1. writerdude11
    Offline

    writerdude11 Member

    Joined:
    Mar 10, 2013
    Messages:
    49
    Likes Received:
    3

    Something I've noticed on here....

    Discussion in 'General Writing' started by writerdude11, Aug 28, 2013.

    Hey guys, I've been a member here for 5 months and have noticed that everytime I get a critique, the writers here give very little praise. Is it because my writing is THAT bad or is that what to expect from the writing world?. Im trying my best to develop a thick skin to this as I want to be a successful writer, but sometimes I feel like I'm banging my head against a wall trying to improve my writing here. I'm sorry if sound too emotional, but am just frustrated here right now and needed to vent. If anyone has feedback on this I'd greatly appreciate it, thanks :).
     
  2. Porcupine
    Offline

    Porcupine Contributing Member

    Joined:
    Feb 13, 2011
    Messages:
    346
    Likes Received:
    21
    Location:
    Frankfurt, Germany
    That's a very well-written rant. :)
     
  3. chicagoliz
    Offline

    chicagoliz Contributing Member Contributor

    Joined:
    May 30, 2012
    Messages:
    3,295
    Likes Received:
    815
    Location:
    Pennsylvania
    I just glanced at your SS about the therapist, and at the responses. A couple things struck me, but I can't give you a full critique right now because I have a writer's group meeting tomorrow and I have 8 pieces I need to critique and give live-feedback and discuss tomorrow, so I can't get another short story in my head that I'm not going to discuss tomorrow. But if you'd like me to give you thoughts, send me a PM to remind me.

    I didn't think the critiques were so bad, in terms of negativity. (Although again, I just glanced through them quickly.) I think part of it is that a lot of newbies and young folks (and even some old-timers and not-so-young folks) give critique, and they're not always well-versed enough in what they should be giving in terms of feedback. A lot of people tend to start out thinking of "critique" as meaning "I need to tell you what is wrong with this," from the premise that it is wrong, or as meaning "This is how I would write your story." It's also easy to forget to point out the good things, because often we don't think about them enough. For some aspects of writing, a piece that flows reads so smoothly that we kind of forget that we're reading it, and in remembering we need to give feedback, we think about where we stumbled or got confused or had to re-read, and that's where we focus.

    That said, part of it is needing to develop a thick skin. It's tough to pour our heart and soul into a piece and hear a lot of negative things about it. You also have to wade through the feedback and figure out what resonates with you and what doesn't. It is important to consider all feedback, especially that which is conveying how the piece struck the reader -- that is, when the reader says something like, "I got confused here," or "Why would Jane say this?" as opposed to spouting off some "rule" that they read somewhere and then pointing out where you violated the rule. (See minstrel's thread about 'show don't tell').

    Ultimately, you want to gain readers, and critiquers are readers. So you should pay attention to points of feedback that seem to come up frequently. It's a balance -- nothing is universally adored (look at any amazon review, even of classics and blockbuster best-sellers). So you're unlikely to receive unanimous praise. But if you can find someone who seems to "get" what you've written, and whose critiques and suggestions make sense, it's really helpful if you can engage in a dialogue with that person.
     
    Mckk and jannert like this.
  4. minstrel
    Offline

    minstrel Leader of the Insquirrelgency Staff Supporter Contributor

    Joined:
    Jul 11, 2010
    Messages:
    8,723
    Likes Received:
    4,821
    Location:
    Near Los Angeles
    Don't worry about it. Look around at other offerings in the Writing Workshop. By far the majority of the comments are negative. I think I brought this up in this forum once before, but it bears repeating: Because of the way the writing "rules" have been phrased, we've all trained ourselves to spot flaws, not to celebrate strengths. Too often, perfectly good stories here get nit-picked to death because that's what we know how to do. Even if we really enjoy a story, we find we can't just say so, because it doesn't look like "constructive" criticism. So we complain about adverbs. We complain that the first line doesn't hook us well enough. We point out instances of passive voice even if it's called for; we point out infodumps even if they're only two lines long; we complain about the lengths of the sentences. And so on.

    All of these are relatively trivial, and even if they're real problems, they can be corrected fairly easily. We shouldn't concern ourselves with them too much. We should be concerned about characters and their arcs, plot coherence, theme, and overall style. That's the big stuff. But we tend not to do that, because it's harder to talk about those things than it is to count adverbs.

    I wish we were better critics.

    I haven't looked at your work, so I can't speak about it specifically. But it's probably not anywhere near as bad as the critiques make it seem. You're probably closer to your goal than you think. Buck up and keep trying!

    :)
     
  5. pinelopikappa
    Offline

    pinelopikappa Senior Member

    Joined:
    Apr 14, 2009
    Messages:
    152
    Likes Received:
    32
    Location:
    Hellas
    I am not familiar with your work, but I can tell you that I also get some feedback that is not positive. However it is always polite and of a good nature, and people here are even very gentle with my english language skills, which is a very generous thing really. So, maybe we should see the critique as a professional and impersonal thing that is not aimed at our worth as writers and people, but simply has to do with a particular piece of writing.

    I have been listening to writers' inteviews a lot, and they all seem to have this professional mindset. I am working hard to get it myself, and I know how you feel. It seems to be taking forever to get where we want to go as writers. But this forum is one of the many things we are doing in terms of improving our skills. Just think that I really write in greek, and yet I still find this place useful. But it's not the only thing I do, you know?

    All I'm saying is that your worth as a person, what makes you feel proud, does not depend on your writing skills. So, every time you get negative feed back, don't feel hurt. Don't feel that emotion when you must absolutely defend something. Just get to work once more. I really thing that feeling cool about the entire writing thing, has actually helped my writing a lot.
     
    Mckk and jannert like this.
  6. 123456789
    Offline

    123456789 Contributing Member Contributor

    Joined:
    Jan 28, 2012
    Messages:
    6,337
    Likes Received:
    3,084
    Don't expect mind blowing praise. There are a lot of big egos around here, and consequently, people are more likely to tear down your work, or at least, hold back praise.

    If people do fall out of their chairs , from being in love with your work, as rare as that may be, then you're definitely on to something. If no one can give you specific problems with your work, but just voice their particular opinions, then you might be on to something. Those are the only two positive indicators you should expect to see.
     
  7. jannert
    Offline

    jannert Contributing Member Supporter Contributor

    Joined:
    Mar 7, 2013
    Messages:
    7,784
    Likes Received:
    7,299
    Location:
    Scotland
    Part of THAT problem is the forum's setup. We are not supposed to post long pieces. Unfortunately, novels require to be read all the way through, before arcs, plot coherence and theme can be determined. Here, we're just posting snippets, and they're critiqued as if they were short stories, or even fragments of stories.

    I do wish we could come up with a way to share entire novels with each other. Obviously that won't suit people who don't like novels, but I'm not a particular fan of role-playing games, and these authors have their own section of the site. I just don't VISIT that part of the site.

    There is nothing more discouraging to the author of a novel to be told the site can't/won't take long pieces. Nitpicking word choice and style is really the only feedback they'll get, if they are forced to post only short selections.
     
  8. minstrel
    Offline

    minstrel Leader of the Insquirrelgency Staff Supporter Contributor

    Joined:
    Jul 11, 2010
    Messages:
    8,723
    Likes Received:
    4,821
    Location:
    Near Los Angeles
    Jannert, as is often pointed out here, if we post whole works, we seriously harm our chances of getting them professionally published. A novel is a huge commitment of time and creative energy, and there's no way I'd write one and then post the whole thing online anywhere, including this forum. All I would ever post here are short stories I write for practice - stories I don't really intend to try to publish anywhere.

    That the site doesn't take whole novels is actually protecting you and your work.
     
  9. 123456789
    Offline

    123456789 Contributing Member Contributor

    Joined:
    Jan 28, 2012
    Messages:
    6,337
    Likes Received:
    3,084

    In MOST cases here, I find the problem isn't so much with "word choice" or "Style" as it is with readability. Many pieces here are either not compelling enough, too confusing, or too distracting to be read for any appreciable length of time. Its not hard to come up with good characters or plot arcs. Good writing, as in mechanics, is hard.
     
  10. jannert
    Offline

    jannert Contributing Member Supporter Contributor

    Joined:
    Mar 7, 2013
    Messages:
    7,784
    Likes Received:
    7,299
    Location:
    Scotland
    Yes, I agree. Bad readability is easily picked up, within the first page or two.

    However, if readability isn't the problem, then the author needs more input. They might write in an extremely readable way, but what if the readable character doesn't develop much over a 5-chapter selection? Or isn't very believable overall? Or the ending of the story doesn't make sense, when connected with the beginning. Or there are loose ends left dangling. Or the entire story premise is flawed. Or some factual details are actually wrong. Or somebody really CAN'T be at the station picking up a parcel, when they're already at the store buying groceries at the same time.

    This is the kind of feedback novelists need, and the only way to get it is for somebody to read through 'the whole thing.'
     
  11. idle
    Offline

    idle Active Member

    Joined:
    Aug 1, 2012
    Messages:
    333
    Likes Received:
    32
    Location:
    one of the hearts of Europe
    I, for myself, am aware that I tend to only give negative feedback, mention what didn't work for me, suggest what could be improved. I try to keep reminding myself to give praise too, but it's like an afterthought and may seem forced.

    And not only on this forum, I'm the same when beta-reading for my writer friends. It's all in the mindset, I guess. Thanks for reminding me once again that we should improve not just as writers, but as readers too.
     
  12. KaTrian
    Offline

    KaTrian A foolish little beast. Staff Supporter Contributor

    Joined:
    Mar 17, 2013
    Messages:
    5,564
    Likes Received:
    3,561
    Location:
    The Great Swamp
    If you want a pat on the head, make your friends read your work.

    Anyway, I know what you mean, and that's often the nature of workshops on forums. Trust me, this place is tame. People are really nice and supportive. Critting is hard, though, you don't have a lot of stuff to work with and you don't want to disillusion the writer, but you don't want to crush their spirit either. I like to have problems pointed out, so I guess I crit the way I want to be critted. What I do find important is, however, to point out a few good things as well, and preferably end the critique on something positive. The writer of the negative review may very well have internalized and digested your story more thoroughly than the writer of some "dude this was awesome!" comment who 1) wants enough crits to they can post their own work in the workshop 2) is afraid to criticize for fear of someone "returning the favor", so don't let the negativity dishearten you and don't get defensive even if your baby is butchered.

    I just checked your story "Learning to Walk Again." You've gotten better feedback than I have :D
     
    jannert likes this.
  13. KaTrian
    Offline

    KaTrian A foolish little beast. Staff Supporter Contributor

    Joined:
    Mar 17, 2013
    Messages:
    5,564
    Likes Received:
    3,561
    Location:
    The Great Swamp
    On a sidenote, I really wish the edit-window was longer, there's SpaG in my post again :( Why oh why you stupid eyes can't spot them when I proofread before posting!

    I'll go grumble in the feedback room.
     
  14. obsidian_cicatrix
    Offline

    obsidian_cicatrix I ink, therefore I am. Contributor

    Joined:
    Jul 15, 2013
    Messages:
    1,711
    Likes Received:
    1,453
    Location:
    Belfast, Northern Ireland
    In terms of personal growth, this site has done more for me than I could ever have expected when I first signed up. As tools go, it has been the single, most valuable resource I've encountered.

    I was about to say the very same thing. If I want my ego massaged, all I need to do is hand my work over to some of my non-reader/writer friends, who would then proceed to blow smoke up my ass.

    Alternatively, I can hoke around in my bottom drawer and find that scrap of lined A4, the ragged page I tentatively scribbled my first attempt on. I can use my newly learned skills to compare it to my most recent short. For me, the reward comes in realising that I am steadily improving. That feeling is worth far more to me than the praise of strangers. At this point in time, I'm no more capable of accepting a compliment than I am of taking criticism on the chin. For as long as I can see that I'm moving in the right direction, that is reward enough. Perhaps, in time, I may go on to write something that is actually worthy of praise I feel I can accept.
     
    KaTrian likes this.
  15. EllBeEss
    Offline

    EllBeEss Contributing Member

    Joined:
    Aug 24, 2013
    Messages:
    301
    Likes Received:
    108
    Location:
    Perth
    I know I haven't been a member for very long at all but I'd rather know straight up what people think is 'wrong' with my work.

    Think about the opposite. Any work posted on here should be posted with the intention of improvement which if necessary would mean nit picking. I have made the mistake of giving pieces of my writing to my friends for general readability and stuff. As I expected they gave me a lot of mindless praise but I know my friends well enough to notice that they were holding back from saying something, as expected when they read a first or second draft, that was not wholly positive. Since I could not hear their criticisms I got very insecure about my work being horrible and that my friends were droning on in mindless praise in order to spare my feelings. After that experience I'd rather have people pick apart my work than become uncertain about it myself.

    Also from what I've read of critiques in the Writer's Workshop many things seem to be more based on personal preferences, I can see how it would be disheartening but complete honesty early on is better than half honesty later on. I think the focus must be on improvement rather than being perfect.
     
  16. KaTrian
    Offline

    KaTrian A foolish little beast. Staff Supporter Contributor

    Joined:
    Mar 17, 2013
    Messages:
    5,564
    Likes Received:
    3,561
    Location:
    The Great Swamp
    That's all fine and dandy, but especially in the workshops I frequent, novels, fantasy, and sci-fi, the excerpts aren't long enough to really get into arcs and plot coherence. You get a passage, and you have to work with that, give the poster all you've got, hoping you'll help them, and it so happens that when there's a sentence in the passage cluttered with adverbs, unpunctuated embedded clauses, 'by's, I'd rather the reviewer pointed that out, then leave it to the poster to decide what they're going to do with that passive voice or three adverbs in the same sentence or a sentence that runs on all the way to Timbuktu.

    I'm really not saying those who crit are beyond criticism themselves, one should always try to improve, as it also helps with one's own writing, but we probably don't want to create a hostile atmosphere towards people who put time and effort in helping others, even if they weren't perfect at it or, omigod, nitpicked. I know I already feel like whatever I review after this is considered utter crap because I'm not a pro. I know, crazy, but still.
    Anyhow, I don't expect wonders from all the nice, generous people here who've taken time to review my work (or my and @T.Trian 's actually), and even a crumb of feedback can help give the writer some idea where they're at with their craft.

    One more thing: not many of us are critics or editors by occupation, so to expect reviews of such quality for free is just nuts, though I doubt anyone here actually expects that. That's why I think fledgling writers (like me) should really learn to take what they get in the workshops with a grain of salt and not be afraid to ask "why" when a reviewer criticizes something and doesn't provide the why. That's not you getting defensive, the critique process can be a dialogue, and that way very beneficial to both, the writer and the critter. Neither would I underestimate the value of personal preferences. It can be useful, especially when that preference comes from someone who's in your target audience.
     
  17. mammamaia
    Offline

    mammamaia nit-picker-in-chief Contributor

    Joined:
    Nov 21, 2006
    Messages:
    19,316
    Likes Received:
    1,014
    Location:
    Coquille, Oregon
    i don't have time to spend on massaging egos, since i help writers all over the world full time by email, after posting help/info/advice on 3 writing sites, first thing in the morning, every single day of the year...

    i assume people post their work because they want to know what they need to do in order to bring their writing up to professional--or at least marginal--marketing quality, so that's what i tell them, drawing on my nearly 6 decades of experience as a writer and editor, leaving others to massage egos...
     
  18. jazzabel
    Offline

    jazzabel Contributing Member Contributor

    Joined:
    Jan 5, 2012
    Messages:
    4,273
    Likes Received:
    1,666
    I always give an honest critique and if the piece impresses me, I will say so. However, on here, we are all still honing our craft, and most of us aren't anywhere near good enough to impress anyone, so don't get discouraged. All it means is, you have a lot of learning and practice to do. That's why you are here :)
     
  19. Wreybies
    Offline

    Wreybies The Ops Pops Operations Manager Staff Contest Administrator Supporter Contributor

    Joined:
    May 1, 2008
    Messages:
    18,842
    Likes Received:
    10,017
    Location:
    Puerto Rico
    I know it's a next-to-impossible paradigm to push, but you (the OP) should be here to critique, not to get critiqued. Yes, yes, I can hear the eye-rolls from across the globe. But seriously, the idea of learning to critique well is so that you can apply that same honed eye to your own work.
     
    KaTrian, Pheonix and jazzabel like this.
  20. peachalulu
    Offline

    peachalulu Contributing Member Reviewer Contributor

    Joined:
    May 20, 2012
    Messages:
    3,824
    Likes Received:
    2,382
    Location:
    occasionally Oz , mainly Canada
    Praise here comes two ways - your work is good - good enough to shock people ( because the subject matter isn't the usual stuff that gets praised ) or the the subject manner is a favorite ( among here ) which is usually one of a predicatable trio - a story from the viewpoint of a serial killer/baddie or something that thumbs the nose at convention, or something involving a current trend.
    One is genuine, one could be genuine or could be based only on personal tastes - meaning they're reading something they like to read, and flaws aside they'll give it more leeway.

    Take your own reading preferences - are you more likely to praise a romance or a crime story? Or all feeling of subject aside - something well written.

    I wouldn't be so concerned with praise though. I'm on a few other sites and sometimes the praise is counter productive. It's good to hear a reader connect with your story but if you stand back and watch people gush over something that wouldn't make it past a slush pile no matter how interesting the idea is, you get a spooky feeling snake up your spine that if they think that is good what about my stuff. Who actually is being genuine? Who is being helpful?
     
  21. rhduke
    Offline

    rhduke Contributing Member Reviewer

    Joined:
    Mar 15, 2013
    Messages:
    733
    Likes Received:
    158
    Location:
    Canada
    Learning to accept criticism takes practice. You can't be expected to ignore the emotions you feel when you get negative feedback everytime. It hurts. It hurts because it's something personal we are showing the world. Like anything that takes practice, you will get better at it--you'll learn to look past snide and pretentious tone and realize the underlying lessons that can benefit your writing. Sometimes, people don't even mean to sound that way. They just want to post something meaningful and constructive instead of a one-sentence response.
     
  22. minstrel
    Offline

    minstrel Leader of the Insquirrelgency Staff Supporter Contributor

    Joined:
    Jul 11, 2010
    Messages:
    8,723
    Likes Received:
    4,821
    Location:
    Near Los Angeles
    @KaTrian: I understand your points. Three quick things:

    1. In a post above to jannert, I said I do think posting work here harms our chances of getting it published. I do not recommend posting whole novels for critique for that reason (among others, of course). So, of course, character arcs and plots of long works cannot be discussed, as you say. I think it's preferable for writers to post short stories - practice pieces, essentially - in the workshop, so that the whole thing can be critiqued properly without costing the author a chance at publishing their major work.

    2. When I said I wish we were better critics, I probably misspoke. I meant to say I wish we were more generous with our praise. When I took online writing classes, we were told by our instructors to make sure we mentioned at least two positive things about a story we were critiquing before we mentioned negative things. This reminds us that there is nearly always something good to say about a piece of work, and we should make sure we say it. Also, people are more receptive to the negative comments if they've already received positive comments. It's encouraging, and it helps them learn better and faster.

    3. I really appreciate, and celebrate, those of us who take time and effort to critique the work of others. It's free, and to that extent, I'm not justified in questioning the qualifications of the critics. That said, though, it doesn't help the critic or the author of the work under review if the critic complains about the use of passive voice (for instance) but has only a tenuous grasp of what passive voice actually is. It doesn't help anyone if the critic insists the author "show" rather than "tell" in a passage where telling is entirely justified. It doesn't help anyone if the critic says the opening hook isn't good enough when he hasn't even given the author a proper chance. (I saw a critique here once in which the critic complained about the hook only thirteen words into the story. Seriously! The critic wouldn't even allow the author thirteen words before complaining of being bored.)

    I know the critics here are extraordinarily generous with their time, energy, and care. And I know I have no right to complain about their efforts because of that. I'm just trying to point out that their efforts would be of even greater value if they weren't so quick to pounce on every trivial flaw, and tried to find something in the work to praise. This is in response to the OP, who was lamenting that it seems all the criticisms are negative.
     
    idle likes this.
  23. chicagoliz
    Offline

    chicagoliz Contributing Member Contributor

    Joined:
    May 30, 2012
    Messages:
    3,295
    Likes Received:
    815
    Location:
    Pennsylvania
    This is a good point. If I see someone gush over a piece that I think is in need of tremendous work, I question the validity of any critique that person gives. If that person were to effusively praise my piece, although I'd feel momentarily good, I wouldn't actually be able to accept that critique. Similarly, I'd be more skeptical even of their criticisms, because what they thought was fantastic was something that I thought was severely lacking.

    Of course, I'd feel a similar way if someone nitpicked to death something that I thought was pretty good overall, and they failed to point out anything positive.
     
  24. minstrel
    Offline

    minstrel Leader of the Insquirrelgency Staff Supporter Contributor

    Joined:
    Jul 11, 2010
    Messages:
    8,723
    Likes Received:
    4,821
    Location:
    Near Los Angeles
    Here's a question for everybody: If you read a piece in the Workshop and think it's really good, are you less likely to critique it? I see some pieces there with many replies, and others with very few. I wonder if the ones with few replies are considered pretty good, and hence difficult to criticize. Pieces with many replies may be those perceived to have many flaws, and so are easy to criticize. Therefore, they attract more critiques.

    Is there any validity to this line of thinking?
     
  25. chicagoliz
    Offline

    chicagoliz Contributing Member Contributor

    Joined:
    May 30, 2012
    Messages:
    3,295
    Likes Received:
    815
    Location:
    Pennsylvania
    I think there is a lot of validity to it. When I read something that I think is really good and I have no suggestions for improvement, I can't come up with much to say. I know others in my live critique group do the same.

    Of course, the lack of critiques is not at all proof that something is good. It's hard to know if, for some reason, people just aren't reading the piece, or if they start but it doesn't grab them and they abandon it, or if they see so much wrong with it that they don't even know where to begin, but don't have the time to go through everything that needs work, and just never get back to it.

    This is one reason why I enjoy participating in a short story contest on another site. People will often (but not always) leave a quick comment, just saying they loved a piece. The writing workshop here isn't as amenable to that sort of comment, I think partially due to the requirement of giving a substantive critique in order to post. People (validly) feel that just saying they loved it doesn't count as a substantive analysis, and they're looking to give one so they can post. So they move on to another piece that they feel they can give a substantive critique.
     

Share This Page