1. Cogito
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    Cogito Former Mod, Retired Supporter Contributor

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    Receiving a Review

    Discussion in 'The Art of Critique' started by Cogito, Oct 19, 2007.

    When you as a writer receive a review, a natural response is to defend what your intent was when you wrote a particular passage.

    Think about it. Normally when you write a story or poem, that will be your sole communication to the reader. If the reader has misread what you presented, it means that communication has broken down.

    Yes, it may mean that the reader was not reading carefully enough to capture the nuances you presented. But if it's an important enough element of your message, it probably means you should reinforce the point, or change ambiguous wording, or take some other measure to make sure your message is understood.

    Debating the points with the reviewer is more of an ego exercise than anything else, and may result only in annoying the reviewer so he or she puts the effort into other people's work instead.

    remember, you asked for an opinion. Don't beat up the person who took the time to provide one.
     
  2. Steak-Ums
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    Steak-Ums Member

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    Yea, at the forum I go to they had to make a thread about this.

    You should always remember to think before you type.

    A review is someone's opinion. They aren't necessarily shoving it down your throat.
     
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  3. Funny Bunny
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    Funny Bunny Contributing Member

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    Your audience might not be the same audience as the reader, I have learned. I would say if you get 3-4 similar complaints, there may be a case for changing something. I wouldn't change anything automatically because one person asks. Although writing is for an audience, it is still a creative art, and like a painting in that respect. A person who likes only realistic landscapes and hates abstract painting of any kind will probably jump on you for not providing their kind of art. One person's opinion really should not mean that much if you do not know the motivation behind the critique.
     
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  4. Karpi
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    Karpi Member

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    i must not have this 'usual response'.
    when i had a popular fanfic going i took advice from anyone and everyone
    i try to fit in suggestions later on in the story
     
  5. Funny Bunny
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    Funny Bunny Contributing Member

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    It all depends on how confident you are in your own abilities. I really wouldn't change anything unless I knew the author of the post actually wrote better than I did. Or I knew they had a Master's degree. Critiques are only helpful if they are from people who know what they are talking about, and unfortunately, there is no way to judge that on the web, so I usually really only pay attention to "live" readers who have some knowledge of writing.
     
  6. Cogito
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    Cogito Former Mod, Retired Supporter Contributor

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    Does an idea's merit depend upon the credentials of the person who suggests it?

    I don't think so. You may completely dislike the writing style and personality of the person making the suggestion, but still decide that that particular suggestion will improve the piece.

    Just as the reviewer should be reviewing the content of the piece, and not the writer, the writer should decide whether each suggestion has merit without regard to its source.

    The writer always has the final decision - at least until he or she tries to sell the piece to a publisher. And even then, the writer can accept or decline the contract.
     
  7. dwspig2
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    dwspig2 Member

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    I agree that it's important to get several opinions. The problem, however, is actually getting several people to read what you wrote...Sometimes people just refuse to do so.

    When you do find someone who will read it, you always have to keep in the back of your mind that each person will read things differently. I've had some people pick my writing apart and say that almost every word was worthless. Other people have read what I've written and said that the whole thing was enjoyable with just a select few minor errors. Each opinion is different. The big issue is trying to figure out who's just ripping your work apart for the fun of it and who's just being nice. Neither one is a good person to consult in the creative process.

    You must decide yourself which issues you most agree with. Sometimes people will illuminate issues in my writing, and I don't have to seek a second opinion because I realize right away that they were right; there was an issue there. At other times, I like things somewhat and desire a second, third, or perhaps even fourth opinion before breaking down and making a revision. It's all in the your and the critic's perspective.
     
  8. Lothgar
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    Lothgar Contributing Member

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    Cogito makes many valid points.

    I think some of the more important points to remember in the whole critique process is that they are all just opinions.

    "This sucks" is an opinion, but not a valid critique. A valid critique identifies the perceived weaknesses in the story and offers possible remedies for said weaknesses.

    Pointing out mistakes in grammar and punctuation are valid criticisms.

    Pointing out contradictions in the flow of the story or elements of the story that fail to make sense would be valid criticisms.

    Even though points in your story are singled out for criticism, and suggestions are offered for improving the story, the final word is still with the author. Just because one critic didn't like it doesn't automatically mean that it needs changing.

    Even if you read the criticism and agree that it needs to be edited, the suggested change may not be the best way to improve it. The author should evaluate the suggestion to see if it actually conveys the message that the author wanted to present.

    Like all judgment calls, it is a skill that most likely improve with use.
     
  9. Monanniverse
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    Monanniverse Member

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    This will help me a lot as a reviewer, I thank you.
     
  10. Reggie
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    Reggie I Like 'Em hot "N Spicy Contributor

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    This thread kind of helped me too. I had complications with one of my reviewers, and I took it too far. Now, I'm afraid that no one will review my work anymore, because of the way I communicated my response with someone. Anyway, I should have known that I should be focusing on what's been reviewed on my writing piece rather than debating on how the reviewer feels about my writing.
     
  11. Iconoclast
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    Iconoclast New Member

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    Good points were made and it necessary to keep this perspective in mind when reading a critique of you work.
     
  12. NateSean
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    NateSean Active Member

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    It's also important to remember that the reviewer is a writer too. And there are times when it's clear to me that the reviewer doesn't know what they are talking about.

    For example, I described a rash on a character's arm as "redness". The reviewer was certain this was not a proper term for a rash, when in fact redness is described as a symptom on many products and in medical journals. So as one poster said, there's a line between a constructive review and someone who just wants to sound smart.

    Another time, back when I was in college, I had a student tutor proofread a short story for a class. They kept insisting that "site" as in "website" should be spelled "cite". As in to "cite" your references.

    But my absolute favorite criticsm has to be a person who says, "yer grammar neds wrk." Not quite so literally, but you get the idea. A person with no better grasp on the written English language than my seven year-old sister, telling me that my grammar needs work. It's the pot calling the kettle black and not what I consider to be constructive.

    I'm open to all manners of criticism, really. But I also need to see that the reviewer knows what he or she is talking about. If I write a science fiction story set on Mars and the reviewer tells me that Mars doesn't have moons when my character mentioned the two of them, it's going to cost them some credibility points.
     
  13. Serieve
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    Serieve Member

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    What you say makes sense--you would think that good writers make the better reviewers.

    However, I argue that the best reviewers are actually just really good readers. People who read closely, who think deeply and critically about what they're reading, who are sensitive to their responses to the text, and so on. Good writers are often good readers, because close reading helps with self-editing and the writing process. But there are people out there who are fantastic readers, but couldn't write to save their lives.
     
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  14. Steerpike
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    Steerpike Felis amatus Supporter Contributor

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    Regardless of whether a review is good, bad, or mixed, I simply thank the reviewer for taking the time to comment and their willingness to help me out, and then I apply my own judgment and take the things I agree with, leaving the rest. There's not reason to debate with the reviewer, or attempt to enlighten them on something you think they missed.
     
  15. Steerpike
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    Steerpike Felis amatus Supporter Contributor

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    I agree with this. But there's no reason to argue back to the reviewer, which is what many people do. I know Mars has two moons, so if I get that comment I simply disregard it.
     
  16. Cogito
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    Cogito Former Mod, Retired Supporter Contributor

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    Remember that critiquers are finding their way too.

    There are times when it makes sense to point out a critiquer's mistake, particularly when there is a factual basis to refute it. But it is more often counterproductive, so the best advice is usually to let it go.

    Think of when you wrote your first critique. Unless you are extraordinarily vain and arrogant, you were probably terrified of giving bad advice. What would it feel like if every point you made was slapped down?

    As a moderator, I have to judge a lot of critiques for whether or not they address the critiquing requirements, whether they make specific recommendations and give reasons for them.

    Being right is NOT one of those criteria, even assuming ther is a right or wrong. So I approve a great number of critiques that are factually unsupportable, because the important thing is that the critiquer has made an effort and taken an analytical approach.

    It is also important for the writer to filter critique input. Not to correct the critiquer, but to decide whether the critiquing points make sense. And not only in the current context, but also in other contexts you may encounter.

    So you know Mars has Demos and Phobos. You've done your research, either now or somewhere in the past. But maybe it will remind you to check facts when facts are available. Maybe you wrote an eclipse when Deimos transited the Sun, forgetting that Deimos' angular diameter as seen from Mars is much less than that of the Sun, so the eclipse would never obscure the Sun like a total solar eclipse on Earth.
     
  17. Chinspinner
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    Chinspinner Contributing Member Contributor

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    Got to add to that, you consider every word when you are writing, whereas a reader skims over many of them; and the flow of the words, alliteration etc is far more important thant the individual meaning of each word. This generally means that an ability to write good prose far out weighs an ability to read a thesaurus.
     
  18. John Cleary
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    John Cleary Member

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    Look forward to the process or reviewing and being reviewed.


    Both these observations resonate with me. I'd like to think that after being reviewed, I'd be thankful for the energy and effort made by the reviewer(s), and do my best to make the next draft better.

    cheers,

    John.
     
  19. pet.
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    pet. Senior Member

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    I think it's worth drawing a distinction between defending your intent and engaging in a real discussion of what your intent was. I mean, this is a workshop, isn't it? I tend to associate workshops with intensive discussion - the point for me is that everyone here is a writer, and has that perspective to give, you know? Otherwise, I have plenty of friends who'd be happy to look at my writing and tell me what they thought of it as readers.

    So, I'd be more interested in figuring out some techniques for responding to critique in a way which leads to meaningful discussion than in writing the whole thing off as "more of an ego exercise than anything else". I definitely agree that there's a trap there which needs to be avoided, of course.
     
  20. The Tourist
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    The Tourist Banned

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    Well, if you ask for a review, you don't really have a defense. You might expand on a vehicle you utilized, but the reviewer is bringing the same fresh perspective that a reader would have when buying your book. You suck it up.

    Right now I awaiting a scathing review of some of my work from a respected member here. It's been two days after I sent out the synopsis, hoping that might help. Four days overall.

    And that's just over the preface. Yikes, I going to buy kevlar to withstand the review on the actual writing!
     
  21. pet.
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    pet. Senior Member

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    Heh. I'm sure you'll be pleasantly surprised - maybe they've spent days trying to come up with the perfect phrasing for glowing praise?

    Anyway, consider this conversation;

    reviewer: "I think you spent too long over the description of the protagonist going about his morning routine. It was dull and I lost interest."

    writer: "Ah, ok. I was hoping to convey a sense of the character's own boredom there; the mindless routine, the very methodical steps he takes when preparing for the day. I'd like to try to keep that impression, but I definitely don't want to be losing my reader's interest. Do you have any ideas on how I might keep that impression of the character's boredom in an evocative way without the reader becoming too bored themselves?

    reviewer: "Hm, an interesting problem. I definitely still think that you need to trim the section down a little. Maybe you could try to work the repetitiveness of the morning routine into the language of the description, by making it more of a long list than a series of complex sentences like you have. That would imply plodding-ness without being too lengthy I think."

    writer: "That's a very interesting idea. I don't know whether I'll go with exactly that, but you've definitely given me something to think about. I'll see you in a few days with the next draft. Thanks for the help."

    That's what I want to see, you know? Sadly, I don't tend to.
     
  22. The Tourist
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    The Tourist Banned

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    Ha, ha. Oh, we're passed that. The member already took me to task on several points.

    When I read your exchange between writer and reviewer, such a discussion is helpful and positive. I think it works most times, not always for me.

    The mentors I had--that were successful--could be downright cruel. And as much as those 'corrections' were embarrassing and are still with me, it worked. Some people just have a hard head.

    Actually, the thing that would bother me the most would be a terse PM stating, "I tried to read the junk, I cannot fix it, take up painting."
     
  23. andyscribe
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    When I'm giving feedback to students, I find that negative critiques are always better received after positive areas have been highlighted.

    I think would be true for a review. A reviewer's role is not to discourage and pointing out which areas of a piece work is as important as talking about which bits don't work.

    That's what I think.

    "Do nothing that is of no use." - Mushashi Miyamoto, The Five Rings
     
  24. Cogito
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    Cogito Former Mod, Retired Supporter Contributor

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    If you are receiving the critique, you cannot control how the critique was given. This thread is about how to derive the greatest benefit from every critique, not just the ones with a comfy cushion.
     
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  25. Thumpalumpacus
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    Thumpalumpacus Contributing Member

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    I do tend to leaven my critique with praise when something really catches my eye, but I'm new to the process.

    I'm finding that writing critiques is benefiting my writing and reading both.
     

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