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What do you do with the critiques you receive?

Discussion in 'The Art of Critique' started by seixal, Jan 9, 2017.

  1. jannert

    jannert Contributing Member Supporter Contributor

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    I have always taken the tack that if a reader misses something or gets the wrong end of the stick, I just haven't emphasized that point strongly enough. (If a reader is simply skimming, well ...the story might be boring—which is my problem, but a different one—or they might just be the wrong reader for it.) If the beta has been reading closely, though, and still missed something important—even if it's only one reader out of ten—I will go back and attempt to strengthen that point.

    If it's something that can be slightly expanded, such as adding another couple of sentences before moving on, that often works.

    For example, instead of saying something to the effect that the Jenna noticed Karen rummaging inside a bag, you can make this into a slightly bigger deal. You can mention Jenna's puzzlement as to WHY Karen would care about what's inside an old, discarded bag. Or Jenna could reflect, with some amusement, that Karen could never keep her nose out of somebody else's private stash. Or you could have Jenna watch as Karen pulls rubbish out of the bag and throws it behind her, like a baby rooting through a box of toys.

    It doesn't have to be a big deal at the time, if you don't want to give away too much, but just make sure that when the rummaged bag DOES become crucial to the plot—fifteen chapters later—that the reader will remember the incident. If you just casually mention that Karen rummaged through a bag, that incident might not stick.

    A point can also be reinforced simply by referring to it more than once.

    If a reader has read carefully but has come to the wrong conclusion, then that also needs attention. You won't always score, but it's a good idea to work on it. Otherwise, what's the point of a beta? Why did they get the wrong idea? See if you can figure it out, then focus events in the story more strongly, so they inevitably lead to the conclusion.

    I've always maintained that your story is inside your head. The job of a writer is to make that story come alive for somebody else. And to do that, you need to master the fine art of communication. Not everybody will 'get' it, of course. But I'd say don't be quick to dismiss people who aren't quite there. Unless they are deliberately picking fault and don't want to like your story, it's always worthwhile to try to bridge the gap between your brain and theirs.

    The one thing I do dismiss from a critique, however, is anybody's attempt to get me to tell a different story. People who decide they don't like my characters for what they are, for example. It's different if they get the wrong idea about what my characters are like. Then I'll try to make changes to make the characters' actions and motivations become more understandable. But if the beta just doesn't like them?—would never like them, no matter what? That's fine. It's my story. I'm open to trying to tell it differently, but not to change what I'm telling. That would make a different story altogether. And that's not why I write.
     
    Last edited: Mar 11, 2017
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  2. Pinkymcfiddle

    Pinkymcfiddle Contributing Member

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    I take what is useful and ignore what isn't. Often two critiques will contradict one another on specific elements, and certain parts of critiquing are subjective. I pick out what is useful and take what is subjective with a pinch of salt. I'm particularly interested in any elements readers did not understand, that did not flow well, or involved excessive forced exposition. I then edit almost immediately.

    When it comes to critiquing I avoid pieces that I am already disposed against, for example, I'm very unlikely to enjoy a sword and sorcery piece, and that is going to colour my critique, so I steer clear of them; I also strongly dislike Mary-Sue author-proxy characters (think Jack Reacher- cringe!) and nothing is going to make me like them, no matter how sympathetically they are written.
     
  3. Michael Pless

    Michael Pless Active Member

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    I tend to acknowledge the thoughts, provided they're given with good intent and there's a rational explanation for them. On this forum I once got an abrupt "I couldn't stand reading your piece so gave up" type of reply from a beta-reading. Though I was polite and expressed gratitude, I got what I could from the sparse reasoning, and tossed the remainder of the "critique" in the bin (it took up very little room), because it essentially was worthless. My writing tends to polarize, and usually harsh responses to it are from those whose storytelling is... well, lamentably poor. I accept that I can't write for everybody so don't try. I have to be satisfied with my writing first, and if others like it, all the better. Interestingly, each time I get canned, I also get high praise from someone.

    On a forum such as this, there tends to be a range of quality of critique, and that has to be accepted. I try to give everyone thorough, considerate feedback and bear in mind that the writer has tried their best. I try to be supportive, because some writers have a great idea but are obviously learning their craft and need to be encouraged, not devastated. My success at this varies though. I tend to avoid those "I just dashed 2,000 words off in half an hour. Do you think it's good?" type of postings. I deliberately go for a range of genres because I think I can learn something from each.

    The best critiques I got were from my fellow students and lecturers when I studied because they were all relatively focused (or they wouldn't have paid to do the course), and were obliged to do their best lest they earn the lecturer's wrath (which was considerable). I tended to take all that they said or wrote seriously and am a better writer for it. What I never got used to (though I held my tongue most of the time), was the contempt many had for "genre" fiction, often referring to it as "commercial." With a sneer. When I did reply, the retorts were on the sharp side.;)
     
  4. Shadowfax

    Shadowfax Contributing Member Contributor

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    An article I got published in a professional journal garnered two letters in response:

    A) Great! Let's have more articles with some humour in them!
    B) How dare you suborn the youth of our great profession with your immoral ideas!
     
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  5. MachineGryphon

    MachineGryphon New Member

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    I very much welcome constructive criticism, but sometimes when I get it I beat myself up over the actual critique. "I loved this, this, this and this, BUT" and the but will stick in my head and make me question everything I've done until that point. Had some mad weeks where I've sent shown something to a friend and been unable to write for some time after because I've stressed about the wait for their reply, then once they do, magnifying the critical elements.

    I would very much prefer a strong analysis of my work as compared to a casual friend reading out of duty saying "It was good." and little else. Just need to work on my own reception to such analysis. Realising I have evolved my writing and have actually taken advice on board is difficult for me, as I always assume I can't learn or improve anything.

    Basically I can think myself into a massive hole, which is kinda something I do with every aspect of life. :rofl:
     
  6. Seeker of the unknown

    Seeker of the unknown Member

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    I try to approach any kind of critique with open mind and the desire to understand what the critique trully refers to. Not everybody is able to write a clear and constructive critique, in the same vein as not everybody knows how to write. In order to squizee the most juice of a critique I ask further questions and sometimes I get really big insights.

    Since I strive to be a non-fiction writer, I am especially concerned with lucidity of my words and overall message that they bear. Almost any critique is valuable to me and a good, constructive critique is a true gem.

    Of course haters will be haters and I just let their voice pass through me like a puff of wind.
     
  7. joe sixpak

    joe sixpak Member

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    depends who gave them and the context

    i usually consider them and often reject them
    which may speak more to the sort of people i have commenting than the writing

    i always listened to my editors
    only if they tried to make something erroneous that had been factually correct would i push back on them

     

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