quote:How can I be sure I'm right if I don't listen to and consider any arguments against? I may even be swayed by the arguments.
Are you referring to the position you've taken in this argument or to a hypothetical position that you might take in an argument with a critique?
Not that it makes much difference, since I have the answer to both
If you're confident you're right about something, then the argument isn't over whether you'll change your position. It's over whether the other person will change positions. If you're not confident you're right, then don't start an argument over your position.
Now, in a private exchange of messages between yourself and another writer, this means that there is never really room for argument. When I realize that a private exchange is becoming an argument (as opposed to a discussion), I bow out. It means that both parties are closed to the idea of changing positions.
In a public exchange of messages, like this forum, I presume that there may be people who are uncommitted to either position. So an argument isn't completely pointless in this context. It is still not the case that I'd start an argument, but if one starts I don't regard it as pointless to clarify and defend my own position.
To extend that to the current question, I often make statements that contradict another person's critique. Something along the lines of "that was perfectly clear to/fine with me" is the most frequent case. But I don't bother to turn that into an argument, it is simply going to be the case that people disagree about literature. That's what makes literature different from chess, where almost nobody will bother to argue over who won a game unless someone has no knowledge of the basic rules.
I have learned, much to my chagrin, that the times I am absolutely, 99.99% certain I'm right... those are the times that are most likely for me to be wrong. There is nothing quite as embarrasing than to be adamant to the point of rudeness about one's position and to be caught in error. Sorta makes you hesitant about taking an inflexible stance. And, in my case, the more certain I am, the more I acknowledge I could be wrong.
Another thing I've learned over the years: it's better to be kind than to be right.
Well, the only certainty is, as they say, death and taxes. If I was that sure of myself and my opinions, there'd be no need to look for the opinion of others---and, hence, no need for critics or critiques.
Suffice it to say that I'm looking for confirmation---which is not exclusively somebody saying something I've written or said is wonderful. More likely it'll be something I thought bad, that somebody else agrees with me that it was bad.
More likely yet it'll be something I missed completely. After all, from where I'm sitting, I can't see the back of my head, but maybe somebody else can. Storytelling is like that.
I haven't really been following any of this, but each time I log onto the Hatrack site, I see this thread growing. Must be a lot of arguing going on about arguing with critiques.
Posts: 1810 | Registered: Jun 2002
Don't argue with critiques, otherwise get off the board because that is the only real reason to be here, unless you have some wish to argue for the sake of doing so (which I see may be the case on this thread).
Posts: 162 | Registered: Jun 2005
Surely no one can consider us an argumentative lot? Perhaps that's the best reason to not argue with a critique... it's a losing battle!
I always keep in mind something that I once read by a politician, which paraphrased went something like this: "For every letter I read, I keep in mind there are a thousand other people who feel the same way but didn't take the time to write."
I feel that percentage is a good measuring stick. For every inconsistency or point of concern that is noticed by your critiquer, there will be a thousand other readers who notice it too. You need to be alert that those points are there.
A critique is just a roadmap to where the bumps are in your text.
I recently got back a rather harsh critique, however, after carefully rereading what I wrote, I agreed with the critiquer.
Did it hurt my feelings? A bit. Did it make me open my eyes and carefully look things over? You better believe it.
Would it have helped to argue with the critiquer? No.
The reason I answered 'no' is because, no matter what your feelings are towards your work or what the person said about it, it is what will be seen if your work gets published. And besides, remember, YOU asked for the critique.
This post has bothered me for a bit, but I haven't had the time to respond since, I work a ton.
In the end, I'm just going to say: You ask for an in-depth crit, that's what you're going to get. No need to get personal with responses.
I recently had a very harsh critique that had many valid points, but also had some comments that showed that person completely missed the point of the story. You take what is valid and reject what is not. You decide what works for you, and the reader decides if it works for the story.
Posts: 2 | Registered: Aug 2010
quote: recently had a very harsh critique that had many valid points, but also had some comments that showed that person completely missed the point of the story. You take what is valid and reject what is not.
Keeping in mind -- and this may or may not be the case here -- that a reader completely missing the point may mean the writer didn't present the point well enough. Sometimes we miss the point of critiques, or even answers to posts in these threads, by assuming we've been perfectly clear, when we haven't. The fault doesn't always lie with the receiver.
Posts: 1810 | Registered: Jun 2002
Back to the original post--I don't normally debate a point if someone crits my stories for me. I may discuss it, and try to tell them what I was attempting, but then I conclude that if they didn't get it, others might not either. That's why I try and have several people give me feedback on any one story--because if the same problems with the story get noticed by more than one person--there's got to be changes made.
On the other hand, a critiquer should keep his or her comments specific to the actual text of the story and not conclude with something like "this story sucked" or "you're a better writer than that" or something similar. To me that's just rudeness and not critiquing. I definitely appreciate someone taking the time to read and critique my story--as a long-time member of a critique group, I know how much work is involved. However, it should be left at critiquing the particulars of the story and not a generalized "you suck" kind of statement.
There is something I saw in a dumb movie once that I think belongs here. A writer was trying to explain something in his story and the other person (I assume he was an editor) pointed to the writer's mouth and said "Don't tell me here," then he moved his finger to the manuscript and said, "tell me here."
Posts: 1895 | Registered: Mar 2004
Oh no, what sin have we committed now? Why is this thread back to haunt us? We plead for mercy and forgiveness...wait a second, why am I saying this? I loved this thread
Posts: 8322 | Registered: Aug 1999
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Actually, I,m glad Kathleen bumped it or else I wouldn't have come across this thread otherwise.
I would like to think that I am very receptive to critiques, namely because I am coming to the conclusion that I'm really not much of a stylist, but mostly because I always recognized that editing was my weakness. Instead of cutting 10 percent from a first draft, like you're supposed to, I was more likely to add 10 percent, if not more!
I almost always incorporate the cuts that are suggested to me, simply because I read these comments and think, "Duh! this person is so right! Why didn't I see that!?"
Immediately upon becoming a member of this site I also joined up to one of the private critique groups (Hatrack_group2). My first submission was a 7,800 word short story. This story was originally 10,800 words, but earlier in the year a deleted an entire middle travelog section of 2000 words. I then edited the remaining 8,800 down to 7,800. I was pleased; I thought, damn, that's the first time I've really put on my editor's hat. Then I sent it to the group.
They liked it. One woman in particular, Gina, did an amazing line it on it. It was, of course, headlined with the usual disclaimer, i.e. this is all IMHO.
What did I do? Hell, I enacted every one of her cuts, all 300 words of them, and then came up with an additional 100 of my own. Was that painful to do? Nope, because she made a good story far better than I thought it could ever be. The result? The story is now 7,400 word. A total cut, including my own initial edit, of 3,400 words.
Since joining Hatrack some two and a half months ago this has been the greating gift that I've received from it: editting.
I think it helps a lot if critiquers know the genre of the story, ot story type of some sort. For instance at a flash contest I accidentally wrote a classic ghost story. My mistake, as the reading audience is expecting fiction, not a ghost story, so they all say I didn't tell it was a ghost soon enough. In most classic ghost tales, you don't know its a ghost till the end, and the place that seemed alive, well, everyone else knew it was deserted for years, and it suddenly reverts back to deserted. I think I will look for some critiquers who wnjoy reading mysteries, that isn't exaclty what I write, but it is closer.
So, the hardest part is finding critquers who recognize the type of writing you do. There was a few good comments in there, but most, well, would have deleted the story to one sentence if implemented. One day I may do a one sentence story just to prove how boreing it can be. With the actual story already written, and let them compare to decide which they would rather read.
[This message has been edited by abby (edited October 22, 2005).]
quote:Instead of cutting 10 percent from a first draft, like you're supposed to, I was more likely to add 10 percent, if not more
Just because Stephen King says this is right doesn't make it so for you. He only knows how to write Stephen King books. It could be that your first draft is just a skeleton and you need to flesh it out. On the other hand, a lot of writers (probably most) do drop in a lot of verbage that isn't needed.
I think there are levels of critique and we need to make sure we don't end up arguing on one level when we agree on three other levels. This would tend to discourage both the writer and those trying to help.
My harp discussion with Survivor was a good example. I got sidetracked and focussed on trying to convince him until I realized that he wasn't talking so much about the validity of the idea so much as the reader's perception of validity based on my inept style presenting it.
If you beleive argue means the same thing as debate, then we may just be in agreement.
The sole purpose for me posting on the F & F topic string is for people to ask questions that I haven't thought of yet. It allows me to make the world or story more 3-D. The correction in grammar is great too but that is more of a bonus.
The rules here are that you either ask for clarification from someone who has given feedback (because you didn't understand what the feedback meant) or you say, "thank you for the feedback."
You do not explain what you meant in your 13 lines.
You do not disagree with the feedback.
You do not say anything else about your 13 lines unless you would like to know if anyone would like to see more of your story in email.
If, in the feedback, someone asks questions about your 13 lines, you may ask if they really want you to answer (they may have just asked those questions so you would know what was unclear in your 13 lines). If they say they really want you to answer, then you may answer.
If you would like feedback on what you are trying to do with your story (because your 13 lines didn't do what you had hoped they would do), you may ask if anyone is willing to brainstorm with you on your story. We tend to be lenient about brainstorming, but that's because we don't really consider it actually arguing with feedback.
A critique is not a debate, nor is it an argument. Apples and oranges, my friend.
You write. The reader reads and forms an opinion. The critique is merely feedback of the reader's observation: "You lost me/confused me/I thought this was good." What you do with that information is up to you.
Fortunately, we have two forums to provide a platform for BOTH critique and debate. F&F is for critique. If you want to debate, there is always the Open Discussion on Writing forum. Two separate forums because they are two separate things.
If two or more people are saying the same thing about your work, a passage, a chapter or whatever, then it bears looking into for changes/additions/staying the same. If one person contributes a singular opinion, not echoed by anyone else, take it with a grain of salt and carry on.
Arguing is pointless. You are asking for a person's opinion. Why would you want to negate that? You will not get the chance to explain your work to the reading public. If it isn't clear, informative, well crafted, you are getting help to make it so. The constructive criticism isn't a personal attack. Sheesh! New writers are vulnerable, feel attacked, sabotaged, fear for the lives of their new-born babes, and wanting to protect them, lash out in argument when they could be spending their time making their writing stronger. Arguing merely wastes time that one could be learning.
Here on the forums we get free advice. I'm sure all of us are aware of the big bucks to get it otherwise.
[This message has been edited by Chaldea (edited January 22, 2007).]
Stateman, I understand the purpose you intend; you wish MORE feedback than a general critique provides.
The solution is to join a writing group. F&F is NOT the appropriate forum for a debate on your writing.
A writing group has several advantages: once you get to know the others in your group, they will often provide more detailed critique and be open to the sort of questions you have about your work.
Just as a critique is more helpful if the critic is specific ("This didn't work for me because..."), so do you need to be very specific in your questions as you attempt to clarify your writing. In my writing group, if someone suggested something wasn't working, we generally felt free to say: "Here is my intention and what I was trying to accomplish... do you think it would work better if I did XYZ?"
The trick here is that DEBATE is normally confrontational. You need to avoid being confrontational or argumentative. Honest and polite questioning opens doors. Debate and argument -- within the context of a critique -- shut them down. In other words, while it may be your intention of "delving deeper at unprecidented level" you are going about it wrong if you choose debate as the avenue to make that happen. If you truly want to dissect your work, you need first of all to open your mind to the possibility there is a different way.
As I said earlier, critique and debate are apples and oranges. If you want the "juice" out of the opportunity, use critique as a juicer. Debate is like using a sledgehammer. Yes, you might get some juice, but it's not likely to be very useful and you will destroy more than you gain in the process.
Now I've given you an honest and polite "critique" on your approach. However, I've "debated" this topic long enough. Take what you can use from my suggestions and leave the rest. Any further argument will not benefit ME, so I choose to no longer participate.
[This message has been edited by Elan (edited January 22, 2007).]
I was taking him at face value, based on the most recent comment in this thread. I don't see any particular benefit for myself to research all of his past posts -- or anyone else's, for that matter -- in order to respond to a single comment. I reiterated my understanding of his comment: he wants more feedback than he's getting in F&F critiques. Any deeper meaning than that seems... well, it seems not worth my limited time to microanalyze.
Posts: 2026 | Registered: Mar 2005
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This thread is about a thousand years old but far be it from me to let it lie in peaceful retirement And I'm not sure how the heck the quote mechanism works here, but...
ChrisOwens said: "Currently, I'm a dedicated reader for a 98000 word fantasy. I'm about a third the way through. What bugs me is the lack of interaction with the one who wrote it. I guess I actually wanted to chat about it. If he felt I was offbase about something, I wanted to know."
This is precisely what I, as writer, need from a critical reader. Whine and gripe about stuff, and I'll respond (and maybe object), but my response grows into what's needed to fix whatever ails my writing, and your discussion back at me helps that. It's a feedback loop and the critter is part of that, or they're not really useful to me. Generally I already know what's wrong; what I need is a two-way sounding board to initialize that part of my brain that does the fixing.
Or to put it another way, while the one-way impersonality of the formal crit can be highly educational, it doesn't *inspire* the way discussion with a Wise Reader does.
It's been said before, but the reader's reaction is never "wrong.' Thus arguing for a better reaction and/or against a poor reaction is generally not going to work. Which is not to say YOU as the creator of a piece of work should take that and set it up as gospel. Reader and critiquer impressions are subjective. Just because someone doesn't like your piece or picks it apart doesn't mean it's bad.
Posts: 386 | Registered: Sep 2008
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Yep, until we find a way to wire our writing directly into the readers' brains -- they see what they see. I've had a couple of seriously WTF experiences with that myself... long time ago, I wrote a little sonnet that was just a straightforward condensation of a minor fantasy novel, with absolutely no other intent. Readers (including one who knew I'm an atheist) almost uniformly interpreted it as having all sorts of deep religious symbolism!!
I still find the most useful part of a critique to be the discussion afterward, tho. I intended this; why do you see that instead? If I alter this part, does it change how you see it? Hmm, now I don't like it, sorry if you prefer it that way... or Eureka, this made a big difference, I'm glad we hashed it out all the way to the end.
Well, there can be a big difference between arguing with a critiquer and asking for clarification or brainstorming or additional feedback on changes, etc.
Posts: 8520 | Registered: A Long Time Ago!
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