1. Blue Night
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    Blue Night Active Member

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    Please explain the divide between constructive critique and editing.

    Discussion in 'The Art of Critique' started by Blue Night, Nov 10, 2011.

    I plan to post some writing of my own in the Writing Workshop. But I’m aware I must do some constructive critiquing as well. But this leads to my dilemma.
    I have read a few short stories to give it a go. I would start to critique, then stop, then delete.
    Why? I find myself editing, not critiquing. But still, I see editing to be quite common.
    I believe steering the writer away from bad tendencies to be constructive. I would rather say, “Hey, avoid repetition of describing the same thing.” Or “Brake to a new paragraph when the subject changes.” But I don’t feel comfortable with copying and pasting the work, only to point out all the grammatical errors.
    But I don’t want to look like I don’t see those either.
    What if I just commented on the context, style and elements of the story in general without references to the punctual errors (or whatever)?
    I really enjoyed reading ‘The Pit of His Stomach’. Yes, there are numerous errors. But it doesn’t take away from the story. Just for example’s sake, wouldn’t a publisher say ‘we’ll take it’ and the editor would do his job?
    In your opinion, or expertise, what is the most constructive approach to these writings?
     
  2. Banzai
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    Banzai One-time Mod, but on the road to recovery Contributor

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    I don't think pointing out every grammatical error is a good use of your time, or even actually a good thing for the author. If they are making the same mistake(s) over and over, then it's better to point out the mistake, maybe give a few examples, and let the author correct it throughout the piece themselves. That way they'll learn it better.

    For the purposes of the requirements of the forums, all you need to do is point out (with examples) what you didn't like about the piece and suggestions of how to improve it.

    In terms of a publisher's response, it isn't really as simple as "oh, the editor will get it". A slush reader has to read through the piece, and be able to visualise it in print. They also (most likely) have a lot of submissions to deal with. Depending on how error-riddled a piece is, it is entirely possible that it would lead to a rejection. It looks lazy of the author not to have fixed it, and compared with a better proofread/edited story on a similar level, it's not going to be the one chosen.
     
  3. Faust
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    Faust Contributing Member Supporter

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    Hm. I think that posting constructive critiques should be more of 'pointers' that guide the writer to what's wrong. Pointing out the grammatical and minor editing errors is okay too, since it's most often the small things we are likely to overlook. I guess the best thing to say would be to review in the fashion that is what you feel is best suited to you.

    Some reviewers like to point out the minor grammatical errors (or even the major ones); some may not. It's volunteered work and up to you.

    Edited: /ninja'd by Banzai
     
  4. Jhunter
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    Jhunter Mmm, bacon. Contributor

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    My idea of a critique is on story, pacing, theme, originality etc. Pointing out some major grammar problems is a good thing though in my opinion. They need to know.
     
  5. mammamaia
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    mammamaia nit-picker-in-chief Contributor

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    it's simple...

    a critique [constructive, or not] points out flaws and if the critiquer is a good one, explains what's wrong and why...

    an editor finds and corrects flaws, doesn't waste time explaining the whys and wherefores...
     
  6. topeka sal
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    topeka sal Senior Member

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    For me, this is only one half of it. I think it's just as important to point out when the writer has succeeded as when she's failed. Knowing what you're doing right can be very helpful. A combination of the two is the most helpful, I think.

    About grammar: I usually leave that to other critiquers (who seem to do it readily and well) and concentrate on other aspects of story/character/language, whatever. I stick to my strengths. You can't be all things to all people. Don't worry... just be kind and honest.

    p.s., I'm talking above about "constructive criticism" (per your original question). Editing, while it can address larger issues, is more about fine-tuning grammar and polishing the prose. I think of editing as something that comes late in the process. But that's just how I work.
     
  7. Banzai
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    Banzai One-time Mod, but on the road to recovery Contributor

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    I'd agree with this, but with the caveat that whilst pointing out failures only can help the writer improve, purely lavishing praise is less likely to.
     
  8. topeka sal
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    topeka sal Senior Member

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    Agreed. Also, praise must be given as specifically as criticism. To simply say "I liked this" is not enough. What you liked in particular, why you liked it, and how it served the whole or might be developed, strengthened, etc, is crucial when using praise in a critique. I'd also add that hollow praise, though often used to soften a "blow", is not helpful. I think when people get hard-nosed about the way to critique--when they complain about "coddling" or "lavishing" praise-- they're often referring to hollow and/or non-specific praise, and they're right to do so. But, as I've said, constructive praise can be as useful to a writer as constructive criticism. The two, working together, is, for me, the best way to go.

    Sadly, I haven't done many critiques here because of other time commitments. :( I hope to do more in the future.
     
  9. AmyHolt
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    AmyHolt Contributing Member

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    If you can't say something nice don't say anything at all. I think this applies to a good critique as well as life in general. A critique by nature is going to point out the problems because that's how you improve your writing but if it comes with the cost of losing your desire to write then it's not helpful. You can point out flaws and be nice but most people don't put forth the effort. The world needs more nice people.
     
  10. mammamaia
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    mammamaia nit-picker-in-chief Contributor

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    editors and agents are not paid to be nice... welcome to the real world! :(

    when you submit your work to magazines, or agents, or book publishers, don't expect to be told what they liked when they reject it... besides, what's ok isn't what you need to fix, so you'll get an acceptance, is it?...

    and when/if you pay a professional proofreader to check your work for goofs and glitches [which you shouldn't have to do, but many beginners seem to think they should], they're also not going to waste their time and your money telling you what doesn't need fixing... they're going to focus on what does...

    so, if some of the more professional-level members here give critiques that focus on what you need to improve, not wasting time telling you what you don't, be grateful that they're helping you to write better, thus improving your chances of someday being published, instead of being upset that they didn't praise anything...

    of course, that still should be done in as 'nice' a way as possible [= not meanly], but since there's really no 'nice' way to tell a parent that his/her child was born deformed, learn to take the help/advice that's been offered and be glad that person did care enough to spend and effort time giving it...
     
  11. AmsterdamAssassin
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    AmsterdamAssassin Contributing Member

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    Constructive criticism > telling what's wrong.
    Editing > showing what's wrong.

    One is not necessarily better than the other.
     
  12. AmyHolt
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    AmyHolt Contributing Member

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    Well made point. I guess I could never be a professional editor because I still have the idea that you can critique in a nice way. Of course I doubt my critique would ever be worth paying for.
     
  13. mammamaia
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    mammamaia nit-picker-in-chief Contributor

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    good editors don't critique in 'un-nice' ways... but the bald, blunt, 'awful truth' shouldn't be sugar-coated, as doing that is generally counterproductive, so unadorned honesty is often mistaken by the hoping-for-a-miracle new writer as being 'harsh' when it's just being honest and business-like...

    editors aren't there to be your pals... they're pros whose work is intended to help you improve your writing... and, like a good physical therapist's work, the session most often causes pain, while it's helping to improve the patient's condition...
     

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