1. Thanshin
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    Thanshin Active Member

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    The tone of the review.

    Discussion in 'The Art of Critique' started by Thanshin, Sep 20, 2010.

    At first, during reviews, I used sentences like: [I find that to be a little on the slowish side. You might want to consider maybe removing one of the adjectives] (Ok, this is a bit of an exaggeration, don't go dig for actual quotes :))

    Little by little I managed to remove the "I think", "I suggest", "It seems to me". First I repeated myself that it was obvious it was just my opinion. Then I started repeating myself "It's not optional, this should really be changed and not saying so in clear terms would be harmful".

    Finally I've managed to be a bit more assertive during the reviews. I use comments closer to [Too slow, remove that adjective] or I directly dare to suggest whole sentence replacements.

    I think my opinion is clearer this way and more helpful. I'm also pretty sure that if the writer didn't agree or understand he'd let me know.

    Now I'm thinking about the next step. What am I doing during reviews that could be done better? Should I comment on the story when the style isn't yet right? Should I mark a mistake every time It appears in the text instead of only the first two or three times? Should I comment the final results before the review instead of at the end?

    Did you have similar evolutions of your reviewing style? What were the biggest changes?
     
  2. Mallory
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    Mallory Mallegory. Contributor

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    If it's something like a comma mistake that the writer makes constantly, I'll put a note at the top that explains what they're doing wrong, and why it's wrong. Same goes for stuff like constant use of passive voice. But, I'm not going to fix every single one of a commonly repeated mistake every time they do it.

    I prefer to do more big-picture critiques. I.e. if they're giving too much of a history diatribe, or not developing a character enough, or giving too many blocks of description.

    I'm not vague about it, but I also try not to sound too harsh.
     
  3. Elgaisma
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    Elgaisma Contributing Member Contributor

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    I have learned to ask the person what they are asking for. I know for me with an early draft I am not bothered about punctuation it is almost the last thing I fix (what is the point if you might end up deleting it anyway). I like to know what stage I am reviewing.
     
  4. Mallory
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    Mallory Mallegory. Contributor

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    Hey that's a good tip, Elg. :)
     
  5. Horizon Noise
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    Horizon Noise Member

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    I've looked at a few submissions and what Elgaisma says is partly true for me in that the requirement isn't clear. I don't comment because I don't know what people want. Are they writing to pass the time or is it a serious business and one they intend to make their career?

    It's very similar in my day job (illustration) where people might just like to doodle, in which case a nice word or two will help them along, or they might be planning on becoming an illustrator the year after, in which case they need - and want - to be told straight and in no uncertain manner what their strengths and weaknesses are.

    Having said that, I don't think you can break it down too much. There isn't much point in critting someone who says, "Yes, I want to write for a living but don't crit me on my terrible punctuation", IMO, as you can't help them achieve their aims.
     
  6. Elgaisma
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    Elgaisma Contributing Member Contributor

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    I think when I was first starting out I didn't know or understand my aims or what I needed by way of help. My reviewing skills have changed as I go through the writing process. Also my ability to know what I need from a reviewer. I couldn't have known that even a month ago. I have now developed my own way of working. I am dyslexic/dyspraxic if I was to worry about final details too early the story won't get completed.

    First Draft - I am even less concerned with careful punctuation than I was the first time round. There isn't enough of it left in the final product it would have been a huge waste of my time and the reviewers time. This stage for me is about getting my story down. Unless the story shows 0 promise for me this is just about ideas. I also understand at this stage characterisation isn't going to be great and dialogue less varied. I don't know my characters yet. If someone tells me it is their first draft or they wrote it in an hour, I give general impressions and feelings. Ideas for developing it. I was so proud of my first draft of my first novel lol but in all honesty it was rubbish - my first draft of my second will be too.

    Second/Third draft for me is about getting to know the characters, nailing individual scenes, deciding where to start and end the story. Now I need to know about dialogue, is that character credible. Where are the weaknesses in the plot, does this scene make sense - where does the story need to be brought out. I can now introduce humour, and the fun ideas. It is also the time to play with punctuation rather than get it right - ultimately punctuation is about getting the emphasis where you want it. Any little items of research.

    Fourth draft/First edit is now about language, shaping it. How does this sentence go, this is about grammar, sorting out the tenses. Which words to use.

    Final edits are for me when punctuation becomes my main concern and only then. When I know which bits are staying and worth my time.
     
  7. Cogito
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    Cogito Former Mod, Retired Supporter Contributor

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    What the author wants is not necessarily what he or she needs. In fact, most of the time when someone askes for the focus to be on A and B, they are asking the critiquer to ignore the purple elephant in the living room.

    Asking the author what kind of critique he or she wants is, in my opinioon, an awful idea. Think for yourself, what is this piece of writings greatest vulnerability?
     
  8. Peerie Pict
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    Peerie Pict Contributing Member Contributor

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    I personally feel a little peeved when someone asks for critique on a particular part of their writing. It makes a sham of the critiquing process. If someone is serious about writing they should be prepared for comments on any aspect of what they post.

    There will always be those who take joy in ripping to shreds the work of a newbie writer. Those comments say more about the reviewer than the reviewed. The key is to spotting those people and making sure that their criticism isn't taken to heart. The comments of everyone else will no doubt be constructive so there's no point in narrowing down the potential for development.
     
  9. minstrel
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    minstrel Leader of the Insquirrelgency Staff Supporter Contributor

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    I don't think writers should post their work for critique unless it's already as good as they know how to make it. If a writer is posting a first draft that they already know has major flaws, then they're just wasting the reviewer's time as well as their own.

    I don't like seeing stuff posted for review that's prefaced with something like "I know this is full of spelling, punctuation, and grammar errors - ignore them. And I know the main character needs work. And the plot sucks, but it's a temporary plot anyway - I have a better idea I'm working on. And I'm going to change the theme. And the final version won't be in first person, so ignore that too." Etc. That writer is saying to the reviewer, "I know this sucks, but it's good enough for you."

    Writers should post the best work they can do and ask for critiques of that. Then the critiques would mean something.
     
  10. Jones6192
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    Jones6192 Member

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    Simply read anything by Roger Ebert to know how to accurately explain the quality of something while at the same time making it an entertaining read. That's my two cents. :)
     
  11. w176
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    w176 Contributing Member Contributor

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    I go for Reaction-> Analysis and sometimes Reaction->Analysis->Suggesion always staying away from saying "This bad, this will make it better." but always something concrete rather indicting a direction "This dialog sounds formal, this will make it sound more informal."

    "I experienced this section as chatty and slow."
    -Reaction. Concrete.
    "Trying to figure out why i felt that way I noted that many of you sentences was over 30 words long."
    -Analysis. Objective observation.
    "I believe that reworking the section, trimming it down a little and using shorter sentence will make it feel less slow and more clear."
    -Suggestion. Indicating what sort of diffrence the change would make.
     

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