Tuesday, May 24, 2011

How Do You Critique?

With my latest story complete (yeah right) and anxious for feedback, I'm  in the throes of critiques and beta reads once more. Personally, I love critiquing a story if it fits my preferred genres. And, of course I love getting constructive feedback that helps me improve. No matter how many times we read our mss, we will always miss something.

Roni Loren posted a few days ago on writers critiquing other writers and being too nitpicky. There were some good debates going on. Many writers want total honesty, no matter how harsh. Other writers want honesty with some kind of encouraging words included. Roni brought up a great point on how ...

"Writers need to support each other and worry about their own writing--not waste time trying to chip away at your fellow authors.  It only makes you look bad in the end.

And remember that no matter what level of success an author reaches--she's still sitting down and slaving away at her keyboard like you are, she's still as passionate about her characters and story as you are,  and she still feels just like you do when her creation is criticized."

This is so true. I mean, we're all at different levels and all trying our best to succeed with our dreams. I've been lucky to have awesome CPs who aren't afraid to be honest, but genuinely helpful. And I really think it's important to find a good match. Not everyone is a compatible match, for a variety of reasons. From anything to genre to level of writing.

But bloody hell, if you find yourself with a CP who has nothing positive to say, then drop them.
As writers we have enough rejection to deal with.

So on the subject of critiques, here's how I do it: Naturally, I line edit. I note dialog that doesn't sound believable. I suggest rewording on sentences that are not structured well. And I mention anything that leaves me with a question. I also give a final summation at the end of each chapter.

Even if someone's work is in need of lots of repair, I think we can still be encouraging. We all started somewhere, and *shudder* my first novel length story is indubitably cringe worthy. So why not take the time to encourage others while on our path? We all have different strengths and weaknesses.

So tell me how you do it? How do you critique others’ work? Is there something you’re particularly good at? Or something you especially want in a critique? Or just tell me where you are in your writing endeavors ...

32 comments:

Summer Ross said...

When I crit someone elses work I note the good and the bad line by line. If I comment with something negative I go back and find one thing positive right before or after like a solid strong sentence, or something that made me laugh. I think its very important to encourage as much as help. :)

Alex J. Cavanaugh said...

The way you critique sounds fair and it's how my critique partners have attacked my work. I really haven't critiqued much - yet - but I hope to follow their example.

Barbara Kloss said...

Great post! I critique just like you. LIne by line edit, but I also make note of lines that really stand out to me in a good way. I try to balance the positive with the negative because, as you said, we deal with enough criticism! And with my CP, I look for the same sort of balanced feedback (which I'm lucky enough to have found one!). I work best with constructive criticism. If all you do is rip me apart, I'll probably run away crying and never write again :D

Thanks for sharing Roni's quote!

EEV said...

I just did one serious crit yet. I tried to be fair and encouraging, but it was easy, the WIP was amazing and beautifully written.
I didn't received any crits yet, but I'm planning on getting an CP as soon as my MS is readable. I just hope I find someone to work in more than a project, a buddy - and from a real buddy I don't mind getting a harsher crit from time to time ;)
- EEV

mooderino said...

I think it's very much about the individuals involved. If two people are confident in their abilities but need help seeing things they can't see for themselves, a brutal approach can save them both time.

On the other hand, some people are so convinced they are 99% of the way there that if you even mention a small lull in interest they lose their minds and blame you for taking away their reason for living.

It's tricky, but I think on most of the online workshops I crit on, people tend to err on the side of being nice/encouraging and that doesn't really help in the long run. If something really doesn't work I think you have to pipe up and say so.

Of course there's more ways to do it than either demolishing or patronising. Hopefully something in the middle.

mood

LTM said...

sounds like you and I follow about the same path. I line edit--can't help it!--and offer comments all the way through, usually focusing on the ends of chapters. Unless something was so darn good, I had to comment right THERE! :D

Yep, drop the evil CPs. No time for that~ xoxo

Karen Walker said...

I am not the best line editor, but I am very good at overall perspective. I haven't worked with critique partners since I went back to college in 2002. I do have people I ask to read at various stages. Perhaps I need to re-think this.
karen

salarsenッ said...

I couldn't agree more. I ALWAYS start with something positive to say. Then I make suggestions--highlighting that it's a suggestion and I'm not the all and all. Of course, if I find a typo or whatever I'll line edit that. I take critiquing others' work as a lesson for myself.

Kathryn said...

You're a great critique partner and I'm lucky to have you! :) Send over your work whenever it's ready (although I'm going to work on mine a bit more - and I'll get a working query to you as well so you know what you're in for! ;) ).

When I critique other writers' works, I try to read out loud as much as possible (unless it would be otherwise socially unacceptable for me to do so, like if I'm at work). Anything that sticks out or that jars my reading I make a note of and see if it's something I misread or if it's the work. I try to be nice and constructive if any problems come up. I also try to offer suggestions too for plot or character or any chapters that might be omitted. Hopefully it helps! :)

Trisha Leaver said...

I always start off by asking the writer what they are looking for -- is it line edits, grammar, flow, characterization, or is there a specific scene/character they are struggling with. In addition, no matter what shape the WIP is in, I always, ALWAYS find something positive to say in each chapter.

Lisa Gail Green said...

I'm honest. I try my best to point out what I liked and what I thought could be better and why. It's a fine line, you want to be encouraging but also help the person take it to the next level.

Jenna Cooper said...

I believe in pointing out the good with the bad. For every bit that I criticize, I find something good as well and vice versa. That way I hope to stay balanced and don't fall into the mean critique dragon or the soft mother-figure.

Old Kitty said...

Awww you sound like a lovely CP!! Yay!!

I'm rubbish at systematic critiquing but I always see the good in the work if someone asks me to read something of theirs. I only point out spelling mistakes or other little grammatical errors only if they are glaringly obvious!! Overall I'm a wimp really so totally useless!

Take care
x

Anonymous said...

(erica and christy)Great post. I'm currently on the lookout for some CPs and beta readers. I've only had three people ever look at my work, so I've learned from them. One looked heavily at revising my passive voice and omitting all of my adverbs. Another revised my voice to make it more YA and believable (rewording awkward and unrealistic sentences). The third, reinforced my writing style letting me know that my descriptions didn't need to be deleted. All have supported me and praised aspects of my writing while letting me know what to fix. Good and bad. Always. Christy

May 24, 2011 2:24 PM

Akoss said...

I do line by line, but I also let the writer know of the general feel and flow of their work. I try to stick with the "sandwich" method as well, although I try to do it with in a subtle way so the writer doesn't feel like I'm faking my enthusiasm or something, about their work.
I'm still learning, but one thing I never go without is honesty.

McKenzie McCann said...

My edits are essentially annotations. I comment on everything I can from "hmm" to "wow, that reminds me of the time X happened and then X happened because of X." Of course I always include grammatical edits unless otherwise asked. After I'm done I really need to talk straight to the other person (or type) about the story itself.
I am always honest, but I make sure not to be degrading about it.

Lindsay said...

I love my CPs. They are the right mix of encouraging and constructive. I try to do the same. I always start of with what what I like and go from there. I always try to be honest, but never mean. We're all in this together after all :)

Laura Pauling said...

I try and crit according to their voice and what they are going for. I especially try and look at the bigger stuff, the emotional thread, believability, plot. If there are repetitive habits of bad sentence structure, I'll point them out but I don't suggest rewrites b/c that ends up being my voice, not theirs. Something to think about!

Tamara Hart Heiner said...

There's been a lot of talk about this lately. I love getting feedback, but I have had someone critique me by pretty much telling me my writing sucks. I have a pretty thick skin, but that shook me. I love honesty, I can take it, but there needs to be respect for the writer as a person, no matter what the opinion of the work is.

Deana said...

Your method is my kinda way! I am the type of person who needs the truth, but we are all human, and tearing down down down can really hurt a potenial genius writer. I wish we could all remember how we started out and how sucky we may have been then, if only to encourage those we critique who could use the encouragement.

Richard said...

I'm part of two critique groups and I listen to everything they say and probably act on 99% of what they say. The more people critiquing your work, the wider the interpretations and the stronger the suggestions for improvement. Sometimes the conflicting opinions lead to even better ideas for the section in discussion. I guess I'd say: the more the merrier.

Kelly said...

I agree. I definitely want honest feedback on what needs to be changed, but I also want to feel good about what I wrote. So when I critique for every couple critiques, I add a positive!

Carol Riggs said...

Goodness yes, if a CP says ONLY negative things, that's not good either! I like to be shredded and to shred in critiques, but I like to know what I've done right, too (and let others know what I love about their writing).

Shannon said...

Great post. How do you find your CP's? That's where I am drawing a blank and a fledgling.

Leslie Rose said...

Critiquing is walking a tightrope! I like to start with what I loved, and then follow with what I have questions about. My critique partners and I use the comment function in WORD so you can target the exact place in the MS. I find it extremely useful.

Sophia Richardson said...

The only critiquing I've done is for openings and excerpts. I'm slightly intimidated of the idea because I don't want to offend but I think I would make a lot of notes as things occur to me (e.g. this phrasing made me stumble, SDT, unrealistic dialogue). Obviously I would also note the good things but I worry I'd overwhelm the writer with all my thoughts! I'd definitely have to warn any potential betas/CPs.
- Sophia.

Julie Musil said...

Congratulations on finishing your story! I love the way my critique partners and I work. We point out anything positive, so the writer knows what they did right. If there's something that pops in my head, a question, or if I had to re-read something again and again to get it, I let the author know. And I love receiving the line edits, because there's so many little things I miss.

Chibicat16 said...

I have yet to read the entire post yet! lol but congratz on finishing your story. Also thx for subscribing to my blog! I've been looking for a writing mentor if you not to busy. I was wondering if you wanted to mentor me?

Christina Lee said...

Great post--my crit partners all bring something different to the table (based on their strengths) and that is really helpful. Congrats on finishing!

Chibicat16 said...

You made a good point. I believe no matter how terrible someone might think something is there is always something good in it too.

Jennifer Jackson said...

If someone has a real passion for writing and is willing to learn, you should always encourage him/her. It helps everyone in the long-run.

Regina said...

I am just working with some new critique partners and we are feeling each other out. I guess I am not sure what I want from them just yet. However, I love all the comments that they add. It doesn't matter if it is positive or something that I need to work on...each comment is important to me knowing what a reader is interpreting while reading my manuscript.

I always stay positive when I critique and try to help with what I can. If I notice change in tense, plot holes, parts I don't understand...then I will mention it. I am very open with them and they are with me, so it is working really great right now.