Worst Criticisms You've Ever Received

Discussion in 'Editing' started by Jillian Oliver, Jan 23, 2019.

  1. GraceLikePain

    GraceLikePain Senior Member

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    I've received some pretty harsh critiques...which I can't remember. Completely dropped out of my head. Lol. The worst critique I can remember is someone commenting about how my first person narrative story used the word "I" too much. Which, while possible, I couldn't take too seriously as a complaint because it was from a person who did not like me, and thus would be motivated to put me down regardless of the actual quality of the work.

    Heh, I don't mind legitimate critiques, the only thing that really annoys me is when people talk down to me like I haven't been writing for ten years. Fortunately it seems to be mostly non-writers who do that. Writers generally know better than to treat each other that way.
     
  2. galaxaura

    galaxaura New Member

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    I write professionally German texts as commissioned work.It happens that you don't always find the wording the client wants. And usually it can be changed without any problems. A former client, however, has occasionally exaggerated it considerably with criticism. Once the client was really mean and personal. I could neither understand her arguments about the content nor why she was so mean.

    I gave the text to several people to read. No one could understand the harsh criticism. I offered the client to find another copywriter in the future if they thought I was incapable. They did not do so, but continued to hire me. I never heard such criticism again afterwards.
     
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  3. Fervidor

    Fervidor Senior Member

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    Too harsh? Not really.

    If "worst" as in "most bad", there was this one guy who completely missed the entire theme of the story, resulting in him not liking the ending for what was basically arbitrary reasons. That is to say, he didn't account at all for the message I tried to get across or whether or not the ending suited the story.

    I have no problem with people pointing out stuff they didn't like, because I occasionally learn something from that, but I do reserve the right to resent critique from people who apparently don't know what they're talking about. At least when they fancy themselves critics rather than regular readers giving their casual opinions.
     
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  4. Lazaares

    Lazaares Senior Member

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    I gave a beta reader the first chapter I have ever written in present tense. It was a good experiment and I enjoyed the change.

    The reader laughed, asked me why I wrote it in present tense and told me to re-write it in "past proper" before he'd read it.

    Haven't written anything in present tense since...
     
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  5. Fervidor

    Fervidor Senior Member

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    ...See, this is exactly what I was talking about. Anyone who arbitrarily decides a creative decision you made is wrong, without some serious justification, should not be trusted to give proper critique. This apparently directly affected your writing style for no reason, which makes me kinda sad.

    There is a point to First Person. Like, you use it when you want to achieve a particular effect, because that's suits the story you're telling. Now maybe you did that wrong, because you weren't experienced with it, or it just wasn't the right perspective for the story. But if that was the case he should have said so. He should have explained why it didn't work. He absolutely shouldn't have objected to first person just because he didn't think it was "proper."
     
    Last edited: Jul 1, 2020
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  6. Xoic

    Xoic Prognosticator of Arcana Ridiculosum Contributor

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    I took some art classes at the local community college. They didn't actually teach technique for drawing or painting, it was more along the lines of "You learn to draw by drawing, you learn to paint by painting". I learned a lot more in the library after class let out, but I did learn one invaluable thing while there, and that was how to critique.

    First and most important, you try to understand what it is they're trying to accomplish. This might require asking some questions. Then, if you get a handle on that, and if you know some way to help them do it better, by all means, give some advice. But you should never tell them that you don't like the piece they're doing and think they should do something different instead—that's not critique, it's just an opinion.
     
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  7. Fervidor

    Fervidor Senior Member

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    Yes. This.

    By extension, the better you understand what the creator was trying to accomplish, the better critique you will be able to provide.

    Well... I don't entirely agree on that. Opinions can still be valuable feedback, because we're usually not specifically writing for seasoned critics; we're typically writing for the average reader who isn't going to think quite so deeply or analytically about it. There have been times I tried something experimental, hoping for a certain reaction, only to find that a majority of readers had a different and more negative reaction.

    That's worth taking note of: It means I misjudged my demographic or miscalculated somehow. At that point it kinda doesn't matter what I meant to to, I still failed.
     
  8. big soft moose

    big soft moose An Admoostrator Staff Supporter Contributor Community Volunteer

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    you need a better beta reader - ive written three novels in present tense...
     
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  9. Xoic

    Xoic Prognosticator of Arcana Ridiculosum Contributor

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    Yeah, I can see that perspective too. I think the point in class was to break us of the habit of only giving opinion, so we'd only do it occasionally rather than all the time.
     
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  10. Naomasa298

    Naomasa298 HP: 12/210 MP: 0/130 Contributor

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    I think I would have to decline to beta read a first person story. It just doesn't work for me and I think I'd be unable to give a fair critique.
     
  11. Fervidor

    Fervidor Senior Member

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    Well, I think that if you know what you're doing it shouldn't be a problem to do both at once: You can say you don't like a story because that was your honest emotional reaction but if you get what the writer was trying to do, you can either pinpoint where it went wrong or admit it was just a matter of taste.

    The important thing is that you don't, like, just tick off points off a list of stuff stories "aren't supposed to do", or say it sucks without giving a justification for why.

    (Note: Most worthwhile negative comments I've had on my stories were able to explain what they thought I did wrong, albeit sometimes in very basic terms. I think most readers are capable of identifying whatever problems they have with the story even if they haven't specifically trained themselves to do so. I just hold "critics" to somewhat higher standards.)
     
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  12. GraceLikePain

    GraceLikePain Senior Member

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    I don't mind when people give their opinions. This one time someone criticized one of my characters and said he hated him. That was fascinating, because it made me see the character in a new light. Hating him was fair because he was kind of ditzy, and yet he was also supposed to be an important general.
     
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  13. galaxaura

    galaxaura New Member

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    Of course, different readers can also provide valuable input. After all, each person brings his or her own story with him or her and interprets texts more or less differently. No text ever exists only in the version that the author has thought of, but always also in the variations in which the readers receive the text.

    But it makes a difference if someone notices that he or she thinks a character is worth hating. Or if he tells you that your whole book is badly written and belongs in the trash. Criticism and opinions should always be formulated in such a way that it is appreciative and the recipient can accept the message.
     
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  14. exweedfarmer

    exweedfarmer Banned Contributor

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    Even more than a decent word processor, a fiction writer needs a very thick skin. Press on good luck!
     
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  15. NK_UT

    NK_UT Active Member

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    Not writing related, related to when I was learning concept design.

    I critiqued a fellow artist's concept design in which I said the mask he was wearing doesn't fit the anatomy of the face. Another user critiqued my critique by saying "It doesn't have to make sense! It just has to look cool!"

    Not a "bad" critique in the sense that it was harsh, just bewildering at the time and has stuck in my mind ever since.

    Just for reference, that was 17 years ago.
     
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  16. PaperandPencil

    PaperandPencil Member

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    The very first short story I ever wrote so far got the very worst first critique that I've gotten. Fortunately it wasn't really even about how the story was written but the choice of genre/character and plot that I made. For some reason the reader just couldn't understand why I wanted to write about the things I wrote about. Why this topic? Why these characters? Why did you describe them this way? The story itself was pretty much free of errors although I do wonder how it will be received on this forum when I post it. :eek: [Fingers crossed]
     
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  17. jannert

    jannert Retired Mod Supporter Contributor

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    One thing a critique giver should probably keep in mind is this: many fellow writers react negatively to criticism. By that I mean they want to jump in to defend the bits you've criticised. That doesn't mean they haven't heard what you've said. It means they need some time to process what you've said. So don't be hard on them. You can maybe try again to get them to see the issue from a different perspective, but if they persist in denial, then let it drop and await developments.

    YOU might actually be wrong, of course. (Surely not.) :) But if you're right, they might take your point on board, once they no longer feel pressure to defend their work.

    I learned about an egregious fault in my first draft this way. By GOD I was sticking to my guns on the issue. I knew exactly what I'd meant to do! How dare he...etc. And then, suddenly ...bingo. It hit me. My beta was right. What I'd meant to do was not a good idea after all.

    I made the changes he suggested (and thanked him profusely), which completely transformed the beginning of my story in a good way. But my first reaction to what he'd said was no no no no no no no....it's MY story, I wrote it MY way, it's exactly the way I want it.

    I just needed some time to process.

    Critique helps bridge the gap between what the writer intended and what the reader is picking up. Both sides need to keep this in mind. Critique-givers need to work with what the writer was wanting to achieve, and not get sidetracked by their own preferences. And the writer needs to understand that, in some ways, they haven't yet achieved the effect they wanted.
     
    Last edited: Aug 9, 2020
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  18. SethLoki

    SethLoki Retired Autodidact Contributor

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    :meh: Unclip, unclip your wings and use the present to fly, fly in a headlong rage against that man!
     
  19. Xoic

    Xoic Prognosticator of Arcana Ridiculosum Contributor

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    Yes. One thing I've learned is it's a good idea to sleep on a critique before responding to it. Or even wait a week or so before responding to all of them.
     
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  20. Room with a view

    Room with a view Senior Member

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    I think the word '' I '' is used the most in Jeff Lindsay's Dexter books which is also in the first person. I think it says more about the critic than it does your writing.
     
  21. Naomasa298

    Naomasa298 HP: 12/210 MP: 0/130 Contributor

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    I try to take critiques on board, I really do, and most things, even if they're harsh or uncomplimentary, are welcome (as long as they're honest).

    But some things really annoy me.

    One in particular is when someone rewrites bits of my work without explaining WHY they think it's better that way. "I just think this sounds better." Well, that's a matter of opinion and style. I don't need my sentences rewritten for no reason. But on the other hand, if you can tell me it's better for this reason or that, that's entirely different.

    A related one is when someone quotes a writing "rule" or a book at me and says "according to X, you should do this." Now, I wrote what I wrote for reason. Tell me WHY applying rule X would make it better. If you can't, then you don't understand the purpose of the rule.

    And when someone tells me something I already know. Of course, the critique giver doesn't know that. But it does annoy me when I see "Y doesn't work that way in real life!". Well yes, I know that. But for whatever reason, for the purposes of FICTION, I ignored it.

    I ran into an issue when giving critiques though. It was for an essay posted on a forum. I was pointing out to the author why something was unclear or needed further information, and his response was to get defensive and point out all of the assumptions I had made. I made those assumptions because it wasn't clear in the text. I pointed out that, posting an essay on a forum gave him a unique opportunity to interact with his readers. If that essay was offline or submitted for an academic assessment, you're not going to get the chance to explain all the bits you left out. I think this applies to stories too. Never assume the reader knows what you know.

    Rant over.
     
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  22. Zeppo595

    Zeppo595 Contributor Contributor

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    I think the worst critiques I've received is when people just want the story or essay to be another way because that's how they'd do it or what they'd like instead of focusing on what the essay or story actually is. I feel like some readers connect to certain elements they 'relate to' and sometimes almost demand the whole thing be more like that.

    I'm all for changing it if the way it is is inherently flawed. But when it comes down to this subjective thing of 'I want it to be more about this' it's like 'well...that's not what it's about.'

    Maybe you can learn from that if multiple people say the same thing but when it's just one person saying that it's so clear it's their bias getting in the way I wonder how they fail to see it sometimes.

    I have experienced a lot of people disliking things due to a negative downbeat tone and while I think that's a bit annoying, it does tell you something about reader tastes.
     
  23. Catrin Lewis

    Catrin Lewis Contributor Contributor Community Volunteer

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    I think I've mentioned a couple of the worst criticisms I've ever gotten earlier on this thread or elsewhere in this forum. One of the worst critiques I've ever heard was directed at another author in the critique group I briefly was a part of. The know-it-all of the group told her that "an agent" wouldn't like the fact that her POV character was eight years old. No, she had to make her aged sixteen in order for her book to sell. Trouble was, the plot didn't work with a 16 year old FMC, not unless you gave the teenager a terrible case of arrested development. I'd thought the story was intriguing how she had it in the beginning, but the poor author accepted the crit wholesale and did what Ms. Forceful said. It was a trainwreck, and all because of an imaginary figure the author was told she had to please.
     
    Last edited: Aug 17, 2020
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  24. Maddy Knight

    Maddy Knight Member

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    You Suck.

    That was my worst. Not because it was 'bad', but because it was not backed up with any reasons, or suggestions. Just those two words. Actually it's now a standing joke in our house.
     
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  25. Malum

    Malum Offline Supporter

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    "I'd rather lay bricks."
     
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