and not insulting, and honesty is crucial.
     
  13. Robert
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    Robert Banned

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    We have to learn how to take a critique

    In an ideal world online forums like this would be full of detailed constructive feedback, but in the real world it doesn't usually work that way. That shouldn't discourage us from trying to achieve it, but we should be realistic. This discussion is one that comes up often. Almost everyone posts something sensible in response, they talk about the need for honesty, the need for constructive criticism, the need to avoid being unnecessarily brutal, and so on. Still, the topic comes up, and we see people giving positive crits of poor work, or vague unhelpful crits.

    In addition to understanding the need for tact and honesty, and detail, I think there's a need to set the expectations of the author. What can you expect when you post your work, and how should you handle that?

    The first thing to consider is that most online forums perform no selection when admitting members. What this means is that you end up with all kinds of people with a wide spread of ages, geographic locations, cultural and educational backgrounds. Then consider that the writing experience of this mix of members is equally as broad. Many members will be experiencing their first workshopping here, having never written before, or having written but never having received any feedback except perhaps from friends and family. Even among the more experienced members, the nature of their experience may vary widely, and their interests and preferences - genre, style and so on - will differ.

    With this in mind, when we post something for critique we have to consider how to handle the responses.

    Firstly, some of the feedback will be useless in terms of identifying what was good or bad about the piece. It will often be well-meaning, but contain no information, for example, "Wow, I really liked this, good job," or, "This didn't work for me, sorry." There's nothing wrong with this type of feedback, it's nice to know what people thought of your work at this level, but it doesn't contain enough detail about why someone liked your story or why it didn't work for them, so you can't learn anything from it. Still, we have to appreciate the time the person took to read and then comment on what we've written.

    Secondly, some of the feedback will be expressed in negative terms, possibly balanced with some positive comments, possibly not. We have to get used to the idea that when people critique our work we'll attract negative comments. We all have to get used to that, even if we've been writing for a while. Hopefully those negative comments will be about the writing, not the author, and we have to learn to understand that. In some cases the comments may be about the author. It happens. A good critique should be about the writing, not the author, but when we receive criticism we should not take it personally, even if it is.

    Thirdly, some of the feedback may be from people with less experience than ourselves. What else should we expect? That's the nature of online workshopping. Still, if the feedback is useful we should be grateful, and if it's not, we should be grateful for the time taken and the effort made.

    Fourthly, we, as the author, get to decide which comments to take on board and which to ignore. We own our stories, and we can change them in any way we like. If we disagree with some of the comments we can simply ignore them, with no disrespect to the person who wrote them. It's common to find that different people will post conflicting and contradictory comments. Which should we listen to? Whichever suits us, as the author. It might come down to who made them, or how you see your story developing, or some other reason. But we must expect that opinions will differ, and therefore some we'll disagree with.

    Lastly, even if the first critique your story attracts is long and detailed and useful, it's a good idea to wait until you've had several critiques before you start revising your work. Sometimes the first 2 or 3 critiques will all be of the same nature, positive or negative, and appear to point you in one direction, but when the next critique arrives, if it differs from the others you might reconsider how you wish to revise your work.

    All of this is about how we, as writers, respond to the critiques of our work. In an ideal world all critiques would be excellent, but that's isn't realistic, so we have to train ourselves to deal with what we get. And we know we'll get a whole range of good and bad critiques. That's understandable - some people here will never have written a story or poem before and will never have written a critique either. We can't avoid that, but we can deal with it. And always be grateful that someone took the time.

    Cheers,
    Rob
     
  14. zerobytes
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    zerobytes Contributing Member

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    Great comments Robert - thanks for that break down. I am glad to hear that people want both sides of the coin here. All of that said, I apologize now if I offend anyone with comments but I will try to be as honest as possible,

    zb
     

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