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  1. N.Scott

    N.Scott Member

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    The heart racing fear to give critique

    Discussion in 'The Art of Critique' started by N.Scott, Feb 7, 2020.

    Recently I thought about post my writing to get some critique, and it's to my understanding that most places out there are required one to give their critique first.

    I can see why it work that way, my problem is, however, how do you give constructive critique when you are just a beginner.

    The level of writing I found in most post felt like they were written by experts, how do I dared to give them feedback when I struggle to type this very sentence? How do I give any suggestion to better a sentence, or the flow, or the emotion, or the structure of the scene, etc. when I wasn't even sure how to convey them in my own writing. It kinda feels like asking someone who just begins to understand the rules of chess to give advice to the pro who has already earn a place in the world series of chess or something like that.

    I'm a non-native speaker, so most of the time I am not sure if the words I write really mean what I try to say, and being an extreme introvert I am just terrified of responding to everything, like when I see a post I would spend hours to come up with some thought and then delete them in a single heartbeat while shaking my head in desperate(I realized this have become like ranting about now, so I would stop and please feel free to ignore this paragraph).

    I guess what I really want to know is, what is it like to give critique when you first start to write? Do you seek out people who are also beginners? Does it matter at all?

    I'd like to hear your thought on any of this, thank you.
     
  2. Lili.A.Pemberton

    Lili.A.Pemberton Member

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    Oh, I'll be honest this hits very close to home. I flunked most of my college english/writing classes because of this very reason. For the most part, I stick to critiquing shorter stories so I can read, re-read, and re-re-read the passage and make sure I can really find out what needs work and what's good in the story, and then I usually ensure myself that one) they asked for a critique and two) even the best, most accomplished writers make mistakes and the way they fix those mistakes is by asking for critiques -- and even if my critique might not be the most poignant, or 'correct', or elegantly worded -- I am helping them by pointing out some mistakes.

    In the end, if you've read someone's work and they ask for a critique, and you can point out some mistakes, quote the mistakes, do your best to explain why you think it's a mistake, try to offer a better alternative, and if they think your right they'll change their writing and if they think you're wrong, then at least you tried, and from then you move on. If you've spent hours working on a critique then you should post said critique.

    But those are just my two cents.
     
  3. Hammer

    Hammer Contributor Contributor

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    It is a good question!

    When you are an expert, you can give critique as a writer - tenses, points of view, subtleties of grammar - but everyone has the right to give critique as a reader - whether characters strikes a chord with you, whether you feel the tension, whether you think the story is plain boring or you saw the ending coming.

    Writers write for people, and all people have an opinion. The greater the variety of opinions the writer gets, the better. IMHO
     
  4. N.Scott

    N.Scott Member

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    I actually gave a critique the other day, I thought I was confused by their grammar, but then after I summit my critique, I get to read the others, and out of 4 of them two have said that the author has good flow and know how to handle the SPAG, I just...not so sure anymore


    I think I do try to critique as a reader more, but I felt like all I come up with do is too little too value, you know?
    Like most of the time, I am struggled to find something to say. And when I do, most of them are just compliments, and it just doesn't seem very helpful. And sometimes I think I might have something to say but then I looked at other's comment and it was already mentioned, so it would be just repeating and kinda felt like stealing from others
     
  5. Wreybies

    Wreybies Thrice Retired Supporter Contributor

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    Yes, forums that are more active and where people actually get critique usually have some kind of rule about giving before you get. This is borrowed directly from how live writing groups work. They do the same thing, for the same reason.


    You don't have to give advice for how to improve. That's not the requirement or the real end goal. What the writer is hoping to hear from you is not just what didn't work for you, but also what did, and why it worked, what it made you feel, what it made you see.

    I'm going to be honest and tell you that I saw you looking at my little prologue a few times over the past few days. There's a page here in the forum that lets you see where everyone else is looking.

    I offer you an experiment. I was the admin here for many years, so the smooth function of the forum, and an eye toward fair play and constructive help is very important to me. Go ahead and critique my piece. I promise to play nice and to help you see what others are looking for in a critique. If I ask you questions or ask you to dig deeper, don't feel attacked. I'm genuinely wanting to help you feel more comfortable with how it works.

    What do you say? :)
     
    Last edited: Feb 7, 2020
  6. Lili.A.Pemberton

    Lili.A.Pemberton Member

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    Well, if the grammar confused you then the grammar confused you. I know this is meant to be a somewhat serious forum but if you asked, 'What does this mean? What are you trying to convey by this?' and etc. first before posting your critique, I don't think anyone would knock you down for it. I've only been here for a week and a half but I think this is a friendly bunch around here.

    I would argue compliments are very helpful because it shows what you liked about a story, but if you want to be more helpful then you can say why you liked it. Was it the word choice? Was it because the narrator was funny? Was it because of the flow? Try your best to put it in words why you liked it and it'll show the author their strong suits. Also, quoted from the "What is a constructive critique" forum page:

    Also, don't focus on responding to other critiques. Your conversation is with the writer. Whether you agree or disagree with other critics is irrelevant. A good strategy is to only read the writer's post (or the latest revision of it if he or she has already put up multiple versioins), respond with your thoughts, and then go back and read what other critiquers had to say.

    You mentioned doing this in the first quote, but also you said when you read the other critiques you felt unsure of your own. You disagreed with them. That's fine. As Hammer said, everyone has an opinion and you have a right to express that opinion. And if you write your critique and read back and find other people have critiqued the same things then that's fine too, because it signals to the author that the flaw is very big and visible and they really need to change it. You're not stealing someone else's critique, you're pointing out an obvious flaw which is what critiquing is.

    If I ever get around to posting my writing here, you're open to critique me!
     
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  7. N.Scott

    N.Scott Member

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    okay, I'll try to do my best
     
  8. N.Scott

    N.Scott Member

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    This sounds cool, I'll definitely try to do so.


    I've read the constructive critique page, I guess I never thought of it the way you describe here, it's...yeah, really good thinking.


    Thank you.:)
     
  9. Naomasa298

    Naomasa298 Active Member

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    I'm not an expert. I haven't successfully published anything or taken any writing courses, and when I first joined, I hadn't written anything for more than a decade.

    I'd never given a critique in my life before coming here, but as @Hammer pointed out, we're all readers. What did you like about a story and why? Or what didn't you like?
     
  10. Naomasa298

    Naomasa298 Active Member

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    @Lili.A.Pemberton don't be afraid to post your writing. No one is going to rip you a new one. Critiques are supposed to be constructive. They're there to help you improve your writing, they're not a personal reflection on you.

    If anyone is mean or unkind, have a word with the mods. That's not what critiquing is about.

    The thing to remember is to approach critiques with an open mind and not get defensive. You don't have to agree with anything anybody says - it's one person's opinion after all - but at least consider it.
     
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  11. big soft moose

    big soft moose The Moderating Moose Staff Supporter Contributor Community Volunteer

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    That - it hardly ever happens but we won't tolerate it when it does... that's not to say members can't call out significant issues or problems with the work but they are expected to do constructively.

    anyone who is upsetting others to stroke their own ego will have an unpleasant encounter with the hammer of ban

    that aside - even if you've never written anything you can tell a writer what you didn't like as a reader, which is the most valuable critique a writer can get since our target audience is readers not other writers
     
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  12. TheOtherPromise

    TheOtherPromise Member

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    I also don't have much/any experience writing so when it comes to SPaG errors or sentence structure, I have no idea what I'm talking about.

    However as others have said, when giving a critique I try to approach it as a reader.

    And for my own style of critiques, as a dumb reader (it's easy for a guy like me). So I'm reading it through, paying attention to when I didn't understand what was happening and pointing that out. I can't always give advice on how to change something, but I hope that by at least pointing out what I had trouble with, it will help them look at what they wrote and see how to make it more clear.

    And when it comes down to me trying to give advice that I'm worried I have no right to give, I'll give them a heads up that I might not know what I'm talking about, and they should take my advice with a grain of salt.
     
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  13. Iain Aschendale

    Iain Aschendale Benevolent Ochlocrat Staff Supporter Contributor

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    Think of it like commenting on an item of food. I don't know how to make a lemon meringue pie, but I've had some that were amazing, others where the meringue was kind of flat or the filling was bland or the crust was soggy. I don't know how to rectify these errors, but if the baker asked my opinion of the pie I could tell them what I didn't like and why, leaving it to them to adjust their recipe or techniques if they thought my critiques were valid.
     
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  14. More

    More Member

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    I have never posted a critique on this site , so this is just my approach in general.
    I prefer to read from a printed page , I always have lots of scrap paper . You can read at your leisure, reread later and underline and write notes. I always write the critique off screen first before submitting it , long hand, or word, and sometimes google Docs . It gives you the chance to be more relaxed and edit in your own time .
    It is worth understanding that a critique intended for the writer is different for a review of a book that has been written for a possible reader. There is also difference between proofreading and a critique . Both are useful to a writer , but I don't have the skills as a proofreader , so I only write critiques. I like to give a summery of the work . It can be useful to the writer to know if their work is being understood as intended
    It is reasonable to offer your opinion , good or bad . It is better if you can justify your opinions with examples taken from the work

    The whole point of the exerciser is to improve your knowledge and skill and help someone else do the same .
     
  15. N.Scott

    N.Scott Member

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    I think I get what you mean by read from a printed page, I like to write little comments as I read, it feels like I'm noting down my thought in the margins or something like that, I don't think I can do an overall summary just from my memory after reading a piece.
    I am not sure I understand the difference you mentioned, but I feel like it's important to try to capture the exact feeling you had when you read a story and be honest with them.

    The whole point of the exerciser is to improve your knowledge and skill and help someone else do the same .
    I hear you:)
     
  16. GingerCoffee

    GingerCoffee Web Surfer Girl Contributor

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    To the OP: :superhello: Been there, done that. Start by just telling the writer what you liked and didn't like. What drew you in, what didn't. What dragged. What you liked, don't forget to say what you liked.

    Don't give a bunch of glowing feedback unless you were floored by how good it is or something. No one learns from that.

    The more you learn the more you'll be able to give more informed feedback.
     
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  17. Xoic

    Xoic Member

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    I didn't read all of these, so apologies if I'm repeating, but you definitely don't need to be an expert! Most of us are far from experts, otherwise we wouldn't be on a writer's forum looking for critique. Some are advanced beyond you, some around your level, and some beneath you.

    Mostly it's just your own anxiety and fear making you feel nervous. Just do it. You'll be glad you did. We all understand beginners are here, and one thing you learn by giving critique as a beginner is that all opinions are valid. Also, you learn a lot about how to critique by doing it, even if you do it badly at first. I look back at some of my crits from when I first got here (which wasn't very long ago) and I cringe, but nobody ever got mad (that I know of—if they did they were civil about it). You critique, you see how other people critiqued the same thing, and you learn from it. Next time you can give better critique.

    Just take a deep breath and dive in—the water's fine!
     
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  18. Wreybies

    Wreybies Thrice Retired Supporter Contributor

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    N. Scott has already heard this from me, but for anyone else reading:

    Getting critique from others is about getting insight from minds outside of ourselves and the process that wrote the story. It helps us to know the parts that stayed in our heads and didn't make it to the paper. That's the value in getting it.

    Giving critique is about honing your own editorial eye, the eye you need in order to look at your own work objectively and see the problems. That's the value in giving it.

    I've stopped proselytising that last bit about giving because it seems that the idea has, for whatever reason, fallen from favor, the idea that giving crit is as educational, if not more, than getting critique.

    At some point you have to develop the skills to edit your own work, to rely less on the input of others, and giving crit is an excellent exercise for that. It's not your baby; it's someone else's, so you are free to be more objective. And each time you give crit, it polishes the lenses you use to look at your own work more objectively.
     
    Last edited: Feb 11, 2020
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  19. jannert

    jannert Who? Whooo? Staff Supporter Contributor

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    I've got to admit that the 'giving' part of this equation seemed like just a nice sentiment to me, until I actually got into the process and started dishing out critique. Wow. It really DOES sharpen the editorial eye.

    I maintain that all writing comes in two parts:

    1) the part you believe you wrote
    2) the part your readers actually 'get'

    Editing is a process where you, as a writer, attempt to merge those two parts into one whole. Critiquing is a tool to use in that process. You might see your character, setting or situation clearly, but if your reader doesn't, you ought to pay attention. At some stage, your intention didn't make the correct impression on them. Figure out why, if you can, and tweak it.

    The good thing about the critique process here on the forum is that you probably will get several different responses from different people. You won't be relying on just one reader's opinion. Take note of anything that bothered all of your readers. (That probably needs serious work.) If an aspect of the story only bothered one of them, or if that aspect bothered one, but was loved by somebody else, you have to decide which opinions are closest to your own. And deal accordingly. You might be able to do a tweak that makes everybody happy! But you won't know that you need to tweak at all, unless you get honest feedback.

    When you are giving critique, just let the writer know what you 'got' from the piece. If you can think of a way to 'fix' a problem you discovered, fair enough, go ahead and tell the writer what that fix might be. But if you don't have a clue how to fix it, just pointing out the problem itself (or pointing out what DID work for you) will be immensely helpful.

    @N.Scott - Just a thought. You might want to begin by choosing a piece that has already had 4 or 5 responses. That way your reaction won't derail somebody's train, by being the first/only response they get.
     
    Last edited: Feb 15, 2020
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  20. Some Guy

    Some Guy Manguage Langler Supporter Contributor

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    If it helps to start you off, I began by just telling them what I got from the story. Letting a writer know if you got the right idea or wrong idea just by saying what you understood is gold. It is enough of a start just to let them know how their work came across to you. Then you will naturally progress from there.
    Maybe try the Share Your First Three Sentences thread for practice? @Wreybies is the expert, but put @with my name if you just need encouragement. Happy to help :)
     
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