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» Hatrack River Writers Workshop » Forums » Open Discussions About Writing » Critiques

   
Author Topic: Critiques
C@R3Y
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I have a problem when it comes to critiquing. I can't seem to catch as many problems as others do, when I am doing a crit, and it's bothering me. I feel as if my opinion's are stupid and don't make much sense. I always feel dumb after I send a crit, or even comment on a thirteen lines. Is critiquing something you can learn to do better, or do you already have to know how to give a good critique? I fear my crit's aren't as thorough as a lot of other Hatracker's are, and other people in general. I probably already know the answer (do a lot of crit's, I'd guess), but are there other ways to give a good/better critique and not feel stupid?
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Merlion-Emrys
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I like your manner of critiquing, personally. You make suggestions and point things out and put forth your opinions as just that...your opinions.

I wouldn't worry to much about how many "problems" you catch or don't. I often don't cite a lot of specific issues with the writing either, partially because I have broad taste, partially because I'm more interested in content and partially because I usually figure the writer has a reason for what he or she has written.

To me the only "bad" critiques are either overly opinionated, "transformative" or fail to share the reasons behind their criticisms. You don't seem to have any of those problems.

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genevive42
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It's fine if you're not comfortable giving as technical of a critique as others. But one of the best things you can do as a critter is to let the writer know how you're responding to their story at what points. Comments like, 'this confused me', 'this was funny', 'this part got a little long/boring' are very helpful. And anyone can do that because it's simply you're personal reaction to their story.
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C@R3Y
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Okay. Thanks Merlion. That helps. A lot of the time, I feel as if my opinions aren't acknowledged or something. But that's good to know. I also think it's a lack of self-confidence. Not towards my writing, but more towards critiquing. I just see a lot more Hatracker's pointing out more in-depth problems that I failed to catch.

But thanks. I see what you're saying.

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C@R3Y
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And thanks, Genevive. That also helps. x]

It makes sense. x]

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Crystal Stevens
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I agree with Merlion & Genevive. There was a time I would want a grammer crit, but unless I make one glaring mistake along these lines, I'd much rather have one that points out where I've confused my reader or something makes absolutely no sense. The same if the story is boring and you can't stay concentrated on it with your mind wandering to something else on your mind. I want information that will help me make my meaning perfectly clear and keep my readers glued to the story. If you can do that, I'll be glad to have you crit my stories any time [Big Grin] .

Also, the more crits you do, the better they'll become and help you write better stories yourself in the long run [Wink] .

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Merlion-Emrys
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That's very true...as with anything, the more you do it, the more comfortable you get doing it. And we all have our own ways. As my lovely assistant genevive says, some folks give super-detailed technical crits, but some of us are more focused on impressions. For me, it varies a lot based on the needs and nature of who I'm critiquing.

Essentially, we all write, for the most part, like we think, and likewise we all crit like we think. And as your voice as a writer is built by writing, your technique as a critiquer will be refined by critting.

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Teraen
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Don't worry so much about it, I say. Crits are the onus of the author, not the critiquer. Meaning, the author gets feedback of varied sorts from varied people and then decides if it is useful or not. Some people hit grammar and technical stuff hard on crits, others lean more towards story structure and plot, etc.

All you are doing when you crit is giving the author your impression of their work. Even a simple "here's what I liked... here's what I didn't..." is useful. So I'd say, don't worry about it. Do your best and others should be grateful for the feedback.

The other strategy is to develop something you are weak on by critiquing it others' works. For example, if you decide you want to work on your dialogue, start paying attention to the dialogue in your crits, and soon you will be an expert on it from simply seeing so many examples.

You can also request the author tells you what they want to know. If they are worried about plotting, sending a detailed technical critique with grammar edits won't be that useful, as they may end up changing huge swaths of the story, making specific sentence structure crits useless. Likewise, if an author has finally plotted it out exactly how they want it and now wants technical critiques to work on the flow of their story, giving plot advice may not be very useful.

But again, the usefulness of all crits is on the author - to judge their usefulness and ignore/implement what they wish. It is based on the fundamental premise of writing: one person attempting to communicate to another by written word. A critique simply lets the author know if they succeeding in communicating what they intended...

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extrinsic
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I think part of the concern is whether your critiques serve a useful purpose. Most everyone's do for the writer and critiquer, even ones with uncalled-for negative evaluations. However, if a critique method is alienating, it serves no purpose because uncalled-for negativity causes a critique to be rejected.

As the others have noted, though, responding as a reader to whether a narrative's part or a whole intent and meaning are sufficiently accessible, clear, engaging, timely, and stimulating for the reader, or if not, courteously and artfully noting where and why, is a best practice for critiques.

Critiquing oftentimes feels like a thankless task. It's just the nature of the art. Critiquing responses to critiques is considered rude form, particularly giving negative evaluations. However, critiquers want to know how useful their critiques are. Otherwise, they don't know if they're wasted efforts, even received, ignored, taken with a grain of salt, or graciously adopted or adapted with confidence. So the polite practice is to only respond to a critique with a straightforward thank-you reply.

Anyway, critiquing builds a critiquer's creative writing skills. That's critiquing's strong point. Beyond that, whatever useful purposes they serve are on the critique-receiving end's bailiwick.

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MAP
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I agree with everything that has been said. Critiques are just opinions and no opinions are wrong.

The only time when a crit is not helpful is when it is not specific. "I hated this" or "I loved this" (although that one does give a nice ego boost). As long as you can specifically say why the story worked or didn't work for you, it is helpful.

Whether the author implements your suggestions or not is up to him/her and his/her vision for the story. But the real usefulness in critiquing is developing your own eye for what works and doesn't work for you, and therefore, improving your own writing.

The more you critique the better you get at it, and the more you figure out how you want to tell your stories and develop your style and voice.

So don't stop critiquing and stop worrying about whether it is useful to the writer or not. Whether it is or isn't doesn't matter. What is important is that it will help you. [Smile]

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Merlion-Emrys
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quote:
Critiquing oftentimes feels like a thankless task. It's just the nature of the art. Critiquing responses to critiques is considered rude form, particularly giving negative evaluations. However, critiquers want to know how useful their critiques are. Otherwise, they don't know if they're wasted efforts, even received, ignored, taken with a grain of salt, or graciously adopted or adapted with confidence. So the polite practice is to only respond to a critique with a straightforward thank-you reply.
While this is very common, I feel the need to mention that it isn't universal. At the very least, almost no one minds a question of clarification. Further I, and several folks of my acquaintance, have no problem with more in-depth discussion of a critique than just a thank you.

Further further, many folks have no problem with someone being called out on outright rudeness.

There is such a thing, in my experience, as a bad crit.


I'd also like to mention that it is also not universally true that a crit's usefulness to the author being critted is unimportant. Some of us have a strong desire to help other storytellers meet whatever goal they have for a story through critiques, so a desire to improve ones critting, in that respect, is I feel both valid and indeed a positive thing.

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EVOC
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I prefer critiques the tell me what they thought as a reader versus those that tell me what they think of the technical aspects of my writing.

Also, as you crit more you will get better at both writing and at critiquing.

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MAP
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quote:
Originally posted by Merlion-Emrys:
I'd also like to mention that it is also not universally true that a crit's usefulness to the author being critted is unimportant. Some of us have a strong desire to help other storytellers meet whatever goal they have for a story through critiques, so a desire to improve ones critting, in that respect, is I feel both valid and indeed a positive thing.

I never meant to imply that I didn't want to help the people I crit for. I very much want to be helpful. But many times, you don't know if you have helped them, so if that is the only reason you critique, you may not know if it was worth the time and effort.

If you crit to learn, you always get something back even when you don't get a thank you.

[ November 20, 2011, 11:30 PM: Message edited by: MAP ]

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Merlion-Emrys
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I know you didn't MAP, and I know you do want to help. But, there are those that don't. I personally see the two as one in the same....two sides of the same coin since to me, if you don't care at all about assisting the author, why not just observe the writing critically and learn from it? Why even bother posting it?

But that's a whole other thing...my point was just that, I understand having a desire to "give good crit" so to speak.

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History
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Well, as Janus said to Juno, "I am of two minds about this."

I really appreciate a technical critique/edit (where to cut, better word choice, etc.), but I recognize this is time-consuming and I've found only a few willing to spend the time this requires (and I return the favor). Hopefully, I write well enough for this to be more pruning than a complete replanting. Another writer tends to provide a fresh perspective.

Having "readers" critique is valuable when they share what they find unclear/confusing, or where they lose interest or feel the story drags, etc. It is wonderful (and encouraging) when they "like it" but not constructive in how to improve it.

Respectfully,
Dr. Bob

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snapper
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Carey,

There is no such thing as a bad, dumb, or worthless critique, as long as it's your honest opinion. Critiques written for the purpose of belittling are counterproductive but a bluntly worded review of a colleagues work is worth its weight in gold.

I just circulated a story I've been working on, submitting, and reworking for a few years. The 20ish reader I sent it to found and commented on things that seemed obvious to me when they highlighted them. I feel now this story has a solid shot for the venue I am targeting.

Writers respond differently to critiques. Some prefer a general assessment of a storyline. Others look for the reader that can weed out poorly worded phrases and missused grammar. You critique the way you prefer. If a writer doesn't find your opinions useful, they'll just look elsewhere for help.

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Owasm
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About the only crit I don't appreciate is the condescending critique, where the reviewer obviously puts down your work because it doesn't meet their standards.

However, if you get emotional, you still can't disregard what they say. I've gotten some great advice from those and other times, nothing useful. You've got to look past the comments, sometimes, to pick out what you need to know.

There are lots of different readers who come to a story with different expectations, the same is for critiquers. For some, they wouldn't be reading your story anyway. So you just shrug those off and see if there are any little nuggets of observation buried within. There usually are.

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axeminister
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Corey, your crits will improve with your writing which will improve with your crits.

When I first got involved here, I ran into some fine writing. I just sat at my computer reading along enjoying the heck out of the story.

Now, if I read a story by the same author, who has also improved, I "catch" all sorts of stuff. But it's not grammar and punctuation, it's story or missing/confusing elements.

I know this because these same things have been pointed out to me in mine. I've seen them, so I see them. It's all about experience.

To you I say - no worries - and no rush. You'll get there if you stick around.

Axe

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Bent Tree
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The more you read, the better you write...

the more you critique, the better you write...

the more you write the better you critique...

There are so many insights each and everyone can give. I have found value in every crit that I have ever received.

If you go about it with the intention of being helpful, you will be. There were times that I felt I came across as gruff, but they are also the times when I was staying up at all hours of the night doing crits for others, sometimes several a day and I didn't have the energy to be sweet.

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C@R3Y
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Wow, these are all very helpful thoughts on the matter. I definitely gained a lot from each of you.

I realize that I didn't introduce myself in the introduction, and rather, I just jumped into posting thirteen lines and doing crits. That is because I had an account about a year and a half ago as XD3V0NX, in case you didn't know. (I tried to sign back into that account, but I couldn't for some reason, so I made me a new one). And I didn't even think to go to introduce myself like I did before. I decided to just carry on as if I was still apart of the group. How rude of me. Of course no one could have known that from my new name on Hatrack.

I'm 20 years old. I write all the time. I left for Basic Training in February to Fort Benning (joined the National Guard), graduated in April, then I went to my AIT (Fort Gordon) for another four months. Down there, it was pretty crazy and I didn't get to write as much as I wanted to, and I hated it so much. I got back nearing the end of August, and shortly after my return, I jumped back into Hatrack. I was really rusty when I got back in and I had to pretty much re-learn all I did before. I'm not as rusty as I was when I came back though. Definitely getting back into the swing of things. It was just these were the first crit's that I have done since nearly last November or December, you see.

I'm starting school in January. The plan is Creative Writing Professor, or something along those lines, as well as continue my goal of getting more stories published and hopefully, eventually, a book published, then more thereafter.

Of course it's easier said than done, (and even then, sometimes it's hard to say it) but hey, as we all know, you just gotta keep submitting.

I already have several stories and books written--they aren't 100% revised or edited of course, and they do need work--but I just cannot stop cooking up all these stories that I find myself enjoying so much. Now is the time, however, to hold off on writing another novel, and start focusing on one at a time.

I just started that, too. My new focus, also, is really flash fiction stories. I am going to study up on them, learn the craft, and try my hand at those while I focus on a novel at a time, revising and editing, the whole nine yards.

All these were very encouraging though and, I say again, I got a lot out of it.

Sorry, KDW, I understand that the Introduction forum is in the one above this one. But I figured that it was the perfect time to mention a little something here, since it's a little too late to go in that one and introduce myself.

Carey x]

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Kathleen Dalton Woodbury
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People aren't required to introduce themselves, but it can be helpful.

You probably couldn't log on as XD3V0NX because you registered under that username with a different email address.

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