The Right Kind of Critiques

For the Critters workshop and writing SF/F/H in general.
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The Right Kind of Critiques

Postby crit33321 » Wed Aug 02, 2017 7:44 pm

Hi fellow Critters:

First, just want to give a shout out to all the scifi/fantasy/horror writers out there. Our forum seems to be the most active, with posts all the way up through the current month and year. Nice job!

I joined Critters earlier this year and have really enjoyed the community so far. I’ve done my fair share of submitting stories and critiquing the work of others. And if you’re a victim of one of my critiques already, I hope you found my comments helpful.

Thank you so much for the time you’ve taken to read my stories and offer critiques. Many of your comments have been very helpful. Some...not so much. A few have been downright mean. But hey, I can take it: I’m a writer after all!

After reading everyone’s critiques on my own stories and the stories that others have submitted in the weekly queue, I thought I’d post some information that might benefit us all. Many of us have to balance our writing time wisely between jobs, family, and other outside obligations. Our time is limited, and time spent reading stories and writing critiques sometimes comes at a cost – it’s time we could be spending on our own drafts, revisions, and submissions.

Given our daily time constraints, we want to make sure we’re not wasting our own time – or the time of authors – writing unhelpful critiques that either don’t address the needs of the story, or worse yet, make an author wonder why they bother writing at all and feel like giving up.

I’d venture to guess that most stories coming through the weekly queue are either first drafts, or first or second revisions. In some shape or form, they’re all still pretty rough around the edges when they get to us. I’ve learned there are actually three different kinds of story critiques:

1. Content Critiques, where the focus should be on fixing the overall story. Characters may act out of character. The ending may not fulfill the promises set up in the beginning. Goals and motivations may not be clearly defined. Actions or settings may be inconsistent. Narrative may be confusing. Gaping holes might be left in the plot. The big stuff. You get the idea.
2. Line Critiques, where we get into imagery and language, tightening up paragraphs and eliminating needless words. This is where we pour through the Thesaurus to find just the right word. Would it make more sense to move this sentence up to that paragraph?
3. Copy Edits. Pull out your copy of Strunk & White and your fine-toothed comb. Periods, commas, semi-colons, and em-dashes. Spelling and grammar Nazi’s unite! Should the word ‘President’ be capitalized here or not?

For most of us, I suspect what we’re really looking for with our submissions – what would be most helpful – are the Content Edits. Fixing the parts of the story that are broken. After all, who wants to spend ten minutes making sure a page is grammatically correct when everything on that page needs to be scrapped altogether because it’s bogging down the story?

By using our time wisely and focusing on the correct kind of critique for the story we’re reading, we can give our writers the exact information they’re looking for to make their story the best it can be without wasting their time or ours writing about the wrong kinds of elements. In the words of Neil Gaiman: “When people tell you something’s wrong or doesn’t work for them, they are almost always right. When they tell you exactly what they think is wrong and how to fix it, they are almost always wrong.”

Hope this information is helpful. Write on!

Morgan
crit33321
Name: Morgan Broadhead
Sapling
 
Posts: 12
Joined: Wed May 10, 2017 5:56 pm

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