How do you feel about Critting and Writing?

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How do you feel about Critting and Writing?

Postby FranOnTheEdge » Sun Aug 21, 2011 2:59 pm

In another older thread about Horrible Critiques someone (Sff.net ) wrote:

"You trigger a fearful critiquer by being a good writer. They feel threatened--you may be taking a space that they feel belongs to them-- so they attack.

You have made a mistake they are or have been guilty of so they get threatened and attack. You reminded them where they have dropped the ball in their own craft."


I thought, "Good heavens, I do hope I never do that." And then I wondered what others feel about writers they think are good?

I really don't feel threatened by good writers, I don't say I'm not jealous as all get out of their ability to write so well, but I also see it as 2 opportunities:
1) Fantastic! I've found a great new author to read! (I read a lot and nowadays feel the lack of great, funny, interesting, well written books to read, and thus have to keep re-reading old favourites).
And
2) I must try and see how they've done that, can I use that method in my own story/ies? I hope I've found a friend, maybe I can learn things from them in future.

I do however often write quite long critiques, I don't set out to, but there are a few reasons for that, in that I try to figure out why something isn't working for me, and explain that, plus I try to think of ways of solving the (to me) problem, and offer those as options to the author, which they may or may not take notice of as it pleases them, and also because you can't just say: 'that's not right, try this:' you have to put it in a more gentle, and sometimes less direct method, and that takes more words…
I have done critiques for many years now, in various groups, some of which I helped to run, so I know about the fragile susceptibilities of authors – I should do, I can be fragile too, because however much we try not to, we do feel the stab of every critiquers weapon, in a very personal way, 'this is a product of my mind, if it's faulty, is therefore my mind faulty and inferior in some way?'

We try to improve (if our minds are not too closed to admit the possibility of improvement) so that next time, there are less chinks in our armour, and the weapons find less places to get through to us and pierce our skins. And of course the work gets better.

What I most feel the lack of here in this place of critters.org is feedback from the author of pieces I've critiqued. I am I doing it right for them? Did it help?

Oh, for those who suffer from dyslexia, if you can afford it, I can recommend "Dragon Naturally Speaking" I use it myself, (because of joint problems) but I also had a good friend at college who was seriously dyslexic, and he also uses Dragon – for him it means he can answer emails in a form that his friends can thus more easily understand, and spelling is often automatic in Dragon, (plus Word can spell a lot of words automatically for you as well). Sometimes despite all this help mistakes are still made, and thus the dictionary is still needed, but much less often, I find.

Having felt the lack of contact with other writers, I thought I'd post these few questions, see if anyone will talk to me:

1) What is your reaction when you read for critique a piece that you find yourself racing through to find out what happens in the end?

2) What is your feeling on finding an author whose writing uses language beautifully, with good descriptive passages and exciting action sequences, vivid characterisation and few errors of punctuation or grammar?
Do you feel humbled? Excited? Threatened? Friendly? Nervous? What?

3) What do you feel when you read a piece that's full of errors in spelling, punctuation, and grammar as well as marred by strange symbols? So much so that it's hard to see if there's a story there at all, what do you do when that happens?

4) What do you think you can you do to improve your own work? Where are your weaknesses?

For me on number:

1) I have very little time to think, I just feel excitement bubbling up – and hope that it lasts.

2) As I've already said above I am overjoyed if this happens.

3) I feel very depressed at this, but you cannot tell if it's lack of funds to be able to buy software that can help with this, or just laziness or lack of understanding about how much it matters, but it's depressing when you come across it.

4) Oh heck, there's so many weaknesses, I have problems being original, I forget lots of punctuation, my grammar often fails me, I even sometimes type words the wrong way around - I put "I've remembered just," instead of "I've just remembered" – but usually with shorter words, like word dyslexia, except it's more like my brain outruns my fingers. I forget to include the sense of smell in my descriptions, I repeat myself, I leave gaps in the action – usually because I want to rush ahead to the next exciting bit – which is fine, so long as I remember to go back and fill in those gaps – but sometimes I forget them. And there's lots more… sadly.

How about you?
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Re: How do you feel about Critting and Writing?

Postby Sff.net » Sun Aug 21, 2011 4:12 pm

[Reposted from sff.net user <g...@u...> (Greg Hullender)]


When I choose what to critique, the first thing I look for is any author whom I've critiqued in the past and whose work I liked. The better I think they write, the more likely I am to want to critique his/her work. My reasons for this are totally selfish: a) these are the sort of people I want critiquing MY stories and b) it's both easier and more fun to write a high-level critique than a low-level one.

I also look for people who did nice critiques of my stories (by which I do NOT mean that they told me how nice my stories were) and try to return the favor. Occasionally, I'm surprised that someone who wrote a spot-on critique for me is somehow unable to avoid making the exact same mistakes in his/her writing.

I really wish Critters had a mechanism to automatically notify me when a story gets posted by someone from either group. That is, when I submit a critique OR when I rate a critique, I wish I could check a box that said "please notify me whenever this person submits anything in the future." I'm looking for something a bit short of just friending them on Facebook. :-)

If I don't see anyone I know, I sift through the submissions looking at the first few paragraphs to decide whether the author is a beginner. If so, I won't critique the piece. I used to, but it's just too much work to read all the way through such a thing. (We need a way to earn, say 1/10 credit for constructive, partial reviews; "why I quit reading your story after 3 paragraphs.") I guess I could submit them for no credit, but I'd be afraid of just pissing people off for no purpose.

I don't think I've ever received a critique from someone where I believed that person was being negative from pure envy. (Perhaps I'm not good enough to have had that experience yet.) :-) If people say the story didn't work for them, I take them at their word. I certainly don't believe MOST people would lie about that. It's a dumb thing to do, given that you do want the better writers doing critiques for YOU.

--Greg
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Re: How do you feel about Critting and Writing?

Postby crit19292 » Sun Aug 21, 2011 4:16 pm

1) What is your reaction when you read for critique a piece that you find yourself racing through to find out what happens in the end?
I am sorry, but if I am racing through then I did NOT like your piece. If I like something, i slow down and enjoy the moment. If you get a critique from where i mention that I raced (or skimmed) ahead, expect bad news.

2) What is your feeling on finding an author whose writing uses language beautifully, with good descriptive passages and exciting action sequences, vivid characterisation and few errors of punctuation or grammar?
Do you feel humbled? Excited? Threatened? Friendly? Nervous? What?
As above, I enjoy the experience. If you experience any of those feelings that you mentioned, and it is not due to the writing, then the writing failed. A good story carries emotion with it, and if you don't feel those -- then the writer is not as good as you thought he/she was.

3) What do you feel when you read a piece that's full of errors in spelling, punctuation, and grammar as well as marred by strange symbols? So much so that it's hard to see if there's a story there at all, what do you do when that happens?
If the story has mechanic problems, then my critique focuses on those. Sorry, but if you are at a phase in your writing career that you have a lot of mechanic problems, those need to be dealt with before you can advance.

4) What do you think you can you do to improve your own work? Where are your weaknesses?
I would like to broaden my range of possible storylines. I believe that I have gotten rather good in my genre, but I need to expand my list of tools and characters to handle other type of tales. I still believe that my primary weakness is that I am not a literature person, but come from a math/science background. My type of story thus tends to be a little deeper and technical than most readers prefer.
I will not deny myself having my opinions.
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Re: How do you feel about Critting and Writing?

Postby FranOnTheEdge » Sat Aug 27, 2011 8:58 pm

When I say I raced ahead reading fast - I'm talking about something quite different to skimming.

For me racing & reading fast means that the text and the story have very few problems and the story is an exciting one where you want to know what happens next, so you read fast because of excitment and good easy to read language.

Skimming on the other hand, is something quite different - to me that's where you find yourself skipping segments of the text because the story can't hold your interest, or the spelling or grammar is so bad you're having trouble understanding it and you just want the whole experience to be over.

So to me those are two different things - in fact the opposite ends of the spectrum.
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Re: How do you feel about Critting and Writing?

Postby crit19292 » Sat Aug 27, 2011 9:21 pm

FranOnTheEdge wrote:When I say I raced ahead reading fast - I'm talking about something quite different to skimming.

For me racing & reading fast means that the text and the story have very few problems and the story is an exciting one where you want to know what happens next, so you read fast because of excitment and good easy to read language.

Skimming on the other hand, is something quite different - to me that's where you find yourself skipping segments of the text because the story can't hold your interest, or the spelling or grammar is so bad you're having trouble understanding it and you just want the whole experience to be over.

So to me those are two different things - in fact the opposite ends of the spectrum.
I have a story... a true one.

I was painting one day, and one of my children came in and watched for a short time. She then asked me when I would be finished. I told her that I do not want to finish. If I finished, then I would be done. Since I was enjoying the painting, I did not want it to be done.

The same with a good story. If you are rushing -- for any reason -- you are lessening your time of enjoyment. If I rush ANYTHING, then I am not enjoying it.
I will not deny myself having my opinions.
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Re: How do you feel about Critting and Writing?

Postby Sff.net » Tue Aug 30, 2011 7:42 pm

[Reposted from sff.net user "Nathan S. Zalman" <z...@g...>]



1) What is your reaction when you read for critique a piece that you find yourself racing through to find out what happens in the end?



I open up and editor, because I'm going to be critiquing this one.


2) What is your feeling on finding an author whose writing uses language beautifully, with good descriptive passages and exciting action sequences, vivid characterisation and few errors of punctuation or grammar? Do you feel humbled? Excited? Threatened? Friendly? Nervous? What?



I'm relieved, because this doesn't happen all that often, and I learn the most from good writing. I leave punctuation and grammar to those who specialize in that. It's a challenge to critique something good, because you have to get beyond the superficial.


3) What do you feel when you read a piece that's full of errors in spelling, punctuation, and grammar as well as marred by strange symbols? So much so that it's hard to see if there's a story there at all, what do you do when that happens?



I'm embarrassed at first and will usually leave it for someone else. Once in a while I will walk through the first few pages making editorial suggestions in detail, because you can't write something good without getting the superficial right.

People have been patient with me (I'm not talking about the self-styled Experts--nobody likes to be patronized), so I feel obligated to return the favor whenever I can muster the patience and feel that I have something helpful to say.


4) What do you think you can you do to improve your own work? Where are your weaknesses?



The more I write, the better I get. I would like to hear about re-writing more--and I don't mean proofreading, but writing the whole thing over, and how folks do that.

I tend to lapse into long sentences with lots of passive voice and past-perfect. I catch the worst of them now, but by no means all.

The worst part, though, is that once I get far enough into the thing to figure out where it needs to go (as opposed to where I thought it needed to go, as often happens), I get bored to tears.

Cheers,

Nathan

-- *I never travel without my diary. One should always have something sensational to read in the train.* /(Oscar Wilde)/
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Re: How do you feel about Critting and Writing?

Postby Sff.net » Tue Aug 30, 2011 7:42 pm

[Reposted from sff.net user "Nathan S. Zalman" <z...@g...>]


On 08/30/2011 03:16 PM, Nathan S. Zalman wrote:


I open up and editor, because I'm going to be critiquing this one.



AND editor? Sheesh.
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Re: How do you feel about Critting and Writing?

Postby Sff.net » Tue Aug 30, 2011 8:42 pm

[Reposted from sff.net user Dragonwriter <dragonwriterAT-NOVIRUS.net>]


On 8/30/2011 3:16 PM, Nathan S. Zalman wrote:


The more I write, the better I get. I would like to hear about re-writing more--and I don't mean proofreading, but writing the whole thing over, and how folks do that.



One sentence at a time, taking care to listen to the cadence and tone, and checking the grammar.

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Re: How do you feel about Critting and Writing?

Postby Sff.net » Tue Aug 30, 2011 9:12 pm

[Reposted from sff.net user "Nathan S. Zalman" <z...@g...>]


On 08/30/2011 04:34 PM, Dragonwriter wrote:


On 8/30/2011 3:16 PM, Nathan S. Zalman wrote:


The more I write, the better I get. I would like to hear about re-writing more--and I don't mean proofreading, but writing the whole thing over, and how folks do that.



One sentence at a time, taking care to listen to the cadence and tone, and checking the grammar.



Well, let's assume for the moment that grammar is not something I care about unless I'm proofreading, but on the other hand something that I'm confidant that I'll get it right before I get to the rewrite. I'm not so much interested in fixing things that are wrong superficially as I am in better storytelling. What's the difference between *better* and just *different*? That's something I've thought a lot about as a musician, and I'm not certain that the difference is that obvious; certainly it's not to be take for granted.

I think that your "taking care to listen to the cadence and tone" is key. But really, one sentence at a time? Where do I make judgments like, "I need another scene here," or "that dialog doesn't ring true for one of the characters," or "maybe the sky falls *here* instead of *there*." Any way to keep track of all that, or is it better sometimes to just start from scratch with a clearer idea of where things are headed?

What do other people do?

I'm doing my first scene-by-scene rewrite of a story I'm planning to have crittered. I've been using the Windows Beta of Scrivener, which has some facilities that make doing this pretty painless (I'm sure there are other means of doing it, but that's what I'm using at the moment). I hate to say that always in the past I've looked on re-writing as deeply detailed "fixing" of grammar, usage, and the like. Only once in a while has it not been about better sentences (which of course are always welcome...) but rather about better narrative. As a consequence, I've never been able to produce a 2nd draft for any of my novels. It just seems like way too much work...:-(

Followups to s.w.critters, since there's nothing controversial about the topic, I don't think.

Cheers,

Nathan
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Re: How do you feel about Critting and Writing?

Postby crit18909 » Thu Nov 03, 2011 5:21 pm

FranOnTheEdge wrote:When I say I raced ahead reading fast - I'm talking about something quite different to skimming.

For me racing & reading fast means that the text and the story have very few problems and the story is an exciting one where you want to know what happens next, so you read fast because of excitment and good easy to read language.

Skimming on the other hand, is something quite different - to me that's where you find yourself skipping segments of the text because the story can't hold your interest, or the spelling or grammar is so bad you're having trouble understanding it and you just want the whole experience to be over.

So to me those are two different things - in fact the opposite ends of the spectrum.


I fully agree with you here. When I find something that is interesting and well written, I want to read it.
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