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Etiquette> Critiques of critiques?

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stephenmatlock View Drop Down
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (3) Thanks(3)   Quote stephenmatlock Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 18 Jul 2020 at 5:25pm
Personally, I avoid critiquing a piece that's finished. That is, I don't go into detail about all the things I got tripped up on, or all the mistakes, or even that the story misses the mark.

That stuff is for beta.

What I critique in a posted piece are the things I like or was moved by, or the things that are witty or fun or that make me gasp.

I offer--sometimes!--responses of where I am puzzled or feel pulled out of the story as it is in this moment. For writers who think of the forums as a place to post their work for such a critique, I offer that. I'm not here to be your English teacher or your agent or publisher or editor. Besides, authors know their stories and they know their language, and I trust their judgment--even though I might point out where I got muddled.

Not everyone does it this way. That's fine, because we are not here to perform a professional service. We are here for the joy of reading the creativity of others, to lift up the things that are good and true and fun, and to give some feedback not on how it "should" be done, but on where we got lost or felt that there was a weaker point. We're here to celebrate creativity. The gods of NYCM can give us the score of how well we did. For them.

I get feedback that sometimes is rather harsh, and that's fine. I can take it--I've been writing for decades, and I'm not all that skilled. Go ahead and give it your best shot. You think you can say something I haven't heard before? I once got a review with a red lined slashed through page 2 of a long form story: "I stopped reading here." Beat that.

But I also realize that a lot of writers are here presenting us with their beloved child, someone they've worked on with all their efforts to bring beauty or joy or happiness. I'm not going to shoot them down, not here. They come with trembling anticipation of "is it good enough?" hoping that we'll say "Oh, this made me smile" or "this made me pause" or even "this got me, right in the place in my heart where I keep my private feelings."

I'm here to build that up, that desire of writers to say something and to do it well. I'll do whatever I can to help it along. I want every writer to develop their own voice & their own well of telling the story. And I want them to be completely full of joy about their writing, because it is, ultimately, 100% of what they wanted to create.

Why else are we writing?
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (1) Thanks(1)   Quote Bridget Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 18 Jul 2020 at 6:07pm
Thanks @stephenmatlock for the positive post :) 
"a lot of writers are here presenting us with their beloved child" I always keep that in mind too and I personally won't comment if I have nothing positive at all to say. 
I appreciate getting positive and/or negative critiques on my story as long as they are genuine. It's better for my ego if there's a bit of both in each critique as I won't trust a critique with only positives and I'll feel dispirited by a critique that is only negative. However I don't think there's a "one size fits all" type of critique, everyone is different (thankfully). Although I do agree choosing words carefully and not appropriating a writer's words/story are important.
If I get a critique I'm upset about I will read the author's story then decide what kind of value I attach to their critique. I might find it helpful once I get over being upset. Then I'll thank the author and move on.

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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote Ullanta Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 18 Jul 2020 at 6:31pm
Stephenmatlock - your last paragraph! That’s an important distinction, perhaps, between this and other critiquing settings? Maybe? The focus on people’s motivation to write, vs. their ability to write effectively?

When I critique, in settings where the participants have no choice (in school, etc.) or are true beginners, I handle things differently than when I’m in a Setting where people are dedicated writers eager to hone their craft. In those settings, we never worry about squashing someone’s desire to write; we all feel in it together to make sure everyone effectively conveys what they want to convey. No one expects their work to appeal to everyone; no one expects their criticisms to be taken by everyone.    What’s important is that people voice their reactions and suggestions; and the writer takes these to figure out if they’ve conveyed what they want to convey, and how and whether they want to change things to convey what they want more effectively.

In a big, online forum like this, it’s hard to know.   I try to evaluate the author a bit based on available information (“this is my first story ever!” or five-star long-term participant; sometimes the websites linked to for stories show one to be presenting oneself as a professional writer, etc.).

Is that OK, or should we assume everyone’s a beginner who needs to be encouraged to write?
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (1) Thanks(1)   Quote scribingpenguin Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 18 Jul 2020 at 7:00pm
I personally welcome critique (in fact, the more the merrier!) and yes while I love hearing what you liked about my writing I won’t get offended at all if you pile on the criticism or if you’re rather blunt in your delivery. The only way for me to get better is to find out where all the faults are and what to improve upon and in the end that’s my goal. And I try to look at critiques as a way the reviewer is trying to help me improve my writing. But I have been writing for a while and can generally pick out the constructive criticism from the ones that don’t work. 

That being said, this probably wouldn’t work for some people and if you’re a new writer criticism is an especially easy way to get discouraged. So I think for this type of contest/forum the sandwich format really works the best as several posters have already said.
Plus we poured all our sweat and tears into a piece for an entire weekend so it’s only natural to want to hear what people enjoyed about it. 

I find the judges feedback format works really well for me -several notes about what works well and several about what to improve upon. 
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote Ullanta Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 18 Jul 2020 at 7:14pm
Does anyone think there would be any value to having a way for authors to identify the type of critique they’re looking for? Say, a range from “I’m just starting to explore my potential as a writer” to “I have great confidence in this story and really want to hear anything that will increase it’s chances of publication”?

And, also in response to stephenmatlock, whether the author considers the piece to be finished or beta?   My feeling, which may be wrong!, is that any quick-contest story is kind of beta, and likely to be revised if in the end the author thinks it’s promising. Do most folks wNt to just spend the contest time, then call it done?

Hmmm. Maybe that’s my mistake. Do most folks think of this as primarily as a competition, for a prize? And criticism reducing chances of said prize? I must admit, I’ve never really thought about the competitive aspect of this. Even with all the “good luck with the judges.” I have been working in the assumption that THIS FORUM, with more extensive feedback from fellow writers, was the main goal. Hmmm.


Edited by Ullanta - 18 Jul 2020 at 7:28pm
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (4) Thanks(4)   Quote stephenmatlock Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 18 Jul 2020 at 7:35pm
Mostly remember that there is a human being at the other end of the internet. You don't know them. If you don't know them, then it seems to me that you'd defer to kindness and care. As you build up your trust with them, you can build up the range of your responses.

It would indeed be helpful if people said "I'm a noob; please give me the high points and low points only," or "I'm Stephen King, and who cares what you think; fire away!"

I don't reject any criticism, and don't dimiss anything as "wrong." If you found something that made you go "wut" or that pulled you out of the story, then no matter my intent, I didn't do a good job. Feel free for me to put your phasers on blast.

If the writer didn't say "Go ahead and plow through my field," then just consider what you know about people and unsolicited negative criticism. I'm sure there are many a times in your pre-COVID days when you saw someone who was wearing the wrong outfit for them, but you probably didn't go up to them and say "Excuse me, but that's atrocious."

That's my opinion, and everyone can do it their own way. As far as I know, there's no wrong way. But there are ways that build trust and communication, and there are ways that tear down and close down.  I'd suggest we do the former and not the latter.
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (1) Thanks(1)   Quote MuffinMom Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 29 Jul 2020 at 6:10pm
I'd much rather have true, unfiltered, raw critiques, and I don't care one bit whether or not it's sandwiched. 

That said, whenever I do a critique, I do try to sandwich it. That's just kind of the way I am made. I actually belong to a writing critique group who's whole purpose it is is to point out all of the flaws of the piece, and if you can't handle it, you can leave. It's been the best experience I've had, and it's made me a better writer. However, when I do critiques on there, I always start with what I liked. Can't help it.

But a critique that is honest is really the best, in my opinion.
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote Oryx Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 30 Jul 2020 at 1:15pm
Originally posted by stephenmatlock stephenmatlock wrote:

Personally, I avoid critiquing a piece that's finished. That is, I don't go into detail about all the things I got tripped up on, or all the mistakes, or even that the story misses the mark...

That stuff is for beta.

-snip-

... I'm not here to be your English teacher or your agent or publisher or editor...

-snip-

...But I also realize that a lot of writers are here presenting us with their beloved child, someone they've worked on with all their efforts to bring beauty or joy or happiness. I'm not going to shoot them down, not here. They come with trembling anticipation of "is it good enough?" hoping that we'll say "Oh, this made me smile" or "this made me pause" or even "this got me, right in the place in my heart where I keep my private feelings."

This reads to me a little bit out-of-touch . 

Please don't misunderstand me, Stephen. I'm not saying that you are out-of-touch, but this may read differently than you intend it. I read this comment weeks ago when you posted it and I didn't comment because I didn't want to be misunderstood but it still bothers me reading it again.

I selected a few of the parts that bothered me the most and used only them in my quote. I hope that's not poor format. It's not my intention to cherry-pick things that I dislike. I'm trying to communicate clearly which ideas I'm talking about. 

Ok, enough disclaimer. You say that "that stuff is for betas". Remember not everyone has betas.  I think you have a lot of experience writing and have a network of crit partners  that you share work with. But for people that haven't developed their crit network, these forum type places and the feedback from them are more valuable to them than it may be to you.

Second thing. The "not your English teacher.." thing, it sounds pretentious to me and I don't think that is your intent. Asking for your honest feedback is not asking for you to be my English teacher. 

And third thing. The whole "beloved child... not going to shoot it down..." You don't have to shoot it down but don't tell me useless positivity that you don't mean, or don't mean fully! That's harmful, especially for people who don't have crit partner networks yet. 

 


Edited by Oryx - 30 Jul 2020 at 1:21pm
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote stephenmatlock Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 30 Jul 2020 at 2:40pm
Originally posted by Oryx Oryx wrote:

Originally posted by stephenmatlock stephenmatlock wrote:

Personally, I avoid critiquing a piece that's finished. That is, I don't go into detail about all the things I got tripped up on, or all the mistakes, or even that the story misses the mark...

That stuff is for beta.

-snip-

... I'm not here to be your English teacher or your agent or publisher or editor...

-snip-

...But I also realize that a lot of writers are here presenting us with their beloved child, someone they've worked on with all their efforts to bring beauty or joy or happiness. I'm not going to shoot them down, not here. They come with trembling anticipation of "is it good enough?" hoping that we'll say "Oh, this made me smile" or "this made me pause" or even "this got me, right in the place in my heart where I keep my private feelings."

This reads to me a little bit out-of-touch . 

Please don't misunderstand me, Stephen. I'm not saying that you are out-of-touch, but this may read differently than you intend it. I read this comment weeks ago when you posted it and I didn't comment because I didn't want to be misunderstood but it still bothers me reading it again.

I selected a few of the parts that bothered me the most and used only them in my quote. I hope that's not poor format. It's not my intention to cherry-pick things that I dislike. I'm trying to communicate clearly which ideas I'm talking about. 

Ok, enough disclaimer. You say that "that stuff is for betas". Remember not everyone has betas.  I think you have a lot of experience writing and have a network of crit partners  that you share work with. But for people that haven't developed their crit network, these forum type places and the feedback from them are more valuable to them than it may be to you.

Second thing. The "not your English teacher.." thing, it sounds pretentious to me and I don't think that is your intent. Asking for your honest feedback is not asking for you to be my English teacher. 

And third thing. The whole "beloved child... not going to shoot it down..." You don't have to shoot it down but don't tell me useless positivity that you don't mean, or don't mean fully! That's harmful, especially for people who don't have crit partner networks yet.


Hey Oryx,

Thanks for the feedback! One of the things that's most important when communicating is to be sure that what is being said is being understood, so I am grateful for your careful attention to what I said. Feedback that is honest is important for me to learn to use my words better.
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (1) Thanks(1)   Quote nikolaki Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 30 Jul 2020 at 5:22pm
Originally posted by stephenmatlock stephenmatlock wrote:

Originally posted by Oryx Oryx wrote:

Originally posted by stephenmatlock stephenmatlock wrote:

Personally, I avoid critiquing a piece that's finished. That is, I don't go into detail about all the things I got tripped up on, or all the mistakes, or even that the story misses the mark...

That stuff is for beta.

-snip-

... I'm not here to be your English teacher or your agent or publisher or editor...

-snip-

...But I also realize that a lot of writers are here presenting us with their beloved child, someone they've worked on with all their efforts to bring beauty or joy or happiness. I'm not going to shoot them down, not here. They come with trembling anticipation of "is it good enough?" hoping that we'll say "Oh, this made me smile" or "this made me pause" or even "this got me, right in the place in my heart where I keep my private feelings."

This reads to me a little bit out-of-touch . 

Please don't misunderstand me, Stephen. I'm not saying that you are out-of-touch, but this may read differently than you intend it. I read this comment weeks ago when you posted it and I didn't comment because I didn't want to be misunderstood but it still bothers me reading it again.

I selected a few of the parts that bothered me the most and used only them in my quote. I hope that's not poor format. It's not my intention to cherry-pick things that I dislike. I'm trying to communicate clearly which ideas I'm talking about. 

Ok, enough disclaimer. You say that "that stuff is for betas". Remember not everyone has betas.  I think you have a lot of experience writing and have a network of crit partners  that you share work with. But for people that haven't developed their crit network, these forum type places and the feedback from them are more valuable to them than it may be to you.

Second thing. The "not your English teacher.." thing, it sounds pretentious to me and I don't think that is your intent. Asking for your honest feedback is not asking for you to be my English teacher. 

And third thing. The whole "beloved child... not going to shoot it down..." You don't have to shoot it down but don't tell me useless positivity that you don't mean, or don't mean fully! That's harmful, especially for people who don't have crit partner networks yet.


Hey Oryx,

Thanks for the feedback! One of the things that's most important when communicating is to be sure that what is being said is being understood, so I am grateful for your careful attention to what I said. Feedback that is honest is important for me to learn to use my words better.

This critique of a critique on a critique of critiquing is a nice exchange. Okay please don't hate me for adding that comment. lol
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