It’s a simple enough question: What do you want when you submit your 13 lines?
I want to have my thinking challenged. I’m not really looking for critiques of voice, mood, tone, or grammar, not really, although they are useful if the person providing them knows what they’re talking about. You’ll notice I don’t go in for such critiques myself, much. It’s not an area I’m comfortable giving advice on; too many self-doubts.
By having my thinking challenged, I mean that, having created what I think is a good opening, I want to be told why it isn’t. That’s my challenge, to accept the flaws in my creative thought processes and re-envision the scene in a new and exciting way. Sometimes it works, sometimes not.
Time and again, I see submissions where the writer either immediately makes changes, on-the-fly, or, after a small hiatus, rearranges the prose in the hope we won’t notice. This is usually the case when the writer can’t let go of their iconic turns of phrase. They don’t want to loose these sentences, so they’ll faff around trying to keep them when what they need to do, and have been advised to do, is to re-think the whole scene.
So, just what do you want?
I ask because I'm interested, and I would like to be a more effective contributor.
Insights for expression development is what I want from thirteen-lines commentary. How a creative vision is received by readers for appeal's sake is my foremost interest. Now, I could say insights about a theme, a conflict, a complication, a moral human condition, a message and moral, are in the ballpark, though, first, none of those is what I struggle with. A point of appeal is the struggle. Way large, macro considerations in any case.
I have not found that kind of workshop yet. Nor are my responses able to focus on macro-micro synergy regularly either. I do, though that is a thankless process. I do gain insight though, that is missed or misses the response page and kept private in mind for my benefit.
For me, grammar, style, rhetoric, craft, content, organization, expression, voice, discourse method, and audience appeal work together in a symphonic synergy. And together center essential unity. As much as I read, and I read a lot, I rarely find a genuinely satisfying narrative. Shortfalls abound. They accumulate one upon another until a narrative has shown an omnipotent hand directs a daydream. Disharmonious notes, off key, abrupt and unwarranted changes of scale, like music: discordant notes and chords and themes.
For me, I want to be transported, immersed, hopelessly consumed by a narrative. I count the number which succeeded in that on two hands. Each was deeply personal and intimate subjectivism, an opposite of both Ayn Rand and L. Ron Hubbard's far apart from each others' "Objectivism." Rand's a belief that socialism is a social evil and Hubbard's a belief hierarchal stratification of a neo-Platonic nature is both a natural and necessary human condition. Both espoused views that concentrated power and wealth belong to the few who are able to wield them, ordained by accident of birth, predetermination, in other words, and never minded that those views are self-reinforcing fallacies and self-fulfilling prophesies.
Subjectivism, on the other hand, allows no one principle is a totality. A subjectivism principle suggests, for example, that modern society "is defective because it doesn't provide group ties which in primitive cultures makes alienation virtually impossible." ("Themes in Literature") And counters that philosophy with a congruent philosophy, wealth and power concentration, if responsibly wielded, provide for a common good, genuinely improved lifestyle, for one. Neither self-involved capitalism nor Marxist socialism foremost though in tandem and blended with at least a few other noble -isms. A subjectivism narrative's plot then a struggle to find a personal, hence subjective, accommodation toward their tugs.
Anyway, those are too generic and too overt of ideas for any given narrative. A focused and slanted approach is warranted, for which I struggle with and want from response commentary. However, that kind of discretion is few and far between, rather personal sentiments about likes and dislikes and narrowed sensibilities are the convention. I want an open-minded free exchange of ideas proportioned between shortfalls and strengths, not knee-jerk disapproval, of which strengths comments are by far, easily the more useful comments when taken as and alongside constructive comments about shortfalls, and are evidence of sincerity, for which I am most grateful.
A point of interest; that is, writing workshop commentary is predicated upon two seemingly mutually exclusive parameters and considerations: one that a narrative under discussion may benefit from insightful commentary and realization of comments' value, no matter how -- I don't know, what, problematic? -- helpful at the moment a comment may be; and two, commenters are more likely to benefit from the process.
Both precepts hold profound promise. A writer might realize shortfalls that were overlooked, regardless of whether the writer delineates interest from a specific area of evaluation or accepts a general evaluation whole cloth, not accepts in the sense adapts the whole cloth, considers the whole cloth. For a writer, the process may be viewed as a focus group testing: audience testing.
A commenter's writing skill growth benefits from evaluation processes, such that aptitude for drafting and revising one's own writing grows. Personally, I believe, know even, that is the greater promise and benefit of workshopping. From reducing one's thoughts to writing for sharing purposes, one's writing skills strengthen.
The two go hand in hand though. As a commenter, my emphasis is based upon my reading experiences, my worksopping here and elsewhere, and my study of writing theory in all its glorious, symphonic synergy: formal composition, creative writing, writing pedagogy (child learning) and androgogy (adult learning) theory and practice, and from a strong personal need to be persuasive and effectively appealing, not so I am unique for the sole sake of being unique, so I may meaningfully participate in and contribute to this epic journey called life.
One point of note for me, is a comment today may not be realized as useful this day or this narrative or this week or month, though may become, in time, crucially informative when a writer needs it and the writer's aptitude is ready for it. There it is sown as a tiny seed in the back of the mind, ripe now, fermented then, for when it is called upon "ages and ages hence" (Frost "The Road Not Taken"). The years spent appreciating that and, its opposite, unlearning self-sabotaging denial have tolled the validity of that in my mind, that I stand upon the many shoulders of those who came before and succeeded. They are my inspirations, though I am my own writer and in my own time.
In short, workshop processes, at times as naturally and necessarily brutal as they may be, are self-selected and subject to eventual, if ever, individual unraveling.
Not to be more explicit, for an access point from first principles: Subjectivism generally espouses that all perceptual experiences and reactions to same are unique to any given individual. Objectivism generally expects everyone to perceive and react identically to similar experiences. For prose, I believe the former is far more appealing and entails greater variety and originality potentials.
"... I learned from Orson Card in his literary boot camp. There are three main issues a reader might have with a story—confusion, disbelief, and boredom. When you run into these issues, you react with a “huh?”, “come on”, and “who cares?” Card calls these the three grunts.
What you’re going to do is start to sensitize yourself to these reactions and identify what’s causing them in you.
To do that, you will follow this process:
Read a story like you would if you were reading it for pleasure. You do not set out to critique it. You set out to enjoy it. As you read you make a mark next to any spot that is confusing, boring, or doesn’t ring true. Don’t stop and expand on your reaction. You are NOT looking for these things. Nor do you want to interrupt the flow of your experience with the story. You’re simply trying to enjoy the story and noting these reactions as you go along. If the story is really boring or confusing you, you stop where you normally would. You don’t have to read to the end. When you finish, go back and clarify what each mark was for, then think up ways that might fix the issues. The scales fell from my eyes when we had to do this with 19 stories in three days. You can do this with 19 short stories or 19 chapters in a novel or the first chapter of 19 different novels. Or do 9, or 5. But don’t short shrift yourself."
Posts: 816 | Registered: May 2009
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Okay, babooher, I guess I intuited the three grunts. I always crit a work from the reader's POV, not a critics.
Yes, if asked, I'll go into structure, form, etc, but, I think most fragments submitted here are more interested in hooking the reader (not necessarily with just colour and movement), and writing prose that is clear and says exactly what the writer wants it to say.
Kent, I'm gratified I was of some small assistance.
quote:Originally posted by babooher: "... I learned from Orson Card in his literary boot camp. There are three main issues a reader might have with a story—confusion, disbelief, and boredom. When you run into these issues, you react with a “huh?”, “come on”, and “who cares?” Card calls these the three grunts.
Stellar advice, tho I suspect by the time you have Grunts present to where they're readily identifiable, there are more issues than the immediate, cuz readers tend to gloss over Grunts that only affect a few words.
quote:Originally posted by babooher: Read a story like you would if you were reading it for pleasure. You do not set out to critique it. You set out to enjoy it. As you read you make a mark next to any spot that is confusing, boring, or doesn’t ring true. Don’t stop and expand on your reaction.
I like to make crit comments that are whatever came into my head on the spot. That can be anything from LOL to Huh? cuz I think it's important to also note what worked and how I reacted.
Posts: 751 | Registered: Dec 2010
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I'm honestly interested in whatever critiques are given, mostly because I very much feel like someone who is still learning. I do prefer to have the thought processes behind the critiques detailed, though--what's good, what's bad, what needs work, and why.
Posts: 744 | Registered: May 2015
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