1. Slammoth
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    Slammoth Member

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    Nnggh, another review...

    Discussion in 'The Art of Critique' started by Slammoth, Feb 1, 2011.

    Do any of you ever get the feeling that you just... can't... review any of this stuff?

    I do, and I get it way too often! I feel like a horrible person. Most of the time I just can't read through anything that is posted, compose my thoughts, and reply with something of relevance - Just because it feels like such a drag to read through. I'd be the world's worst editor.

    Obviously, I can't just review things I enjoy. That'd be limiting myself, both in terms of stuff that I can post and the things I could learn by looking at more stuff! And of course, I'd find less things to actually criticize in pieces I like anyway...

    How can I learn to see the potential instead of grimacing at the flaws? I'd love to dish out what limited wisdom I have, just help me get to that stage! Give me the drive to review!

    Also, does anyone else dare admit they feel something akin to my problem?

    Oh, and all of you readers out there - Be harsh on me. Spank my work till it bleeds, it deserves it. Because in my mind, I have violated yours with a stick.
    ...Not to mention my writing is probably bad enough to be slap-worthy in its own right. :D
     
  2. Eunoia
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    Eunoia Contributing Member Contributor

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    I feel bad for not reviewing as much as I'd like to, but I find it harder to focus on critiquing a piece when it's text online, especially if it's long. But when I'm ready and prepared and set myself to critique, I'm fine. I just need to be in the right state of mind.

    As for seeing potential rather than just the flaws, take the flaws and think how you can help the writer to get rid of them and improve their piece. Take the negatives and turn them into positives essentially. Focus on the good aspects rather than just the flaws.
     
  3. Elgaisma
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    Elgaisma Contributing Member Contributor

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    I learned a valuable lesson about six months ago - someone sent me a short story. It was awful, plot dull and cliched, no feeling, cardboard characters etc. I have always liked to give a balanced review and I didn't know how to start. Made worse by the writer being young, I didn't want to discouraging.

    Then I changed my method and went through and suggested things that would improve it, how to bring the character out, how to add atmosphere and feeling. You know the rewrite was quite good, the plot was still a bit dire but the characters were great and the atmosphere contained suspense.

    Even with the worst piece imaginable its possible to improve it. There is nothing in writing that can't be fixed - thanks to word processors we have a delete key, can insert and edit easily etc.

    Feel free to call my writing crap lol most of what is on here I do have in first early draft forms - most of it written in half an hour or just under. It deserves slaughtering :)
     
  4. ArtWander
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    ArtWander Contributing Member

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    I think Elgaisma has a good point...I mostly review by pointing out the things that one could improve, rather than harp on the things that are negative.

    What helps me best is simple quoting the story and reading it in the comment box. If I see something I would like to give an opinion on, I do. It allows me to read the story while simultaneously adding my comments and thoughts while they are still fresh in my mind :)

    Hope this helps. Happy reviewing!
     
  5. Slammoth
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    Slammoth Member

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    Hmm. Eunoia - Good stuff, but for me it's less about my state of mind and more about the object of reviewing being the right kind of text! Now ideally, I should be able to review any piece of writing that's at least a little relevant to my interests...

    Elgaisma - I have little issue in communicating my views to the author whose work I'm reviewing - the problem lies with engaging with the task, and especially their work. I do agree with keeping my 'eyes on the prize': Everything can be improved.

    ArtWander - Luckily, I think I'm okay when I actually manage to read the piece of work and start the reviewing process! No harping over here either, I should hope. Thanks for your input! :)

    Anyway, I feel I should clarify my point.

    The question I'd like answered is: How do you push yourself to the end of the passage when it is seriously painful? I get this feeling often enough to know that I'm just an uppity idiot, and wish to learn to trudge on regardless of that feeling.
     
  6. Elgaisma
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    Elgaisma Contributing Member Contributor

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    Ahh that is totally different lol - an important point to remember is that most of this is early draft, it hasn't been proof read by others often, it hasn't been to an editor etc Often at least in my case I only give it a quick read before I put it up, the reviews help me decide what is worth working on.

    I just concerntrate on the imagery, descriptions what I like etc And just read it.
     
  7. HeinleinFan
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    HeinleinFan Banned

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    When I review, I don't push myself to be perfect. So if I start to read a story and I discover that it's terrible, then I'll either find some positive features and keep reading, or I won't and I'll try the next work. There are a lot of active reviewers on the WritingForums, and some of them have more patience than me, so this doesn't mean that the story will go unreviewed by other people.

    Fortunately, I can ignore some huge howlers as long as there's something to keep me hooked. A character. A magic system. Neat descriptions. A cool setting. Not long ago, I read more than forty pages of a thoroughly plotless story because it was set in a crime-ridden area of New York and the setting intriqued me, for example.

    I also don't bother trying to read so-so work or dreck after I've come across a good piece. It just doesn't work, as it is both unpleasant for me and results in reviews that are rather harsher than my norm. For anyone who has read my critiques, you know I can be pretty harsh already, so it's good not to worsen the situation.

    As for "pushing oneself to the end of a passage when it's painful to do so," I'll sometimes give myself a break and just review what I've read so far, and I'll mention in the review where I stopped reading. So there are a few of my reviews out there that say "I read about half your story and skimmed the rest" or "I stopped reading after the character got knocked down by the bad guy, but here are some things I noticed."
     
  8. art
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    art Contributing Member Contributor

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    You don't need to. There's a lot of pretty polished material in the review sections which are a pleasure to read. The less polished pieces often receive greater attention - the flaws are more readily spotted - so in plumping not to review them, no harm's done.
     
  9. Manav
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    Manav Contributing Member

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    Yes, to a certain extent you are limiting yourself. I find reading fantasy stories helpful because it helps me see 'descriptions' from a totally different angle. But I think it is more helpful and tougher to criticize pieces you like. It actually forces you to dig deeper. If you still can't find anything to criticize it also helps to just contemplate the things which are working for the story. Halfhearted reviews are not going to be helpful to anyone. So, just continue doing what you like doing.
     
  10. Slammoth
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    Slammoth Member

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    Thank you for the encouraging feedback, y'alls. At least I'm not alone! Maybe I'm being too strict on myself, and should just accept that I'm horrible, and go with it? Especially thinking of the comment "half-hearted reviews are not giong to be helpful to anyone"...

    Then again, my reviews tend to mean business - I like to make them the best they can be, so I doubt that'd be an issue.

    But yeah, thanks again for being positive and nice!
     
  11. Islander
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    Islander Contributing Member Contributor

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    I think most people who post their stories here are quite good at at least one or two things - someone may have a great storyline and descriptions, while struggling with spelling and dialogue, for example. Someone else may have great ideas and characters, but their plot is full of holes and there's no sense of pacing.

    It's made me realise that most people can become good writers by exploiting the things they naturally do well, while learning the craft to get their weaker sides up to a decent level.

    I sympathise with Slammoth's problem, though. I'm a terrible reader. I read slowly, and it takes a lot to pique my interest, so I tend to review a text very thoroughly once I've gone to the trouble of reading it through.
     
  12. Edward G
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    Edward G Banned

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    The bottom line is that some stuff isn't worthy of a review or critique. It's not your job to teach someone how to write when they write like a first-grader. It's not your job to review a story that's not even at the level of a story, nor is it your job to try to wade through the butchering of a narrative told by someone who uses English as a second language. Some stuff just isn't up to the level of critiquing or reviewing--that's a fact.

    I don’t believe bad writers should be encouraged to improve. I think they should find another hobby to make them feel relevant to the universe. I think it’s an insult to our art to assume anyone can do it. It’s like going to a local art festival that’s open to all artists and seeing nothing but total crap pawned off as post-modern impressionism. Some people can’t paint; I'm one of them, and some people can't write.

    Unfortunately that doesn’t stop them from doing so. But that doesn’t mean you have to review their work. The last time I took on such a writer, I was warned by the mods and my critique was deleted. It should have been deleted; I actually agree with that, and I felt greatly ashamed for having wrote it---for at least, I’d say, a good four hours after doing so.

    Then I realized there’s no point in slamming a bad writer. They can’t improve. They won’t improve, and they’re too mentally ill to realize they stink. I particularly feel it’s wrong to badger or tease the mentally ill, so why should I give a harsh critique to a deluded fool who thinks they can write “just like anyone else”?

    Save your critiques for the ones who can be helped, and the ones who can be helped will at least show a modicum of talent and capability in what they post, if not a little pride for crying out loud.

    Besides, the ones who are really bad and will always be, you know what they do with bad critiques? They ignore them and post the next rough draft hairball they cough up. They’re basically exhibitionists. They open their raincoat and show you their “story” and they're just as happy if you’re appalled as if you're thrilled.

    Don’t waste your time on a bad writer. There are will-be good writers who need your help far more. That’s my opinion, anyway.
     
  13. Reggie
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    Reggie I Like 'Em hot "N Spicy Contributor

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    I will have to disagree that bad writers should give up writing. So are you saying that since some of us are bad writiers that we should give up our dreams? Anyone who loves to write, rather they are first-graders or second-graders, should still be encouraged to become a better writter if they really wish to become one. I believe that anyone who fails several times doesn't have to give up. I will also have to say that just because I'm not a good writer doesn't mean you should tell me that I'm on drugs, neither should people have to be insulted for being a bad writer. A baby who fails to walk until age five does not give his/her parent's the right to abandon him/her.

    As far as I am concern, every writer has a special unique that they can write as much as they fail, regardless of how many times they will. I don't understand why people tend to be so skepical when it comes to a person's failures. They don't always have to fail if they never give up. Even if they did fail, it's their dreams to write, although they may know in their hearts that they might not ever be published. And I, and some other people, feel that the more you write, the better your writer will improve. The best way to say that you will always fail is when you give up learning.


    I am assuming that you are saying this message directly towards me. As you may know, you sent an e-mail in a replly for me that states a message that is very similar to this one, and I feel that you are attacking the person, not the writer. I'm not the only person you attacked as a person, and I know what that person is, the one whom you was talking about when a moderator deleted your post. The moderator didn't delete your post because the person was a bad writer, is because some people attack the person rather than the writting.


    Why would you feel that anyone who can't write well is on drugs? Are you the best writer who feels that you can stump on people, discouraging them to give up? On the risk of me being banned here, this is all I have to say.
     
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  14. Elgaisma
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    Elgaisma Contributing Member Contributor

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    I agree Reggie, even amongst good writers not everyone will be published. For many writing is a hobby and will only ever be that.

    There are plenty of good writers that can't take and use criticism and as a result will never improve to what they can be. There are plenty of less talented or educated writers that do take that criticism on board, they take the advice and they improve to the best of their ability.

    There isn't a single piece of writing no matter how good or how bad that can't be improved, enhanced etc. Even an incredibly talented, and educated writer can still improve when they have the experience of others added to their own.

    I deliberately put early forms of my writing up, it is easier for a new person to critique for a start, and secondly the feedback helps, it helps me know which pieces deserve my attention, and prevents over editing later. I know what should be kept and what should be junked. My writing improves most with critiques on my earliest written pieces and critiques on the final polished piece. The bits in between I can manage on my own.

    Also because of the legal situation with the board and the first publication rights etc it would be a bit of an idiot who posted the final polished draft of something they want published. What you see on here will not be anybodies best work, they can't post it.

    I certainly don't - my best work is on my hard drive and if someone wants to read bits I am happy to share (not overly bothered about someone trying to steal it for some reason). Everything on here, will be or has been completely rewritten, except the things I am posting on my website, once my current deadlines are dealt with intend to polish them and will post some here.

    Another big advantage to trawlling through work - is you find out who is good at what. I knew where to go when I needed help with a big dramatic emotional scene, who is brilliant at punctuation, dialogue, description, fight scenes etc Some of the things I need help with aren't contained in the best works or even the good ones. Thanks to these people my writing has improved, I have worked months to get just one scene working right sometimes.

    Reggie's work actually brings up a good point - there is storytelling talent in there, it has something worth shining. Islander I struggle to review because I find his work so fabulous I don't care what he does, however it can be critiqued and it can improve - I hate doing it though as it means I have to work through the magic of reading his work. Actually for me reviewing bad work is easier I don't get lost in the story, idea and concept. Not everyone can like the same things, but what I love is seeing writing improve, change, and grow. You see people improve from their first posting and it is fantastic. Sadly some of our very best writers don't post much, nerves about what people will say I guess. I have my personal top 5 of writers on the site.
     
  15. Manav
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    Manav Contributing Member

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    Are you sure native English speakers don't do "butchering of a narrative"? Anyway, I have recently completed a fiction writing course at Gotham's. Yes, I struggled with usage and grammar, but guess what? I have been told that's the easiest thing to fix in fiction writing.

    Elglaisma, thanks to you and other reviewers, I have to say my writing is improving.
     
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  16. Elgaisma
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    Elgaisma Contributing Member Contributor

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    I think native English speakers are often worse with the butchering of the language. Its no coincidence that several of the people I turn to for help with punctuation aren't native English speakers :) Yourself and Islander are much better than me.

    My work has improved thanks to yourselves and others - have a couple of characters that make me think of you when I write lol
     
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  17. art
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    art Contributing Member Contributor

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    Edward, you are very tiresome. I’ve looked into these matters, at considerable length, and while I’m not fond of the medicalisation of odd, aberrant, stunted and ugly personal styles, I will say, that if there is any mental illness hereabouts, it afflicts you, not others.

    Your avatar is one of the internet’s great glories. It is hilarious. How you must have struggled to gather self-importance, and what you suppose to be authority, into that stolid visage of yours!

    I imagine you think yourself an Emersonian man, hey Edward? How you like to deliver your adamantine judgments with manly vigour and scant regard for the feelings of others!

    Edward, I will break it to you. Your black and white offerings are evidence not of a vital, manly mind but of a want of understanding and sensibility. And, btw, your writing is utterly artless. It is flat and ponderous and has the reach and ambition of the back of a cereal box.
     
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  18. Edward G
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    Edward G Banned

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    Wow. You use such big words and you're so poetic in your personal insults. And you want me to read them and be impressed by them--which means you're the one coming to me with your hat in your hand. Seems to me you're negating your own argument.
     
  19. Edward G
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    Edward G Banned

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    As for anyone else out there who felt I was talking directly to you in my post about bad writers. Read the post again; you won't find anyone mentioned at all. It's about bad writers in general. If you want to pop up and say, "Hey! You're talking about me!" that's your prerogative, but it's not my fault.

    My personal opinion is that bad writers shouldn't be encouraged to write. They should be encouraged to pursue that which they are talented at and do it for the greater glory of God. Why all the attraction to writing in the first place? I really don't get it. I mean compare it to something like the talent of a person who can build a house, or diagnose and repair a modern automobile engine, or save a life in an emergency room--how the hell can writing be so important compared to that?

    I'm not saying it isn't; apparently it is. But I don't understand why having our name on the cover of a book matters so much.
     
  20. Elgaisma
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    Elgaisma Contributing Member Contributor

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    I'm not a bad writer - just personally believe you are wrong and I personally prefer to be a positive influence in other peoples lives rather than a negative one.

    And I stick to the idea that no piece of writing can't be improved.

    Why can't someone just write for fun and be supported in that? People encourage your work despite its flaws.

    I have dyspraxia, completely tone deaf, lack rhythm etc I still love to sing and dance, I know I will never be Darcy Bussell or Katherine Jenkins - I can still improve.
     
  21. Reggie
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    Reggie I Like 'Em hot "N Spicy Contributor

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    I will have to agree with Elgaisma. People can write for fun. The reason why I write is because it is fun, and it generates a new hobby for me.
     
  22. Elgaisma
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    Elgaisma Contributing Member Contributor

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    Until recently it was just fun for me as well. It still doesn't matter if I get published, but fact is I would love to see my book in a bookshop and in libraries in print.

    Main reason being I love it when people read my book and enjoy it - best feedback I can get is I laughed, I cried, I read it in a night, couldn't put it down etc, oh please make Angus gay lol, Socrates/Nate etc are sexy hot, Abbot is funny or scary or plain weird lol Then to see my characters talked about as people. When that sort of email or feedback arrives it boosts my confidence a bit.
     
  23. Agreen
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    Agreen Faceless Man Contributor

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    How are we to determine which writers meet an adequate standard of writing such that we should encourage them to continue with their work? Who is the final arbiter of this decision? What is the best method by which we may discourage those deemed unworthy?

    Edit: And yeah, I completely agree with Elgaisma and Reggie. Writing is a hobby. Something you do for fun. Just because I am a singularly awful skater does not in any way diminish my love of hockey.
     
  24. Elgaisma
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    Elgaisma Contributing Member Contributor

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    I agree - that piece of writing I got about six months that was awful, I could have ranted, raved, discouraged. I am so glad I did not, what I got back was a piece that showed talent and huge improvement. Not to mention the satisfaction I got, that was the point at which I realised my own abilities must be good to have helped that person make that improvement so quickly with just a few ideas. I posted a piece of writing I did about 11-12 months ago in the review room, it was first time I had looked at it in about that long lol When it is put next to my current writing there is a massive improvement. My heart goes out to the poor teenagers that read it for me and came with - wow its really good bit like Eragon and Lord of the Rings :)

    That went to my head a bit but without them my book wouldn't be were it is now. Thanks to sidvicious (champion reviewer lol) I now have a new fantastic character in Reverend Allsopp without sid's balanced feedback he wouldn't now exist. Those that commented on Blackpool Truths have given me my new series of Gus and Iris Investigate which I am excited about starting.

    Fact is the writing on here isn't going to be what goes into a book - it can't be, it hasn't been through all the processes and if it had it wouldn't be publishable.
     
  25. Youniquee
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    Youniquee (◡‿◡✿) Contributor

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    I'm an okay writer...but wait.
    Didn't everyone start off as a 'Bad writer' then gradually improve? Maybe for some it takes longer. I used to crap at drawing, did that mean I should have given up?
    I don't think so and I'm glad I didn't.
    It's just not right for you to say that someone who is a bad writer now should give up...=_=
     

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