Cutting words: Why?

Discussion in 'The Art of Critique' started by minstrel, May 11, 2018.

  1. Trish

    Trish Damned if I do and damned if I don't Contributor

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    I agree entirely. However, I also think their are some critters (not the fuzzy kind) who tend to completely rewrite something. I've done it, though I try to explain why and tell them "of course, rewrite in your own words". I don't think it's intended as disrespectful (ever) but I personally find it annoying. It doesn't mean I don't want them to bother though. I still appreciate the effort and take from it what I can.

    I think that's probably what it comes down to - it's our responsibility to take what we can use and discard the rest. Anyone who crits - it's their opinion and they're never infallible. None of us are.

    Would it be great if everyone explained why? Of course it would, but they're not going to.
     
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  2. Shenanigator

    Shenanigator Not a Fucking Doormat Contributor

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    I agree with you on this, Bay. That's why I was taken aback when I felt like I was being dismissed. So I kept trying to clarify, because I thought I wasn't writing clearly.

    No excuses, but my dyslexia does play a role here. I know what's in my head but it may not necessarily make it to the screen in the same way or same order. So sometimes I literally don't know if what I've written is clear.

    Also, guys, and this applies to all the threads, not just this one...

    No excuses, but sometimes it takes me a while to compose a post. So, sometimes four or five posts roll by by the time I hit post reply. I'm sure that plays a role here too.

    Like a few minutes ago, I hit reply to see that Bay and Trish are saying something because their posts arrived while I was still trying to write.

    I'm sure that causes misunderstandings.
     
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  3. Trish

    Trish Damned if I do and damned if I don't Contributor

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    I could not ever begin to count how many times this has happened to me and makes me look like a crazy person. (Part of that is because I am, actually, crazy, but still)
     
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  4. Spencer1990

    Spencer1990 Contributor Contributor

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    Is it possible that this:
    is a result of what may be happening on the other side? For example:

    Brackets mine.

    It's easy to misread someone's tone on a forum or in text messages, which is exactly why I go out of my way to have important conversations face-to-face or at least over the phone to catch each other's tonal inflections so as to avoid things like this:

    But, this is a forum in which face-to-face conversations aren't possible. I think it's important to remember exactly what you said. Perception matters, and just because we perceive something one way doesn't mean that is the way it's meant.

    Dismissive or not, there has been some great conversation on this thread. I'd really hate for a mod to lock it because perceptions are being misinterpreted, regardless who is doing the misinterpretation.
     
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  5. Shenanigator

    Shenanigator Not a Fucking Doormat Contributor

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    Me too, Spence. I don't do important biz via writing, ironically.

    What you're saying is possible from that side, I suppose. Not trying to be difficult here. I'm very used to not trusting people's intention and being guarded. That's on me.
     
  6. peachalulu

    peachalulu Member Reviewer Contributor

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    My style of critique has changed over the years. Hopefully it's gotten better. But in the three first sentence thread it's hard to critique them -- you could say
    well it's a good opening, bad, doesn't grab me etc. but sometimes that's not all that helpful. It's also hard to determine someone's style by three sentences. I find that a lot of the authors on here (a lot of newbies -- haven't done enough writing and polishing to develop a style or they've polished their style down to a kind of journalese trimness that needs more suggestions than advice.)

    When I suggest cuts usually it's because I can't always articulate why ditching something is needed. I've been critiquing several stories on several sites and one is so full of dry movements -- The mc did this, the mc did that that I know just telling her/him to cut them isn't going to fix the problem. I actually needed to point out that the dry movements weren't conveying the characters state of mind and some good old fashion introspection could help.

    I think though if you really want good critique you need to post something longer. Three or four pages and post numerous things so that people can really get a grasp of how you think and what your style is. Foolin around on the three sentence thread is fun but it's not going to give you the greatest advice. Nobody can see what you're going for what you're doing. All they have is three sentences and it's easy to rip apart three sentences with no context.
     
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  7. jannert

    jannert Member Supporter Contributor

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    I think this is why a good (as in helpful) critique-giver will let you know why they say what they do.

    I loved it,' isn't nearly as helpful as 'I loved it because...'

    If a person says why they have said what they did, then there is no reason not to trust their opinion. (Of course others might disagree.) But they should be able to give you a reason for why they hold that opinion. They don't have to help you fix a problem, but the more specific they can be about what works for them and what doesn't—and WHY—the more helpful that critique will be.

    In an earlier post on this thread, @Tenderiser said something to the effect that if a beta said they didn't like her character, that alone would be helpful to her. However, I maintain that if the beta said they didn't like her character because he was dismissive towards his wife, that would be more helpful. In the first instance, Tenderiser has to guess why the beta reader didn't like her character. In the second instance, she knows.
     
    Last edited: May 15, 2018
  8. jannert

    jannert Member Supporter Contributor

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    That's true. But you won't know if that's what they're doing unless you carry on reading a bit farther. That's my point. Three sentences isn't enough. That's like watching the first 30 seconds of a movie and then writing a review of it. You don't have to watch the whole thing to form an opinion, but I do think you need to give it more than 30 seconds. And I think you need to give a book more than three sentences. First impressions do count, but they can be deceiving.
     
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  9. Tenderiser

    Tenderiser Not a man Contest Administrator Supporter Contributor Community Volunteer

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    Yes, I was making a different point - that the critiquer isn't obliged to give me a reason and their critique isn't bad if they don't.
     
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  10. jannert

    jannert Member Supporter Contributor

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    Yes, I know. :) I just thought it was a good example of how a critique could be made more helpful, if the critique giver was more specific and expanded their reaction a bit.
     
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  11. matwoolf

    matwoolf Contributor Contributor

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    '3 Sentences' is a whole different scene. You have to cast your mind back to a time when the thought of anybody ever reading something you had written brought you out in hives, or warts @jannert. It's a nice, safe place where people can enter some words ,and kindly types like @me can make wise & encouraging comments. Think of the pool. I'm the big fat guy in the kiddies' pool, yeah?
     
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  12. BayView

    BayView Contributor Contributor

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    How do we justify the patronizing attitude toward the three sentences thread? It's the "kiddies pool" while other posters here are adults? Give me a break.

    I've seen some rough sentences in the "first three" thread and I've seen some that I really liked and that made me want to read more. I don't think it's right to assume that people who post there are rookies or in any way behind anyone else in their progress toward whatever imaginary heights posters here think they've achieved.

    There's a big gap between "this isn't an exercise that interests me" and "this is a useless exercise fit only for people who are afraid of real critique".
     
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  13. rincewind31

    rincewind31 Active Member

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    Great thread guys and I actually agree with some of opinions on it, he said condescendingly.
     
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  14. matwoolf

    matwoolf Contributor Contributor

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    Well, 'rookies,' as you call them - have to post somewhere first time - and that's where they go - skateboard park, but with helmets. Otherwise they'd be crushed by cruiserweights. You are very literal @BV :)
     
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  15. big soft moose

    big soft moose All killer, no filler. Contributor Community Volunteer

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    Is that the big fat guy in a greasy raincoat who hangs around the kiddies pool with a bag of candies ?
     
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  16. BayView

    BayView Contributor Contributor

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    I've posted in the first-three thread, and don't consider myself a rookie, and as I said, I've read quite a few opening lines there that seem well-crafted. Conversely, a lot of the stuff I've read posted in the larger critique subforum seems like it's pretty early work. So... where are these cruiserweights, exactly? Where are the flyweights?

    And you can call it "literal", but I generally think of it as "not making stuff up".
     
  17. matwoolf

    matwoolf Contributor Contributor

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    I am very sorry @BayView.

    When one arrives at this website on the very first few occasions the '3 Sentences' is accessible without having to make the 20 posts/2 crit markers. So, typically someone who is thirsty to interact with their 'words,' and have a good time posts in the '3 Sentences.' It serves that purpose among many others.

    I don't believe you when you say you posted in the '3 sentences.' I'd like to see more evidence.

    The cruiserweights, the guys, the military fellows and the gym boys - Moose, Iain, Wrey, CT for the explosives. Then there is your tribe of romance, and the advertising. And also the lone rider on the plain, the cigar in his lips, probably I'm riding a Palomino today. It could be any horse for me, wrangler, y'know, I'd love a cup of coffee but I'm going away now. Today, I'll tell you one thing I never make stuff up in my fiction, dammit that's called stories. I@VE got to go out for job, later x
     
    Last edited: May 17, 2018
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  18. BayView

    BayView Contributor Contributor

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    Sorry, I guess I misunderstood. I thought you were talking about writing ability with all the weight-class stuff, but I guess you were just talking about time on the forum? In which case, sure, okay, obviously people who are brand new to the forum can't post in the larger critique threads, but I'm not sure I see how that relates to hives or warts or much of anything else.

    And I'm not sure if the "I don't believe you" is you actually calling me a liar, or just you being... whatever the hell you are. I'm going to choose the second option and ignore it.
     
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  19. Tenderiser

    Tenderiser Not a man Contest Administrator Supporter Contributor Community Volunteer

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    Just to clarify, I didn't start the three sentences thread as a way to circumvent the workshop rules. It actually never occurred to me that it could be used in that way, but I'm glad Papa Wrey allowed it to stay because I think people find it useful, and I don't think it's a substitute for the workshop proper.

    I do think it's a very useful thread. From what people say, most readers check out the beginning of a book - either in a bookshop or some kind of 'Look Inside' feature online - and decide whether or not to buy it. I rarely need to go beyond the first page to make that decision, and most first pages contain fewer than 10 lines. Depending on length of sentence and print size, that could easily be three sentences.
     
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  20. jannert

    jannert Member Supporter Contributor

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    He was just teasing me, as usual. We have a 'thing.'
     
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  21. 123456789

    123456789 Contributor Contributor

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    Cruiserweight is a bunch of clowns. Romance tribe has actual agents.
     
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  22. matwoolf

    matwoolf Contributor Contributor

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    Another mansplanation, so patronising.
     
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  23. Nariac

    Nariac Active Member

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    This is a good point, and it's an interesting issue to chat about.

    All the parts of your book should be your best writing, but the first chapter - the one which will hook your reader - needs to the most be your best writing. And of that chapter, the first three sentences may well make or break whether the prospective reader in a bookshop takes your book to the checkout, or puts it back on the shelf and picks up someone else's book to buy. With the first paragraph, the reader is going in with a blank canvas, but you the writer already have a full oil painting in your head, vibrant and rich with colour. In order to hook the reader and ease them in, you have to do a great deal with very limited verbal real-estate to work with. Every word you choose must be judiciously chosen and ideally accomplish multiple things - for example helping build both the world and a sense of mystery at the same time.

    So yes, you're right, cutting for the sake of cutting is disastrous generally speaking. Cutting words should be done with the same care those words were chosen with in the first place. But saving words is different, it's simply being word-efficient and this is arguably the most important in your opening paragraphs. You can afford to be wordy for the joy of it mid-book when the reader is already invested. But to indulge in that at the start when there's work to be done introducing plot/characters/world/time/location and so on - things which the reader needs to quickly learn to avoid confusion - could risk turning potential readers off.

    Some examples of this being used in literature are when the opening words are carefully chosen to deliver interesting punch, which might compel the reader to continue. For instance Bilbo Baggins and his eleventy-first birthday, in the opening of Lord of the Rings. Or Winston Smith hearing the clocks striking thirteen in Nineteen Eighty-Four.
     
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