January 3rd, 2005, 09:44 PM
I don't think a writer should have to ask a specific question to not get a, "I like it," or, "I don't like it." Whenever I critique, I got paragraph by paragraph until I get through the thing... If I get hung up on something, it gets mentioned (and WHY I got hung up on it).
I critique like that because that's what I want though. I want to know where facts within the story don't match, I want to know if some information seems like just too much, I want to know when a character shouldn't exist... I don't care if the reader doesn't like the story overall. I don't care if the reader doesn't like a character. I don't care about the reader at all... The story is all that matters, and finding possible errors or ways to improve it are al I want.
If you say you don't like it, then tell me why.
January 5th, 2005, 06:37 AM
One of the more interesting small dilemmas faced by a writer I'd imagine. But I'm not a writer so I can only imagine.
As a non-writer posting on the sffworld forums for a while but hardly ever in the writer's section, I will offer the observation that I find a lot of the opinions expressed on what constitutes good writing surprisingly homogeneous. A lot of the attitudes I feel come off as a result of groupthink. So I don't know, what are you expecting to get from these writing critique people? If it's just grammar corrections, plausibility issues, or lucidity concerns, it's fine I guess. I do wonder if there is any value, however, if you are just going to submit it to another struggling author who has been inundated with the same dogma of what constitutes good characterization or good style and are looking for their opinion on how to improve your characters or the overall tone and feel of your writing. I hope you will also have reliable and competent outsiders' perspectives to keep you all grounded.
January 5th, 2005, 08:35 AM
This is a really good point.
Originally Posted by Bond
As long as you find the right group and are 'in it' for the right reasons, they should add value but you must get other opinions from those who are not in 'crit' mode. Some people simply love to crit and give their opinion on how a tale would 'work' better for them. It is only their opinion of course. It is more important to identify where your work doesn't flow, is too busy, is an info dump, does not suspend disbelief... But then you can find these problems in a lot of published, revered work.
I would hate to think of writers who do not move on from the 'crit' playground to the submission playground, trapped in a process of trying to please a particularly hard bunch of seasoned critters. Of course (I know Sheep, I know) you have to make the work as good as it can be before sending it off, but when is the cut off? Bond makes a HIGHLY valuable point... If these people know so much, how come they aren't too busy writing books to join a crit group (or spend time at a forum dedicated to SFF & Fantasy for that matter)!?!
I'll tell you why, because they are human and need to interact with like-minded peers... Fine, but it isn't the be all and end all. Get some opinions from people who simply love stories, who love to read and who can give you a different angle on what is good or bad about your story and/or characters. The best advice I got from somebody was a mate, who loves Fantasy, he doesn't write it, has no idea what good grammar is, doesn't care for politics particularly... He simply told me that he felt, that I felt, as a reader, that he was stupid... Which clearly is not the case. That told me, and changed my whole approach to writing from telling to showing.
So, as a hard to please individual... Come on Bond, give up your email address so we can all bombard you with tales to critique. You asked for it and you clearly need something to take your mind off... Well, existing time-eating endeavours here at SFFWORLD.
January 5th, 2005, 10:29 AM
Edited for submission
Juzzza; In my experience some folks never leave the crit groups. They just keep going over the same old same old, working the chapter/novel/short story to death.
There has to come a point when you say enough! Here goes! I have found when I have received a pile of rejections,I re think, fiddle some more and again plunge into submissions.... only way to go..... In the end you have to go with your gut!
January 5th, 2005, 10:59 AM
Yea, exactly my point. They must add value, but you gotta take the plunge at some point.
Originally Posted by Holbrook
I guess if a few people point out structure, grammar, tense, POV, problems, you have to listen but what makes a story good for some and bad for others is all subjective.
DON'T GET STUCK IN THE CRIT HOLE!!!
January 5th, 2005, 11:49 AM
Edited for submission
I am sure both my submissions have all of the above in them at some point. I worked hard to get them all, but know I haven't. But I do know in both I told the story I wanted to tell in the "voice" I wanted too, both are very different styles and types of books...
Originally Posted by juzzza
I got very bullish towards the end with both of them, the story was set in stone in my heart and no way was any of that going to change. The way I told it, did get altered a bit in the last months due to crits from friends and I thank them, but the story stayed the same...
If that makes sense, people can help a lot, when the sheep tells me to get inside the character's head and stay there, I try to listen ;
January 5th, 2005, 08:45 PM
Where have I been?
I have never been the member of a critique group and don't think I ever will be. I've heard many stories like what's being told here. Lots of 'atta boys' and not a lot of actual critique. I think anyone who actually finishes writing a novel deserves praise for having completed such a task, but they also deserve the respect of a well thought out and no-hold-barred critique. Of course always be polite, but don't be afraid to point out someone's faults. If a writer can't handle critisism, they shouldn't write at all.
Just my opinion.
I prefer my current set of readers. I get honest feedback as well as some 'atta boys, where's the next piece?' responses. It feels good to get any response beyond 'yeah, that was good'. I would hate to exert effort on an actual critique and have that writer give me an atta boy. That's hot the point of a critique group.
I'm cynical though.
Hol, I've read some of your stuff (wish you'd send me some more) and you've nothing to worry about. You just need to keep your work out there until an agent or editor tells you what to change so they can publish it. You're close, very close. Did I say send me some more work to read?
January 6th, 2005, 02:45 PM
I've been thinking about what it means to "critique" and "be critiqued"...
1. Asking for Critiques:
I'm a notorious non-finisher. For me, the end-product isn't the point. I'm writing to be writing, not to produce, and so I'm wary of asking people for critique or help with projects. I'm afraid they might feel they waste their time (and time is precious), if it doesn't get finished. You see, to me it doesn't matter much if something gets finished or not. The critiques would help me, in my own way, but not with respect towards a finished product... Even if I do finish something (in the sense that it's got a descernible beginning, middle, end...), it's a provisory version, a process currently resting. So:
Question1: Would you be interested in giving critiques, even though the project might not result in a tangible product?
2. Dealing with Critiques:
I like being critiqued. But, again, I'm running into problems, because I'm not writing for a product, but writing to be writing. I do not necessarily want to be published (not that wouldn't like it, but it's not the point). Nor do I necessarily need to be understood. As a writer (somemone who writes; not someone who produces something written), I don't much care about the reader. I'm just pouring stuff onto a page, so that it stares back at me, and I can go, "What? I've written that?" Kind of like a mirror for the soul, if that makes sense.
Now, why then, would I want critiques at all? The answer is: perspectives. I want to know how others react to the thing I've produced. I can, then, see my work with fresh eyes. Discover things I haven't seen, couldn't have dreamt that are in the text.
You see, once the writing turns into something written, my attitude to it is no longer the only relevant one. It's a thing now, and develops a life of its own - like a child, really. Giving a critique is somehow like giving advice to my child; even if I don't like what you've said, the text has been changed. And the text may like it...
In practice, this means that once I get a critique, one of the following happens:
(1) I see an error, and amend it.
(2) I get a new idea, and incorporate it.
(3) I get defensive and try to explain the original intent, all the while aware that the original intent doesn't matter much if it isn't understood. I do so, partly, because I'm a narcissist when it comes to writing. But I'm always a bit disappointed when the the critiquer then either gives in, or gives up, or moves on. So I must be hoping for something, for the critiquer to argue his/her original point, as if this was "our" story at that point, not simply "mine".
Q2: If you'd give me a critique, and I'd get defensive about it, how would you feel about it? Slighted? Discouraged from giving further critiques?
Running out of time, now. There may be more to come...
January 6th, 2005, 02:58 PM
Where have I been?
I've critiqued WIPs and had WIPs critiqued. What you would need to tell a prospective critiquer would be what you want out of the critique. Do you want someone just to read it? Check it for grammar? Tell you if they found the hidden meaning? Tell you if they got it or not? All of the above...
My point is that a critique can be customized. I'm brutal when I critique because that's what I'd expect in return. A brutally honest critique. What did you like and why? What didn't you like and why? If you give and recieve honest feedback, it'll only help you as a writer because you'll also find similar faults in your own writing when you get back to it. You just need to get to a point as a writer that critiques don't enhance your style or voice any more and move on.
For getting defensive, I've had that too. What you need to understand when you get a critique is that you're getting a reader's perspective. If they didn't get it, neither will an agent, or a publisher. You may need to see if you're getting your point across or if you're targeting the wrong audience. I've defended my work, but in the end, I got what the readers were saying and changed my prose. I'm not attacking you, just trying to say what I saw that didn't look right. And no, I wouldn't feel slighted, I would just hope that my comments didn't fall on deaf ears. If you're defending your point, then they didn't.
January 6th, 2005, 03:10 PM
Okay, I'm just brainstorming here, I don't know what's impossible.
There have been a few times in these threads where someone has posted a poem, or something very short, and has asked for feedback. I have enjoyed those places because the feedback is in a discussion form. If I say something about a poem, the next person may tell me why I'm off base in saying what I said. (By the way, thanks.)
We can post stories in the stories/poem section, but the feedback is minimal. You can rate the story, or make a comment, it isn't set up for anything in depth. Some have posted stories, then requested feedback in the forum. That system seems to work better when the story is shorter. I think it gets a bit cumbersome to open up six or seven sequential chapters, though it might not bother other people. (I don't know what the count is in those, but my stories average 8K words.)
So, then, is it possible to start a thread, asking for comments, discussion, whatever, and if anyone is interested they could contact the thread starter who could e-mail out the story in question. (That may be more work, but it has the advantage of the author having control of her/his work.) Or maybe construct a place where it could be downloaded. (Less work for all involved, less control--it's a trade off.)
I think there could be some interesting, entertaining, helpful, feedback from this group. Is this possible?
January 6th, 2005, 03:15 PM
Where have I been?
That has been done before. I have also posted (in the post your progress thread) for anyone to PM me with their e-mail address or drop me an e-mail if they'd like to read something of mine or to request a critique. So yes, by all means, start a thread and request or post in the Post Your Progress thread and request it there.
January 7th, 2005, 11:05 PM
Hey! Aren't you the same guy who in that other thread called me a---how did you put it?---"strutting peacock"? And NOW you are asking for my help?
Originally Posted by juzzza
Could you wait just a moment?
I must bask in this warm fuzzy feeling of satisfaction and vindication percolating through me. Ahhhhh. . . .
Now where were we again? You're interested in a critique from me? Actually I'm, uh. . .a little busy. Yes, I think that's what you call it, busy. I have this list of books to read and never seem to get started on them.
To be quite honest though I did this critique thingy for some essays of some friends during high school and university and it was a depressing exercise. I was getting high marks for mine and naturally they turned to me for help. Basically I found their writing a disaster. Aside from the numerous grammatical and punctuation errors, there was no directed thought or coherent organization. When I asked them to describe to me in words what they were trying to say in their essay they gave me a lot of superficial obvious and ultimately vacuous statements with little to no insight. I sat through the entire explanation of platitudes nodding my head and smiling after ineffectively trying to get through what was absent in the writing and being completely misunderstood. In short there was nothing to be salvaged from the essays and the best I could do was put on some sentence restructuring band aids. I was of little help. That was with essays which have pretty clear rules governing their structure and content, not open-ended storytelling. Because of this experience, the prospect of critiquing amateur writing I find is very unappealing. If, however, you've been getting "A"s in English throughout your education, or you think you could breeze through it now, and you think it's only a matter of time before you get published well I might give it a shot since you're the first one to flatter me so on these boards. Where do I find your work? I do not give out my email.
January 7th, 2005, 11:46 PM
OK, watch for me in the writing section.
Originally Posted by maus99
January 14th, 2005, 01:12 PM
Originally Posted by Glelas
Yup, pretty much defeats the concept. Two problems with any writers group:
1) They have to see the value in a system of mutual criticism. If what they're really looking for is emotional support then it's likey that they'll just post a lot of fluff.
2) Like Bond briefly mentioned (but I'm going to belabor ) they have to actually know what they're talking about. Let's face it. There is a very good reason why some people haven't been published yet. On top of that, they may write well, but not know why; if their talent is all instinct without any cognitive reconition of what makes good writing good, then they probably couldn't help you even if they wanted. Making a pithy statement like "your characters are stale" won't do much good. What does that mean? Stale how? The only good critique is the one that tries to figure out what you're trying to accomplish in your story, tell you what worked and what didn't, and then tell you WHY.
My recommendation -- post here. We have folks, some published, most thoughtful, who will be happy to treat your story like a side of beef in a Rocky movie. If you don't believe me just look at what we did to Merancapeman.
January 14th, 2005, 01:16 PM
Seven Mary Four
That is what I want except I want not just Rocky pounding that side of beef, I want Apollo Creed, Clubber Lang, Ivan Drago, Tommy "the machine" Gunn, Spider Rico and anyone else the Italian Stallion fought.
Originally Posted by ironchef texmex