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Author Topic: Critique Thread Discussion and/or Suggestions  (Read 11684 times)

Offline night_wrtr

Critique Thread Discussion and/or Suggestions
« on: October 06, 2016, 12:48:30 AM »
Hello all. This thread I have decided to open as a place to discuss or make suggestions for the writing contest Critique threads.

As others have said before, this community is excellent and the writing competition is a great place to submit your work and to grow as writers. A great thing about this competition is that we have regulars and first timers. We are all working on our craft and helping each other is a great way to grow and develop. With that said, we would like to make the Critique Thread for each month's contest a regular thing.

I will be posting the Tread for the [AUG 2016] Potions and Elixirs in a few moments and will link to this thread to direct people here to join the discussion. The more people we get involved the better! This contest is for us writers (and those readers  ;D ), so let's discuss how to get this part of the contest into a well oiled machine.

To get the conversation going, here are a few posts from Lanko and m3m:

I've been thinking something like this:

- We should encourage the winner of the contest to open the Critique thread themselves, as a form of "courtesy" to everyone else. Should as "not obligatory, but it would be really nice if you did it." In time it would become "natural and expected of the winner(s)". Hehe, indirect social pressure for the win!

- Then they also post at least 2-3 critiques to get the ball rolling.

- Of course, some people may not be comfortable offering critiques, so they can just say what they liked the most
in some stories. What matter is that the game starts!

- Anyone can ask for a critique as well or about specific parts of their story.

- Bonus points if the winner(s) (or anyone else) can pick a newbie story to comment. It would help by making the new people feel it's a very friendly place and there's a lot of people helping each other to improve. So they get help, later they end up helping too, and hopefully it snowballs with more people coming in the future and becoming regulars.

- The winner can and also should ask for feedback themselves! Improvement is a constant. There's nothing stopping anyone from starting the thread, but by being the most voted story, the winner(s) would probably have a lot of comments right away about what people liked about their story, at the the very least, just by opening the thread themselves.
Add to that some critiques by the winner, and you can get a lot of people in at once, who would start commenting back (hopefully) and the ball keeps rolling around.

What do you all think?

- Then they also post at least 2-3 critiques to get the ball rolling.

this one seems sort of pretentious.  "i won, so i am going to criticize these guys".

tho, if the 2-3 were requested/cleared by their authors, i'm totally there.  i like the dynamic of "winner responsibilities".


What do you all think?

in general, i love the thought of more structure around critiques.  i think this is a great list to get the ball rolling, but any ideas NEED to come from an opt-in perspective.  some folks don't like their work critiqued in a public forum.

one thing to maybe think about is incentivizing critique participation.  getting the critique thread going seems to have a high coefficient of friction.


p.s.  anyone who ever has any opinion at all -- good, bad, bored -- about my stories?  please, please, please feel free to post it anywhere on the entire internet and point me at it.  i love all feedback.  i've had critics giving me both good and bad feedback on my various professional works for two decades.  i'm completely immune to "hurt feelings" in any way, shape or form.  sorta comes with having a godzilla-sized ego.


Yes, maybe the winner should just start the thread then and people come in to ask for a critique.

I thought the winner simply because we're all happy when they are announced, we cheer and congratulate them, everyone is in a good mood.
And when they open it, people won't be as inhibited when pointing out the good stuff they liked (could be X for one, Y reason for another). Then they return the comments, more people join in and talk about other stories, and the ball rolls.

Of course, it isn't just so we can all feel good and have a cookie, people can ask for feedback on any aspect of their stories. And of course, people may know by themselves what they could've done better, don't want it public, are not interested this month (but may be in the next), etc.

But maybe by creating a structure (the winner opening the thread, in this case) it would eventually become a regular thing, so in time there would always be one, whether a certain month spikes huge interest or not, and it wouldn't depend on one or two specific members to keep critique threads rolling.

Just thought the winner of the month could be this "beacon" for the reasons I mentioned earlier.

Offline xiagan

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Re: Critique Thread Discussion and/or Suggestions
« Reply #1 on: October 06, 2016, 04:01:41 AM »
I like those ideas! Good job, everybody! :)
"Sire, I had no need of that hypothesis." (Laplace)

Offline night_wrtr

Re: Critique Thread Discussion and/or Suggestions
« Reply #2 on: October 06, 2016, 02:23:20 PM »
So after a few of the crits have been done, should we adjust the "Something Unbelievable" question to something closer related to our genre? Or something related to the monthly topic and how it was utilized in the story?

Offline m3mnoch

Re: Critique Thread Discussion and/or Suggestions
« Reply #3 on: October 06, 2016, 02:38:59 PM »
sure, sure.

tho, those crit guidelines actually come from an sff writer.  'something unbelievable' is supposed to refer to how convincingly you portrayed something, not "i don't believe in ghosts."

like so:

"i didn't believe she would have fallen for that corny line he dropped."

"i didn't believe that thieves guild would exist without the magistrate raiding it all the time."

"i didn't believe that dragon wouldn't have just eaten the knight instead of talking to him."

Offline night_wrtr

Re: Critique Thread Discussion and/or Suggestions
« Reply #4 on: October 06, 2016, 02:40:57 PM »
sure, sure.

tho, those crit guidelines actually come from an sff writer.  'something unbelievable' is supposed to refer to how convincingly you portrayed something, not "i don't believe in ghosts."

like so:

"i didn't believe she would have fallen for that corny line he dropped."

"i didn't believe that thieves guild would exist without the magistrate raiding it all the time."

"i didn't believe that dragon wouldn't have just eaten the knight instead of talking to him."


Ah, that makes more sense.

Offline Nora

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Re: Critique Thread Discussion and/or Suggestions
« Reply #5 on: October 06, 2016, 02:47:26 PM »
I self edited for something "weaker", it felt more accurate than "boring".

We could replace "something unbelievable" by "suspension of disbelief issues" ?  :P
"She will need coffee soon, or molecular degeneration will set in. Her French phrasing will take over even more strongly, and soon she will dissolve into a puddle of alienation and Kierkegaardian despair."  ~ Jmack

Wishy washy lyricism and maudlin unrequited love are my specialty - so said Lady_Ty

Offline m3mnoch

Re: Critique Thread Discussion and/or Suggestions
« Reply #6 on: October 06, 2016, 02:50:49 PM »
i like suspension of disbelief -- that's totally what it's supposed to be.

and, yeah, a bit about adherence to the monthly topic is a stellar idea.  i really like that.  tho, i suspect it's mostly a kind of a binary thing, right?  "yes, you hit the topic" or "no, it was too far off the topic".


oooh!  ooh!  i just thought of something!

so, with those crit sheets i posted, what if all those "points of consideration" were star ratings?  like so:
Quote
Rate 1-5 Stars
Theme Appropriateness: 5 
Opening Strength: 3 
Mechanics and Style: 4 
Characterization: 5 
Conflict and Tension: 3 
Cohesive Story: 2 
Ending Payoff: 5 

Additional Notes:
i didn't really think it was a story.  more like a vignette of some dude picking his nose.  that payoff, tho!!


that seems SUPER-simple and low-friction.  additional notes not required, but you could use it to help explain your ratings and such.

Offline Nora

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Re: Critique Thread Discussion and/or Suggestions
« Reply #7 on: October 06, 2016, 02:51:18 PM »
Sorry, crappy internet made me double post.

I like the rating idea, but it seems possible people would use that to give you an ultimately unsatisfying review in numbers rather than words. It's easily less honest, and frankly not helpful, rather purely informative.
« Last Edit: October 06, 2016, 02:54:36 PM by Nora »
"She will need coffee soon, or molecular degeneration will set in. Her French phrasing will take over even more strongly, and soon she will dissolve into a puddle of alienation and Kierkegaardian despair."  ~ Jmack

Wishy washy lyricism and maudlin unrequited love are my specialty - so said Lady_Ty

Offline m3mnoch

Re: Critique Thread Discussion and/or Suggestions
« Reply #8 on: October 06, 2016, 03:00:39 PM »
Sorry, crappy internet made me double post.

I like the rating idea, but it seems possible people would use that to give you an ultimately unsatisfying review in numbers rather than words. It's easily less honest, and frankly not helpful, rather purely informative.

i agree that an overall number is unhelpful, but one applied to key story characteristics?  i think the specificity of those numbers would be informative.  especially if you had them instead of nothing because critiques are so high-friction and people just don't do them.

also, there's space so anyone who would normally write a more in-depth, can.  with the prompts from above, even!

how about i try it with your story and you tell me if you think it was helpful?

Offline Nora

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Re: Critique Thread Discussion and/or Suggestions
« Reply #9 on: October 06, 2016, 03:12:08 PM »
If you only tell me numbers, it's likely I won't find it helpful. You can try, but I think a written review, enhanced by numbers is the best, and the review with text only the second best.
"She will need coffee soon, or molecular degeneration will set in. Her French phrasing will take over even more strongly, and soon she will dissolve into a puddle of alienation and Kierkegaardian despair."  ~ Jmack

Wishy washy lyricism and maudlin unrequited love are my specialty - so said Lady_Ty

Offline m3mnoch

Re: Critique Thread Discussion and/or Suggestions
« Reply #10 on: October 06, 2016, 03:13:43 PM »
If you only tell me numbers, it's likely I won't find it helpful. You can try, but I think a written review, enhanced by numbers is the best, and the review with text only the second best.

you forgot the third fourth option -- nothing.

Offline Nora

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Re: Critique Thread Discussion and/or Suggestions
« Reply #11 on: October 06, 2016, 03:32:59 PM »
It often happens and it's not that bothersome to me. I don't want reviews on all my stories, but if I ask for one, I'd rather have 1 or 2 indepth ones than 5 or 6 numbered only ones. I'm really not that fussed about quantity in critics.
Numbers would be great to enhance that's sure. But I think it's easier to just up your numbers and be flattering for the sake of being encouraging.

I'd never rate someone a 1 or 2 on 5! I'd not tell them that. Would you? I'd rather point out what didn't work for me in words on such stories :/
"She will need coffee soon, or molecular degeneration will set in. Her French phrasing will take over even more strongly, and soon she will dissolve into a puddle of alienation and Kierkegaardian despair."  ~ Jmack

Wishy washy lyricism and maudlin unrequited love are my specialty - so said Lady_Ty

Offline m3mnoch

Re: Critique Thread Discussion and/or Suggestions
« Reply #12 on: October 06, 2016, 03:51:11 PM »
I'd never rate someone a 1 or 2 on 5! I'd not tell them that. Would you? I'd rather point out what didn't work for me in words on such stories :/

i sure would.  and, i sure hope people would for me.

if they're asking for a critique, i think it's best to be honest.  to show them where the holes are.  that being said, i can't remember the last time i had an overall "omg, bleagh" opinion on any of our stories.  we're pumping out quality stuff these days.  and, it seems like a targeted, dangling score on a specific writing aspect would be helpful.

Offline The Gem Cutter

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Re: Critique Thread Discussion and/or Suggestions
« Reply #13 on: October 06, 2016, 07:09:01 PM »
It often happens and it's not that bothersome to me. I don't want reviews on all my stories, but if I ask for one, I'd rather have 1 or 2 indepth ones than 5 or 6 numbered only ones. I'm really not that fussed about quantity in critics.
Numbers would be great to enhance that's sure. But I think it's easier to just up your numbers and be flattering for the sake of being encouraging.
I'd never rate someone a 1 or 2 on 5! I'd not tell them that. Would you? I'd rather point out what didn't work for me in words on such stories :/

I agree with Nora for several reasons.  First, unsolicited critiques carry zero value and significant rudeness if they're not welcome. Talk about a way to shatter the inclusive mood for absolutely zero value added.

I don't think any of us are qualified to be dolling out unsolicited, overall assessments of people. I question even our specific assessments, much of the time, including my own. Focusing on this sentence, that absent quality, etc., is risky and technically challenging enough for many of us, and speaking frankly not all of us even manage that very well.

We are not instructors or teachers - we do not (always) do a good enough job of sterilizing our feedback from our tastes and preferences and opinions, myself included. We're amateurish - regardless of how well read we are. And again, many of us give our opinions and tastes the weight of law, myself included.

3. Like the pointless number three to my left <--- pulling numbers out of our asses is foolish, not objective, as Nora pointed out:
I like the rating idea, but it seems possible people would use that to give you an ultimately unsatisfying review in numbers rather than words. It's easily less honest, and frankly not helpful, rather purely informative.

Not all writers, but some, are extremely sensitive, and throwing a label and top-level assessment like we just ran a chemical analysis on their story is potentially damaging, beyond being RIDICULOUS.

 "I ran your material through my amazing opinion generator and I found it to be 89% passive voice resistant aluminum, which as you know is non-magnetic. So I assessed its grammatical weight coefficient to be .4, which, uh, carry the one, divide by the most common pronoun - gives you a six out of INFINITE POSSIBILITIES."

I don't know why, but analyzing stories and writing and delivering opinions takes up much, much more of our collective discussions and attention than studies of the actual craft and honing of technical skills - meaning this is a collective of wanna be critics, which is fine. But as a wannabe writer, I can tell you, that's not attractive.
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Offline m3mnoch

Re: Critique Thread Discussion and/or Suggestions
« Reply #14 on: October 06, 2016, 08:56:10 PM »
First, unsolicited critiques carry zero value and significant rudeness if they're not welcome. Talk about a way to shatter the inclusive mood for absolutely zero value added.

i do believe you'd be hard-pressed to find anyone on here that disagrees with this sentiment.  i'm sure almost all of us would ask first -- either for a crit, or to offer a crit.

for example, i would love your opinion on my potion story.


I don't think any of us are qualified to be dolling out unsolicited, overall assessments of people. I question even our specific assessments, much of the time, including my own. Focusing on this sentence, that absent quality, etc., is risky and technically challenging enough for many of us, and speaking frankly not all of us even manage that very well.

We are not instructors or teachers - we do not (always) do a good enough job of sterilizing our feedback from our tastes and preferences and opinions, myself included. We're amateurish - regardless of how well read we are. And again, many of us give our opinions and tastes the weight of law, myself included.

indeed.  most of us are not instructors or teachers.

but, we do have published authors, editors, and reviewers among our crowd.  and we have a lot of people who read, understand, and deconstruct genre fiction because they want to be writers.


"I ran your material through my amazing opinion generator and I found it to be 89% passive voice resistant aluminum, which as you know is non-magnetic. So I assessed its grammatical weight coefficient to be .4, which, uh, carry the one, divide by the most common pronoun - gives you a six out of INFINITE POSSIBILITIES."

love this.  love, love, love.  if there was a literary criticism version of the onion, this would be published on it.


I don't know why, but analyzing stories and writing and delivering opinions takes up much, much more of our collective discussions and attention than studies of the actual craft and honing of technical skills - meaning this is a collective of wanna be critics, which is fine. But as a wannabe writer, I can tell you, that's not attractive.

i feel like i've missed something.  like, part of a conversation somewhere.  i keep reading this bit and can't really parse it.

i don't understand the difference between "analyzing stories and writing and delivering opinions" and "studies of the actual craft".  literary criticism has long been the best way to learn how to write.  to deconstruct and analyze the hows and whys of successful writing.

speaking from personal experience, over the last year or so, working through my own stories, getting criticism from others, and studying how others look at my work, and how to push the right buttons for reader enjoyment -- it's been incredible.

i thought my own writing was "amazing".  you can see a sample of it here:
http://fantasy-faction.com/forum/(jun-2015)-multiple-povs/(jun-2015)-multiple-povs-submission-thread/msg104959/#msg104959

that's my very first submission.

i read it now, and want to dig out my eyeballs.  with a SPOON.

the entire reason i came to these forums was to start working on my craft.  thoughts, criticism, and advice from the people here has largely contributed to the ABSOLUTE GULF in quality from that story, to this past month's pirates story:
http://fantasy-faction.com/forum/(sep-2016)-pirates!/(sep-2016)-pirates!-submission-thread/msg152579/#msg152579

i don't think i would have made that much progress in a year muddling along on my own, working at my craft in solitude.  the people here have helped me tremendously so far and i will NEVER forget that.

not even when i'm one of those rich and famous authors living in a giant castle.
« Last Edit: October 06, 2016, 08:57:55 PM by m3mnoch »