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Thread: How to critique

  1. #1
    DLM Clarke

    How to critique

    When critiques are requested, it might be helpful to say what type of critique is wanted. I have seen a lot of different types of critiques posted here. If the author only wants grammar, punctuation, or an "I like/don't like it" response, perhaps that should be specified. I am not a professional editor. I am merely trying to be helpful. I think that most of the authors who post asking for critiques realize this and take what they can use from the critiques offered without getting upset or defensive.

    I like the critiques which give a response to the original text and then show an example in a rewrite. But that's how I learned to critique, so maybe there are better ways.

  2. #2
    Gary Kessler

    Re: How to critique

    Actually (can say this here because it doesn't attach to a specific critique request), I believe that those who post material and ask for critiques think that it's already polished and ready for a Pulitzer; that responders often respond with comments on grammar, punctuation, and spelling mistakes because these are so prevalent they can't see through them to other aspects of the material; and then that the requester becomes defensive about the pointing to the substandard quality of their writing by saying that this isn't really their best material or that it would make sense if seen in context or that they hadn't bothered to polish it and weren't asking for critique in that area.

    And, although I think it would be great if critiques followed the pattern DLM suggests, I also think that's just spitting in the wind. Posters will continue to post what's been posted in the past, responders (often in a blind leading the blind fashion) will respond with less than open-mouthed awe, and requesters will sometimes be insulted, defensive, and dismissive in reply.

    That's what happens when discussion boards are used for direct critique, and I think we'll just have to grin and bear whatever happens when the boards are used for this.

  3. #3
    Jane Forsman

    Re: How to critique


    That's a good idea, explaining what kind of critique is needed. I wish I'd done that in my first post.


    I don't think you should group every person asking for a critique into one giant box of idiots. Do you really think it fair to say that everyone who wants some feedback on their writing is:

    1) positive it's already polished
    2) sure it's going to win a Pulitzer
    3) going to become defensive

    You say that DLM's post is "spitting in the wind." I don't understand how you know how each and every person on this site is going to act/react. In fact, I'm pretty sure that you DON'T know how each person thinks and feels, thus, you cannot know how each person will act and react. So, coming to that conclusion (correct me if I'm wrong - are you actually psychic?), I believe your post on this thread is rather presumptious and condescending.

    Give people here a little more credit. Not everyone will fit into the boxes you want to squeeze people in. Each person here is different. They should be treated that way.

  4. #4
    Gary Kessler

    Re: How to critique

    No, Jane, I don't think this represents everyone who posts material (Bob Kellogg, for instance, seems to know exactly what he's after when he posts his material for critique). I do think it applies to the material you post from time to time, however--as was just evidenced on this discussion forum. But it wasn't your posting of material that most recently came to mind when I wrote the response here, as I've become used to your unproductive attention sponge posting behavior: posting material for critique or questions on what to do--usually after you've already sent it off/done it, engaging in long discussions with caring responders on why you aren't going to do what they suggest or declaring that this wasn't your best material anyway, going ahead and doing what you were going to do in the first place, finding out they were right in their advice, coming back and asking for help in digging yourself out of the hole you created for yourself, engaging in long discussions with caring responders on why you aren't going to do what they suggest or declaring that this wasn't your best material anyway, going ahead and doing what you were going to do . . . .

    I'm sure you are a lovely person--and one who can't help having an unproductive attention sponge habit, and maybe there are lots of people here happy with playing this game. But I see it as a kindness to people who might be writing rather than ring-around-the-rosying in one of your strings to remind them of the behavior pattern.

    On this specific string, I agree that it's a good idea to discuss what good critique strategy is--and I once laid out in detail how the professionals approach it, but I point out that it just isn't followed on this board. That was what my "spitty in the wind" comment referred to.

    There, now, that wasn't just whispering across the boards was it?

  5. #5
    Sheer gen

    Re: How to critique

    A mammoth unproductive attention sponge throwing every new person into his own category, so that he can just look upon them as lesser beings of his own kind. Just put your own name in one of the search boxes here, Gary, and see that you probably are the absolute master of the art (or absolutely helpless in being the acerbity-generator you are.) Gives some sort of a kick to beguile the time of the day away, doesn't it?

  6. #6
    Jane Forsman

    Re: How to critique


    I want you to go back through the archives of this site (you obviously have the time) and tell me how many times I have asked for a critique on my writing. I believe you'll find it's happened twice: when I posted my query letter and when I posted my first page. The time between these two postings? About six months. The number of postings in between where I offered advice, talked about silly things, asked questions, and get to know some of the people here are probably in the range of two hundred posts. Let's check that ratio again: two posts asking for critiques, one hundred to two hundred posts talking about mundane topics.

    Now let's go back and see what you wrote.

    "I've become used to your unproductive attention sponge posting behavior. Posting material for critique or questions on what to do, usually after the fact."

    Isn't that odd?

    You make it sound as if I come onto this site on a daily basis asking for critiques, then yelling at everyone for helping me out, then doing what I wanted to do in the first place, etc. This is so STRANGE to me because, first of all, you're twisting the two times that I have asked for critiques into a bizarre, "I'm starved for attention, everyone look at my wonderful book, oh, you don't like it? Well, screw you, I don't like you anyway and my work's better than any of yours could ever be."

    I challenge you and any other person on this site to review the two posts where I've asked for critiques and tell me that I've acted in that way. The only thing I regretted in the first incident, which happened back in October, is the fact that I didn't thank everyone who helped me, and that I left the site for months because of the people who didn't like me, and didn't stay for the people who I think are genuine and kind.

    Well, this time, I am staying. I'm staying because there are more people whom I care about and respect than people like you, Gary, who twist people's words however they like to make themselves feel better. You're not driving me off this site this time with my tail between my legs, because I HAVE apologized for any rudeness that I might have shown in my latest critiquing post, and I DO like more people here than I don't, and I DO learn an amazing amount of information here.

    Once again, I have only asked for two critiques in the history of me posting on these boards, as opposed to quite a lot of posts talking to friendly people and commiserating and empathisizing about writing. You can twist the events however you want, but you can't twist the facts, Gary. I am an honest person, I don't go searching for fights to pick, I'm not some sort of an attention-aholic, and I could care less if you continue to think of me in that way, because it merely shows that you prefer to look at people in a fasle way and assign personality traits to them that they do not have.

    You can continue to insult me and call me whatever names you like. I won't stand for it this time. I refuse to let you malign me to hundreds of posters here with your lies and insinuations. I'm standing up for myself.

  7. #7
    Gary Kessler

    Re: How to critique

    Sorry you see it that way, Sheer gen. I have nothing against Jane personally (and certainly not against you), and she's shown here that she has real writing talent. I also don't think I automatically categorize anyone on the boards and I frequently continue responding to specific, direct questions on publishing after someone has categorized me (as you do here) and dumped on me on the boards. In Jane's case, she has established her behavior pattern as ultimately a time and attention waster, which can clearly be checked by a search across the boards. Fine for anyone who wants to play that game--as long as they have some sort of idea what game they're playing.

    Would a search on my name on the board reveal that I drain everyone here with requests for responses on what to do that I then defend against, go off and do what I was going to do in the first place, and then come back and ask the question again when what I did didn't work? I don't really think so--but if you do, I guess that's your prerogative. I certainly won't hold it against you, though. Sorry the difference of opinion upsets you. Nuff said, I think.

  8. #8
    Bob Kellogg

    Re: How not to critique

    In a perhaps vain attempt to bring a potentially useful string back on target, I'd like to comment on DLM's post.

    Gary may be right, DLM, that yours is a vain attempt. However, I think it's worthwhile. We won't get away from people pasting in work for critiques. They'll continue to so it and regular Internet junkies will respond --or not-- depending on their state of mind that day.

    If there's one thing I've said again and again --and there is; never mind the sarcasm-- it's the importance to a writer of understanding his or her objective. That seems to be lacking in most cases.

    If someone's just dipping their toe into the writing pool, and someone criticizes it from the viewpoint of its suitability to being published, it can be devastating. But if their objective is to get published, that crash is necessary.

    But if the author knows what he was trying to accomplish, he can then ask for something specific. If no one can provide it, at least he tried. And if someone gives him irrelevant information, he can thank the person and ignore it.

    So you're right, DLM. It's far, far more useful for the writer to focus the critique. Let's hope people start doing it.

    Bob K.

  9. #9
    Jane Forsman

    Re: How not to critique

    I'm going to take Bob's advice and exit stage left, leaving the lovely primadonna Gary standing in the limelight. Seriously, there's no point in trying to communicate with him. I'm sincerely apologetic that he has become deaf in his old age.

  10. #10

    Re: How not to post and Gary

    In line with Jane's comment questioning your generalizations, I don't agree that responders are "sort of like the blind leading the blind." You really sound elitist and insufferable sometimes, Kessler.

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