1. Bright Shadow
    Offline

    Bright Shadow Member

    Joined:
    Feb 24, 2011
    Messages:
    95
    Likes Received:
    7

    Worst critique group experience?

    Discussion in 'The Art of Critique' started by Bright Shadow, Nov 12, 2013.

    What is your worst experience with a critique group? I love mine, but some of the members I am sure don't actually read the submission. I think every person has that one critter who they just nod and pretend to take notes from, all the while thinking they are clueless.

    Example: We use to have a girl in our group who said my MC was in "no real danger"...and she said that about a chapter in which said MC was tied to a chair and about to be sacrificed by a cult. Huh? If the danger didn't "seem" real, say so. If the danger seems "contrived, unbelievable" etc, say so. But just saying "the character isn't in danger" when clearly he is makes me want to leave the coffee house we are sitting in and run to the nearest bar for a stiff drink.

    And then there are the people who read and fill in the blanks with things that aren't even in the story. I had one guy read my story in which a kid mentioned he had a karate class and he said "I can't believe this kid is a black belt martial arts expert. It makes him unbelievable." Huh? Since when does "having a kiddy karate class"= "he's a Shaolin warrior who catches bullets with his teeth?" When I mentioned that my story never mentioned this, he got mad and said "why ask for advice if you're not gonna take it?"

    Relevant advice is the word.

    And, I might add, my least favorite critters are also pretty bad writers. I think the two go hand in hand...although I would never say to anyone's face they are a bad writer, except of course for E.L. James.

    Anyone else have critique group horror stories?
     
  2. ChickenFreak
    Offline

    ChickenFreak Contributing Member Contributor

    Joined:
    Mar 9, 2010
    Messages:
    8,998
    Likes Received:
    5,506
    Theory: He interpreted "having a class" as *teaching* the class, and then refused to admit to his error.

    Pure theory.
     
  3. Aurin
    Offline

    Aurin Member

    Joined:
    Nov 4, 2013
    Messages:
    54
    Likes Received:
    5
    Location:
    Melbourne, Australia
    My horror story comes from the critique group I'm in at the moment - the horror is the woman that runs it (everyone else gets along quite well and doesn't like this woman).

    She has made people in the past who have just started to write, never want to write again.

    Because she has a published novel, she acts that she knows everything, that it's her way or the highway (a lot of us have published short stories, apparently that means nothing to her). She'll spend the first half an hour of the weekly two hour session yapping on about herself with little regard to anyone that has to listen in. She'll argue for details that she feels that needs to be included, when in reality they have nothing to do with the story and she seems to be the only one in the group of eight who has a completely differing opinion - seems to live in her own universe compared to the rest of us. The worst of it is that she'll give you a constructive critique to your face, but if she misses a session, she'll email you the critique and then she'll really tell you what she thinks in an incredibly bitchy way.

    Luckily, we get a new moderator at the beginning of next year for six months, whom has multiple novels published and is into moderating our group to help us and not just all about herself. So plan on sitting tight and not submitting anything until then.
     
  4. jannert
    Offline

    jannert Contributing Member Supporter Contributor

    Joined:
    Mar 7, 2013
    Messages:
    7,829
    Likes Received:
    7,360
    Location:
    Scotland
    I don't have a horror story. The only dodgy member of our group is one who turns up blotto sometimes, and starts babbling nonsense throughout the meeting. However, our moderator deals with him very firmly, and fortunately the guy doesn't turn up too often. Shame, as he's a nice guy and a pretty good writer when he's in a fit state to tie his shoelaces.

    I think my worst problem is having to critique the kinds of things I don't normally read. I know when I get asked to critique a poem, I really struggle. I'm a novelist myself, an occasional short story READER, but I don't enjoy poetry as a rule, and can't really think of much to say about them. Yes, it's great. Evocative. Your words are strung together like a chain, etc. Certainly nothing much that's going to help the poet.

    I do think it's best when like-minded people get together and help each other through a project. A poet who doesn't really read novels isn't going to be much help to a novelist who is struggling with complex story flow. This poet may be helpful when it comes to creating images or selecting particular words, but the forms are not the same, and nor are the problems the different writers face. Of course some people do all sorts of writing and read everything they get their hands on, so their feedback will be helpful no matter what. Others like myself, not so much. I admit it. I'm picky and narrow when it comes to reading AND writing.

    I truly enjoy my group, as our regulars are all novelists! We take the time to read each other's ENTIRE novel WIPs and give feedback as needed. It would be difficult to find this level of concentrated feedback in a group who are mostly poets or writers of short personal memoirs. Nothing wrong with any of those formats, but for really helpful stuff you need somebody who knows what you're trying to do. Otherwise it's like discussing baby problems with somebody who has never had one, doesn't want one, and doesn't actually like children very much!
     
    Catrin Lewis likes this.
  5. jazzabel
    Offline

    jazzabel Contributing Member Contributor

    Joined:
    Jan 5, 2012
    Messages:
    4,273
    Likes Received:
    1,666
    I'm not a part of a critique group because I am a very individual worker. I like working with people, but I best complete projects on my own time. Forum fits better with me, and I have posted a few pieces here though. I also critique others regularly. My worst experience was when I posted an excerpt from a novel once.It was a tricky part, meant to read as someone telling my character a story of what happened a long time ago. It wasn't perfect, obviously, and I got a lot of useful feedback, as well as useless feedback where people just disregarded what the piece was meant to be and kept banging on about 'showing not telling'. But then someone re-wrote the whole thing in 'their style', which was a weird mix of badly written epic poem and Vogon poetry.

    I seriously never read anything more ridiculous in my life. How and why anyone would think that would be helpful, or appropriate, remains a mystery.
     
    Last edited: Nov 12, 2013
    S S and Fitzroy Zeph like this.
  6. shadowwalker
    Offline

    shadowwalker Contributing Member Contributor

    Joined:
    Jul 27, 2011
    Messages:
    3,299
    Likes Received:
    851
    I was writing a story and, purely as an experiment, switched from third person to first person for one chapter. I presented the chapter and explained quite clearly that it was an experiment and I wasn't sure it worked. Well, everyone hated it. Fine, no problem, it really didn't work. But then, after I agreed with the consensus and changed it, they continued to rant about it. Several chapters later, they were still bringing it up. Hello! I agreed with you - got the point - move on, people!
     
  7. Thomas Kitchen
    Offline

    Thomas Kitchen Proofreader in the Making Contributor

    Joined:
    Nov 5, 2012
    Messages:
    1,258
    Likes Received:
    422
    Location:
    I'm Welsh - and proud!
    It isn't a horror story as such, but more of a disappointment. I researched writing groups in my area, only finding one near me. But I went on my merry way, just knowing that I would enjoy. But I didn't. There were three of us there, in the end, and the pair met roughly once every two months. Their feedback was mediocre, and their enthusiasm felt a little drab. Just disappointed me. I never went back there.

    But now I have this wonderful place! :D
     
  8. Tyler Danann
    Offline

    Tyler Danann Active Member

    Joined:
    Dec 5, 2013
    Messages:
    140
    Likes Received:
    6
    It was on a writers forum (not this one) and basically they told me I had to completely change my first chapter due to too much 'telling' and not enough 'showing'. This essentially meant practically a re-write from what I had already down.

    It was tough-love I suppose sure was a tough ordeal to go through. It did make an improvement for all that though.
     
    Andrae Smith likes this.
  9. Andrae Smith
    Offline

    Andrae Smith Gone exploring... in the inner realm... Contributor

    Joined:
    Jun 22, 2012
    Messages:
    2,506
    Likes Received:
    1,404
    Location:
    Wandering
    If they're bad enough and think they're the shiz and give crappy advice like they're some authority, I sure would. If I'm willing to say it from behind a computer screen, I should be willing to say it up front. If not, I have no business saying it. ;)

    I have no real horror stories or bad experiences. The worst that's ever happened to me is I shared a piece here and got a ton of bad reviews. But it was a necessary blow. I can say my Fiction writing workshop class sucks. I've critiqued 14 stories in the last semester and some of them were down right awful. And in class workshops are pretty much useless because everyone talks about their opinions and how they liked certain parts of the story and why they think it worked. No one says a word about the mediocre prose or anything technical.

    The most technical we've gotten has been to say that every story has a beginning, middle, end, and a timeline or two. Otherwise its 19 people saying "I like the dialogue on this page because it was believable/funny/insert random adj."... "I didn't like this character because she seems like a brat/whiner/insert whatever." ... "What if instead of this, maybe you make them blah blah blah. it would be better that way..."

    Who's writing the story? No it wouldn't be better, you would just like it more with more humor because your sad about the dog dying or what ever (just an example). To me, this class missed the point and was somewhat beneath me with everything I've learned and continue to learn here.
     
  10. Wreybies
    Offline

    Wreybies The Ops Pops Operations Manager Staff Contest Administrator Supporter Contributor

    Joined:
    May 1, 2008
    Messages:
    18,915
    Likes Received:
    10,108
    Location:
    Puerto Rico
    Every group has its internal rules to guard against decomposing into petulance. Does your group allow for you to ask the critic to clarify? That's what I would have done. Aspiring writer or no, people are often poor at delivering the words that carry the meaning that was crystal clear in their minds.

    I echo @ChickenFreak 's words. This sounds like an interpretation other than you intended to which he was then loathe to let go for looking the fool. I have to admit, the verb having in that context, assuming that's the actual verb you used, leaves it wide open, at least in AmE. Those words could come from a student as easily as an instructor.

    Misunderstanding is very relevant advice. It often (not always, but often) points to areas where clarity has abandoned us.

    ------------------------------------------------------------

    My only personal horror story to add to the conversation is the simple inability to find a group. o_O I now live in a Spanish speaking land and my writing is in English. This dynamic adds a formidable filter to any success in finding a local writing group. I actually know of one that caters to my preferred genre and was recommended to me by a friend, but the language barrier (their's not mine, I speak both languages) makes my work unapproachable to them.
     
    Andrae Smith likes this.
  11. GingerCoffee
    Offline

    GingerCoffee Web Surfer Girl Contributor

    Joined:
    Mar 3, 2013
    Messages:
    17,605
    Likes Received:
    5,879
    Location:
    Ralph's side of the island.
    I tried three different groups. The first one I tried turned out to be the best one. Our fearless leader makes it a great group.

    One of the groups I tried decided only the first 6 people to post their stories would be critiqued, there were about 10 regular members. Being a newer member I didn't want to take the last spot and said so. But when no one took it and the deadline passed I did. When the group met the snitty leader said she wouldn't critique my work because I didn't post it by the deadline. Everyone knew the reason I posted past the deadline.

    I didn't need that petty crap, I quit the group.
     
  12. GingerCoffee
    Offline

    GingerCoffee Web Surfer Girl Contributor

    Joined:
    Mar 3, 2013
    Messages:
    17,605
    Likes Received:
    5,879
    Location:
    Ralph's side of the island.
    Are they not as bilingual in P.R. as they are in Florida?
     
  13. KaTrian
    Offline

    KaTrian A foolish little beast. Staff Supporter Contributor

    Joined:
    Mar 17, 2013
    Messages:
    5,566
    Likes Received:
    3,563
    Location:
    The Great Swamp
    T and I have this problem too. Sure, there're some Finns (mostly uni students) who also write in English, but so far none has been serious enough about writing to actually want to learn their craft, they think that if you can put a string of words on paper, you know how to write. Well, technically...

    But thanks to the internet, we've been able to find fellow writers who are suitably likeminded (e.g. want to learn, can handle critique and give critique) and swapped works. We've also posted some stuff for critique, and especially on this other forum, learned how dangerous forum critique can be. You can't be easily swayed (or turn defensive), you just have to try to pick the advice that's most beneficial to your work.

    Worst experience; a fan fic writer snapped at us that she will never ever want to read a word of our ms because she had learned in advance that one of the characters had IBS. It's fluff.
     
  14. Wreybies
    Offline

    Wreybies The Ops Pops Operations Manager Staff Contest Administrator Supporter Contributor

    Joined:
    May 1, 2008
    Messages:
    18,915
    Likes Received:
    10,108
    Location:
    Puerto Rico
    About a third of the group was functionally bilingual. I just wasn't feeling it. I felt like my writing in English was an imposition and I didn't want to be that guy.
     
  15. Robert_S
    Offline

    Robert_S Contributing Member

    Joined:
    Aug 25, 2013
    Messages:
    874
    Likes Received:
    163
    Because of issues with publishing rights and liability, I would love to find a closed reading group for screenwriters. I'm just afraid of someone either consciously or unconsciously lifting any part of what I write.

    Then there is the issue with people who don't know how to critique: it started off good, then got slow, before it picked up again.

    Huh? Where did it get slow? How was it slow?
     
  16. RaeRae
    Offline

    RaeRae Member

    Joined:
    May 21, 2012
    Messages:
    86
    Likes Received:
    14
    Location:
    Beaverton, Oregon
    I did a swap and the person had horrid sentence structure and grammar. Even some spelling issues. When they critiqued mine, they dinged me for grammar and sentence structure when there was no need and they decided to eliminate an entire paragraph because they didn't understand the context : who's explanantion was two sentences above it. I didn't say a word back to that person. Just thanked them and moved on. I check for all the grammar and spelling BEFORE I send out any of my work so no one has to do that and just critiques on the STORY. AS we see from many of the posts, there is always going to be that one critter.
     
  17. stormcat
    Offline

    stormcat Active Member

    Joined:
    Jan 4, 2014
    Messages:
    393
    Likes Received:
    26
    Location:
    Somewhere beyond the sea
    Had to review one girl's work which was possibly the worst thing I have ever read. She kept using the wrong words (Satin instead of satan, Angles instead of angels) made a huge wall of text that lasted the entire page, completely flat characters, anachronisms out the wazoo, it was physically painful to read.

    Other members of the group laughed about the "Twilight fanfiction" (though it was an original piece) behind her back, but I just let loose. I think I might have scared her away from the group, but I don't care.
     
  18. Gaurav
    Offline

    Gaurav Member

    Joined:
    Feb 10, 2014
    Messages:
    29
    Likes Received:
    6
    Location:
    India
    I had written a short story few years back and had posted in a group. Most of them liked it but there was someone who hated it and said to me that I had no qualities and I was too amateur for him to even review the story. Later I found out that he was a 14 year old kid who was banned from several sites for hate speech content!
     
  19. jannert
    Offline

    jannert Contributing Member Supporter Contributor

    Joined:
    Mar 7, 2013
    Messages:
    7,829
    Likes Received:
    7,360
    Location:
    Scotland
    I suspect there are just as many inexperienced critique-givers out there as there are inexperienced writers.

    Eliminating the 'haters' and people with particular biases or prejudices (their problem, not the writer's) my least favourite critique-giver is the one who charges right in, critiquing sentence by sentence, word by word, WITHOUT READING THROUGH THE WHOLE PIECE FIRST.

    This kind of critique can often make a bad situation worse by concentrating on superficial 'errors' without getting to the core of what might be wrong, or getting any sense of the writer's style. This kind of critique-giver gets so wound up about changing words and sentence structure to their own preferred choices, that they can entirely miss what the story is about. ONLY after finishing the piece can you make a clear judgement call on the piece.

    Before I begin a critique, I ALWAYS read a piece all the way through first, just to get general impressions and ideas. Always.

    A critique is NOT a review of a finished product, like you find on Amazon. The point of a critique is to help the writer tell the story they want to tell, not just to judge how well or badly they've already done it. And how can you do that until you KNOW what the story is?

    I'd say critique-givers need to step back a pace or two, take in the whole view, before diving in and deciding what's right, wrong, what needs to be kept, changed, etc. You need to figure out where the story's going, before you can help the writer get there.
     
    Gaurav likes this.
  20. Robert_S
    Offline

    Robert_S Contributing Member

    Joined:
    Aug 25, 2013
    Messages:
    874
    Likes Received:
    163
    You must be pretty hardcore. I've read some toilet paper crappy scripts. By page ten, I can tell if it's going to work, but I push myself to page 30-35. Surprisingly, the ones I find the worst are the sci-fi scripts. I'm a fan of sci-fi, but I think I'm burned out on sci-fi action. One tried to be a sci-fi stoner story, but it was not working for me either. It just wasn't funny. Another, the story had two female characters. One was aloof and vapid. The other was treacherous. He wasn't putting women in a good light.
     
  21. jannert
    Offline

    jannert Contributing Member Supporter Contributor

    Joined:
    Mar 7, 2013
    Messages:
    7,829
    Likes Received:
    7,360
    Location:
    Scotland
    I should probably have said if a piece doesn't appeal to me at all, I don't try to critique it. If I were in a face-to-face group, I would need to offer my opinions, whether I liked something or not, but on a forum like this, I can pick and choose. If I simply can't read through it, or finish reading it and wonder why I bothered, I don't take it further. I don't attempt to critique it.

    Cop out? Perhaps. However, I don't know that my opinion would be very helpful to the writer, if I don't see any merit in the piece. Better to just walk by.

    The building blocks of writing are grammar, spelling and punctuation. If these are not in place, there is no point in going further, and I don't bother critiquing these, either. I mean, everybody makes mistakes, but if people can't string sentences together, or if their grammar is so incoherent you have no idea what they're on about, they will never become writers. At least not without some serious remedial work. Some things are just not going to happen—like you're never going to become a famous chef, if you hate most kinds of food.

    I have beta-read longer pieces off-forum, but they are by people whose writing I like, at a basic level. Again, though, I always read through the whole piece first, before offering a response.
     
  22. Selbbin
    Offline

    Selbbin I hate you Contributor

    Joined:
    Oct 16, 2012
    Messages:
    3,251
    Likes Received:
    1,814
    Location:
    Australia
    Most of my horror stories simply involve reading utter garbage and then trying, desperately, to say something nice.
     
  23. lostinwebspace
    Offline

    lostinwebspace Active Member

    Joined:
    Mar 5, 2011
    Messages:
    466
    Likes Received:
    17
    Location:
    Canada
    Absolutely no horror stories here. I wrote comedy and they wrote serious things: things about motherhood and love and...anyway, they were more or less the stereotypical woman. I didn't get any of their stuff and they didn't get mine. Oh well. I met another writer--a guy--and asked if he could join just to even things out, but they didn't really respond. I haven't gone back to the group since. Don't even know if they still meet.

    I think you're right, but I think what you mean by "grammar, spelling and punctuation" is clarity. I often find that's priority #1 with writing. If you don't have clarity, your message isn't getting across and that's the end of it. What helps clarity? Grammar, spelling, and punctuation. We have the same concept, but different words.
     
    Last edited: Feb 27, 2014
  24. Selbbin
    Offline

    Selbbin I hate you Contributor

    Joined:
    Oct 16, 2012
    Messages:
    3,251
    Likes Received:
    1,814
    Location:
    Australia
    Yeah, nobody cares how technically well a book is written, as long as it is clear and engaging. There are many notable books that are 'poorly' written technically, but brilliantly told stories artistically. Often poor grammar is a tool to help voice the narrator, if done well and with intention
     
  25. Jack Asher
    Offline

    Jack Asher Wildly experimental Contributor

    Joined:
    Sep 4, 2013
    Messages:
    3,571
    Likes Received:
    2,054
    Location:
    Denver
    I had someone recommend that I change the perspective of the novel from first person the third.

    Yeah, that's not going to happen.
     

Share This Page