Re: [Durham-Writers-Group] The art of critiquing

From: Bill F.
Sent on: Monday, October 17, 2011 2:18 PM
I can't speak for Steve Jobs or James Joyce, but I feel like pretty much everyone in this conversation values honest criticism or they wouldn't join a group like this in the first place. But that said, it eventually is up to the writer to decide which advice to listen to and which to ignore. I think that's one of the hardest lessons to learn.

Thanks,
Bill

On Mon, Oct 17, 2011 at 2:02 PM, Peter Dale <[address removed]> wrote:

And let's all keep in mind that Steve Jobs never took a market survey.

Nor did most of the truly confident, great writers await or have the patience for popular approval ...or nodding critiques.

Would 'Ulysses' pass the critique test?


---------- Original Message ----------------------------------
From: Ron Jackson <[address removed]>
Reply-To: [address removed]
Date:  Mon, 17 Oct[masked]:05:07 -0400

>Been there, done that. Now we're talking about whether a writer is ready to hear a reader's honest response to the writing. To me, best approach is not to cite a rule. Simply say, I lost interest in this place, I wandered there, I was really interested when you described so and so's physical actions and when those two characters had a heated conversation. I fell out of the story when it got expository. Etc. We also have to know that everyone is not in the same place or at the same stage in the process. I try not to take too much responsibility or take on too much frustration if a person is not hearing an honest response. Sometimes you have to let growth take place at the speed of nougat. That's certainly how it seems with my writing at times.
>
>-Ron
>
>
>On Oct 17, 2011, at 11:42 AM, Penelope L. Mace wrote:
>
>> I too  agree - the way to learn anything is to do it.
>> What I find frustrating is when a person has an idee fixe -let's say you tell her or him - gee, there is too much exposition - I get lost - and they
>> react angrily or defensively - ?  I have seen that a good bit. Many in one group tried to tell this one person that she was telling not showing
>> way too much of her story and she got very hostile.
>> OH well ////
>>
>>
>> -----Original Message-----
>> From: Anita Keith-Foust
>> Sent: Oct 17,[masked]:33 AM
>> To: [address removed]
>> Subject: RE: [Durham-Writers-Group] The art of critiquing
>>
>> Two thumbs up on this comment.
>>
>> From: [address removed] [mailto:[address removed]] On Behalf Of Ron Jackson
>> Sent: Monday, October 17,[masked]:28 AM
>> To: [address removed]
>> Subject: Re: [Durham-Writers-Group] The art of critiquing
>>
>> Been lurking in this conversation. Just a quick comment:
>>
>> For me, the most important thing you can do for a writer is get her back to the keyboard charged up to keep writing and improve. Writing itself, doing as much as you can of it and doing it regularly, is the biggest factor in getting better. Critiquing has its place, but we sometimes overvalue it. I think the value of critiquing is in keeping the writer motivated, offering an extra social interaction that complements reading, which for me is the second most important factor in improvement. Read, find models, read deeply, figure out HOW your most revered authors are doing it.
>>
>> In this light, the best critiquing strategy is to tell the author, with all the conviction you can muster, what really worked and how you were moved, even if it's only a short passage. Then follow up and help the writer build on that foundation by saying what did not work for you personally and what might make it work consistently through the piece, make it a finished piece.
>>
>> In my experience, some critiquing appears to be a way to show what the critic knows about writing, how you think a writer ought to write, etc. I think it should empower the writer's own personal view of how the writing should go. That's at the heart of all good writing. That and writing every chance you get. Most bad writing, assuming a reasonable level of ability, is mainly inexperience.
>>
>> -Ron
>>
>> On Oct 17, 2011, at 7:34 AM, Penelope L. Mace wrote:
>>
>>
>> Eric, what is your best and worst on critiquing?
>> P
>> -----Original Message-----
>> From: Eric Maier
>> Sent: Oct 16,[masked]:39 PM
>> To: [address removed]
>> Subject: Re: [Durham-Writers-Group] The art of critiquing
>>
>>
>> Great conversation!  Sorry I am just catching up to it now.
>>
>> Eric
>>
>>
>>
>> On Mon, Oct 10, 2011 at 6:45 PM, Robert Engelbach <[address removed]> wrote:
>> Some of us older writers who are new to the craft want to learn to prepare to sit in the critiquee seat fully prepared.  It can be quite energizing when the proper connections are  made.
>>
>> .
>>
>>
>>
>> Robert Engelbach
>> [address removed]
>> [masked]
>> From: Stephie Goldfish <[address removed]>
>> To: [address removed]
>> Sent: Monday, October 10,[masked]:56 PM
>>
>> Subject: Re: [Durham-Writers-Group] The art of critiquing
>>
>> I know you'll probably think I'm coming out of the woodwork on this conversation, or might ask, "Who resurrected her?" LOL But that was funny! Great conversation.
>>
>> I had moved away from the area right after my first showing at a DWG meeting, and I'm back in the area now, so I'm hoping to start coming to the DWG meetings.
>>
>> About the art of critiquing, it's an art for sure! I'm still learning, and in one of my creative writing classes we would give feedback, and sometimes we would write out our thoughts or advice with or without our names on it and hand them to the writer. I guess with a class full of students things could get crazy. LOL.
>>
>> Thanks,
>> Stephanie Hodgson
>> aka Stephie Goldfish
>>
>> Sent from my BlackBerry® smartphone, powered by CREDO Mobile.
>> From: James Maurice Alexander <[address removed]>
>> Sender: [address removed]
>> Date: Mon, 10 Oct[masked]:11:39 -0400
>> To: <[address removed]>
>> ReplyTo: [address removed]
>> Subject: Re: [Durham-Writers-Group] The art of critiquing
>>
>> LOL!
>>
>> You know what is great about this group and why it is nothing like the real world? We are 90% jerk free. I've seen some passionate discussion. I've seen critiques ranging from "I want to have this stories baby" and "Your story is so bad it causes cancer" to "meh, I don't know."  But things very rarely get out of hand.
>> Even when authors are rampantly defending their work, or critiques get outrageous and nitpicky. Such is life. Seriously, have you guys never gotten into a stupidly heated argument about a movie?
>>
>> I still remember the fight I had with my dad over the end of the first Spider-man movie that lasted the 20 minute drive home. And don't even get me started on the  500 Days of Summer throwdown I had with my friends on facebook last week. Seriously, people who rag on Zooey Deschanel in that movie need a reality check, that is what we all look like to people we break up with.
>>
>>
>> James' Sign
>>
>>
>> -----Original Message-----
>> From: Robert Engelbach <[address removed]>
>> To: durham-writers-group-list <[address removed]>
>> Sent: Mon, Oct 10,[masked]:42 pm
>> Subject: Re: [Durham-Writers-Group] The art of critiquing
>>
>> All firearms need to be surrendered at the meeting hall entrance before engaging in serious critiques.  The writer reading needs to remain calm during critqueing.  Antacids should be supplied as necessary. The critiguee may benefit from memorizing prayers like "Father, forgive them, they know not what they do." He/she  may also benefit from watching reruns of "Uncle Buck" where Buck is tying to explain his mistakes to his girlfriend over the phone and manages to say "Bu....hp.......yeah but.....huh....wait....hip.........hep........"
>>
>> Robert Engelbach
>> [address removed]
>> [masked]
>> From: Chris Forsyth <[address removed]>
>> To: [address removed]
>> Sent: Monday, October 10,[masked]:19 AM
>> Subject: Re: [Durham-Writers-Group] The art of critiquing
>>
>> Thanks, Penelope, I agree, again. As you say, the piece has to stand or fall on its own. Rebuttals aren't necessary. All that's needed from the recipient at the end is thanks -- out loud from a place of real gratitude, or mumbled in frustration or annoyance. My approach is as yours Penelope. My silence throughout. The result is that I absorb what's been said better (ignoring the repetitions -- it's annoying when critiquers don't listen to what's been offered beforehand and respond appropriately) and through that process I know what I must do to proceed. I've found this approach valuable, and more often than not rewarding. I'm not there to defend. I'm there to get opinions.
>> Thanks again.
>> Cheers,
>> Chris
>>
>> [address removed]
>>
>>
>> -----Original Message-----
>> From: Penelope L. Mace <[address removed]>
>> To: Durham-Writers-Group-list <[address removed]>
>> Sent: Mon, Oct 10,[masked]:58 am
>> Subject: Re: [Durham-Writers-Group] The art of critiquing
>>
>> Hi, again, I guess to be honest I have not experienced a group where there are those types of very basic errors -their vs there, etc - so I was speaking more of higher level stuff.  One thing I have seen a lot of - -people trying to use long words or more obscure language to sound educated or literary. That always bombs.
>> Also - I really think there should be a policy in these groups that when a person's piece is up for dicsussion, that person, the author,  has to SHUT UP until the whole group has gone around once and said their initial thoughts. Too often I see the discussion go off the rails as the author has to butt in and say ...."but what I meant was...."    for me, it does not matter what she meant - the words, the piece stand or fall on their own -- any rebuttal should wait til very end.
>> My personal policy, I try to say NOTHING when being critiqued, even when asked a question. If a scene is confusing, that's it, it's confusing, my explaining it now won't help.
>> Anyone else??
>> One group I was in used the native american custom - there was a tea pot or something and it was moved around and the person who had it spoke - everyone else had to  be quiet.
>>
>> best
>>
>> p
>>
>> -----Original Message-----
>> From: Bill Ferris
>> Sent: Oct 10,[masked]:49 AM
>> To: [address removed]
>> Subject: Re: [Durham-Writers-Group] The art of critiquing
>>
>> Spelling and grammar is important, but I think that type of feedback is best delivered via email or hard-copy edits. A group critique session should be used for story, character, plot, etc. That's not to say grammar isn't important, but they haven't invented a word processor yet that can find plot holes or identify wooden characters. That sort of story-level feedback is the main benefit of a writing group.
>>
>> I will say this, though: As a reader, when I see a story that has multiple spelling/grammar errors, I have a hard time taking it seriously. I'm not talking about the occasional typo or a stray comma, I mean chronic your/you're and there/their/they're confusion, getting common phrases wrong ("for all intensive purposes" or "toad the line") and so on.
>>
>> We live in a world where everybody has a pretty advanced spell checker at their fingertips, to say nothing of the time writers should be spending editing their own work before submitting it to the group. There is really no excuse for these kinds of mistakes, so when I see writers make them, that tells me the author either doesn't know the rules or doesn't care enough to submit his or her best work, and neither reflects well on a writer.
>>
>> Thanks,
>> Bill
>>
>> On Mon, Oct 10, 2011 at 10:40 AM, James Maurice Alexander <[address removed]> wrote:
>> It can be grating to have your typing get more attention than your story. But you logically need both to be in order. My B in Copy Editing this semester means I can only detect 80% of typographical errors.
>>
>>
>>
>>
>>
>>
>> James' Sign
>>
>>
>> -----Original Message-----
>> From: Robert Engelbach <[address removed]>
>> To: durham-writers-group-list <[address removed]>
>> Sent: Mon, Oct 10,[masked]:40 am
>> Subject: Re: [Durham-Writers-Group] The art of critiquing
>>
>> I agree from the writers perspective that having to knitpick on grammar, etc. is annoying at such an early stage. On the other hand, from the readers perspective, having too many typos etc.to negotiate through can knock the reader out from focussing on the deeper things,sort of  like having to slow down to avoid hitting an freak asteroid while warping through space. Not usually a big deal these days in WORD to hit spellcheck and get the grammar in one fell swoop. .  But definitely a waste of time to do grammar during  a meeting. For me, I naturally see the typos while reading through the first time.  Some people do that.  They see the zits on your face the first time they see you. Its a horrible habit.  These people do not deserve to live.
>>
>> Robert Engelbacha s
>> [address removed]
>> [masked]
>> From: Penelope L. Mace <[address removed]>
>> To: [address removed]
>> Sent: Monday, October 10,[masked]:50 AM
>> Subject: Re: [Durham-Writers-Group] The art of critiquing
>>
>> I'd have to say I find it truly annoying when someone focuses on spelling, grammar etc in a piece I have submitted. I want to know if the charactetrs and story move you, interest you,
>> enrage you, make you like them, etc - I can sit with my Strunk and White later and dither over usage and semicolons.
>> The other thing is - don't try to make everyone write in your style. If one person is a stone cold carver-esque minimalist, fine, but maybe others like sentences with more than 5 words in them. Imagine Iris Murdoch and Joan Didion in the same writers' group.
>>
>>
>> -----Original Message-----
>> From: Robert Engelbach
>> Sent: Oct 9,[masked]:11 PM
>> To: [address removed]
>> Subject: [Durham-Writers-Group] The art of critiquing
>>
>> Hi all,
>>
>> I am new to writing groups. I am finding the DWG to be a wonderful experience. I never seriously critiqued anyone's work before. I am kind of catching on by listening to others.  But I was a structure freak in my last life.  All I am really confident about critiquing at this point is grammar and punctuation, which is necessary when submitting to a potential publisher, but so far below the creative level of the two writing groups that I'v embarrassed myself. So I found a good three-page article on "How to Give and Receive Critiques" that has given me a hint of how to go to the next level of critiquing.  I am guessing many people have their own guidelines.  Some of you may want to share yours. I posted this one on October 7th if anyone wants to look at it.
>>
>> Cheers,
>> Robert
>>
>>
>> Robert Engelbach
>> [address removed]
>> [masked]
>>
>>
>>
>>
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>> "A poet's work is to name the unnameable, to point at frauds, to take sides, start arguments, shape the world, and stop it going to sleep."
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>> "A poet's work is to name the unnameable, to point at frauds, to take sides, start arguments, shape the world, and stop it going to sleep."
>> Salman Rushdie
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>> "A poet's work is to name the unnameable, to point at frauds, to take sides, start arguments, shape the world, and stop it going to sleep."
>> Salman Rushdie
>>
>>
>>
>>
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