Fantasy Faction

Fantasy Faction Writers => Monthly Writing Contest => Topic started by: night_wrtr on October 06, 2016, 12:48:30 AM

Title: Critique Thread Discussion and/or Suggestions
Post by: night_wrtr 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.
Title: Re: Critique Thread Discussion and/or Suggestions
Post by: xiagan on October 06, 2016, 04:01:41 AM
I like those ideas! Good job, everybody! :)
Title: Re: Critique Thread Discussion and/or Suggestions
Post by: night_wrtr 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?
Title: Re: Critique Thread Discussion and/or Suggestions
Post by: m3mnoch 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."
Title: Re: Critique Thread Discussion and/or Suggestions
Post by: night_wrtr 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.
Title: Re: Critique Thread Discussion and/or Suggestions
Post by: Nora 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
Title: Re: Critique Thread Discussion and/or Suggestions
Post by: m3mnoch 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.
Title: Re: Critique Thread Discussion and/or Suggestions
Post by: Nora 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.
Title: Re: Critique Thread Discussion and/or Suggestions
Post by: m3mnoch 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?
Title: Re: Critique Thread Discussion and/or Suggestions
Post by: Nora 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.
Title: Re: Critique Thread Discussion and/or Suggestions
Post by: m3mnoch 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.
Title: Re: Critique Thread Discussion and/or Suggestions
Post by: Nora 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 :/
Title: Re: Critique Thread Discussion and/or Suggestions
Post by: m3mnoch 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.
Title: Re: Critique Thread Discussion and/or Suggestions
Post by: The Gem Cutter 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.
Title: Re: Critique Thread Discussion and/or Suggestions
Post by: m3mnoch 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.
Title: Re: Critique Thread Discussion and/or Suggestions
Post by: Raptori 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.  :)
Title: Re: Critique Thread Discussion and/or Suggestions
Post by: night_wrtr 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.
Title: Re: Critique Thread Discussion and/or Suggestions
Post by: m3mnoch 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.
Title: Re: Critique Thread Discussion and/or Suggestions
Post by: The Gem Cutter 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.
Title: Re: Critique Thread Discussion and/or Suggestions
Post by: Lanko 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 (http://fantasy-faction.com/forum/index.php?action=profile;u=41379) 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
Title: Re: Critique Thread Discussion and/or Suggestions
Post by: Lanko 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 (http://fantasy-faction.com/forum/index.php?action=profile;u=41199) 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 (http://fantasy-faction.com/forum/index.php?action=profile;u=32020) - 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
Title: Re: Critique Thread Discussion and/or Suggestions
Post by: night_wrtr 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.
Title: Re: Critique Thread Discussion and/or Suggestions
Post by: Raptori 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.  :)
Title: Re: Critique Thread Discussion and/or Suggestions
Post by: Lady Ty 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.
Title: Re: Critique Thread Discussion and/or Suggestions
Post by: Raptori 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
Title: Re: Critique Thread Discussion and/or Suggestions
Post by: Raptori 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
Title: Re: Critique Thread Discussion and/or Suggestions
Post by: AFrasier 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 (http://fantasy-faction.com/forum/index.php?action=profile;u=40254) and @m3mnoch (http://fantasy-faction.com/forum/index.php?action=profile;u=40419), 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
Title: Re: Critique Thread Discussion and/or Suggestions
Post by: AFrasier on October 07, 2016, 05:31:06 AM
heh heh heh

"pooped up every now and then"

(http://www.reactionface.info/sites/default/files/images/1310485213744.jpg)
Title: Re: Critique Thread Discussion and/or Suggestions
Post by: xiagan on October 07, 2016, 08:43:47 AM
Thank you all so much, especially @AFrasier (http://fantasy-faction.com/forum/index.php?action=profile;u=41199) 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
Title: Re: Critique Thread Discussion and/or Suggestions
Post by: ScarletBea on October 07, 2016, 11:05:04 AM
Thank you all so much, especially @AFrasier (http://fantasy-faction.com/forum/index.php?action=profile;u=41199) 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
Title: Re: Critique Thread Discussion and/or Suggestions
Post by: m3mnoch on October 07, 2016, 03:27:30 PM
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

oooh.  i like this idea.  it allows for more discussion of a specific story.  the story owner could copy/paste their story and a call for critiques AND a call for what kind of critiques they're looking for!

we could just sticky the submission/voting threads.  general discussion could then float, like the critiques, or any other threads that might pop up.

i think this is a keeper.  i like it.
Title: Re: Critique Thread Discussion and/or Suggestions
Post by: The Gem Cutter on October 08, 2016, 09:17:51 PM
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.

EDIT: @Lanko (http://fantasy-faction.com/forum/index.php?action=profile;u=40739) The man's name is Larry Brooks- he has two writing books out and his approach to structure is hands down the best I have seen. He is concise and specific. I loaned them to my son, and will have to get them back, because I cannot recall his name.

https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/1599636891/ref=pd_bxgy_14_img_2?ie=UTF8&psc=1&refRID=DMWRTTZFAGKGZ0MMF27K (https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/1599636891/ref=pd_bxgy_14_img_2?ie=UTF8&psc=1&refRID=DMWRTTZFAGKGZ0MMF27K)
https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/1599636891/ref=pd_bxgy_14_img_2?ie=UTF8&psc=1&refRID=DMWRTTZFAGKGZ0MMF27K (https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/1599636891/ref=pd_bxgy_14_img_2?ie=UTF8&psc=1&refRID=DMWRTTZFAGKGZ0MMF27K)

Like me, his background includes the more-structured world of technical/business writing, and I think that he has brought the same effective exploitation of structure that goes on in business that so many novelists could benefit from.

There are so many crappy books and blogs that ramble on about structure - but his includes some finer points that have a huge impact on understanding the nature of those well-known and much-discussed plot-points. I am not exaggerating when I say it was an EPIPHANY worthy of caps.  In my own story, when I stumbled into mine (I'd like to say I planned and thought it out, but I didn't because I am still discovering the story and characters) I sat bolt upright and cheered because for the first time in my life, my story was fitting into an acceptable story structure.

Because I read his books, I recognized them for what they were, and more importantly WHERE they were - that was the end of my beginning - the moment when the protag sees what he has to do and for the first time fully understands it. In Star Wars, this moment is NOT when Luke decides to leave home or gets zapped in the ass by the little drone. It's when he realizes the Princess is on the Death Star and devises a plan. For others this might have been obvious, but I would have thought the beginning ended long before that moment.

My friends used to call me Captain Analogy, and my analogy for structure (and my argument against those who oppose it) is this: meals come in a structured format: drinks, appetizers, salad, main course, dessert. I don't care how amazing the food is, how unique and delightful the dessert, etc., if you deviate from that you begin to lose customers. There's a great temptation to want to innovate - but even the Tarantinos of the world are slaves to structure. They appear to break it, but they don't. It's an illusion. Likewise, the movie Memento with it's clever, backward flow adheres to the laws of structure - and they are the only writing rules I call laws (I don't even like calling rules rules).
Title: Re: Critique Thread Discussion and/or Suggestions
Post by: JMack on October 08, 2016, 10:22:25 PM
Some have heard this, but I want to reflect here on my experience with this writing club (yes!).

I didn't finish a damn thing before I discovered the club.
Now I've written 25 stories since November 2014.
And if this had been a truly competitive troll-filled place, I'd never have gotten past the first two.

And I want to shout out the critiques. I wrote my 4th (?) story and thought it was a work of unmitigated genius and humor. I was all like: this will win, no question at all! (I was so excited about winning.). It barely did ok with votes. So I put it up for critique and @D_Bates (http://fantasy-faction.com/forum/index.php?action=profile;u=40257) politely and thoroughly tore it apart in a separate PM. And wow did I learn.

Here's another thing that helped me enormously. During the first year of my participation, @Elfy (http://fantasy-faction.com/forum/index.php?action=profile;u=1153) would regularly read my stories before I submitted them. I learned a lot from his suggestions, support, and friendship. Then a few months ago, D_Bates did the same on my dystopia story. Seeing how he helped me manage pace and clarity in my action sequences was terrific.

This why I love that our contest is a club. If I ever finish a long form piece or in some fantasy world actually get published, it will because of this place and these people.

Pass the Kleenex.
Title: Re: Critique Thread Discussion and/or Suggestions
Post by: m3mnoch on October 09, 2016, 12:58:01 AM
HUGS FOR EVERYONE!!
Title: Re: Critique Thread Discussion and/or Suggestions
Post by: Lady Ty on October 09, 2016, 01:13:56 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

oooh.  i like this idea.  it allows for more discussion of a specific story.  the story owner could copy/paste their story and a call for critiques AND a call for what kind of critiques they're looking for!

we could just sticky the submission/voting threads.  general discussion could then float, like the critiques, or any other threads that might pop up.

i think this is a keeper.  i like it.

Support this wholeheartedly, with separate threads for those who wanted to open them up for discussion of  their own stories would be great.  They could ask questions for themselves about specific points and be asked questions in return.

In the past some of our critiques have generated discussions about the stories and I know I recently asked some questions in a crit because I wanted to understand the thoughts behind the story better.
Title: Re: Critique Thread Discussion and/or Suggestions
Post by: D_Bates on October 09, 2016, 09:19:59 AM
Aw, @Jmack (http://fantasy-faction.com/forum/index.php?action=profile;u=37094), you made me blush!

Glad I was of some help, and wish I could be more active here, but I've been getting somewhat lost in my own worlds recently. Always happy to do critiques though for whosoever wants one. I did intend to keep up to date on these even if I didn't participate, but then it started to have near 20 entries a month! But yeah, just summon me so I notice and I'll give your story a read and pop out some points.
Title: Re: Critique Thread Discussion and/or Suggestions
Post by: night_wrtr on November 08, 2016, 05:50:39 AM
Critique threads have a few pages each. That's nice to see and glad people are taking advantage of it. I think giving a critique is just as helpful as getting one. At least, that has been my perspective the last two months.

Thanks to everyone who has asked and submitted a critique for the contests!

Edit: Does anyone have comments/suggestions about how this is going? What's working, what needs more work?
Title: Re: Critique Thread Discussion and/or Suggestions
Post by: Lanko on December 08, 2016, 12:15:37 AM
I received two PMs the past days that said this:

"Hey, I liked your critiques very much! Could you write one for me? I don't feel confident in doing them, so I didn't ask there."

About two days later I received another saying pretty much the same thing:

"Hey, could you do a critique for my story? I never critiqued anyone before, so I'm afraid of upsetting someone or worse, if they give me a detailed critique and I only return a few lines and things will look like I'm receiving so much more than I'm giving..."

I guess even if we say to not worry that much about exchanging critiques, I think it's natural some people will feel embarrassed in those situations.

Hm, what to do?
Title: Re: Critique Thread Discussion and/or Suggestions
Post by: m3mnoch on December 08, 2016, 12:19:57 AM
change your forum title to "CRITIQUEMUTHAFUCKINMASTAH!!"?
Title: Re: Critique Thread Discussion and/or Suggestions
Post by: Lanko on December 08, 2016, 12:21:36 AM
change your forum title to "CRITIQUEMUTHAFUCKINMASTAH!!"?

No way, that would make people take such critiques for granted!  ::)
Title: Re: Critique Thread Discussion and/or Suggestions
Post by: m3mnoch on December 08, 2016, 12:28:01 AM
change your forum title to "CRITIQUEMUTHAFUCKINMASTAH!!"?

No way, that would make people take such critiques for granted!  ::)

we don't take you for granted.  we love and appreciate every single letter you type, man.

tho, more seriously, maybe see if they'll let you post them publicly?  even if it's not your story, it can still help to see a crit of work that, while not yours, is still something you're familiar with.  to see thinking about a piece not so dear to your heart and to help build a deconstruction grammar and all that other analytical kind of stuff.
Title: Re: Critique Thread Discussion and/or Suggestions
Post by: Nora on December 08, 2016, 12:41:42 AM
That's a shame that we have people feeling like they can't give or publicly receive critics.

If any of them is reading this thread, I'd really like to say that anyone can ask out for things, specifically. Aka, you can say "I'm really shy about receiving critics and would like you guys to go nice on me, mostly review this or that, but please don't prod at plot/grammar/prose/whatever"
People would of course listen to you. If you enter the contest, I assume you want to get better at writing? Getting used to be judged, voted for, or not? Getting critics and/or more gentle reviews/opinions, ought to be part of the process.

As for not giving critics away, it's even more sad, because the people who ask for them are genuine about it and really want to know what others thought of their work.

I kept my own submission anonymous in hopes of seeing if that would motivate people to come out on it, but it doesn't seem to help.

If you're afraid of being contrary, just go and say positive stuff. Every writer here is waiting for positive comments.
Something like "This story was not my cup of tea, but I liked this and that, and this "..." was a really cool sentence" would be a fine enough review to get you used to deliver opinions.
Please take the time to see how thoroughly we often tear each other down. No little criticism will harm anyone if it's politely expressed.
Title: Re: Critique Thread Discussion and/or Suggestions
Post by: Lady Ty on December 08, 2016, 12:46:01 AM
change your forum title to "CRITIQUEMUTHAFUCKINMASTAH!!"?

No way, that would make people take such critiques for granted!  ::)
]we don't take you for granted.  we love and appreciate every single letter you type, man.


[/quote
Yes second that gladly. Thanks a heap Lanko.
Title: Re: Critique Thread Discussion and/or Suggestions
Post by: night_wrtr on December 09, 2016, 03:05:28 AM
Just more evidence for how awesome your crits are @Lanko !

Maybe next round they will be willing to join and feel comfortable. We are all here to help each other, afterall!

Another reason we should lead by example and remember that we are a friendly environment and really do want to not only improve our own writing, but to help others in whatever way possible. Even a few sentences are welcome, because feedback in any form adds perspective and it makes a difference to see our stories from someone else's eyes.