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Victimized by a Nasty Drive-by Review? Take Heart.

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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (3) Thanks(3)   Quote Smith Corona Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 06 Feb 2019 at 9:45am
Originally posted by LaurieH LaurieH wrote:

What you seem to be saying, at least in what my little brain is comprehending, is that any review that points out the flaws in a story is a "nasty drive-by review" whether the comments are helpful or not.

Someone posting, "I read your story, and I didn't understand this, this, or this, and couldn't figure out what the character's motivation was, so you may want to make it clearer. But the worldbuilding was nice," is a nasty drive-by review.

What I see people here saying is that getting only the negatives is hard on most writers, especially new ones, so it's important to balance out constructive criticism with acknowledging what did work for you in the piece. I think your example above does this - it points out that character motivation is an issue but acknowledges that worldbuilding worked well. The writer gets a suggestion on where to focus in editing but also gets the encouragement of knowing that they were successful with you as a reader in other areas.


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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (4) Thanks(4)   Quote Drib Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 06 Feb 2019 at 8:48am
Great thread on an important topic.

(This answer got much longer than I anticipated. Apologies. Clearly, I need an editor...)

First things first: none of us have paid our fellow writers to post their stories. That anyone chooses to post their story for us to read is a free, added-value privilege that we should all appreciate - and acknowledge when we respond to their stories.

That being said, I assume (dangerous thing, I know) that most of us post our stories because we've done the hard yards of sweating under a deadline to produce the best we can and most of us are desperate to find out what 'ordinary' readers think of what we have written.  (By 'ordinary' I mean people who encounter our work like they encounter other writing, perhaps writing that they have bought. People who don't know us and so have few filters between them and our work).  As writers we want to know, is it good? Or at least good enough to stand up in the eyes of a stranger?

So we'd like some feedback.  Feedback about whether the story worked.  Feedback about what a strange reader thought was good.  

And feedback about what could have been better.

And this is where the landmines are.  

As a reader, it's damned hard to provide good, specific, actionable feedback about what we like in a story. Not without drifting into gushing empty compliments. 

But it's really easy to find things we don't like - and complain about them. And easy to make complaints specific. And easy to cast them down from our keyboards as if our critique was the voice of God issuing holy writ to a hapless prophet on a mountain top. (Whoops. Runaway simile).

It's easy, and, if this is all we do, it is lazy.

And here's the thing: humans are hardwired to pay attention to criticism much more than praise. Five times more. That means that one piece of negative feedback hits with the force of five pieces of positive criticism. 

If we get more than two or three negative crits, that can be devastating. It can completely destroy any sense of pride in what we have written or belief in what we could write. It could stop us from trying again, ever. And that should fly in the face of the reason we are here.

For many of us, putting our writing out here in the Forum is something that makes us vulnerable. Perhaps we've never shown anyone our writing before. Perhaps we've never told anyone we'd like to write before. Perhaps we think - for whatever reason, a bad teacher, a throwaway comment from a sibling - that we shouldn't be arrogant enough to think anyone will like our writing. Perhaps we hope we are taking the first step towards our dream of being a writer.

Yet we're putting something out there that many of us think of as a reflection of ourselves. And when someone crassly kicks our writing, they are kicking our dreams.

So negative crits can hurt, and hurt badly.

And yet we still we want to find out how we can do better.

So what's a reviewer to do?

All I can speak to is what I try to do. Sometimes (often) I fail. But I try.
  • Thank the person for posting the story. At the least, they've given me something that's engaged me and that's worth being grateful for.
  • Find something that I valued and enjoyed in the story. Something specific, so that if they did it again, that would be good.
  • Find one thing that I think could be improved. There may be more things I could crit, but what would be my purpose in doing so?  When I present my crit, I try not to claim any more authority other than that of being a reader.  I point out the thing I think could be improved, perhaps explaining why it didn't work for me.
  • Then I find something else I liked. Again, something specific.
  • Then something overall about the story I enjoyed or valued. There is always something. Always.
That's it.  I know they're going to focus on the negative crit - that's what we all do - but I've done my best so they don't feel bad about it.

This works for me - and, I hope, for the readers who have allowed me to read their work. I know other folk think about reviews differently and offer feedback in other, often brilliant, ways. 

But it is easy to spot a review motivated by an honest desire to appreciate and help, versus one that that has been written to make the reviewer feel good at the expense of the writer whom they are critiquing.

Let's not be those reviewers.

This competition is a tough gig. Everyone has worked hard to produce the best work they could. I see that my role as a reader is to recognise their effort, support what they have achieved, and offer a little help how, in my opinion as a reader, the story might work a little better, for them to improve.  It's not about me or showing off my knowledge - it's about their writing. 

And it's about showing the respect I would have others give me.



Edited by Drib - 06 Feb 2019 at 8:50am
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote LaurieH Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 06 Feb 2019 at 8:03am
Originally posted by Random Random wrote:

Originally posted by Zelda Zelda wrote:


Sorry!! Panic/paranoia attack!! Just trying to regulate my breathing a bit!! Please don't be offended! 


Offense cannot be given, only taken.  It's not a popular truth, but it's still a truth.

Personally, I can't be bothered.  I'm a little bummed that I went to so much trouble composing a Pythonesque insult and you didn't get it, though  Big smile

I got it, and laughed and laughed and laughed.

And I've given up all my semicolons for emdashes.
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (1) Thanks(1)   Quote LaurieH Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 06 Feb 2019 at 8:01am
Originally posted by SEHBicycle SEHBicycle wrote:

Originally posted by LaurieH LaurieH wrote:

<snip>Isn't it better to know that what you have written needs work, even if the wording of the critique is not gentle?  I'd much rather get this type of review than the rejection letters from magazines saying, "Sorry, but your story isn't what we're looking for."  Because what does that tell me? Diddly squat. But if Nasty Reviewer, Esq. says, "Sorry, your story doesn't work for me because this, this, and this didn't make sense to me," well, that's actually helpful. Much better than the overly gushing "OMG ur story is so gud!!11!!!"


Thanks for your thoughts, LaurieH. In reality, I'm not the victim on this one. A friend was. When I looked into the posts this person puts out, it's clear this is a reviewer with a chip on the shoulder. I can't imagine how I would have reacted in my first contest here if I got some of the "crits" this person is putting out.

I get, exactly what you're saying, that they took time to read. When I IMd this person, I heard that person's views--points I paraphrased above. I can't know what's going on in their life; but I will call out bullying behavior when I perceive it.

Thanks, again, for making your points, all valid.

And yet you didn't get what I was saying.

Everyone reviews differently. Everyone. I think I found the reviewer you are talking about, and honestly, I see nothing wrong with the reviews except for the fact that they aren't coddling the reviewee. Either that or I have the wrong person, I dunno.  

Even all the bullet points you listed as excuses for why a person reviews the way they do are fully valid bullet points. I didn't realize it until you pointed them out that in any review I get where I don't like the criticism, I go through many of those points in my head. And if I care to go back to my story, I adjust it accordingly, while mentally thanking the person(s) who pointed out the flaws.

What you seem to be saying, at least in what my little brain is comprehending, is that any review that points out the flaws in a story is a "nasty drive-by review" whether the comments are helpful or not.

So, someone posting, "Your story sux," is a nasty drive-by review.  

Someone posting, "I read your story, and I didn't understand this, this, or this, and couldn't figure out what the character's motivation was, so you may want to make it clearer. But the worldbuilding was nice," is a nasty drive-by review.

Someone posting, "Oooh, I loved your story, great job!" is a good review.

Color me strange, but I'd much rather have the second nasty drive-by review.

Feedback will be returned to the best of my ability.
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (1) Thanks(1)   Quote sootfoot5 Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 06 Feb 2019 at 2:57am

I think something that this person forgets is that writers work together and get leads for places to publish their work, they beta each other's stories and novels (and I don't just mean during a competition!) and they just generally seek each other's advice.  I'm sure this individual doesn't believe any help is needed. Ahhh it is a lonely world for this kind of person!

Who here is going to assist this the cruel reviewer?  Let the volunteers speak up in this thread.  
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (2) Thanks(2)   Quote SakuraHime Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 05 Feb 2019 at 10:52pm
Originally posted by Random Random wrote:

Originally posted by Lisa_Who Lisa_Who wrote:

Originally posted by nod1v1ng nod1v1ng wrote:

Originally posted by Lisa_Who Lisa_Who wrote:


I'm sorry.  I love semicolons. 


Don’t be sorry. I’ll fight anyone who tries to take my semicolon. 

WinkLOL

"Don't be sorry; we'll fight anyone who tries to take our semicolons!"


All your semicolon are belong to us.

You have have the dots, but I'm taking the commas.  If you ever want to see then again send 10,000 erudite words in a plain brown wrapper to...

Zero Wing reference for the win! Also, I share your passion for semicolons. 

I just wanted to pop by and reiterate that I appreciate this discussion so much. And I also wanted to offer assurances to Zelda (love the name!) and everyone else who's commented thus far that from the reviews I've seen, you're doing everything perfectly. If this discussion started because of the person I think it may have, it's not that constructive feedback is an issue; the problem is when someone is overly negative without providing ANY positive thoughts. We know constructive feedback is necessary for growth (jeez, way to speak for everyone), and we look forward to that. 
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (1) Thanks(1)   Quote topangarose Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 05 Feb 2019 at 10:37pm


SEHBicycle : HeartHeartHeartBeerHeartHeartHeart  YES!

When a reviewer causes writers to actually remove their stories from the review forum, their review is neither appropriate nor helpful.


Random:  Your Pythonesque insult did not go unappreciated!



Edited by topangarose - 05 Feb 2019 at 10:37pm
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (1) Thanks(1)   Quote Random Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 05 Feb 2019 at 9:48pm
Originally posted by Zelda Zelda wrote:


Sorry!! Panic/paranoia attack!! Just trying to regulate my breathing a bit!! Please don't be offended! 


Offense cannot be given, only taken.  It's not a popular truth, but it's still a truth.

Personally, I can't be bothered.  I'm a little bummed that I went to so much trouble composing a Pythonesque insult and you didn't get it, though  Big smile
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (1) Thanks(1)   Quote Random Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 05 Feb 2019 at 9:42pm
Originally posted by Lisa_Who Lisa_Who wrote:

Originally posted by nod1v1ng nod1v1ng wrote:

Originally posted by Lisa_Who Lisa_Who wrote:


I'm sorry.  I love semicolons. 


Don’t be sorry. I’ll fight anyone who tries to take my semicolon. 

WinkLOL

"Don't be sorry; we'll fight anyone who tries to take our semicolons!"


All your semicolon are belong to us.

You have have the dots, but I'm taking the commas.  If you ever want to see then again send 10,000 erudite words in a plain brown wrapper to...
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (1) Thanks(1)   Quote chrissie0707 Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 05 Feb 2019 at 9:30pm
Originally posted by Lisa_Who Lisa_Who wrote:

Originally posted by nod1v1ng nod1v1ng wrote:

Originally posted by Lisa_Who Lisa_Who wrote:

<span style=": rgb251, 251, 253;">
</span>
<span style=": rgb251, 251, 253;">I'm sorry.  I love semicolons. </span>



Don’t be sorry. I’ll fight anyone who tries to take my semicolon. 

WinkLOL


"Don't be sorry; we'll fight anyone who tries to take our semicolons!"


I think I told my best friend during a recent beta read "you love semicolons more than your fiancé."
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