Discussion in 'The Art of Critique' started by seixal, Jan 9, 2017.
Do you ignore them? Use them? Save them for later?
Minor things (that I agree with) I'll usually edit right away. More sweeping or intensive suggestions I shove into a document to sift through later and decide how to work off of them best. A few do get ignored, certainly, but there wouldn't be much point in soliciting crits if I were going to ignore them entirely!
What I do with the critiques gets dealt with on a case by case basis. I've accepted and thrown out a fair amount of critique.
In Stephen King's On Writing, he talks about getting conflicting feedback, and I quite like what he had to say about it. If multiple people are all saying close to the same thing, there's a good chance something needs to be done. If one person out of ten (for example) says something is wrong, I consider it, but usually don't act (unless I agree). If there is equal feedback on either side, it's a wash and decision goes to the author.
It's helpful to hear what people have to say. But it can be crippling to think that everyone except you is right on the matter. The author counts, and if the crit doesn't fit with your vision, it's important to realize your voice as author matters.
Consider all of it. If it's finding a problem with basic content. There's nothing I can really do about that. I write weird stuff because I have weird opinions. Recently, I got a very useful piece of advice cautioning not to use the word "It" to begin a sentence. I probably won't rework past stories but I will certainly keep that in mind for the future. That sounds like a good one.
A bit of caution here: 'It' is sometimes used too vague, that's where the problems mostly come from. Just be careful that the actual content of 'it' is made clear and use this word at your leisure
Anything from flat-out trashing my story in a fit of rage to coldly ignoring them, I guess. It depends on how well the critique fits in with my concept of the story. For example, one person said they wished my horror story had a happy ending instead of a murder, which is like asking for a vegetarian steak. However, on a different story, I was trying to write a romance, and I've had three separate (female) critics tell me that it was pretty good, but one point in the story read like... horror.
I still haven't figured out how to change it, but it's obviously a valid issue when multiple people have the same sticking point. Problem is, every time I change it, it ends up looking just very vanilla to me. Probably should stick to what I'm good at, I guess.
I've always taken critiques on my writing very seriously and do my best to understand the critiques message. The fact that someone read my stuff, which is rare enough, and felt strongly enough to say something means a lot to me. Of course some are just haters, but they're few enough and easy to spot by their tone.
Personally, I read the critiques I received readily. I give it a thought most of the time. I take them into consideration sometimes. I warmly thank my critique always.
I try to press every last drop of good out of them that I can. Even from the ones that go, "Your work sucks because of x, y, and z, and I refuse to read it anymore."
I ignore quite a few of them. If someone gives me an unsolicited critique, and I don't have some reason to totally admire and respect that person's opinion, I ignore it. If I want someone else's opinion, I'll ask for it, so if I haven't asked for it I don't want it and will just ignore it.
If I've asked? Depends. If I know the critter (even the sort of "know" that comes on boards like this one) I'll generally filter the response through what I know of the person, his/her reading interests, etc. If I don't know the critter, I generally just read it over and see if any of it makes sense. If some of it does, I'll read the rest more closely to see if there's any more useful feedback to be garnered.
First off I save them. I keep them with a copy of the same draft that was critiqued. If they are digital I print them out and highlight key points.
Then I focus on those key points and I create a tally system for different points.
If I have 20 people's critique, and:
1-3 (Up to 15%) mention a certain thing- unless it's a grammar or sentence structure thing that I missed, I will ignore it.
4-8 (20-40%) There's about a 50% chance I will ignore it. At this point a decent bit of people are noticing it. I will take in different factors.
9- 14 (45-70%) 90% chance I'm going to make a change. These are things that if you think about 100 readers, if 40-70 of those readers see this issue, there could be an issue.
15-20 (75-100%) 100% change. Hell sometimes I will re-write the whole damn thing if this many people find a big plot issue. If it's something small obviously it's able to be fixed.
So yeah... I like statistical analysis. I tend to numerically analyze my writing/critiques I receive.
(This is a general idea, the %'s change based on different variable factors.)
I always save critique, and unless it's of the single-sentence "It's amazing!" or "It sucks." variety, I'll read it through multiple times.
This is my approach too - anything that's an out-and-out mistake, or is a small change that I agree with, gets changed right away. For more subjective comments, I will wait until all the feedback is in and then go through it again. If multiple people have said the same thing then I'll almost certainly change the thing they had a problem with.
It's more tricky when two or more people have said the exact opposite. One fell in love with the character, one hated her. One loved the voice, the other found it OTT. I try to look for small changes that might win around the nay-sayer but I probably won't make major changes. It's a mistake to think you can please everyone, and sometimes it really is a matter of style (I say sometimes because I think authors often use, "That's my style!" as a defense mechanism when they receive negative critique).
This as well. I do a lot of 'filtering' of critique. I have a critique partner who is nowhere near my target audience and will probably never love what I write (and vice versa - she writes in the genre I like least) but I still get a lot from her critiques. I don't put much weight on what she thinks of the romance, because I know she doesn't see it like a typical romance reader, but I put a lot of weight on what she says about tension and pacing.
Depends on the critique. If it is useful and helps me I will use it to improve my writing. But critiques like 'This sucks!" AKA Flames go toward fueling my imaginary fire place.
Telling me I spelled this word wrong doesn't help unless you tell me how to spell it right. If my grammar needs help tell me what I did wrong and how it should be done. That is how writers learn and grow. I know my Grammar leaves to be desired as I never got any education in it at school and certain things are done different in my native language. I can use all the help you can offer. Offer constructive and helpful criticism and I will read and learn. Offer rude comments and you can expect them to become fuel for above mentioned fire place.
Any crit I get is necessarily of the requested sort, so it depends on what I've posted and why.
I don't post live versions of my story, so if it's:
1) a scene that I already rewrote but a particular thing that still happens in that scene is its focus, then I post the old version and look for what gets said about that thing.
2) a scene that I cut, then I posted it to get feedback on the characters, their interactions, their voices, their interplay with one another. I want to know how they feel to the reader, so I look for that in a crit.
3) what I call "story dough" - just the initial idea of the people, setting and what's going on with them - then I look for feedback on the cast of characters, the level of interest in the setting, who the critic feels is playing what role, etc. I posted a piece of "story dough" a while back and one of the comments I got back was that the critic didn't like "wish fulfillment" stories. You just have to know how to flip that comment around into its more constructive form. "I don't like wish fulfillment" translated into Constructanese is "I cannot find what is at stake in this story" or it can also mean "I do not see a valid/formidable/interesting antagonist". That I can work with.
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