1. TDFuhringer
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    TDFuhringer Contributing Member Contributor

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    Telling someone their writing is really bad.

    Discussion in 'General Writing' started by TDFuhringer, Jan 30, 2014.

    First question.

    Do people on this forum want to know when their writing is horrible, or do they just want to be patted on the back and encouraged, and only criticized when they ask for criticism?

    I try to be very careful and approach giving unsolicited criticism as politely and gently as possible, despite that ugly part of my brain in the back, you know, the guy in stained sweatpants, chewing on a leaking hoagie while scratching his balls and yelling, "Yo! That fuckin' sucks dude."

    Second question.

    How blunt do people want their criticism (on this forum)?

    I am trying to improve my craft every single day, and I welcome bold, intense, detailed and even painful criticism, because it helps me develop my skills. Even criticism I don't agree with teaches me something.

    Am I alone in this? The reason I ask is... Some of the writing I see on this forum is just abhorrent, and some of the writing advice these people are giving is (if I'm being charitable) counter-intuitive at best. I frequently stop myself from jumping on this kind of thing (if only to help me stay focused on my own work) and I sometimes wonder if I'm doing these people a disservice by not saying, "That's really horrible and bad and wrong."
     
  2. thirdwind
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    thirdwind Contributing Member Contest Administrator Reviewer Contributor

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    You're talking specifically about the Writing Workshop, right? Because if you go around telling people their writing sucks in other parts of the forum, you'd come off as a dick.
     
  3. Wreybies
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    Wreybies The Ops Pops Operations Manager Staff Contest Administrator Supporter Contributor

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    I can absolutely handle the underlined. The not-underlined makes my junk draw up. :oops:

    I'm all for critique that's as blunt as a spoon. All I ask is the bluntness be detailed. If it sucked the pucker out of a donkey's ass through its schlong, why? If it bored, what bored? If the pace was off, where? If the dialogue was stupid and fake, where and how?

    And as @thirdwind has already noted, there is a place for blunt critique and that's in the Workshop. Commentary elsewhere in the forum to the tune of, "Yeah, I hear what you're saying, but I've read your stuff and it seems like you wrote it after having suffered a mild stroke," is only go to insight flamiage. I've never seen you do that, @TDFuhringer, so that's not an accusation, just a general statement. ;)
     
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  4. TDFuhringer
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    TDFuhringer Contributing Member Contributor

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    Thanks, that actually helps answer my question. I'm NOT referring to the Workshop. There, since criticism is the point, I assume people want it and act accordingly.

    I'm talking about (for example) here in this general forum. Someone asks "How do I make my characters blah blah blah", and well-meaning people respond, some with insightful comments, some with spectacularly bad advice. Then along comes someone who says, "I'd do it like THIS" and proceeds to give an example. An example that is so bad I end up shooting my coffee out my nose. The original poster says, "Okay thanks!" and goes off, having just been terribly misled by some well-intentioned person who has no idea what they are doing. This is the moment when I want to jump in and say "Hold on there." and I'm wondering if people want that or not.
     
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  5. thirdwind
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    thirdwind Contributing Member Contest Administrator Reviewer Contributor

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    If I don't like someone's advice, I usually don't say anything about it (unless it's completely ridiculous). I just post my opinion and move on.
     
  6. Fitzroy Zeph
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    Fitzroy Zeph Contributing Member Contributor

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    Speaking only for myself, and I should quickly note that as of yet I haven't posted work for review, but I will want the reviewers to be brutal. Unwarranted praise is for sissies. It's all about learning and as most of us are well into adulthood, we shouldn't be deterred by constructive comments no matter how straightforward or terse they may be.

    A lot of what goes up looks literally like the first draft. I'd think that it should be well polished before looking for advice on how to improve it.

    Edit: After seeing the additional posts I'll say the above applies to the Workshop. But regardless of where the advice is given, if it is wrong, then I'm not sure what to do. Sure, there are lots of valid opinions, and many of those are worth arguing over.
     
    Last edited: Jan 30, 2014
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  7. rhduke
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    rhduke Contributing Member Reviewer

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    Part of the guidelines of the writing workshop is to respect other people's critique even if you don't agree with it. The OP posts his work to receive feedback not to listen to other people argue about how to critique. If you really feel like someone is leading a writer astray, private messaging the OP is a good alternative.
     
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  8. TDFuhringer
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    TDFuhringer Contributing Member Contributor

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    I sometimes post first draft, to aid in developing my rewrite process. I know it means I'll get more criticism, but I find that valuable. :)
     
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  9. A.M.P.
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    A.M.P. People Buy My Books for the Bio Photo Supporter Contributor

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    Yeah, if you start telling people their advice is bad, it would become a forum war like the ones we all know so well and love.
    Unless the advice is beyond abhorrent or just factually wrong (ie: they state so and so and say it's a fact when 10 second Google search proves otherwise, you know?)

    If I spout nonsense, I wouldn't mind being told so because not only am I misleading someone, I myself am misled.

    I hate criticism. It makes me feel bad.
    However, if I ever do post a serious piece in the workshop, then I'll smile and take it.
    I am terrified of having my actions judged so I am not an actor, an artist, or do anything publicly I ain't comfortable with.
    That includes submitting my own work in the workshop unless it's a piece I wrote for fun and want to see if anyone points out something I would have never seen on my own.

    Patting people in the back isn't something I do or recommend anyone doing but there's a way to give insightful and helpful reviews that can encourage and not simply go "Yooouuuu SUCK!"
     
  10. ChickenFreak
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    ChickenFreak Contributing Member Contributor

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    If I feel the irresistible urge to cast doubt on someone's advice, I'm still not likely to go further than something like, "I don't think that this approach will be successful." Usually I just add my own advice without referring to the other. The person requesting the advice is going to be getting good and bad advice for his entire writing career, if he has one, so I have to trust him to eventually be able to recognize the difference.

    As for whether people want honest advice, I think that many don't. I'm not saying that based on my experience here, but my experience on a forum for bloggers. People run around that forum like toddlers with scissors, asking how they can improve their SEO and make a bazillion dollars, and they don't want to hear, "Er, before you even think about making a penny from your blog, it needs to have something worth reading, written coherently." They think that the Internet and enough jumping-up-and-down enthusiasm can spin straw into gold, and they don't want to hear that they can't.

    People here are far more realistic, but I'm sure that the same attitude must exist in some people.
     
  11. TDFuhringer
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    TDFuhringer Contributing Member Contributor

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    You win The Internet for today @ChickenFreak :) That right there is the REAL answer. Anyone skilled enough to tell good writing advice from bad, doesn't need me to say, "Hey that's bad advice." And anyone who isn't skilled enough, will eventually figure out that they need skilled help and will (hopefully) ask the right people for assistance. (Or read a good book on the subject)
     
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  12. shadowwalker
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    shadowwalker Contributing Member Contributor

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    If talking outside of the Workshop, advice is given and people have to decide if it's right for them. I would assume that some off-the-wall advice is going to fly in the face of the other advice given and thus the recipient should be able to see that. And if someone gives an example, it's not my place to critique that. I might give my own example but that may or may not be any better than the first - it may just be my ego talking.

    Part of being a writer is learning when to take advice and when to ignore it. Forums are as good a place as any to start.
     
  13. Fitzroy Zeph
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    Fitzroy Zeph Contributing Member Contributor

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    @ChickenFreak I believe what you described, can be stated generally, about a good many pursuits. To paraphrase: too people think they're great, they're not, they don't want to hear about it, they don't want to expend the energy to improve, they don't think it takes a lot of hard work.
     
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  14. Fitzroy Zeph
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    Fitzroy Zeph Contributing Member Contributor

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    There's feerst draphts and then there's first drafts.
     
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  15. Wreybies
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    Wreybies The Ops Pops Operations Manager Staff Contest Administrator Supporter Contributor

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    Yeah, there is a difference. I love the ones that preamble with I know they'res spelling and grammar mistake s and all that but I just want to know if I'm getting my point across too the reader. (all errors intentional)

    The answer is no. Fuck no. I couldn't see shit for all the SPaG and tortured grammar. You can't ask me to give you a fair critique of a Porsche when the hood is bolted on upside down, two tires are missing, the transmission isn't linked to the motor, and the electrical is all wonky.
     
  16. TDFuhringer
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    TDFuhringer Contributing Member Contributor

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    Hee hee! I literally laughed out loud at that @Fitzroy Zeph .

    HAY: Critiqeu my writing okai? Here's my combo fan-fic mashup piece, let me know what you thinks.

    Dancing devilishly in the spritely half-moon dark air, Superman crunched his face into a vapid snarl and punching Captain Kirk in his broad, unnerved face, sending his heavily mercury filled teeth heavenward in a blaze of cat-like spinning and whirling...

    JUST SHOOT ME NOW :)
     
  17. A.M.P.
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    A.M.P. People Buy My Books for the Bio Photo Supporter Contributor

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    @TDFuhringer
    Reminds me why I stopped offering my help in beta reading fan fiction.
    I don't even know where to start sometimes, lol.
     
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  18. GingerCoffee
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    GingerCoffee Web Surfer Girl Contributor

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    This is interesting. I was about to address the first part of your post because we get a slew of questions by new writers like you describe. Some people answer them, some people tell them the answers won't be helpful, they need to write something first. Politeness with the latter answer varies.

    But then you got to the the thing you were actually talking about. Echoing what @ChickenFreak said, it's similar to letting your kid go: you want to help them but you have to trust them even though they might be headed toward a mistake. You see a writer ask for advice and you want to tell them not to make the mistake of listening to the bad advice they just got. You have to let it go, leave it up to the writer asking the question to figure it out. Give your own advice if you have some, but that would not be the place to address the advice offering forum member.

    When critiquers (essentially writing advice givers) start an exchange between themselves the outcome is not often very productive. The person asking the question wants to hear advice. The person answering the question most often does not and rarely can hear the advice given. What you end up with is as useless as our debates in the debate room. It can help you refine your thoughts and challenge your own knowledge to carry on such a disagreement. But the person who asked the question won't be helped, and the person you are critiquing isn't likely to be listening.

    You could liken it to trusting the reader. Writer A asks for advice. Writer's B and C give widely different answers, one better than the other. You have to trust writer A to see the difference. A poorly written example is probably just as apparent to writer A as it is to you.
     
    Last edited: Jan 30, 2014
  19. TDFuhringer
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    TDFuhringer Contributing Member Contributor

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    You are so right @GingerCoffee
     
  20. Renee J
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    Renee J Contributing Member

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    Examples given are usually just taken off the top of the advisor's head. I would look to those just to get a sense of what they are saying - not as a real example. For instance, someone wants to know how to improve their opening sentence and someone says to show, not tell, followed by an example of showing. It might not be the best bit of writing, but the advise is still good.
     
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  21. TDFuhringer
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    TDFuhringer Contributing Member Contributor

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    This is very true, in most cases. But sometimes someone comes along and gives really bad advice that will damage a learner's process AND gives a really bad example.

    I'm learning from this thread that perhaps the best way to handle that is to simply post a GOOD example and let the learner decide for themselves.
     
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  22. Fitzroy Zeph
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    Fitzroy Zeph Contributing Member Contributor

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    FWIW, some of the worst advice I've seen is "wow this is really great, I was enthralled right from the get go".
     
  23. Cogito
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    Cogito Former Mod, Retired Supporter Contributor

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    I'd say no. If you have a visceral negative reaction to the sample, assume the person asking for advice can also feel his or her colon doing the Macarena. Even if the sample reeks, the advice itself may be fine. That's what really matters in discussion, not whether the person offering the advice has mastered everything else that would contribute to a great sample.
     
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  24. Morbius
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    Personally, I'd like to think, that as a professional courtesy, that no ones' writing just simply "sucks" or "Stinks".

    If you are going to comment, it should be an educational critique, not a bashing.

    If it is slow paced, then explain why it seems so. If the dialog seems forced or unnatural, then explain why. If there is a continuity is flawed, point out where, but never just say "You Suck" and leave it.
     
  25. TDFuhringer
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    TDFuhringer Contributing Member Contributor

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    I would never say that someone's work "stinks" or "sucks". I'm of course talking about constructive criticism. I was just curious if people truly want to know whether their work is good or not.
     

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