1. Smoke Z
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    Smoke Z Active Member

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    Where can I go for ruthlessness? (Writing related.)

    Discussion in 'The Art of Critique' started by Smoke Z, Apr 8, 2014.

    I don't know if it is a bug in the forum or me not reviewing other's work, but I can't post anything new to the workshop.

    I don't know how to constructively review.

    I cannot follow the golden rule: I want people to rip into me with full claws as if they were forced to be my editor.

    I'm not good at the platinum rule either. I go into the workshop and read occasionally. There are some people I just want to rip apart for awfulness and I keep second-guessing how gentle I'm being about it. Apparently asking questions isn't reviewing, but I feel like if I can passively direct them, they will tighten.

    There are some people who just need a grammar beta and I'm not that nit-picky.

    Where can I go to get my stuff snarked, beaten, and humiliated, and still learn from the experience?
     
  2. GingerCoffee
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    GingerCoffee Web Surfer Girl Contributor

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    Send a PM to one of the mods. See if it is a posting glitch or a prerequisite issue.
     
  3. ChickenFreak
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    ChickenFreak Contributing Member Contributor

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    I'm perfectly willing to tear your prose apart--my usual problem is remembering to note what's good, and not make my reviews focus on the negative, and I tend to forget that.

    Re your problem with being able to write constructive reviews, I don't think that constructive review requires any positivity or praise. IMO, a review fulfills at least minimal standards of constructive if you give concrete reasons for your criticisms, instead of just, "This is horrible!!!"
     
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  4. Smoke Z
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    Smoke Z Active Member

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    Perhaps there could be a tag that matches people like you with people like me? I can assume that anything that hasn't been mentioned isn't the problem if the problem is lambasted.
     
  5. jannert
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    jannert Contributing Member Supporter Contributor

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    @Smoke Z - I think 'lambasting' isn't really what anybody should be striving to give or receive. What a writer needs is honest feedback, preferably from somebody who can point out what is wrong with a piece of writing AND HOW TO FIX IT. If the person dishing the critique can't do this, they really should just back off and say nothing.

    I've always maintained that good criticism is never hurtful. It might make the recipient cringe, but it should always send them away wanting to make changes to improve what they've written—and inspired to do so by the suggestions the critique-giver has made. It should never send them away feeling sorry they posted their work, or sorry they were born. What help is that to anybody?
     
  6. Daba
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    Daba Member

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    If a person has the will to write, it will do more good than a pat on the back. But not everyone can make you wanna commit suicide and give you good advice at the same time. I once had an editor of a respected magazine telling me to try playing a violin, instead of writing. He told me that I write like a girl from elementary school, that my writing is trash, that I should look for the nearest bridge and make sure I jump on concrete, not on water. However, amongst all that badmouthing, he gave me more advice about writing than I ever got from anyone else. And a year later, he published one of my stories.

    Sure, not everyone has the stomach to take it all up and keep going. But once a writer is published, he will face badmouthing on every possible book-readers site on internet. One needs to be prepared and not act like a little kid that talks back to readers, like some writers do.
     
  7. jannert
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    jannert Contributing Member Supporter Contributor

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    Well, yes ...your editor 'badmouthed' you but also gave you good advice about writing. It's the advice about writing part that was obviously helpful. Have you gone and jumped off a bridge yet, as he told you to do? No. Are you playing the violin as he told you to do? Only you can answer that. But these kinds of disparaging remarks ON THEIR OWN are not helpful. Sorry. It's his writing advice you needed, isn't it? Not the bit about telling you to give up writing, which you obviously haven't done. Maybe he thought he was being clever, but it sounds a bit like the schoolyard bully to me.

    There is a lot of difference between disparaging remarks telling you to jump off bridges...and acting like a little kid defending your work against honest and helpful criticism. I always take honest criticism to heart, and have made many MANY changes in my novel based on beta readers critiques. However, if one of them had told me to jump off a bridge or stop writing, that person would have been told to take a long walk off a short dock. And I'd have meant it, too.

    As to reviews on the internet, well that's another story. There will always be people who either genuinely don't like what you write, or are just trying to cause trouble. Either way, the work is out there and there's nothing you can do about it then.

    However, this is a writer's forum here. We're not reviewers. We're not editors either, making snap decisions on whether or not we want to publish a certain finished piece. We are fellow writers, who are submitting our works-in-progress for feedback. We ask for the feedback from other people (who act as readers as well as writers) so we can make our work better. Being discourteous and dismissive is not called for. And it's not helpful. A writer might improve in spite of it, but they're not likely to improve because of it.
     
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  8. Daba
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    Daba Member

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    Advice was helpful for writing part, but violin and bridge thing were helpful for moral part. But it might be an eastern european thing. All skill based training (whatever the skill is) conducted in this part of the world has a heavy emphasis on...well, bullying. We are known for getting tougher the more we are pushed. So yes, I am aware that it might have a contrary effect on people from other parts of the world.

    Those two are actually more connected than you may believe, but again it's a mentality thing :)
     
  9. jannert
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    jannert Contributing Member Supporter Contributor

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    Well, I think some folks might call this the carrot and the stick. Personally a stick never motivates me, but I suppose it might motivate others. For me, bullying is just somebody with power abusing somebody who doesn't have any. I don't find that motivating at all. But yeah, it might make some people more determined to prove the bully wrong! :)
     
  10. mammamaia
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    mammamaia nit-picker-in-chief Contributor

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    deleted by poster
     
    Last edited: May 5, 2014
  11. Smoke Z
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    Smoke Z Active Member

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    Thanks. It might be a while before I get my latest work past the pickaxe level of polishing.

    Can you handle zip files and PDF?
     
  12. mammamaia
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    mammamaia nit-picker-in-chief Contributor

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    deleted due to being apprised of forum rule changes...
     
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  13. Smoke Z
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    Smoke Z Active Member

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    Okay, I didn't know about Mam's no-violence rule so I would like a new lambaster. Apparently I'm worse-off than I thought.
     
  14. jannert
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    jannert Contributing Member Supporter Contributor

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    Why is it that you can't post in the forum workshop? Seems like that would solve your problem.
     
  15. Selbbin
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    Selbbin I hate you Contributor

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    If you stop writing because someone was mean, then you shouldn't be writing anyway.
     
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  16. criticalsexualmass
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    criticalsexualmass Active Member

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    I've not seen anybody being mean on the workshops in a very long time. If you take what is going on there as being mean, you have some mental toughness issues. If you are worried about not being able to publish it, only submit a small portion of the work. If you are still worried about it, submit some of your other writing. Issues with similarly written (meaning, same tense, same pov and the like) works will run throughout your writing. If you are mixing tenses in one work you will be doing it in others, if you are prone to run-on sentences, etc. it will show up elsewhere. It's a start, anyway.

    I don't think the op is having a problem with fear of others being mean, quite the opposite. It's what I need to, a stern lecture about how to correct my work.
     
  17. EdFromNY
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    EdFromNY Hope to improve with age Supporter Contributor

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    When I review someone's work, I am investing my time in their effort in the hope of ultimate success. Any criticism given has to be with that in mind. When it is, the writer should feel energized, because not only has (s)he been told where the work falls short, but (s)he has also been given a roadmap for improvement. So, in that context, to "sugar-coat" a critical comment is to dilute the value of the critique and thereby impair the writer's progress.

    I never say in a review, "this piece is horrible", just as I never say, "this piece is great". Those are value judgments on the piece itself and are ultimately unhelpful to the writer.
     
  18. thewordsmith
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    thewordsmith Contributing Member Contributor

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    The funny thing some people seem to overlook in the concept of critique is that it is not and should not be merely a negative, relentless search for 'what's wrong'. There is an art to the critique in that a good, competent critique will point out one's weaknesses as well as underscore the strengths. A more in-depth critique will go so far as to try to explain what they perceive as the rationale behind each critical comment, what makes it wrong or right. This allows the recipient author to take much more away from the experience than views on one particular project and apply the lessons learned to the rest of his/her body of work.

    The flip side of the critique process is that, if the critiquer pays attention, they can learn much about their own writing (or whatever) as the recipient of the critique. It's a win/win.
     
  19. yagr
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    yagr Contributing Member

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    I've posted at least one thread regarding the difficulty that I have in giving critiques and my concerns have been unceremoniously brushed aside. Yet, this thread's content seems to illustrate the challenges I'm facing better than I was able to do. For instance,

    This makes sense to me. In fact, it's at the heart of my difficulties with giving critiques. Repeatedly I've heard, just give your opinion as a reader. But I agree with jannert here, if I can't tell you how to fix it (assuming it's broke and I'm not looking at a masterpiece through amateur eyes) then it seems a bit too much like complaining and I should keep my mouth shut.
     
  20. Wreybies
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    Wreybies The Ops Pops Operations Manager Staff Contest Administrator Supporter Contributor

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    But think about the chain of events in this mindset when applied too globally and how it doesn't function, it's a catch 22. Everyone starts at the beginning. Everyone. There are no professional critics or writers with the time to spend in writing forums for aspiring writers. If you keep your mouth shut and never give critique, how can you learn critiquing skills? Whether it be in a forum like this, in a private writing group, in classes you take in school, whatever the venue, you must learn to wield a critical eye if you ever hope to improve your own writing and achieve success, which should be your goal here.

    No one is waiting to receive your critique and have an epiphany come of it. No one. That applies to you, me, everyone. Yagr, I pose to you honestly and with every intention of helping you that you simply have a deep case of stage fright. I also think your concerns are rooted in reverse psychology. I think you fear that you're going to get shitty, vacuous, wrong, deceptive advice and it's making you gun shy.

    You give critique to improve yourself, no on else. When I post an item of my own, it serves two purposes. 1) It's my chit in the game. My ante. It's what allows me to sit at the table and play, and 2) I'm interested in the impression it makes on others, but under no circumstances am I waiting to be instructed. I rarely even post sections that are the true original I have in my MS. Often it is older, alternate or truncated versions.
     
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  21. ChickenFreak
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    ChickenFreak Contributing Member Contributor

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    I don't know that I agree. I do tend to give examples of how I'd fix something, but that's more to clarify what I'm objecting to than to say that the writer should fix it that way.

    For example, in a recent review I talked about "information density" and I suggested eliminating various pieces of the writing that I felt didn't offer enough information, and offered a specific few sentences that I thought could replace a few paragraphs. But it would be just as effective for the writer to keep those scenes just as long, or even longer, but make sure that they provide more information. (By "information" I mean emotional content and character and plot development.)

    I think that the problem is the primary useful information that the reviewer is communicating. The fix to that problem depends on the writer and their own voice, style, concept, and so on.

    Now, I agree that, "I hate your main character!" is not useful.

    But I believe that the following could be useful: "I can't feel any connection to your main character. He seems to be very cold, and to deliberately snub and upset others, and I don't know why. I don't feel any sympathy for him, and I also don't feel any vicarious glee at his misbehavior. While his brother is arguably even worse in terms of nasty/evil behavior, I find myself liking him better, or I at least enjoy reading his scenes more, though I can't explain why."

    Even if I don't know how to fix that problem, or know the characters well enough to make any concrete suggestions, I think that that's enough information for the writer to work from.

    The following are more examples of comments that I think can be useful, despite the lack of fix-it:

    "I don't understand what's happening in this scene. I'm most confused about who is performing which action."

    "There's a lot of detail in this description, but I'm having trouble forming an overall impression."

    "I don't feel engaged in this conversation; I was just waiting for it to be over."

    "I feel that Janet is very repetitive. I understand that that may just be how she is, but as a reader I'm getting bored."

    "Your dialogue feels very formal and complex, as if the narrator is speaking, rather than the characters."

    I hope that this doesn't count as also unceremoniously brushing aside. :)
     
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  22. yagr
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    yagr Contributing Member

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    Not at all. Your examples were confidence inspiring. Thank you very much.
     
  23. Christine Ralston
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    Christine Ralston Active Member

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    I would much rather receive constructive criticism that highlights what is bad about my writing then have people praising my work. I've come here in the hopes of becoming a better writing, not to get a pat on the back. I assume others have come here for the same reason, and I try to be constructive with the critiques I give, which includes taking the time to explain why I am making any particular suggestion.
     
  24. thewordsmith
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    thewordsmith Contributing Member Contributor

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    Long Version: I've been looking at this comment for more than a week now and have intended to make a comment about the perception of the critique but never followed through. Today, with a little time on my hands outside of dealing with my own writing conundrum, I am taking this opportunity to try to clarify what I see as your dilemma.

    You don't have to be an award winning writer to tell someone what feels wrong about what you have read. You don't even need to know what, exactly, it is about a passage that makes it feel wrong to you in order to help the author find what it is that is not working.

    If you tell someone 'this doesn't work for me' and then follow that with a bit of what you think is the discord for you, the author can look at it again with, perhaps, a slightly more distanced view. The thought process can lead them to a moment of 'Hmm. Maybe that's right. Maybe if I..."

    Short Version: You don't have to be able to diagnose an illness to know you're sick.
     
  25. Selbbin
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    Selbbin I hate you Contributor

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    Indeed. And you don't have to have the cure to identify the illness.
     
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