Discussion in 'The Art of Critique' started by Agatha Christie, Feb 12, 2012.
In a word, no. The critiques that are of value are the ones that identify specific problems in your writing, and suggest how to improve or repair them.
The only praise you can count on is an acceptance letter from a publisher. And even that is only a beginning, because if you aren't continually improving your writing, you are stagnating.
The person who read my novel could be described as 'a normal reader'. Isn't this why we are trying to improve our writing.....so that it will appeal to readers?
It is good to have critiques that point out problems/improvements but isn't this all to one end..... to entertain the reader?
If an experienced and critical reader is entertained and finds the work enjoyable, why is this so meaningless????
First off, a family member is not an objective, critical reader.
I already answered your question. I'm sorry I couldn't give you the answer you want. But let me try again.
Every writer needs to improve. Enthusiastic praise strokes the ego, but you don't learn a dang thing that will help you improve your writing. Nada, zip, zilch.
If you submit your novel to a publisher, it will almost certainly be rejected. How can I say this if I've never seen your writing? Because no one gets it all right on the first try. It takes time and hard work to develop your writer's voice. You have to start by finding what you aren't doing well, and work on doing it better.
The learning begins with yoru first lessons in humility. All the things you think you're doing perfectly, that others will point out just don't work. First you will feel indignation. The reviewer obviously doesn't know his ass from the full pork moon. But someone else will point out flaws, some of which overlap with what the first person said. In time, you will begin to see what these other people saw that needed work, and you will grudgingly agree. That is when your journey truly begins.
So don't let praise lull you into a sugar high. And don't hate the first person who marks up your manuscript with so much red it looks like someone opened an artery over it.
sorry but you don't get it. I am receiving critiques all the time and making changes. Of course I want to make improvement. Please don't talk to me like some caricature. You sound as though you are reading from a text book.
I am talking about readers. It seems strange that you believe the views of a reader should be ignored. That is an insult to readers. They may not critique the work but that's not their job. The role of the reading public, surely, is to enjoy what they read. If a reader has found my work entertaining and enjoyable to read, I don't understand why that counts for nothing. That is the whole reason for writing....to entertain myself and others.
Your mind seems to be made up. So why did you ask the question?
I wanted your view which you very kindly gave me. But I am wanting to get further inside your mind now and to find out why the 'reading public' should be ignored
It feels good to be praised, and you should bask in it while you can get it...but no, a review like that isn't really "useful" in the long run. Your book isn't published. You don't know what this person liked or disliked about it, and the review doesn't give you a direction to go in. Anyway, what did you ask the question for? Is it because you wanted to brag to us about your happy review--and there is no shame in this; I'm very happy to hear when other writers do well. It gives me a lot of hope. But I can't help but wonder if you really asked because you yourself doubt whether the praise is genuine or helpful. If you think it is, then great. But something funny I've found about writing is that whenever I put it out there, I secretly wish everyone would say "It's brilliant," but when they actually do (on those REALLY rare occasions) I distrust them. I think the person didn't really read it or just doesn't want to hurt my feelings or doesn't know anything about writing. I trust reviews that tell me what the person liked and what they didn't like, because at least then I know there is some sincerity and thought going into it. I don't always make the changes asked of me, but it's good to have the feeling of some direction. So painful as it can be, it's more useful to get a thoughtful, slightly more negative review that gives a detailed opinion than a stellar one that doesn't tell you anything.
I'm glad, however, that you have a fan. For what it's worth, you should enjoy it.
It's worth something if it makes you feel good about your work and inspires you to take it further. But as a tool for improving your work, sadly no. As the others have said, you need to get some red marks to know what to do better. And everyone gets red marks.
My advice would be if you want to get a proper assessment, put the work out there for others who don't know you to get their teeth stuck in. You can do that here on the review sections, but only a chapter or so. Or if you want the entire book gone over, Authonomy.
One person does not "the reading public" make. It's not a good statistical sample, even if the selection process for that data point were random and completely unbiased.
I'm only going to echo what's already been said, I'm afraid. A reader's opinion is important - it means you're doing something right. But to also find out what you're doing wrong and/or what you could do better, you need a totally impartial critique.
No. This viewpoint is not useful, and you already know its not useful, because you are trying to justify it in the second sentence of your post.
I can tell there is problems with the writing just by reading your post. Unless your writing style is different from the way you posted, it would probably be a good idea to go back to your work and cut the fluff.
It is great that you have reached 70K words, and that someone finds it an exciting read. However, I have never come across an element of story or craft that ever required a work to be a 'page turner', in order to be purchased by a publisher. There are several other elements that contribute to the entertainment factor of a well written and well told story. When these elements are brought together in harmony, the result can be a suspenseful work, but edge of the seat by itself means nothing, especially if your characters are flat, or if there is a Mary Sue or Gary Stu hiding in there. If you know how to construct a strong story, the page turning effect will be a byproduct of the writer's skills of the craft.
As the others have said, your writing will improve with each story you write. If you feel the story is polished, then send it off, and get the opinion of an agent or publisher.
thanks for giving me Authonomy. I would like a critical eye on my work. The more comments of all kinds the better.
Thanks. Shadowwalker.Make no mistake, this family member could not wait to criticise me. Does so at every possible opportunity! Everything I do gets the once-over! She would not mince her words...that's for sure! I was quite terrified of the feedback when I sent the manuscript.
thanks very much MVP. I am not at all convinced that my work is 'the finished article'. I need a lot more people to look through the entire manuscript for me and give me useful thoughts but I do not know where to get this support. Posting a full manuscripts on a site like this is not encouraged and unlikely to be read and may affect publishing rights.....not sure how I can get the feedback I need.
By the way all you good people who have taken the trouble to reply, I did receive criticism as well as praise. Because my reader is experienced and intelligent she was able to tell me that my style of narrative was completely wrong and I changed this throughout as a result (I had no idea about this until she pointed it out). Particular praise was for the characterisation of the the protagonist in the story. She also had no idea what the ending would be until the last page....which is what I aimed for. So, it wasn't all good!
Another problem with feedback from a family member is that they are from the same background as you and understand where you are coming from. Your word choice, patterns of speech, values, assumptions even will most likely be shared by them and are therefore perfectly understandable and unquestioned. But not everyone who reads your work will have this insight.
Hello MVP. A critical review of my post on this page seems unnecessary. In fact I have a) told you what the work is about
b) told you who has read my work and the quality of the reader
c) told you the result of the reading
d) posed a question relating to the above
I cannot see where there is any 'fluff' in this post at all.
hello madhoca. thanks for your viewpoint. I believe you are correct in what you say. My audience, therefore, is clearly the sort of person who has a cultural background similar to my own. But that is not a bad thing. Every book has its audience and will not, necessarily, be enjoyed by everyone. I do not think I would ever be clever enough to produce writing that appeals to all cultures, all ages, all backgrounds. If I can produce something that appeals to one sector of the community only, I wouldl be delighted, albeit it is quite a big cultural sector.
since no one has mentioned it yet, i guess i'll have to...
70k is short for a first novel by a new and unknown writer... i don't know if uk publishers are any different, but in the us, their preferrence is around 100k...
if this is for the uk market and is what's known as a 'cozy' mystery over there, then 'short' may be ok... you really need to check publishers' guidelines in the market you're targeting, to see if you need to get the word count up a bit, or not, to maximize your chances of having it published...
and follow the sage advice given by all above, in re the content and 'critiques'...
best of luck with it...
love and hugs, maia
All your defensive comments on this thread prove one thing: you are not ready to receive objective criticism. You can sit there justifying yourself, making supporting arguments for feedback you like, undermining the validity of feedback you don't like, and dismissing people's comments as 'subjective opinion' all day long for all I care. Not one iota of effort you expend in that activity is improving your writing.
Until you learn how to accept criticism, it will do you absolutely no good to receive it.
Truer words were never spoken. Amen.
Well, you asked about whether this kind of comment can be used to "further your work" and the answer is no, in my opinion.
To give you an example, I wrote, for the sheer fun of it, a novella which I published on my blog, one chapter at a time. That blog has had over 300 000 reads in the past couple of years, thousands of comments, and every comment that related to my writing was positive. People would get involved with the characters, love them or hate them, object to some decisions the characters made etc, but they always praised the writing as being very interesting, "pinning them to he screen", they all wanted me to publish it and I even received an offer from a publisher who read it.
However, to me, when I read it, it wasn't nearly good enough. I felt that there were lots of improvements that could be made, I saw it as a first draft at best.
But if I used all the comments I received as guidance, I would stop there, I would never be able to improve it. You see, the audience is, in my opinion, easily pleased. Don't treat them as fools, give them an interesting story, and they'll buy it. But will that allow you to become the best writer you can be? No. It's for this reason that only the critiques which highlight something that can be improved, and they do so in a constructive manner, help us perfect our craft. We can be geniuses at writing, but we can always be better, and just because someone made a constructive suggestion doesn't mean that what we wrote sucks, all it means is that there are ways of improving it.
And sometimes you'll hear such critiques and think, ok, I see what you mean but I prefer it the way I did it for this and this reason, and that is ok. But pure praise will never help you further your work (except for positive reviews, once you publish, but that's an entirely different thing).
If you wish to write seriously, as a career, then criticism is a must. I would never be content to be told my work is "good", without a layout of the good points and bad points, followed by examples; this kind of criticism will 1) Improve your skills and weaknesses as a writer, 2) allow you grow as a writer.
Also just because you may receive quite tactless, or even offensive criticism, does not mean that there is no point to it. I have had hypocritical criticism many times, and I try to see the point behind the words, as oppose to looking at the person who said it.
I feel family members are not a way to "further your work", ON THEIR OWN. I wound try to get criticism/opinions from family, friends and strangers(E.g. here, on forums etc).
Seek a critique that is an unbiased, objective opinion in order to be credible. That is not friends or family. It is an agent, publisher, editor, writing group, password protected web critique group, local college professor, etc. That is the answer to your question.
Of course you can't see the fluff, that is what the unbiased critique will tell you...that and a good grammar hand book.
At the moment the criticism seems to be personal. Nobody here has actually criticised my writing yet! I am not defensive about criticisms of what I write. I take every comment into account and have changed material as a result. Although I do find that there are as many views as critics and in the end I have to absorb what people are saying but make up my own mind. I hope that if I post any writing on this site you will be as enthusiastic about criticising my work as you are about criticising me. I hope you read every single word I write and provide me with the fullest possible critique.
Hello MVP. You say I cannot see the 'fluff'. It would be more helpful if you actually told me where the 'fluff' is, rather than just making general statements. Let me have specifics not generalities. I would very much like a critique from people you suggest. Unfortunately I cannot find people who are willing to read and critique a complete novel. I belong to a writing group leader offered to critique the first three chapters. That was two months ago and I am still waiting for feedback.
thank you jazzabel for your comments. much appreciated. At the moment all the criticism is aimed at me....not my writing! Nobody who has so far commented has commented on my writing. Constructive comments on how I can improve, or what is poor practice, are always welcome. If you think my family member is a 'tame' reader you are quite mistaken. In fact she pointed out where my narrative was poorly written and I made immediate changes. Another published author put me on the right track regarding punctuation. I welcome criticism of my writing.
Hello TDF. Nobody on this site has yet criticised my writing!!! I hope when I do post something that every single person who has been quick to criticise me will be equally enthusiastic to spend the time criticising my work and providing me with specific, constructive advice.
My sister has recently got some gerbil or hamster type creatures. She and her husband built quite an extravagant multi-storey cage for them, of which they were proud. Would I fancy seeing the creatures and perhaps casting my (expert) eye over the cage? Sure. I went along today.
'What do you think of the cage?'
'Fuck me. It looks like it's been thrown together by a five year old.'
Never quite understood this idea that strangers are likely more objective (and more inclined to criticise) than intimates. I tend to work the other way around.
I hope, after all this, you post something in the workshop. An excerpt - or preferably some other piece you have - that is typical and includes dialogue. Any criticism that the piece draws might give rise to lessons that can be applied to your entire novel.
To answer your original question, it is of course up to you what you take from any critique, but personally I would take very little from the comments you've revealed in this thread. Knowing that my work was very much a work in progress, a review stating that my work was as good as, if not better than, published works just wouldn't ring true, especially combined with a criticism of my entire 'narrative style'. But only you know the full content of the review, how much it is to be trusted, and how it compares to your own opinion of your work, so again it is up to you.
As for your apparent desire for forum folk to review your writing, I'm sure people will be more than happy to once you contribute to the workshops in the usual way
I'm puzzled as to what you wanted when you asked your question. You got a positive review from one reader. You don't mention, in your initial post, that this positive review included any criticism at all. You ask if the fact of the positive review is useful. People say that, well, not really. You grow angry.
I understand that you may feel deflated from a previously celebratory mood, but if you really just wanted to celebrate, then I think that it was a mistake to ask a question when you might not like the answer. A positive review from exactly one reader, one that doesn't include any detailed criticism, is nice, and makes the author feel good, but it's not particularly useful.
If you'd just said, "My picky and demanding test reader liked my book! Woohoo!" I think that you would have gotten lots of congratulations, and people would have understood that the thread was about celebration, not advice. If you'd said, "My test reader liked my book, but she's not giving me any specifics that I can use to improve my writing. Can you suggest ways to elicit a more detailed response from her?" you would have gotten lots of advice.
The answers that you get depend on the question that you ask. We can't guess what you want if you don't let us know in the question. And if you _just_ want congratulations, you need to avoid asking questions that might have non-congratulatory answers.
Separate names with a comma.