1. bsbvermont
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    bsbvermont Active Member

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    Is reviewing useful if the reviewer is not well versed in the genre?

    Discussion in 'The Art of Critique' started by bsbvermont, Jul 23, 2012.

    Dear Prospective Reviewees,

    As I look through posts to review, I notice that many of the posts are in genres I rarely read : Sci-fi, Fantasy, YA. (It does make me think I need to expand my horizons a bit.) Moreover, I question whether it would be useful, or not, for me to critique in such a genre. It might give a fresh perspective, or you might be frustrated that I don't understand your genre. Is there a general guideline here?
     
  2. chicagoliz
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    chicagoliz Contributing Member Contributor

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    I think it depends. It can still be useful, as far as a reader's impressions of the believability of dialogue or the mechanics of writing. They're not really my genres either, but I think a piece can benefit from just about any reader's impressions of the flow, believability, mechanics, and clarity of the writing.
     
  3. peachalulu
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    peachalulu Contributing Member Reviewer Contributor

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    Any critique is useful and wanted! I worried about this myself a bit when I started ( you're not alone ) but then I thought hey , no
    matter the genre the mistakes are pretty much the same ; Sentence rhythm , structure , a wrong word , unbelievable dialogue ,
    a dangling idea , a cliche character.

    You could even state before hand that this genre is not your thing, that way the writer can decide what elements of your review
    are helpful.

    I don't think there is any guideline per say , just a general notion of being tactful.
     
  4. Jamie Senopole
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    Jamie Senopole Member

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    I also agree that your review is beneficial. I like to write paranormal/fantasy and my boyfriend only reads non-fiction. He is still interested in reviewing my work because it's mine. I am interested in what he has to say, not only because he is generally intelligent, but because he could give a new perspective to my writing that someone else might not think of. He is used to only reading things that really happened, so he will definitely be looking at it with different eyes, to make sure what I'm writing makes sense and is believable. Plus, if I can get him hooked into the story, I know I definitely can hook readers that regularly enjoy that genre!
     
  5. shadowwalker
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    shadowwalker Contributing Member Contributor

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    I always include a caveat if it's not a genre I read (or read often). This gives the author a heads up that some comments may be disposed of because it questions something that is accepted in that genre. But a crit can still be beneficial as far as other craft issues.
     
  6. Cogito
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    Cogito Former Mod, Retired Supporter Contributor

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    The greatest value from a critique goes to the critiquer, not the writer whose work is being critiqued.

    If you wanrt to write a disclaimer, feel free. But you'll learn far more, and far faster, if you stick your neck out. So you make some mistakes, so what?

    If you are receiving a critique, an important lesson is how to filter and evaluate feedback objectively, leaving your ego out of it. In order to succeed at that, however, you must first learn to give critiques, so you understand the thought process behind each suggestion.
     
  7. bsbvermont
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    bsbvermont Active Member

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    OK...folks...thanks for all the insights. You have persuaded me that I won't damage anyone too badly (including myself) by giving this a roll. Thanks as always for the excellent advice!
     
  8. Morkonan
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    Morkonan Senior Member

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    Don't make declarations that surround subjects you know you can not speak directly to with assurance and a degree of credibility.

    In other words, your review is important, regardless of your personal knowledge of the craft. You can submit your thoughts as a reader or discuss corrections to grammar and punctuation or even style and be assured of making a positive contribution to the writer. But, when it comes down to things you may not be familiar with, like genre writer's duties when writing YA novels or some such, then don't place too much importance on your own critique in that category. Don't comment decoratively on something you know you don't know. :)

    Whenever I comment on something I am unsure about, like the use of a particular type of character or archetype in a genre I am not familiar with, I use a disclaimer. Yes, it's not always necessary. But, I do it in order to inform the writer that I am unsure and I wouldn't want my own ignorance to cloud their judgement. Yet, it's also evident that I felt that whatever comment I wrote was important enough to me to be worth mentioning, nonetheless. That also serves to contrast with declarative statements that I am fully confident in, even if I happen to be proven wrong. When I make a declaration that "You're doing it wrong/right", it is certain and is usually followed by demonstrative examples. But, when I am uncertain, I write "I think you're doing it wrong/right", instead, followed by whatever disclaimer is necessary and my thoughts on the matter, which are usually clearly indicated as being unsure. I am not always correct, in either case. But, at least the writer knows that I am discriminating in my choice of acknowledging my own ignorance...

    Any critique, in my opinion, can just be a matter of responding to the author's work in the capacity of being a consumer of it. One doesn't have to critique a submission like a University Professor in order to contribute positively. Writer's need the feedback from reader-reviews as well as peer-reviews, even if that reader happens to be a peer, but is only familiar with the elements of writing for an entirely different genre. Writers are usually excellent readers, regardless of which genre they normally write.
     
  9. s33point1
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    s33point1 Member

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    A story's, a story. No matter what gene you'll know if it's good or bad.
     
  10. Nightchaser
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    Nightchaser Member

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    For me personally any review would be useful even it its just an 'atta boy'
     
  11. mammamaia
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    mammamaia nit-picker-in-chief Contributor

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    regardless of what the person reads/writes her-/himself, critique of the writing itself can still be helpful...
     
  12. Thornesque
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    Thornesque Contributing Member

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    From the stand point of consistency, writing style, grammar, spelling...actual critiques of these things, yes. As far as whether or not it's a good story? I think there opinion definitely still counts, but if I were weighting the opinion of someone who's been reading that genre for a while against someone that doesn't even dabble, I'd have to say I'd more likely believe the one more versed. But that doesn't mean that the review of someone who doesn't read my genre won't still be something that's important.
     
  13. poptart
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    poptart New Member

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    Amen to that.
     
  14. psychotick
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    psychotick Contributing Member Contributor

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    Hi,

    I'll agree with Cogito, a lot of the value of a critique is to the guy doing the critique. So yes it can have value to you, in teaching you how to review writing, and how to review your own writing. It can also be of some benefit to others, with the caveat that you need to still have at least some passing familiarity with the genre. I would not critique poetry for example, because I simply have no idea what seperarates good from bad, enjoyable from not. But though detective is also not my genre I could more comfortably critique that because there are enough similarities to my own genres that I feel I could give some useful insight. Characters, dialogue, plot, and believability etc. There may be no aliens but I'm sure I could still comment on those things.

    Cheers, Greg.
     
  15. inkyliddlefingers
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    inkyliddlefingers Member

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    Agreed! I've learned a great deal from critiquing poetry even though I am not a poet. When the poet responds and tells me I chose that word you didn't like because...I learn something.

    I think, as a critquer, adding a cveat (I'm not well versed in the genre so forgive me, but...) is a great idea. And I also echo what Jamie Senopole says. My hubbie read sci-fi and biography. I write children's stories, mainly for 7-11 yr olds. BUt I really value his opinion (and he is a tough critic, no punches pulled!) because he sees things from a different perspective. And even reading it from a male perspective helps me. He'll tell me if a boy would love/hate/be bored by my plot, for exampl.

    It is scary sticking your head over the parapet, as I'm sure you are worried about upsetting the one being critiqued. But, believe me, they will thank you for it. I put something up for critical review a few days ago. Have a go at mine if you like. I promise not to cry, honest! Here is the link if you'd like to try:

    http://www.writingforums.org/showthread.php?t=54561

    Cheers
    ILF
     
  16. Clive Marcus
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    Clive Marcus New Member

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    I find this thread very useful, and touches on issues that have been going through my mind. I have only just joined this forum.
    I am interested in writing poetry as poems have started coming to me, that I think are not bad and at present are a good form to express my feelings.
    But I was worried about critiquing poems, as it is not a genre I am knowledgeable about. I know the major poets and have read a few, but it is not an area I have studied and do not feel qualified to critique a poet.
    However, I will approach this as a "layman" and state this when posting my critique. I have written a few poems. Hopefully going through this process will help me refine them before I am able to post them
     
  17. captain kate
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    captain kate Active Member

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    One doesn't have to be a specialist in Sci Fi or YA to determine if the writing is good, or has errors. The bad thing about writers, as we progress in our knowledge and skill, we become more likely to catch the problems. The biggest things I look for when reviewing are:

    1,. First three paragraphs. Are they engaging, do they hook a reader. If not, a rewrite may, not always, need to happen.
    2. Active vs Action openings. Beginning writers think they need to have big bangs, some action, prequel or SOMETHING to catch the agent/editor. It's a gimmick they spot a mile away. An active opening is completely different then an action opening, and it's the tool to grab the agents. Plenty of information on them on the net.
    3. Character introduction and flow. Is the character introduced in the right time (should be in the first 3 paragraphs, no more then the first page) because it allows the reader to psychologically bond with your MC. If the flow isn't there, it doesn't matter either because the pace will be like a car misfiring. It's another skill writers have a hard time mastering also.

    In a spirit of honestly, I also write SF.
     
  18. Michelle Stone
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    Michelle Stone Member

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    I like to write science fiction. I'll pass a chapter by someone who hates the genre to get a sense if they understand it. Sometimes that's enough. There are times when we are searching for different things from reviews. Is it a bad thing to ask "did you grok this?" Sometimes I'll ask two or three questions about material where I'm trying to make a point. Sometimes I just want to know if the first paragraph generates enough interest to continue reading.

    Certainly an in depth review can benefit by the expertise of a master in the genre. Poetry comes to mind. I'm a terrible poet. But I love to write and review poetry. Go figure. Poetry gives me some of my best inspriation. Sometimes, I think it was created just for me, for that very purpose.
     
  19. tinylittlepixie
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    tinylittlepixie Member

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    Maybe, but surely more constructive feedback is more helpful long term? Mind you, there's time when some "attat boy" feedback is more than welcome!
     
  20. The Tourist
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    The Tourist Banned

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    I'm not sure we even give critiques anymore. We give "atta boys."

    The end game of a critique given from your peers is to make the story better. After all, the publishers are going to be detached and hard edged looking for something marketable. And if no one says anything, the writer will be taken completely by surprise when he finds the work of several years tossed into the bargain bin along with maps to the city.

    My current craft is one usually taught in the master-apprentice-guild system. You younger folks might refer to that as the "wax on, wax off" method of learning something. It's hard, sometimes demeaning, but you'd be amazed at the heights people achieve when they are driven to reach beyond their grasp.

    I find the same attitudes amid failure for polishers that I do for newbie writers. If there isn't instant gratification and undeserved praise they either blanche or quit. This effects you in ways you might not recognize at first glance.

    For example, I have tools that are over 40 years old. I also have friends that break screwdrivers, drill bits and wrenches constantly. I bought Craftsman, Snap-On and Mac-Tools while they bought anything cheap. The idea of "good enough" is not worth praising.
     
  21. JJ_Maxx
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    JJ_Maxx Banned

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    I think this forum does a good job with reviews and honest critiques. I always try to be both helpful and honest. I usually tell people there is a good story buried in their mistakes, they just need to find it. ;)

    ~ J. J.
     
  22. The Tourist
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    The Tourist Banned

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    If you've read any of Richard Marcinko's books, there's usually a humorous preface that has the rules of life he professes.

    One of them is, “The more thou sweateth in training, the less thou bleedeth in combat.”

    There are some very good writers and mentors here. For example, when I see a post from EdFromNy, I stop and read it--sometimes several times--because he's got "the gene." My FIL had it. He'd listen to all sides, make a simple statement, and from then on, the debate was pretty well settled. Ed is like that.

    Then again, we have a few folks that should just be told to "start all over."

    I suppose I'd have less trouble--and get fewer demerit points--if I just posted smilies all over the place and raved ad nauseum. But then, people wouldn't want to tell me some hard truths in return. I stand by my postulate, a 'critique' now is not what it was in the 1960s, and we are worse off for it.
     
  23. JJ_Maxx
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    JJ_Maxx Banned

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    I don't understand. Are you saying we should be harsher in our critiques? Like a drill seargent?
     
  24. The Tourist
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    The Tourist Banned

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    No, but a lot more honest, and certainly more direct.

    For example, some employees and interior defensive linemen never hear their names unless there's a problem, that's not always right. But if we can all agree that honest praise is an asset, then we should all agree that honest averse comments have their place, as well.

    The mentors, teachers, lovers and employers I came to respect over time were not "syrupy buddies." I knew their praises were valuable because their criticism(s) were honest.

    I do have one advantage here over most--I'm older. I can look back over decades of time and see what worked, what held me back, and when a meaningless smile was about the last thing a problem needed.

    I don't want to hurt these guys--I'm a writer, too. I think sincere help is worth more than a spiteful flame. Life ain't all roses.
     
  25. Lemex
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    Lemex That's Lord Lemex to you. Contributor

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    I usually like to be as harsh as I can, but if I see merit I make a point of mentioning it. It's only right. I don't mind being cruel, and I've had it just as much as I've given it. That's just the way I do things.

    What I don't like is pure bullying though. That is just not cool.
     

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