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Author Topic: Critique Thread Discussion and/or Suggestions  (Read 11084 times)

Offline Raptori

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Re: Critique Thread Discussion and/or Suggestions
« Reply #15 on: October 06, 2016, 09:14:59 PM »
Completely and utterly with m3m on that one. Plus this:

I don't think any of us are qualified to be dolling out unsolicited, overall assessments of people.
A critique of a story is not a overall assessment of a person. That's like... telling someone their fly is undone vs telling them that they're a horrible person.  ;D

I question even our specific assessments, much of the time, including my own.
Of course, every single critique has the in-built caveat of "this is all my opinion, and as such is likely not subjective". However, it's important as a writer to understand how your stories are coming across to readers, so critiques are invaluable.

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.
Two things on this: first, instructors and teachers are just as prone to the same flaws in their critiques as anyone else; second, I agree that peoples critiques could do with improvement (myself very much included in that). But then the question is how do we improve our critiques? Practice is the best option. All of us critiquing together is only going to hone everyone's ability to analyse and deconstruct fiction, and thereby help improve our writing.

And yeah, the ability to critique = the ability deconstruct, analyse, and understand stories. If you're unable to understand stories, you're not going to do well as a writer.  :)
« Last Edit: October 06, 2016, 09:16:56 PM by Raptori »
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Offline night_wrtr

Re: Critique Thread Discussion and/or Suggestions
« Reply #16 on: October 06, 2016, 09:15:56 PM »
Exactly. If only I could glitch double like m3m's post. I write in this contest because it forces me out of my comfort zone. I don't always like sharing my stories with judging eyes, but if I am going to get better at this craft we call writing, then I need to do so. How are we supposed to get better without discussing our stories with others in this contest. Who was is that called this place a Writing Contest Club?

Writing is step one. We won't get better if we don't write. Step 2? Study the craft, sure. Read a lot. Read books about writing. That is great too. This is like one big writing group. We are all here to work together. Wouldn't peer reviews, opinions count as a Step 3? It does for me, at least. I have long been shy/nervous/anxious whatever about critiques, but when done correctly, they help tons.

Not to throw Sanderson's name out there as I tend to do, but he brings up the value of a Writing Goups in just about ever lecture hes ever done. Sure this is a contest, but it feels like we are all fairly supportive of each other. Like a Writing Group.

Getting feedback helps.

Offline m3mnoch

Re: Critique Thread Discussion and/or Suggestions
« Reply #17 on: October 06, 2016, 11:15:24 PM »
Who was is that called this place a Writing Contest Club?

this soooo needs to catch on.  a cool writing club where anyone who likes to read and/or write fantasy is welcome to join!  where more is better!


Not to throw Sanderson's name out there as I tend to do, but he brings up the value of a Writing Goups in just about ever lecture hes ever done. Sure this is a contest, but it feels like we are all fairly supportive of each other. Like a Writing Group.

totally.

also, i don't think it's been mentioned (or i'm a dork and just missed it) but the value of doing a critique is enormous.  having folks give you suggestions for your own work is great and helpful, for sure, but if there's something i can point at as the single, quantifiable thing i've done to improve my writing, it's doing critiques for others.  seconded by reading others' critiques of the same work.

the passive consumption of writing best practices and how-to knowledge is certainly helpful, but similar to anything else -- from working on cars to painting the walls in your house to raising children -- rolling up your sleeves and getting your hands dirty is absolutely enlightening over and above.

lightbulbs start crackling to life, popping out everywhere you look.

Offline The Gem Cutter

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Re: Critique Thread Discussion and/or Suggestions
« Reply #18 on: October 06, 2016, 11:26:16 PM »
To clarify, I was talking about critiques of monthly competition submissions, potentially not requested (that wasn't clear to me), and I went from there.

In terms of the value of critique, it's a matter of degree. I need and value it myself (it being useful, on-topic, sound, and balanced feedback)  - but it's a potential loose cannon, the use of which itself must be studied by the writer, along with everything else.

I call its uses narrow because the critique rarely goes beyond what's on the page - sometimes setting the writer up for "Description mistakes A001 through Z999" (frustrating!) - and it does not go beyond the knowledge of the critic, certainly. I call its misuses broad because half the things in my writing that people have not liked, others have jabbered at like monkeys giggling "THAT IS MY FAVORITE PART!" - and I thought about tossing it out. Luckily, I have been (I hope) mature enough to make tough decisions - "I'd rather have some people yawn and not care and some others making monkey faces. Removing that stuff means no one makes monkey faces."  And I like monkeys.

The differences between "analyzing stories and writing and delivering opinions" and "studies of the actual craft" are many.

Critique is a big part of experience, which is the lion's share of learning to write. Totally accept and embrace that. But it is trial and error and limited to the work in hand. It is typically focused on flaws, not out of meanness, but because the flaws jump out of us. It is not study or even discussion of how to do specific things, unless they randomly appear in the material. And ironically, good techniques are often invisible because they don't stand out. Everyone knows "right" when they see it, but it's a lot harder to explain why it's right. "Wrong" is easier to see and describe. "Wrong" is infinite, and "right" is, too - but "wrong" gets all the attention - and they're sometimes the same thing.

We all (I hope) read about writing in addition to just sampling the awesome out there. Getting from a craptastic mess to awesome is a long road, and study allows one to skip over a lot of errors. And there's a lot of species of errors.
Don't get me wrong - I value critique. A lot - jeese louise I run around begging for it - but I do disagree that "literary criticism has long been the best way to learn how to write." I mean, yes, if you could only pick ONE way, sure, I'd pick it because through trial and error, I'd get there. But reviewing high points, some good, some bad, as useful as it is, does not mean that other sources and exchanges can't be just as valuable for a variety of different reasons.

For example, we've seen posts in the Critique area that suffer the common ailment of poor scene setup - succinctly describing the place and the people. My guess is that the writers have never studied or discussed what it is they're trying to do - establish a sense of place and putting some characters in front of an audience.
Spending time discussing scene openings would do more for those people (and the trolls learning vicariously) in a lot less time, because the mechanics and principals are constant. So too are discussions of paragraphs and dialogue, and the zillion other tools, techniques, and priorities the writer must use, practice, and balance. And don't even get me going about issues of style, like starting this sentence with a conjunction, or deciding when a sentence has reached its end ... because sometimes stretching a rule or even breaking it can and does lead to a point worth running out of breath for - not this time. But sometimes.

Knowing what you should be thinking about before you start is really important, and we don't discuss that because ... I really don't know why. A silver-haired man I knew taught me how to make a good living with four words: Clear. Concise. Compelling. Compliant. He was teaching me how to write in a drive-by, unplanned discussion that was not dry and time-consuming. It was electric.

So my point is not an anti-critique rant but this: relying solely on critique means you won't know about a pothole until either you or someone you're watching drives over it. There are other ways to learn to drive besides mapping the bumps in the road.
« Last Edit: October 06, 2016, 11:29:50 PM by The_Gem_Cutter »
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Offline Lanko

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Re: Critique Thread Discussion and/or Suggestions
« Reply #19 on: October 06, 2016, 11:58:52 PM »
While comprehensive to be worried how a critique can stir negativity, it's not just about the "wrong parts". They are easier to write a lot about, yes, but in no way this diminishes the good parts, as long as we remember to point them out too (sometimes even I forget that).

This is the advice I try the most to follow when critiquing. Guy is even called Lankford!

Quote
"I feel I have a decent critical eye. But when I think I see a touchdown, I cheer. That's feedback, too. Why should all the mistakes find their targets, but the successes meet with only silence--leaving the poor writer, who has poured out her/his heart, with nothing but: no, no, no, ... As [critics], don't we have a responsibility to not only point out what needs changing, as we see it, but also what worked and why, so the writer WON'T change it and will be encouraged to produce more of the same?"
- J. R. Lankford (Jilla).

Some others:

Quote
"We all need to be told where we are very good as well as where we are very, very bad. We cannot grow, otherwise." - Pete Murphy

Quote
"I think there's a sometimes overlooked purpose in critiquing and that is to identify the strengths in a story as well, to offer encouragement and positive reinforcement in regard to those strengths, thereby preventing the possibility that the author will change, for the worse, those things that make the story good."
- Debra Littlejohn Shinder

How to Critique Fiction --> http://www.crayne.com/howcrit.html

More links that deal specifically with the worries @The_Gem_Cutter raised:

The Critiquer's Diplomacy --> http://critters.org/c/diplomacy.ht

A Wild Writer Appears. How to be super effective! -->http://critters.org/c/whathow.ht
Slow and steady wins the race.

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Offline Lanko

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Re: Critique Thread Discussion and/or Suggestions
« Reply #20 on: October 07, 2016, 12:10:58 AM »
So my point is not an anti-critique rant but this: relying solely on critique means you won't know about a pothole until either you or someone you're watching drives over it. There are other ways to learn to drive besides mapping the bumps in the road.

I posted the above after you posted this. I also agree with that.

Let me tell you a bit of my own history in the contest and general writing regarding this.

Before I entered a contest, I was in a writing frenzy, but on long form only, as I was reading only novels (many very long, like Deed of Paksenarrion ombnibus, Night Angel, Farseer, Game of Thrones, etc).
So the switch from long form (150k+ words) to short form (1500 words) was quite shocking, to say the least.

That first contest I entered had a critique thread, but not the next ones. It took me 2-3 months to discover they were totally optional, someone had to open it. If there was interest.
Sure, now being veterans we know anyone can open the thread, but just like with @AFrasier this month, it will would be pretty hard to discover that as a newbie who just joined, let alone be the who would open it ::)
Specially if you don't really know the mood of the place as I believe most of us already deal with lots of problems daily and could do without more destructive feedback at night on the Internet  ::)

Anyway, with time and reading books/articles on writing + reading novels with a more critical eye we can all improve, I found that reviewing helped me a lot too. But I was still too entrenched on long form and couldn't notice it.

But like you said, what changed my mindset was curiously not a long, detailed critique, but a random comment months ago on a Discussion or Voting thread (I'm pretty sure it was from @ScarletBea - between, thanks Bea, that changed everything  :P), something like: "Some stories are very creative, but I tend to like more stories with a clear beginning/middle/end."

Boom, took months or half a year to realize my stories had no such structure. Because I was still in the mindset of long form, so I was not writing stories. I was writing chapters.
But people couldn't go back to read the "fascinating" beginning nor advance forward for the "explosive" conclusion. I guess people still did like a lot of concepts and situations, but left unsatisfied.

Then I consciously started doing things differently. Like you said, "knowing what you should do before you start." But couldn't that also have come from a critique?

Anyway, more important, the experience gained with the practice over a year was so huge. 1500 words are like 6 manuscript pages. Managing to put beginning, middle, conclusion, with proper conflict, foreshadow, plot twists, characterization, etc in such space was invaluable. Meaning I could even analyze my own work through blocks of 5 pages and see what they had in them.

That said, I just tossed the whole previous work out of the window, as it was too messy and was easier to just start again  :P But as Malcolm Gladwell and the 10k hours theory say, even Mozart and the Beatles started by sucking, then learned how not to suck  :P
Slow and steady wins the race.

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Offline night_wrtr

Re: Critique Thread Discussion and/or Suggestions
« Reply #21 on: October 07, 2016, 12:20:45 AM »
Certainly you will have some readers like a scene while others don't. That is all based on the reader, which is why the critiques are also based on the reader.  :D Those are the tough decisions we have to make as writers to decide whether or not that feedback will result in a change to the story.

Part of the reason this thread is exists is to come together and try to determine best methods for helping each other through critiquing our monthly stories. Writing a new story with a new and interesting topic will hopefully push us to be creative and flex some brain muscles that we wouldn't otherwise use. M3m's template has been working nicely IMO and doesnt focus on flaws. It gives us more aspects to comment on.

We can only get better at critiquing by critiquing. Just like writing, we have to write. They are similar in that regard. But the point is not to write a perfect critique. It is to read a fellow group members work and providing meaningful feedback that will help them, specifically with that work.

Valid points on other avenues for improving our craft, which doesn't mean that other parts of learning to write should be left off the plate. This should not be the only thing a writer is doing, but it is an important asset to be utilizing. Sure, there are parts of my work that I should focus on, like character depth, or inner monologue, or better setting, or chapter atructure, etc. Its all important. So I agree, it is not something to be solely used like you said, but another tool in the toolbox.

This tool needs to be sharpened. That is certain, but it will only be as a good as we make it as a group. Part of the reason critique threads either never open or are ghost towns. There is no lack of stories in the contest, and it provides those opportunities that I mentioned earlier. It is what me make it.

Offline Raptori

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Re: Critique Thread Discussion and/or Suggestions
« Reply #22 on: October 07, 2016, 12:27:37 AM »
Another concept worth looking up is the "Wise Reader", who doesn't pass judgement on the work they're critiquing, but simply relays what their subjective experience of reading the story was. That's the kind of critique I try to give, since it's the kind I most like to recieve. It's those ones which allow you to see whether the emotions and thoughts you're trying to evoke in the reader are successfully coming across, and in general the crits from people on this forum have done that fairly well - especially the shorter ones in the contest critique threads.  :)
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Offline Lady Ty

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Re: Critique Thread Discussion and/or Suggestions
« Reply #23 on: October 07, 2016, 01:41:40 AM »
Another concept worth looking up is the "Wise Reader", who doesn't pass judgement on the work they're critiquing, but simply relays what their subjective experience of reading the story was. That's the kind of chttp://fantasy-faction.com/forum/Smileys/default/smiley.gifritique I try to give, since it's the kind I most like to recieve. It's those ones which allow you to see whether the emotions and thoughts you're trying to evoke in the reader are successfully coming across, and in general the crits from people on this forum have done that fairly well - especially the shorter ones in the contest critique threads.  :)

Not sure about the "Wise" but that is exactly how I have tried to comment if people ask for crits. A story will give me an overall good feeling before I start looking at the specific reasons why it has that effect. Now and again one will stay with me forever.

Find it hard to give negative criticism even gently, but I do have a general rule for first read through in private. If grammar, punctuation and spelling is consistently bad, (not just slips, but neglected) or if I don't feel the theme is properly addressed a story will get a big X on my read through list and I won't come back to it.

I could work with m3m's Something list because it is concise and to the point, even if we varied what the Something's were to suit our reading of the story. Personally can't use numbers/scoring, they do not express how I feel about the story sufficiently. OK for stars on a review site with hundreds of other comments but not really enough or fair here where a writer needs to have more detail.
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Offline Raptori

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Re: Critique Thread Discussion and/or Suggestions
« Reply #24 on: October 07, 2016, 01:47:10 AM »
Yeah I thought it was a bit of an odd term too! It's what's used elsewhere though, so worth mentioning in case people want to find out more.  :P
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Offline Raptori

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Re: Critique Thread Discussion and/or Suggestions
« Reply #25 on: October 07, 2016, 03:54:22 AM »
Another thought: I remember seeing another forum-based writing contest where participants had to create a separate thread for their entry instead of posting it as a reply in a submissions thread (though they did also have to link to their entry's thread in the submissions thread, which seemed a little cumbersome).

While I don't think that works as well as the single thread we have here for submissions, could it work for critiques?

One big positive I noticed about that other contest was that every entry thread gained a number of comments, as if the thread was a little critique thread instead of a submission. Perhaps people who want critiques in our contest could create a separate thread for their story, which might encourage a small discussion rather than a handful of disconnected crits and also make all the crits more organised and easier to parse.

It definitely has some cons - it'd make the forum more cluttered, might feel slightly discouraging to newbies, etc - but it definitely has pros too - another one would be that it'd make it easier to spot which people have asked for crits but not received any/many yet.

Not sure whether it'd be a good or bad idea, but it's probably worth considering at least. Thoughts?  :o
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Offline AFrasier

Re: Critique Thread Discussion and/or Suggestions
« Reply #26 on: October 07, 2016, 05:24:55 AM »
To give a newbie's perspective on the matter, I can honestly say that when I first discovered the monthly writing contest about a year ago, it was always something I wanted to join in on, but it was actually reading some of the critique threads that pooped up every now and then which made me comfortable enough to give it a shot.

I can probably think of at least three websites I'd never want to submit to, but the candor of everyone who has offered a critique to another on this site has always come across as honest but also very respectful and supportive. No one seems to regard their own opinion as gospel, so it seems unlikely that a writer who recieves critique here would be too discouraged or put down, especially if we stay on the same track of only giving critiques to those who ask for it.

The point I see made very often here by multiple people is that not everyone likes everything, but that's not a bad thing. It's actually something that's embraced here, which is really awesome. What's more is that it's clear to see that people become friends here. I have seen no shortage of people telling others how much of a fan they are of each others work and personalities.

And as a first time submitter who has recieved two brief critiques so far, (thank you btw @night_wrtr and @m3mnoch, super duper helpful!!), to say I had one or two epiphanies after reading them wouldn't be an overstatement.

I think that if a critique thread were to become a monthly thing, and continued to carry on in the respectful and supportive way it has been thus far, not only would it make any other new members more comfortable,with the idea of putting themselves out there, but also encourage them to actually do it, just like it did for me.

And I also think a good critique can be a great way to motivate a member to try again!

For instance:

Me 6 days ago: "Aww tiddlywinks, only one vote."

Me today: "Ooo he liked that line! OOO HE LIKED THAT IDEA! Oh yeah, that's a good point, I'm gonna remember that for next time. Can't wait for this month!"

So yeah, as someone who hopes to keep contributing to this writing club, I'm definitely down to make it a regular thing.

Just my two cents  ;D

Offline AFrasier

Re: Critique Thread Discussion and/or Suggestions
« Reply #27 on: October 07, 2016, 05:31:06 AM »
heh heh heh

"pooped up every now and then"


Offline xiagan

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Re: Critique Thread Discussion and/or Suggestions
« Reply #28 on: October 07, 2016, 08:43:47 AM »
Thank you all so much, especially @AFrasier for the newbie's perspective and the praise. :)
I'm really honored that an irregular contest which had only a few entries each month when I took over, turned to such a big, supportive and absolutely cool thing. And that you, the writers, readers and voters still strive to make it better, help each other and significantly get better along the process.
I'm proud of you, my children.  ;) ;D
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Offline ScarletBea

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Re: Critique Thread Discussion and/or Suggestions
« Reply #29 on: October 07, 2016, 11:05:04 AM »
Thank you all so much, especially @AFrasier for the newbie's perspective and the praise. :)
I'm really honored that an irregular contest which had only a few entries each month when I took over, turned to such a big, supportive and absolutely cool thing. And that you, the writers, readers and voters still strive to make it better, help each other and significantly get better along the process.
I'm proud of you, my children.  ;) ;D
This, very much so :D
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