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» Hatrack River Writers Workshop » Forums » Open Discussions About Writing » Beating a long-dead horse...

   
Author Topic: Beating a long-dead horse...
HSO
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In the past week, I've had emails from three of my readers expressing mild surprise that I thanked them for their critique of my story, or at least replied. One of those readers said, roughly, "I have doubts about my critiquing skills because I don't often get a reply from the author."

All right, begin rant: In my opinion, not bothering to reply after someone took (usually) considerable time and effort to read and crit a story you wrote is an egregious affront to the process of critiquing.

You, the author, don't have to agree or even like what the critiquer said, but failing to reply afterward is pathetically inappropriate. It is (again my opinion) the epitome of rudeness. And when it happens to me, I make a mental note about it, and then decide accordingly from there if you are worth my time. Chances are, those that don't reply, aren't worth it, and (more opinion) rather selfish.

How hard is it for a simple 'thank you'? You know? You're getting free flippin' help, folks. A 'thank you' -- or at the very least a reply -- costs nothing, and will brighten the day of the person who critiqued your story.

Please, be considerate of those who have your best interests at heart, or you will discover many of us won't be interested in you at all.

End rant.


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Christine
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I agree. You don't have to go on and on about their critiques, you don't even have to like them, but a simple acknowledgement is only polite.

Of course now you've got me paranoid wondering if I've forgotten anyone...


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Beth
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And since this is the dead horse topic, allow me to just say, don't ARGUE with your crits!
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wbriggs
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Absolutely -- no arguing! What do I gain, if I convince the critiquer? Also, it doesn't really matter what form. If someone says to me, "I'm amazed how many people don't know [something I am presumably ignorant of]," or, "I had to laugh when I read your critique -- it sure is hard to get away from [some bad quality of mine]," it makes me less likely to put the effort in, next time.

For this reason, I never say anything BUT thanks, except I may ask for clarification. One critiquer recently said he wanted more, as in, he wanted to know what I agreed with. I answered, reluctantly, because I so much don't want to argue with someone who did me a favor.

I don't get bothered if someone doesn't say thanks after the critique, though -- I don't even notice. Once I sent it off, it's out of sight and out of mind.

[This message has been edited by wbriggs (edited March 27, 2005).]


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DatBum65
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Fully agree. In fact, the way I was taught long ago how to handle criticism is just say "Thank you," and nothing else. Period. They are not attacking the writer; they are criticising the work...It is not personal. I find that everything anyone has to offer is helpful, because I don't see some of my own errors...

A "thank you" is polite....


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Beth
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If I don't hear back with a "thank you" or something, I kind of assume that I've pissed the other person off, or that the e-mail got lost.


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Jeraliey
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Just because I'm paranoid that I screwed up somewhere: here's an official "Thank you" to anyone who has ever looked at my stuff. If I forgot to send you a reply, it's certainly not because I didn't appreciate the work you did. Every single one of you contributed to improving my writing. THANK YOUUUUUUUUUUUUUUU!!!!
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HSO
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I think you're safe, Jer.

By the way, did you tweak Ouroboros in Three in time for your class? I've been wondering about that and how you handled it... or even if you bothered to rewrite it and left it alone. Don't leave me in the dark, Jer...


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MaryRobinette
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While we're flogging that horse, even if you are not naturally considerate, it's in your best interest to thank the critiquer. I, personally, stop critiqueing people if it looks like his or her lack of courtesy is a pattern.

On the flip side, while argueing is never appropriate, engaging in dialogue about the story is perfectly appropriate. There's nothing wrong with asking a critiquer to expand on an issue or clarify a point.


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HSO
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Sometimes the dialogue AFTER a critique is extremely valuable. For instance, I emailed several of my critiquers after their initial critique to ask questions, to point out what I my intentions with the piece were and did I succeed, etc, etc.

Had I not done that, I would not have realized that one of my characters (George in "Steel Love") could stand a little more development. A few critiquers had said they didn't care about the characters. Okay, I said, fine... one of them you shouldn't care much about, but WHY didn't you care about the other? Help me understand what's wrong with this particular character. Telling me is one thing. Clarifying is another.

Luckily, everyone replied, thus helping me see that Georgie is a bit too easily seduced by the dark side. So, thanks guys, for taking the time to go above and beyond the usual crit.


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Phanto
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If someone gives you a critique, at the very least you should be bending over to thank him or her. And you should probably offer to give one in return as well.
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Jeraliey
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Yeah, HSO, I got Ouroboros done in time for class. I then made enough copies for everyone in the class and had it workshopped. A lot of my classmates had the same concerns as the folks who critiqued it on Hatrack, and all the feedback was incredibly helpful. I think I really confused a lot of people with the idea, but ultimately most people said they liked the writing. I rewrote it for my midterm project and turned it in for an A!!!

Seems like the professor was impressed, enough so that he said I could do a science fiction story for my next workshop piece when I asked. Speculative fiction is usually discouraged in the class, but he said that going from my previous work, he had confidence that I'd be able to "write it well enough to make it acceptable". So my next piece is due in early April, and when I finish it, I'll probably ask some of the (ridiculously forgiving) folks here to give it a look. (I say ridiculously forgiving since I've been incredibly unreliable in getting back to people with critiques this semester, and I have no reason to expect that people would be willing to critique my stuff.) If you're interested, I'd love it if you could take a look. You're a phenomenal critiquer. I promise that it's less confusing than Ouroboros. It's more like the Eddy in regards to character and plot.

If you'd like to see how Ouroboros ended up, I'll send you the most recent draft after Tuesday when I meet with the prof to get my grade on the story and his critique of my rewrite. Let me know!

[This message has been edited by Jeraliey (edited March 27, 2005).]


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Survivor
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I don't know that obesiance is really required. But it is considerate. What HSO said about critiquers wanting feedback to know whether they've been helpful is quite true. And unless the critique was just virulent hate-mail, you could probably profit from a dialogue about what worked and why.
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Jeraliey
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Hi, Survivor! We missed you!
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Jaina
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Wow, Jeraliey, you're a lucky one. I managed to barely squeak an "A" out of Wendell, and that was after being expressly forbidden to write speculative fiction. Congratulations for beating the system!
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Jeraliey
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It's hardly a "beating the system" issue...I just have a chill professor.
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Jaina
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Where are you going to school, then and can I transfer?

Or perhaps I'm just a bit bitter, since my own creative writing professor seems to have it in for all speculative fiction. But I'm starting to be convinced that Wendell might not be just an assignment--I think I could get it published, if I changed the ending to the one I originally wanted. And when that happens, I can send her a copy and say ! Except I'm not that petty, so I'd just think it at her. Real hard.


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Heresy
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Congrats, Jaina, on getting a good grade on Wendell. Glad to hear that went well for you.

Heresy


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Kathleen Dalton Woodbury
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quote:
One critiquer recently said he wanted more, as in, he wanted to know what I agreed with.

While I can understand a critiquer wanting to know if the critique was helpful or not, it isn't necessary to go down the list of comments and point at which you agreed with and which you disagreed with.

So, I hereby officially give everyone my permission to say nothing more than "Thank you for your help" in response to a critique, as long as you do respond to a critique.

If they ask for more than that and you are uncomfortable saying more, you can tell them that you need time to assimilate their comments, and say, "Thank you for your help" again.

Okay?


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ScottMiller
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What about critiquers who don't bother to critique?

I sent out my story almost a month ago to two different people who OFFERED to critique it for me. Neither one ever bothered to reply, not even something along the lines of "Oh, sorry, don't have time after all." A complete absence of a reply is much worse than being told "oh, hey, I didn't like it."

I consider that equally rude and I'm certainly not going to waste any time or effort doing crits for them. Even on the board.

BTW, when I've critiqued something, nobody has ever forgotten to thank me, so I don't have any problems on that end. Actually, people have generally been very polite.


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HSO
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Ah, the dreaded no-critique syndrome.

Here's the thing I've discovered: Some people forget that they have your critique. If you don't hear from them in a week, which is a fair amount of time to allow, then email them and ask what's up, slacker?

However, some newer people mistake the F&F board as a source of "free stories"... possibly... I don't know. I once emailed some guy (he's no longer here) and asked if he received my story and could he reply to let me know what he thought about it. He never emailed me back. So, I sent him an invoice for $1.00: a fair price, I believed, for reading and possessing my story. Still haven't heard back from him. What a goit!

A typical situation for me is this: Eight people offer to crit a story. 4 or 5 them actually do. Which is the right amount of crits for me anyway. Any more than that and it's too confusing. Maybe real life gets in the way, or maybe they just forgot as I already said. I've learned not to worry too much about it. Yet if I ever see my story printed somewhere without permission or plagiarized, I will hunt down the person(s) responsible and pull out their toenails with a spoon.


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wbriggs
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I don't like it when I don't hear back, either. By the way, everybody, if *I* do that to you, it's my spam filter acting weird -- I almost always get back to you in a day.

Kathleen, I did answer the critiquer's "how were my comments" question, and since it was a sane individual, it worked out ok! But I'll tell all potential critiquers now: what I want from you is your _reactions_, not so much your suggestions (although I'll take them too), and your _reactions_ are never wrong. They are always valuable to me, because they tell me how a reader took what I was saying.

OSC's view is that there are 3 reactions to look out for:
* Huh? (not understanding)
* Oh, yeah? (not believing)
* So? (not caring)
I'll add that I also like to hear: cool!

So if you don't get that the monster is inside the cabin . . . that's the main thing I want to know. You can suggest how I can make that clear, and I'll consider it, but as helpful as that can be, the main value for me is in knowing your reaction. This is why I really don't care if my critiquer is a writer or not. We're all readers!

...and by the same reasoning, there are no stupid reactions. It's what you felt. You're a reader. There are bound to be others out there who will feel the same thing, and they're my market!


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Keeley
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Why a spoon, cousin?
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Kolona
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Sounds like there are different expectations among critiquers and the critiqued alike. That's probably a good reason to get more than one critique. After that, common courtesy will cover a multitude of sins.
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HSO
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A spoon because it will take longer than using a pair of pliers. Perhaps that's a bit overboard. If I can find pliers to use when I'm in that situation, I'll use them. If not, I'm heading for the utensil drawer in the kitchen and grabbing a tablespoon.


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Keeley
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quote:
A spoon because it will take longer than using a pair of pliers

lol. And I wondered why you were evil when Mary was trapped in Iceland.

Or was it Dallas?


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MaryRobinette
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I sometimes fail to get back to someone with a critique and its usually when I ask for it and they wait a couple of days before sending it to me. I have tiny, random windows of available time and if it comes in off of one of those slots then it hits me when I'm too swamped to do anything. I try to write to them when I find it later and ask if they have a new draft that they want me to read.

I don't know about anyone else, but I generally dive into revisions shortly after I get the bulk of the crits back. So a critique that arrives a week later is sometimes about a story that has completely changed.

[Edited to add] I always feel really bad about the ones that I don't crit. If I don't send you a crit but offered, feel free to prod me.

[This message has been edited by MaryRobinette (edited March 29, 2005).]


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Jaina
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Yeah, my spam filter acts up sometimes, too. Or what really gets me is when my computer just flat-out refuses to open a file. And then promptly loses the file. It's probably in there somewhere, but I don't know where. And since that file had the hatracker's name and email on it, I can't even email them and explain what happened. It's awful.

So if I ever offer to crit something of yours, and never do, I'M SORRY! One of these days, I'm going to get a new computer, or something, and hopefully I won't have that problem any more.

And same goes for me as for MaryRobinette: if I don't send you a crit but offered, by all means, yell at me until I do! I swear, it wasn't out of malice or anything. It was out of a stupid POS computer.


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ScottMiller
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HSO: "Free stories," eh? I hope not... otherwise, I'll have to employ Navy SEAL tactics (wish I knew some) to retrieve the purloined letter(s). Or hire a lawyer. One or the other.

Mary, Jaina: No, it wasn't either of you. (Although your comments may have been more directed generally, and not at me specifically.)

I try to give people at least a week, but I suppose I could try prodding them. I try to do same-day critiquing, myself, because I know it makes people anxious to not hear back.

And if anyone cares, when I put something up, and you critique it, and don't like it, it's OK to just say "I don't get it." At least that way I know you've read it. I won't throw a hissy fit. Promise.


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Kolona
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Speaking of spam filters acting up, I heard that security systems can stop outgoing e-mail if you're sending personal info, and there's no message to you telling you that they've not been delivered. Now I'm wondering if some articles I sent ever reached their destinations. Anyone know anything about this sort of thing?
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HSO
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Our firewall prevents some personal data from going through. Bank account and credit card numbers. But the firewall doesn't check attachments...

My email programs do, however, but they've never stopped personal data from going out -- but if they did, they would probably bring up a dialog box to say "Hey! You're sending out your SSN, debit card # and PIN, you idiot! Do you want to continue?"

That said, Google's gmail I find to be a bit tetchy over what files it likes and what it doesn't like. For instance, it will search through a .zip file and seek out any executable code, and then reject the email from going out. Additionally, if anyone tries to send anything to me with an executable attached (even zipped), it returns it to sender with a semi-cryptic message in reply. This is crap.

And I'm really torn, because I hate Hotmail and Microsoft, and I don't want to support them any longer. And yet, gmail has that stupid no .exe (and other files) rule. Grr. Double grr.

Grrr!


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Survivor
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How do you feel about yahoo? They give you free space for a personal web page, you know. Oh, and I think they might be owned by satanists, but who isn't?
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Jaina
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Earthlink isn't bad, but I don't know if I'm riding on my parents' server or not. They're the ones that set up my account, I just picked the name and they did the rest. Although recently I've been having troubles sending emails to some of my friends from high school, so I opened another account at blakneymanor.com. They're not bad either, if all you want is the basics.
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HSO
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quote:
How do you feel about yahoo?

Not chuffed with their email -- at least two years ago. Found it unnecessarily awkward. By the way, I have an ISP account, but I don't give that out to anyone... I use it sparingly and only when hotmail goes down.


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Survivor
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Really? I haven't noticed anything unusually difficult about their web interface, though of course you have to pay for POP access if you want that. But then, I do recall that they changed it not so very long ago.

Of course, just the other day I was sitting furiously typing my hotmail log on information into the sign in page at yahoo There's a downside to interfaces being too similar (and to being as dumb as I sometimes can be).


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HSO
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Well, I did create that yahoo username to invade what-his-face's twenty-writers-one-story group... I suppose I could go and check the email bit out now. I've already made the account.

Thanks.


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HSO
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Survivor... checked out Yahoo's mail. The interface *has* changed a little. It seems less awkward now... and, it's capable of importing / exporting addresses to and from my Palm Pilot (Palm Desktop). That's fairly huge, in my opinion. Gmail only does .csv, which is fine... but it does mean an extra 5 minutes to create a .csv file. (Something I've already done).

Now, if I could only discover how to dump all of my saved emails from Hotmail in one big go... Hmm...

Anyway, thanks for the recommendation.


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Survivor
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Oh, that guy...what was his name? Ah the memories! That wasn't very long ago, was it even before the end of last year?

Of course, it isn't like I don't have my own evil designs.

I just mentioned yahoo because I think there're deliberately placing themselves to compete against G-mail. Which is a good thing, even if it's occasionally amusing


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dpatridge
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about the no .exe thing... first of all, i didn't know about it, and second, i have sent archived executables...

it helps that i use solid archiving: only the archive exists, there is no reference to what is contained inside until you decompress it.

if you don't use it yet, try getting 7zip. you can make solid archive zips, since those are what are more widely used and accepted... although i really recommend that you give the 7z format a try... i have even gotten compressed MOVIES and MP3'S to compress down to at least 3/4ths original size!

you can also try to make a compromise and use RAR, which is more widely used than 7z, but less than ZIP...

but anyways, enough rambling, 7zip can be downloaded at, i believe, 7-zip.org... it may be something slightly different though, just type 7 zip in a google search


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Jaina
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Oh, man, I wasn't even a member yet and I remember that guy. R-something (yeah, that's descriptive). In fact, that was the first thread I remember reading. Scared me away from Hatrack for a good two days! And even after I joined, I was deathly scared of getting on HSO's bad side... *shudder* Good thing I'm over the temporary paranoia.

Errm... HSO, I'm not on your bad side, am I?

[This message has been edited by Jaina (edited April 02, 2005).]


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HSO
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No, Jaina... you're safely on the right side of the fence for now. For now... Got my eye on you, though... one misstep... and--

Anyway, I'm not so bad... once you get to know me.

dpatridge, thanks for the heads up on that compression program. I've got 3 installed already... I suppose a fourth wouldn't hurt.

[This message has been edited by HSO (edited April 02, 2005).]


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Jaina
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Eep! Best keep on my toes, then. Or get to know you right quick.
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