1. Ollpheist
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    Ollpheist Member

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    Is My Process Too Specific?

    Discussion in 'The Art of Critique' started by Ollpheist, Aug 3, 2011.

    When it comes to critique, I vary my methods depending on the way the material to be critiqued is presented to me. On a forum such as this one, I will quote the text, with my suggested changes in red. I will then give reasons why I liked the material, and give any further explanation as to what I would change or why I suggested a specific change. I usually finish by stating what I would suggest the writer keep in mind. I feel that process is perhaps too vague, and I should quote the material line by line and provide commentary.

    However, when I am given a document through e-mail, I utilize a more specific system, and it's that system I'm concerned about. I read through the material, and will make note of things using a color-coded system:

    I love this! Keep it.
    This is good. Keep it.
    This is alright, but I might change something. (In yellow, though doing that here made it impossible to read.)
    This could stand to be rewritten, in my opinion.
    This should go.

    For specific changes I would make, I use bolded red. I make commentary beneath each sentence, explaining why I liked/loved/disliked/hated it, obviously with tact. I then put my general notes at the beginning or end of the material.

    I've received criticism of my color coding as "being over the top", but I thought that it would be helpful to know what I feel about each given line, instead of just marking that which I disliked. I'm having second thoughts, and would appreciate opinions.
     
  2. Cogito
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    Cogito Former Mod, Retired Supporter Contributor

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    It does seem a bit complicated. But it probably isn't the color coding itself.

    Perhaps you are trying to cover too much in each critique. Critique isn't editing. My feeling is that it is better to point out the three to five most glaring or most persistent problems rather than try to enumerate all of them.

    In a single session (loosely defined), most people will come away with about that many persistent learning points. So I recommend putting your efforts into reinforcing those three to five points so the writer truly understands them in depth, and can apply them in future writing,.

    If you point out everything, how does the writer keep track of it all, and more improtantly, how does she generalize it into a technique or a checklist item?

    And the critiquer learns, too. By going into depth on a smaller number of points, the critiquer has to organize and reason to explain it to the writer. The critiquer often realizes that he or she also can apply the same principles to improve his or her own writing.
     
  3. Mallory
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    Mallory Mallegory. Contributor

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    It seems very throrough, but not too complicated. Just include a decoder exactly like the one you gave here that goes either right above (not below) the body of the text you're editing, or right in the reply email itself, right where the person will read it before they encounter the color coding.

    I wouldn't be confused.
     
  4. Steerpike
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    Steerpike Felis amatus Supporter Contributor

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    I don't see a problem in general, but I do think it is bad form to rewrite the authors work. Maybe a word suggestion here or there, but if you're rewriting a number of sentences in their entirety or in some other way spending more time trying to demonstrate how you would write the story rather than providing an analysis of their own writing, then I think you're doing the wrong thing.

    A commentary with each sentence seems a bit much as well, and I don't think there's any need for it. As Cogito suggests, more generalized comments about the work are more useful.
     
  5. Ollpheist
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    Ollpheist Member

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    Thus far, I've found your insights helpful, Cogito. Thank you. I will be revising my methods, especially for critique here. Would your advice or methods change if you were offering critique to a friend with whose work you are very familiar, and with whom you have an ongoing friendship and collaboration?

    I will also take that advice into account. Thank you. :)
     
  6. Seye
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    Seye Member

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    I can be a very in-detail critiquer, often this stops me from going through a writer's whole piece.


    A detail critique is a difficult process to learn, as each one has to be tailored to the writer in question, but also the genre/the intended audience/the level of writing.

    Now I select a section, normally at the beginning because many writers are unsure of themselves there. (Beginnings can be written at the end of a story, it is often best not to worry so much about them when writing in draft - I always write a better beginning after I see the characters/scenes on paper, then I can fix things up. - rambled)

    Your colour scheme. I have read critiques done in this fashion and found the colours distracting. Most times I seen only the colours instead of the knowledge shared. That should never have to be.

    Everything should be in balance when it comes to writing. Too much of anything overpowers the reason of mention.

    Any critique should be appreciated for the time and knowledge freely shared.
     
  7. pattycat
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    pattycat Member

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    I agree with Cog here. This can be a little too much and a little too complicated. More than likely you will overwhelm the writer rather than help them.

    I, too, have a problem with being over-detailed in my critiques sometimes. It should depend on the scale of the problems you see in their piece. If the major issues are big-picture (plot does not make sense, voice is all wrong, etc.), then don't spend time going into specific sentences and analyzing their content.

    Only when a piece is in the "cleaning up" stage should a detailed word-by-word critique be given. In earlier stages, however, the writer is just looking for a reaction to their characters, voice, plot, etc, so the color-coding would not be necessary. Simply give them a written response with a few quotes from the piece to illustrate your points.
     
  8. s33point1
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    s33point1 Member

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    I thinks it's great. Shows you actually took the time to read and understand the writing/story.
     
  9. LordKyleOfEarth
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    LordKyleOfEarth Contributing Member Contributor

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    I edit with 3 pen colors and 4 highlighter colors. Although, most of it is for my own tracking (one color for tense issues, one for passive voice, a color for punctuation, a color thoughts unrealted to the story...), and the final notes are delivered concisely to the author in monochrome. It gets too be a bit much for some authors, so I always try to clear it with them ahead of time, explain the process, all that jazz.

    (Also, beware of using RED ink, some people seem to take it very personally. You could write, "I loved it!" and they would flip their lid (in a bad way).
     

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