1. Jillian Oliver

    Jillian Oliver Member

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    Worst Criticisms You've Ever Received

    Discussion in 'The Art of Critique' started by Jillian Oliver, Jan 23, 2019.

    Have you ever received criticisms of your writing that were so harsh you had trouble continuing with a project? How did you move on from it?
     
  2. big soft moose

    big soft moose The Moderating Moose Staff Supporter Contributor Community Volunteer

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    if the criticism is that harsh and un constructive it is likely that the person giving it isn't someone you shouldn't listen to.

    some people are idiots - ignore and continue
     
    Last edited: Jan 25, 2019
  3. Bone2pick

    Bone2pick Contributor Contributor

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    I was told by a member of this forum that my 1k workshop excerpt put them to sleep before they could finish it, and that reading my prose was similar to counting sheep.

    That's probably the harshest "feedback" I've received and it didn't deter me in the slightest. I even hope they had a pleasant nap. :sleepy::bigwink:
     
  4. Jillian Oliver

    Jillian Oliver Member

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    I feel like one comment like that wouldn't bother me too much. I knew a guy who disliked Bram Stoker's Dracula because he said it was "dull and scientific." That confused me since the book never struck me that way.
     
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  5. big soft moose

    big soft moose The Moderating Moose Staff Supporter Contributor Community Volunteer

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    I just noticed a rather awkward typo on my post it supposed to be shouldn't listen to, not should... FML
     
  6. Iain Aschendale

    Iain Aschendale Benevolent Ochlocrat Staff Supporter Contributor

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    I said the same thing about Goodnight Moon :)
     
  7. Cave Troll

    Cave Troll What do you mean, 'no more abductions'? :P Contributor

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    Not yet.
    Though I did give one once, but it was the truth.
    Sad that they pulled all of their books off the market
    after that foray. :(
    Suppose I was a little too honest with how bad the
    book was, even though I still gave it 3 stars for being
    entertaining for all the reasons the author never intended.
     
  8. Iain Aschendale

    Iain Aschendale Benevolent Ochlocrat Staff Supporter Contributor

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    I absolutely shredded a book on Amazon once. Worst thing I've ever read, and I spent 1100 words explaining why. It was the most helpful critical review for a few months, and then something happened, the book got hundreds and hundreds of one-line, nonspecific five-star reviews, and my review got hundreds and hundreds of downvotes.

    Odd.
     
  9. Cave Troll

    Cave Troll What do you mean, 'no more abductions'? :P Contributor

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    Diehard fans are a strange lot.
     
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  10. Iain Aschendale

    Iain Aschendale Benevolent Ochlocrat Staff Supporter Contributor

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    So are "like farms" and the lot.
     
  11. Alan Aspie

    Alan Aspie Stubborn Finnsperger Contributor

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    I have got so much criticism about my existence that I have became quite resilient to the critic about writing.

    If you get tons of both direct and implied critic that says that the way you are, your existence, your social existence and everything else in you is wrong and worthless you kind of don't care so much about "...and your writing also..." part if there is some.

    And if you experience more than 50 years of being an emotional bin of someone whose behaving is totally compatible with literature about narcissistic psychopathy... Well... You either die or you grow quite thick skin.

    (You might have very sore spots in that thick skin, but it is still thick.)

    The way to deal with things like that?

    1. Be yourself. Be it all times. Don't bend. Don't let anyone manipulate yourself - not with carrots, not with sticks. Don't go to identity plays. You can loose yourself there.

    2. Honest criticism? Deal with it. It helps you. You grow better and faster if you utilise it.

    3. Intellectually and/or morally dishonest criticism?

    Well... It is not critic. It is powerplay. It is bullying. It is hierarchy game. Don't deal with it like it had anything to do with criticism, "helping" or anything like that.

    Confront it as what it is. Don't react to it's disquise - "being criticism" or something else - but it's core and function. You can use this analogy to to help keeping distance to the disquises:

    If pigs invent you to wrestle in the shit, don't go. If you wrestle and loose, you loose. If you win, you still loose, because you'll be covered with shit. The only important think to focus on is that why these pigs want you to shit yourself? What is they motive? What is they agenda?

    If criticism is dishonest there is only two things to talk about - the dishonesty and possible motives and agendas to that.

    There are few very common ways this kind of things happen. You can find a list of them if you Google psychological defence mechanisms and argumentation fallacies.

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Defence_mechanisms

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_fallacies

    Most common seems to be projection that uses straw man argumentation.

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Psychological_projection

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Straw_man

    If you find moral and/or intellectual dishonesty in the criticism, it's like getting a medal. You have done your work so well that someone must use dirty tricks to denigrate you.

    And...

    If you meet morally and/or intellectually dishonest criticism... Block it. Use the ignore button.

    When someone starts to cathynewman with you, you know that he/she does not have anything good to give to you. So... Walk away and stay that way. Do it in real life. Do it in boards.
     
    Last edited: Jan 25, 2019
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  12. jannert

    jannert Who? Whooo? Staff Supporter Contributor

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    I say if the criticism make sense to you, pay attention to it. Just because you made mistakes doesn't mean you can't correct them. There is no need to be discouraged. I've always thought that good criticism (I've received a lot of it over the years) is actually inspirational. It focuses a light on what you've always had doubts about, etc. You can't wait to get stuck in and make it better.

    On the other hand, if the criticism seems mean-spirited and off base altogether, ignore it. Some people will nitpick you to death. Some people are just nasty. Some people are never pleased. Some people wouldn't like what YOU wrote, even if it was perfect. And some people want you to have written something else.

    I think the most important thing you can do is get feedback from as many sources as possible. Don't let one person's attack (or indifference) derail your train. If lots of people say the same thing about your work, however, it is probably a good idea to at least consider they may have a good point. Let go of the idea that "I have written it; it's exactly right and can't change." Explore ways to make it better.
     
    Last edited: Jan 27, 2019
  13. jannert

    jannert Who? Whooo? Staff Supporter Contributor

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    Well, comfort yourself that people who are thinking about buying the book will take into consideration that you said a lot, while the 5-star reviews said nothing at all. Friends of this author will buy the book anyway. It's the unwitting victims you have saved! :)
     
  14. John Calligan

    John Calligan Contributor Contributor

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    As long as we are sharing best/worst critiques..

    "There are a hundred ways to write a short story, but this isn't one of them."

    About pressing on, when I started I really tried my best to get it in my head how hard writing is, how much of it is bad, and how long and hard people work to produce something good. Even though I thought I was alright, I reminded myself that logically, I couldn't be, and what is "good" anyway?

    Now that I've been in the game for a couple years, I have a broader view of what gets published, how people develop taste, and how hard giving critique is. If someone gives me a critique that I think means, "I don't like grape soda, so it would be better if this was cream soda," I shrug it off. I try to drink some of the best grape soda and read about the ingredients used in popular brands, so if someone tells me something that I don't think will make mine more like grape soda, I kinda know.

    The other things is to remember that a successful novelist will sell so few books that no two people who read it will ever run into one another on accident, and that perfectly average readers pass over hundreds or thousands of wonderful books because they don't feel like reading them, so when someone I pick out at random to read mine doesn't, I don't take it personally.
     
    Last edited: Jan 25, 2019
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  15. Cogito

    Cogito Former Mod, Retired Supporter Contributor

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    I don't have any problem with harsh criticism. I have far greater problems with "Looks great! When can I read some more?"

    I don't learn anything from nonspecific praise.

    The harshest critique I ever received was intended to sting and humiliate me, but it ended up pointing to a real flaw no one else picked up on.
     
  16. animagus_kitty

    animagus_kitty Senior Member

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    "Have you ever taken a creative writing class?"
    To be fair, I've never taken a 'creative writing' class, but I've got a strong grasp on the fundamentals.
    "Like, this is some 9th grade creative writing stuff you're screwing up."
    Pretty sure I write better than a 9th grader, also this is a first draft. It's 'allowed' to have some failings.
    "Is your main character a white male? [...] Literature as a whole is moving away from needing that sort of archetype."
    1) This really hurt, even more than the soul-flaying 'you'd have failed a 9th grade creative writing class', because I'd put serious effort into not giving the MC a skin color, even writing around certain phrasing at times. 2) just because it's not 'necessary anymore' doesn't mean I can't have it, even if I *did* have it.

    I stopped writing for more than a month after that, but I've gotten back into it. His criticisms were detailed, and not necessarily...wrong, but he was incredibly (read: overly) harsh about it and actually was missing points I'd included and then telling me I'd failed to make sense. He would ask things like 'why are you doing it this way' when I'd specifically stated, in the narrator's voice, why they were doing it this way.
    He also told me "NEVER have first person and third person narration, ever ever ever. Only ever one or the other." I object for two reasons: one, I hate 'never' rules, and I tend to disregard them out of hand, and two, I've had several people of various backgrounds and reading levels read my novel, and not one of them has told me that my narration style was confusing.
    Granted, six people is not a great sample size, but given the questions I was asking, it's enough to know that narrator POV is not a problem I have.
     
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  17. Jillian Oliver

    Jillian Oliver Member

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    It's surprising that having a white male protagonist would be considered an archetype that literature is moving away from -- at least according to that guy. I'm not sure why some stories would need to be excluded on that basis. It's true that some publications openly prefer diverse authors and protagonists, but that doesn't mean narratives from people of Western European descent are being thrown in the trash.

    It sounds like the guy who critiqued your work was a bit of a snob. Quite a lot of notable authors never took creative writing classes. I took one once and even though it helped my writing, I found that my English classes, and the reading I did on my own time, was far more helpful.
     
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  18. animagus_kitty

    animagus_kitty Senior Member

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    My desire to not have a 'necessarily' white MC is partly because to me, there's no need for him to be a specific skin color. Really, none of the normal humans have a specified skin color, and if one day I decided that humans now have a delightful shade of green for skintone, it wouldn't interrupt any pre-established facts.
    I mean, sure, it's not just that, because I have dreams of having this turned into a movie one day, and I didn't want to exclude half of hollywood just out of hand, but if he doesn't 'need' to be white, I didn't see any reason to specifically write him that way. That's what upset me the most about that particular critique.

    And yeah, that guy was a total snob.
     
  19. Lilith Fairen

    Lilith Fairen Member

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    The important thing to remember is that when most people criticize your work or someone else's work...they often have no problem whatsoever with those exact same things in the stories they do like.
     
  20. Shenanigator

    Shenanigator Has the Vocabulary of a Well-Educated Sailor. Contributor

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    Criticism, yes. Criticism that kept me from continuing a project? No. At some point, everyone writes something somebody hates, and with comments and social media now interwoven with what we write, readers aren’t shy about expressing their displeasure or hatred. That's one of the reasons why I prefer Alpha and Beta readers who aren't shy about kicking my writing's ass.

    The worst "criticism" was when I was stalked by supporters of someone I wrote an article about. They went so far as to harass my mother when she was doing chemo, and I had to involve law enforcement. (The grand irony is, the subject of the article liked it and appreciated my honesty.)

    My attitude is, I make it the best I can, to the best of my ability, whatever it takes. Better to give it its best chance while I can, because once it's out there in public, I have no control over how it's received. At that point, my job is done, and it's either just paper that will someday end up recycled or a file that will eventually get deleted or fade into oblivion at the bottom end of some search result.
     
  21. Cogito

    Cogito Former Mod, Retired Supporter Contributor

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    Whenever you write for other people to read, you're exposing your everything. Not like strutting around in the nude, but like presnting yourself for dissection. You have to become fearless. What better way to begin than by developing and trusting your own instincts, and your fundamental writing skills. Don't tiptoe into the water, take a plunge into the deep end or headlong into the cold surf.

    You'll fall flat on your face quite a few times. But when you win, you OWN that win, completely!
     
  22. Mark Burton

    Mark Burton Fried Egghead Contributor

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    The harshest criticism I received was here on this forum. I had to take a break for a couple of days and re-read it several times. When I first read it, I wanted to rant and rave. The more I read it, the truer it became and showed me a gulf between where I was as a writer and where I wanted to be. Constructive criticism can be unkind, but it is often what a writer needs to improve.

    I don't think any criticism would make me stop writing. If I received a criticism that didn't ring true, I think I would write it off as sour grapes or deluded. If it was constructive, I might take a breather from the project and come back to it with some fresh perspective. I'm stubborn as an old mule, so I'll keep bashing against that gate until someone opens it or it splinters into matchwood.
     
  23. Shenanigator

    Shenanigator Has the Vocabulary of a Well-Educated Sailor. Contributor

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    Nothing wrong with mentors and test marketing, which is how I see the roles of alphas and betas. You still have to discern what to listen to, especially when you get conflicting information, and they don't do your re-writes for you, or shouldn't. Using alphas and betas doesn't make it any less the writer's own work. I haven't needed alphas for non-fiction for a very long time, but for a non-fiction book I'd certainly consider Betas. For fiction or for anything new I'm learning or trying I'll always choose to work with solid alphas and betas over floundering around in the dark. The right people can point out what you don't know you don't know.
     
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  24. Mark Burton

    Mark Burton Fried Egghead Contributor

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    Yeah, a botcloud is so inhuman.
     
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  25. Cave Troll

    Cave Troll What do you mean, 'no more abductions'? :P Contributor

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    :superidea:
     

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