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» Hatrack River Writers Workshop » Forums » Open Discussions About Writing » Arguing with critiques (Page 2)

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Author Topic: Arguing with critiques
goatboy
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What I'm curious about is whether any of these people change their minds once they see themselves on tape.

Do they actually hear how bad they sound? Can they hear the difference between the way they sing and they way the finalists sing?

There is something here that connects back to being human, I just can't quite put my finger on it.


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Robyn_Hood
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I think it might be vanity.

If you are an amatuer singer, with little or no vocal training or experience, and you go on American Idol, you are unlikely to get very far. You will probably be one of the ones that Simon will simply shut-down. But that is his job. He is music producer looking to find quality singers who will make him money. In that respect, he a lot like an editor at a magazine or publishing house. An editor is there to find quality writing to make the company money.

The time for encouragement and learning should come long before you put yourself up on the stage and it is important to step onto the appropriate stage at the approriate time. You are unlikely to go from singing in the shower to singing in the top 10 of American Idol.

Now I'm just rambling, so I'll shut-up.


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HSO
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I'd like to make two points. One regarding the topic subject, which will come last. And the second regarding the current subject of bad singers.

Point one: Don't know if it's vanity or not, but it's definitely selective listening. From my own experience at auditioning singers for bands I've had, it can get really bad. How do you tell someone they really and truly suck without hurting their feelings? Answer: You just have to find a sincere and tactful way of saying it to avoid getting socked in the eye. In my case, I don't particularly enjoy singing on stage -- I can't stand to hear the sound of my voice on tape as it nothing like what my inner ear tells me. People say they like it and I wonder if we hear the same things. I wouldn't hire me for a singing job. Yet somehow, amazingly, I always end up singing lead on a good number of songs.

Point two: I've made the mistake of arguing with a critique probaby more than once, but one of them really stands out in my mind. And shortly after critiquing the critiquer, I had to dodge the pointy daggers that flew from my screen when I read their response to my argument. How dare I do such a thing! it read, among other things. And they were right, of course. I shouldn't have done that. I felt bad and apologized (I hope it was enough). Haven't done it since. Although, I will often ask for clarification or even advice if I don't quite understand what they are getting at.


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Lord Darkstorm
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How someone responds to a critique can let you know how far along they have come. The simple fact is that you can't explain yourself to an editor, or the person reading through the slush pile.

I used to try and justify it, on occasion I still get a strong urge to do so. I have found that I read the critique and let it settle in my head for a while. Once I've dumped some of the personal attatchment to my work I can go back and look at it more objectively.



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Keeley
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quote:
In the few times I seen parts of the show, I've never heard anyone say, yes you can sing, but not at the professional level.

Actually, RH that happened last night. A 17 year old tried out and kept going off-pitch. Randy told her that she just needed more training and encouraged her to keep at it. This happens every now and then. I even heard Simon tell someone -- both last season and this -- that they were good, but not Idol material.

Sometimes the singers do hear themselves. One girl said, "That was horrible," and yet she kept trying to audition.

However, this is about as rare as one of Simon's compliments.

On the subject of writing critiques, I think how you present your critique is just as important as keeping a thick skin when you receive one. (Think Randy or Paula instead of Simon.) That's why I try not to read something when I'm having a really bad day. Because I, like Dakota, make comments on the first read, I'll be far less forgiving and more prone to rip the piece up instead of offering helpful advice or even just noting what didn't work for me.

I also agree with hoptoad. If there are a lot of basic mistakes, I assume they're a beginner (like me) and only focus on the most damaging.

Didn't say it before, so I'll say it now: Glad you're back HSO.


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goatboy
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quote:
Sometimes the singers do hear themselves. One girl said, "That was horrible," and yet she kept trying to audition

I can understand keeping on trying. If I'd spent hours waiting, I'd keep trying too. (It's what we tell each other about writing every day.) And, I can understand the ones who say "That wasn't any good. Can I sing something else." (That also is something we tell each other about writing every day.) What I can't understand is what motivates the ones who can't carry a tune, have no rhythm and don't know the words? It seems it would be better to get a vocal coach first, or try out for the choir. (Which is why we critique eash other, so we have some idea of what to expect.)


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Keeley
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I understand asking for a second chance as well. What gets me is the people who starting singing a different song as if a second chance is their right. The first doesn't irritate me or, as far as I can tell, the judges. The second does.

As for the ones who are in deep denial, I think it goes back to the lies these people are told from relatives and friends who mean well.

I have a relative who can't sing. No one (including me for reasons I'd rather not say) has ever told her that she can't. Because she comes from a musical family, she is constantly trying to prove she has what she doesn't. She hears herself. I see it in her eyes. But she isn't willing to admit that she can't and take steps to improve. Instead, she acts hurt when someone disagrees with her about her ability.

And whenever she hears someone better than herself, she either gets snide (if she's in a good mood) or flies into a rage.

In her case, I know it's born out of a deep-rooted insecurity. Admitting she can't sing would only increase the list of things she believes she can't do. Maybe that holds true for others as well.


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djvdakota
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I thought this was such a good topic, I thought SOMEBODY might benefit from reading it again--at least the part before the American Idol stuff.
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wbriggs
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bump

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TL 601
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There is no good reason to argue with a critique. Say "Thanks," and move on.
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wbriggs
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bump
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Elan
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Good time for the bump. I just said it in F&F, I'll say it again now: What is the point in joining a board of serious writers specifically to benefit from their experience in publishing and the wisdom of their advice, then turn around and scoff at what they tell you?

The only correct response to critique is "Thank you" or "Could you clarify that for me?"

The worst response is:
1) The 13 lines limit is lame/stupid/something I'm going to ignore;
2) It will all be explained on a) the next page, b) the next chapter, c) later in the book.


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Dude
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I don't agree that "thank you" is the only response to a bad critique. I am here to learn and teach, and I assume everyone else is here for the same reason. I want to know if my critique wasn't helpful, or not what the author was looking for -- or if it did help. To me, the reason I participate in the F&F forum or any critique group is to identify those who can help me with my writing (this includes my critiquing) and those who can benefit from my help. If someone doesn't like my critique -- they don't fall into that group, and if someone gives me a bad critique and does not want to know it wasn't helpful for me -- they don't fall in that group either. I would rather get that out in the open up front instead of wasting time being polite about it. I'm not advocating being impolite, and I think name-calling is just immature, but if you think I'm a jerk or idiot on either side of the equation, let's get that over with right away as well. This isn't about perpetuating someone's self-image, it's about growing as writers.
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Christine
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Noooooooooooooooooo!!!

That's just not how it works, Dude. You never ever argue with a critique, even a bad one. Yes, we are here to learn from one another, but not everyone can be the teacher all the time.

Let''s just say that I read your story and gave you the following critique: "This story is unmarketable. It is too cliche. Write something else."

Well, that's a terrible critique, isn't it? First of all, it's brutal, does ot express the ideas as opinions, and leaves the writer with no way to imrpove, merely a bruised rear-end.

So you respond to me and tell me, politely: "Christine, you might want to rethink your method of dealing critiques. While your advice and suggests are valid, your failure to phrase them as opinions did not help me, nor would it help anyone. It also might be nice if you made some constructive suggestions about how ti improve this story, how to add fresh elements to make it more marketable and less cliche."

Very polite, but here's my response: "I spent time and effort on that critique. If you can't stand to get your feelings hurt then you shouldn't send your stuff out."

To which you might say, "My feelings weren't hurt, really, but your critiques will be so much more useful if you phrase them differently."

To which I reply, "Go to hell."

You can't win like this. Someone ELSE might be able to guide me into becomming a better critiquer or I might learn from the many good examples on the F&F part of the forum. But YOU, the person whose story I critiqued, cannot possibly be the one to do "teach" me. Why not? You're too close to the work and I'll never believe your comments came from anything other than bruised feelings. In fact, very few critiques are as bad as my example and to one who would critique like that, they are likely beyond help. Meanwhile, *my* critiques are great (where my is any person on this forum in the first person) and if you respond that way then you're obviously too close to your work and need to figure out that I'm right and you're wrong.

No, you don't argue with critiques. You do not teach critiquers how to critique, at least not with your story as an example. You say "thank you" and if it was bad, never send them any more of your work.


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Beth
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Exactly.

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Robyn_Hood
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I did read all of this thread the first time around, but not recently, so I might be repeating something.

There is a difference between arguing with a critique and discussing the points that were made.

"Thank you" is not always a suffient response to a critique. If a critique was vague or not very helpful, I don't consider it rude or particularly bad form to respond with some questions or explainations.

It's all in the phrasing.

To use Christine's example:

quote:
"This story is unmarketable. It is too cliche. Write something else."

You might respond with a question or two:
"Thank you for taking the time to look at this for me, I appreciate your feedback. However, I'm not sure what elements you are finding cliché. Could you please give me an example of what you are talking about?"

If someone has questions about a critique I do, I would rather they ask about it than just write it off. That doesn't help anyone.

Of course, before you send any response other than "Thank you." consider why you feel compelled to reply.


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Dude
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I'm guessing from the Noooooo!!! (Did I get enough o's in there?) that you feel pretty strongly about this Christine. Notice I didn't say argue with a critique, I said that a simple "thank you" for a bad critique is a bad idea. I think Robin Hood covered it pretty well. There are ways to tell someone your opinion without coming across as rude or condescending. Who are you helping by ignoring it? You? The critiquer? The next person they critique? Of course, if a person is unable to communicate effectively without it degenerating into a round of name calling, then that person probably should not respond.

If it goes the way you describe -- although, I don't think I would word my response the way you did -- well at least it's over and done with and I don't have to waste any more time dealing with that person. Quite frankly, if a person were apt to respond to me in that manner I don't think I would want to work with them anyway.


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Christine
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quote:
Quite frankly, if a person were apt to respond to me in that manner I don't think I would want to work with them anyway.

I think this was my main point, actually. When people provide insulting critiques, attack the writer rather than the story, for example, they often aren't worth responding to. I'm sure I exaggerated a bit.

I've actually received a crit that pretty much said what I did above..."This story is unmarketable, write something else." I was angry and I felt their critique, while potentially valid (it was a cliched idea), was given in a manner that could provoke no better emotion from me than resentment. I chose to say thanks and then never exchange critiques wiht him again.

If you've read the rest of this thread (it is a bit long), you'll see some of my responses that suggest requesting clarification. The difference as I see it between that situation and what I perceived you saying is this: When I ask for clarification it is because I think they may have something but I'm not quite sure I'm getting it. What I thought I read you as saying was that you might try to do a bit of socratic teaching with them in order to help them become better critiquers...to teach them. I think you're treading in dangerous waters when you do it for the second reason and you need to seriously think about why you want to respond as you do.


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wbriggs
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I'm with Christine. I'll ask for clarification if there's something I want clarified. But it isn't my job to correct my critiquers, and I know by hearing this discussion that it is *not* appreciated.
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EricJamesStone
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I'm with Christine on this.

When authors ask for critiques, they are inviting other people to criticize their work in order to help them improve it. Some of the critiques may be good and some of them may be worthless, but either way, the critiquers have spent time reading and commenting, and for that they deserve thanks.

However, the critiquers usually have not invited the author to critique their critiquing methods, and therefore it would be rude and confrontational to critique their critiques.


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Beth
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It seems to me that we rarely see the kind of mean and useless crit that dude is talking about.

What we do see a fair amount of is someone who offers a crit, and the person receiving it responds by telling us how stupid the 13 line rule is, and everything becomes clear on page 20, and how POV isn't important, and how they can't be bothered to fix their grammar because the story really gets good on page 50, and we're all too stupid to understand them, anyway, and besides, their mother loves it. And it's all right if they made obvious errors X, Y, and Z, because Orson Scott Card did that once seventeen years ago and look at him now, so obviously writing like X, Y, and Z is the way to go, so the person who offered the crit should just apologize for not being supportive of the poster's obvious genius. (I am exaggerating and am not speaking of any person in particular.)

That is not an appropriate response to a crit.

No doubt the person who received the crit thinks they're just trying to tell the person who offered the crit what kind of information might be more useful to them - but it's inappropriate. Ask for clarification if you need to but otherwise just say "thank you." You're totally free to disregard the crit but arguing isn't going to get you anywhere.


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Survivor
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I'd just like to point out that I don't feel that thanks should be mandatory. First of all, if thanks are mandatory then they are also meaningless, like those "thank you for sending..." bits of form rejections.

That said, politely pretending an indiscretion did not occur is always an option. It may not always be the best option, but sometimes it's a lot better than saying "thank you". Would you ever thank someone for snoring loudly when an important guest was speaking?

Maybe I shouldn't ask


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Beth
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Well, if the person was doing me a favor by coming to hear the speaker, I'd thank them for coming, even if their participation didn't turn out exactly the way I'd hoped.

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Heresy
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Beth, thank you for clarifying for us all the kind of arguing with critiques that I meant when I started this thread. I posted it in response to someone doing basically several of the things you gave examples of. It irritated me that they were, essentially, dismissing all of the advice and help offered (all of which was requested really by posting in F&F) and telling everyone they were wrong. I think what bothered me most about it was that there was even a general consensus about what was wrong with the sample given.

To reiterate, I agree that asking for clarification is a good thing, and the only way to really get to the bottom of the problem with a piece of writing, IMO. I think that telling a critiquer that they are wrong is both pointless and rude. It's their opinion, even when they forget to phrase it that way, and you telling them that they are wrong gets neither of you anywhere. I've had crits where I did think they were wrong, and I'll admit to having been tempted to tell them so, especially when everyone else had the opposite opinion to that critiquer. I didn't, and in the end, I felt that there was something to be gained by trying to figure out why they felt the way they did.

I actually don't read critiques right away. I give them a couple of days, then I read them, and I put them away for at least a week before I read them again. I try to get some distance from them, so it doesn't feel personal, and so that I can try to view the advice they carry in an objective manner, in the hopes of getting more from them (or at least from the good ones, as I've already put aside the vague or completely unhelpful ones).

I do agree that it will not work for me to try to teach someone how to critique when it involves my own story. Even I know that I'm too close to my own work to be objective about either the work itself or your opinions of it. That's why I asked for other opinions. I mean, I can ask my own opinion, but I find it's often unhelpful, blind, and self-congratulatory (usually prematurely so, too). I wanted someone else's opinion, an outside take on it. Am I really any more likely to be objective about your advice if it disagrees with my own opinion of the story? Hardly. And, as Christine pointed out, you, the critiquer, will probably be aware of that and not listen to any suggestions about how to improve your critiquing skills.

As far as improving critiquing skills goes, that's one of the things I like about the open critiquing of the 13 lines that goes on in F&F sometimes. It's a good place to find out if your approach to critiquing the work of others needs some improvement, as I've seen people call others for being out of line in their method of critiquing. I've also seen such instances descend into name-calling, but it's often because the person being told they're out of line doesn't like being criticized (Ironic, I know). Usually, though, it seems to be taken well. It's one of the reasons I like this community so much, and why I keep coming back, even though I'm really busy with my own life right now and am going through a dry spell in my own writing at present. We are all here to help each other. Sometimes that also means knowing when to back off of trying to help others, though. I will state one final time, for absolute clarity, writers should not critique their own critiquers. It is never a good idea. If you really dislike their method of critiquing, don't send them anything more of yours in future, as suggested earlier. Do not start to argue. And never forget, you will never be there to argue with an editor or to explain your work to them. Your story must being able to stand on its own two feet when it goes out. So, if you find yourself wanting to argue with a critique, pause, take some time away, read it again, and then read your story to try to figure out what went wrong or where they got a mistaken idea from. Most of the time, you'll find it right there in your story, which you missed because you are too close to it and know what you meant to say. That's okay. You don't have to do it all on your own. That's what the Writer's Workshop is here for.


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pixydust
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I find it odd how people argue with critiques. Isn't the reason they put it up to get "feedback"? I go with the rule: "If I have to justify my work I may need to rethink it a bit." Three or four people telling you basicly the same thing is an obvious red flag.
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Christine
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On a side note: in an attempt to help improve people's critiquing skills I have personally begun more than one thread here about how to provide effective feedback. I also had a three-part article published in Kathleen's newsletter on the subject. This, to me, is an acceptable way to try to improve people's critiquing skills and as I've mentioned before, as newbies come through and need to rehas old (to me) topics, go for it.

I haven't read F&F much lately. I guess I got sick of people not appreciating the help I was giving them by either arguing with my (or others') ciritiques or taking their critique and running. (Countless newbies flitter onto F&F, get some feedback, and never return the favor....if I ever do go to F&F I only look at stories by familiar handles.)


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Dude
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Thank you Survivor, I think you nailed the real problem I have with the "thank you" response. Sometimes our society takes politeness to absurd levels. Why thank someone for not giving you what you asked for?

If you didn't get anything out of the critique, let the critiquer know. Ask for clarification - or examples from your work. It's not so much a critique the critiquer thing, but a clarification of your intial request.

Again, I am not saying "argue with your critiquer", but why empower a bad critiquer with a thank you? Making a blanket statement that you should thank someone no matter what because "that's how it's done" just doesn't cut it.


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Beth
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You're not willing to be polite to someone who takes the time to comment on your work?

OK. I'm glad you've made your position clear.


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MaryRobinette
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But you're still just talking about clarifications, right, Dude? I mean, I just got a critique on Body Language and think that it has a lot of stuff in it that is flat wrong. It's completely opposite what everyone else has said, and the critiquer doesn't seem to understand some basics of writing. You aren't suggesting that I should write to the critiquer and tell them, are you?

Because, what I did was to write and thank them for taking the time to critique my story.

Just like I thanked my grandmother when she bought me a sweater that was a color I didn't like and the wrong size. I didn't tell her, "I don't like this." I thanked her, praised the parts of it I liked, and then exchanged it.


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Dude
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I think you are missing my point Beth. I never said to be rude to someone who takes the time to comment on your work. I'm pretty sure I never said that I wasn't willing to be polite. Yes, Mary I am talking about clarification. If someone gives you a critique to the best of their ability - then thank them. Of course, if they ask you if their critique was helpful, be honest with them. I don't think that is the case in the senario the Christine put forward.

I have never received a critique like that. I would think my first reaction would be to walk away -- as has been suggested here, but I know that it would bug the heck out of me wondering if that person had a valid point. Maybe not well intended, but valid. I think it would be more constructive to reply with a request for clarification. Something like: I'm curious as to why you feel this way. Could you give me examples from the writing that gave you this impression?

If the critiquer comes back with another nasty message, then walk away. Really, there are some people out there who are just rude by nature, but they may still be willing to elaborate if you ask. If they do, you may walk away with valuable insight into your work.

The easiest and safest thing to do is walk away, secure in your own righteousness. You're the better person -- you thanked them for being rude after all. I believe in second chances. Give the rude critiquer a chance to explain. If that doesn't work, then I'm all for scratching them off the list and never looking back. Of course, I still wouldn't thank them for being rude.


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Christine
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I say, "thank you" all the time and Survivor is right, to a point -- it doesn't always mean that much in and of itself. It's a matter of tone. On Christmas, there's the, "Thank you, Grandma!" ..... unsaid part: for this ugly sweater. And then there's the, "Wow, Mom, thanks! I can't believe you bought me the six quart kitchen aid!"

In critiques it's liike this. "Thank you for your time and effort." ....unsaid part: even though you obviously didn't read it very closely. Alternately, "Thanks, Mary! I see what you mean about x. I think I'm going to change it so that y."

Not every one of my thank you's is the same, whether on christmas or on critiques, but it's still polite and I'm still not going to take it upon myself to teach directly -- indirectly, like I said, with threads and articles -- but NEVER directly..


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wbriggs
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Note to possible critiquers: if I just say "thank you for your help" with no qualifiers, I don't mean your critique sucked and I wish you'd soak your head! I really do mean it!
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EricJamesStone
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> If you didn't get anything out of the
> critique, let the critiquer know.

Don't do this directly, or it comes off as "You're a worthless critiquer." If something in the critique can be clarified, ask for clarification. Otherwise, just leave it alone.


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Beth
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yes, the part Eric quoted is the part that sounds like being rude to people who took the time to read your work. And the part where you said thanking them was empowering them to give bad critiques, so you wouldn't do it.

But all right, it sounds as if that isn't what you meant.


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Miriel
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I still think you should always say thank-you. For instance, I once asked someone I know to read my 95,000 word novel for me. The critique was awful. I guess she hadn't critiqued before, and she did it like a literary analysis. She kept asking for more theme and symbolism, and wanted the politics to relate to real-world politics. But she was doing me a favor, whether or not the results were good. A big favor. So I thanked her very kindly and gleaned from it what I could -- there were one or two useful comments. Even bad critiques will probably have one or two of those. Will I ask her to critique anything else I write? No. But that isn't the point -- she did me a favor, did it to the best of her abilities, and that certainly deserves a thank-you.
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Survivor
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It's not about being polite or not. I find pro forma expressions of gratitude unbearably rude and offensive. If someone farts at a dinner party, I would still thank them for coming. I would never thank them for farting unless the circumstances were truly exceptional. Of course, if I'm throwing a dinner party, the circumstances are already pretty darn exceptional

It's not about "empowering" someone to give bad critiques or anything like that. It's about not lying to someone that has probably tried to do you a favor.

Every insincere "thank you" I ever get simply makes it that much harder for me to believe that any thanks I've ever gotten are genuine. It's worse than hearing forced laughter after I tell a joke. At least I can reliably tell the difference between genuine and faked laughter.

But an insincere thank you doesn't just say "I think that you're so stupid that this will please you." It also says "by the way, everyone that every expressed gratitude for any aspect of your existence in the past or does so in the future is probably lying or just saying it out of habit."

I may be putting this too strongly, but this is honestly how I feel about this. What the hell is the point of saying something meaninglessly except to make it impossible for anyone to say it meaningfully?

That's probably just me. I'm probably the only person in the world who is genuinely hurt and offended by insincere "thank you"s. Maybe I'm the only person that ever thinks someone is just saying thank you to mean "I'm so much more polite than you that I can say 'thank you' when really I'd rather you'd choked on your own umbilical cord." I don't know how that's possible, since I'm one of the few people saying that you shouldn't say "thank you" to mean those kinds of things.

Maybe I'm going too far. But this is not theoretical anymore. This is one of those things that I'd think humans could understand, it doesn't feel good to have people tell you nice things about yourself when you know they are lying. Whether or not you know of yourself that those nice things are really true, it still hurts to hear them being said as a lie.

It hurts. Please, in the future, make me an exception to all rules about always saying "thank you." I'm not quite to the point where I just want people to stop trying to express gratitude or appreciation entirely. I hope it never comes to that. But I know that it does get to that point for some people. And I totally understand why.

Sorry for the outburst. It's just my feelings, and it's not like it matters if they get hurt a little more. I'm not going to change the world with this post, I'm probably not even going to change the forum. But please at least think over what you're all saying here. The people reading these posts are many of those whom you expect to accept the thanks you give. When they get the obligatory thanks for a critique, they've actually read your interpretation of just what that means coming from you.

Worse, so have those you try to give genuine expressions of gratitude.

Please, just think it over. You're not machines, please don't act like them.


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MaryRobinette
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Ah. I finally get what you're saying about this,Survivor. When I do a show, I dread hearing people say, "I liked your show," because that seems to be the ritual response. So I never quite believe them.

When I was at BootCamp we sat around a table and went in a circle giving verbal critiques. Most people started with "I liked your story." I didn't, because I knew that a story would come up that I wouldn't like. Then, if I left off the by-then-ritual "I liked your story," it would be noticeable, rude, and hurtful.

So, I now understand exactly what you mean about "thanks". But a thanks-for-the-time from me is always genuine. If I appreciated more than that, I will sing praises there, too.


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Beth
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I see, now, too. And yes, all I mean is thanks-for-the-time. I don't mean that you should tell someone their crit was wonderful if it isn't.
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Miriel
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Ditto.

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Meenie
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quote:
I have come to the conclusion that, if they didn't get it on their own, I probably missed something or made a mistake as an author

I agree with this BUT only if I get it from more than one critter. If I get 10 crits and only 1 "didn't get it" then I figure I did well


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Spaceman
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For the record, if anyone gets an email simply thanking them for a critique, it probably has the underlying and sumliminal message that I'm in a hurry and don't have time to write anything else right now.
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wbriggs
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Not from me! For me, "thank you" really does mean "thank you"!

And I'm still trying to imagine those exceptional circumstances for thanking someone for breaking wind at Survivor's dinner party:

"Thank you so much -- you added a lot to the evening. And I do mean a lot!"

"You found such a creative way to stop people from arguing about the election!"

"My party will be talked about for weeks. So will you!"

"Nobody even noticed that the dessert was spoiled!"

[This message has been edited by wbriggs (edited August 05, 2005).]


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Elan
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I just read an interesting article, "How to be Edited" by fantasy writer, Juliet McKenna. What struck me in the article is that her experience highlights the fact that critique only gets more intense when you are accepted for publication. If you can't accept critique in the spirit in which it's offered, as a tool to help you improve the quality of your manuscript, then you won't fare well if and when you finally do get a face-to-face meeting with an editor.

http://dspace.dial.pipex.com/juliet.e.mckenna/articlehowtobeedited.html

The link at the bottom of the page to "My Life as a Writer" will take you to other insightful articles about writing.

[This message has been edited by Elan (edited August 06, 2005).]


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Beth
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That is a really interesting article!

We've had a few conversations like that with our authors, and so far it's been a mutually rewarding experience. (But there aren't a lot of stories we're willing to put that kind of effort into. It's a lot of work for everyone.)


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Spaceman
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The thing is, after publication you have not only critiques, you also have critics.
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Survivor
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Well, like I might have said earlier, nobody expects you to thank them unless they actually say nice things about your work.

And I have to apologize for getting so emotional in my last post. I really thought about deleting it before hitting "submit", but it's just one of those things.

I think that, even when you can't honestly say "thank you" for what some person has done, you should try to avoid thinking of that person as having deliberately set out to injure you. Now, sometimes you can't rationally think of a person as having done anything else. That kind of thing does happen.

There's another side to that attitude, because eventually you become rather cold-hearted, and stop caring whether you have friends or enemies. Of course, I'm not so sure that people should care about that. Or rather, there's a sense in which you should care, and another sense in which you shouldn't. In one sense, it's about leaving it up to others whether they'll be your friends or enemies. In another, it could become viewing others as objects rather than people.

It's all very complicated and theoretical. Except that some things are the same whether you look at others as people or objects.


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Robert Nowall
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I recommend arguing with critiques and critics. After all, by writing something, you've staked out a position on how something should be written. You must have thought it was right and fine, or mostly so. You should be able to defend your position.

I've always taken the position when offering my own work for comments, that I'm actively looking to improve my work, both the work in question and any work I may do in the future. Therefore, I can't be hurt by anything that's said. (Or at least shouldn't be hurt.)


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Survivor
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The problem with that idea is that it assumes that each and every critiquer is willing to work just as hard on getting points across as you are to work on your story.

And that's not true. It's never true, unless you're an incredibly lazy writer.

Most critiquers, if they send a critique and get back an argument, they'll disengage from continuing to help you. I'll usually tolerate getting back an argument once, to which I'll send a helpful clarification of some basics on which my suggestions were based. I get back another argument, and I'll quit too.

Besides, feedback is feedback. Do you argue with the pain signals coming from your hand if you stick it in a fire?


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Christine
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Ow. Pain.

"Your beginning didn't hook me. In fact, it wasn't until page ten that things really started happening that interested me." -- anonymous critiquer

"But I thought about it for a long time and I have to put that stuff in there. It's background and if you don't understand it then you won't understand the action that ocmes later. It's only a twelve-page short story and the ending is worth waiting for. Even you said so. So the beginning is fine the way it is." -- stupid writer

Twenty years later...

New topic on Hatrack: Who gets published?

"I've been trying to get my stuff published for twenty years but no one will bite. I'm not even sure they read past the first page. They publish such utter crap in their magazines, what does it take for me to get an 'in' with them?" -- stupid writer


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Beth
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Robert, if someone does you a favor, it's rude to argue with them. If I help you move, I don't think you would argue that I wasn't lugging boxes fast enough for you, or that I put some of the boxes in the wrong room. You'd just thank me for my time, and give me beer. Maybe if I did a really awful job you wouldn't ask me to help you the next time, but you probably would, because you recognize that you need all the help you can get.

A person who critiques is doing you a *favor* by telling you their reactions to the story. They have not asked you to do them the favor of critiquing their reaction - you have asked them for the favor of reading and commenting.


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