responding to criticism


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Thread: responding to criticism

  1. #1

    responding to criticism

    I recently received several critiques from different WF members about a short story I wrote. All but one liked the story and gave me constructive criticism where it was needed. I followed the advice in said critiques and the response to the changes made me see that the criticism was well-founded.

    The single negative was extremely long and difficult to follow at times, it also included two errors which I explained in my response to said critic.

    At the time, I believed that I was in the position of a tyro being admonished by a master of the craft. I was very much chastened by the critique's content especially as it was not only patronising in tone but also employed sarcasm, not a very helpful method of encouraging aspiring writers to improve.
    However, today I read a series of critiques by WF members about a piece written by my one negative critic. The critics in question are clearly much more experienced writers and I have taken note of said critiques to guide my own development as a writer.

    I'd like to say to others like me that it is well worthwhile checking out the efforts of those who offer such unfairly negative critiques because you may find that they too have a lot to learn about writing as an art.

    topcol
    Last edited by topcol; January 24th, 2018 at 04:56 PM.

  2. #2
    Topcol, I know what you're talking about and it's a seemingly regular occurrence in the WF prose sections. I once explained it to someone else like this. For some people the interweb is a place where they can indulge in delusions and dreams. They claim to possess the only true knowledge, in this case about writing, and then talk down to others about how poorly they write, adding a condescending note that if the writer swallowed down their snake oil then one day they'll maybe be fit to lace the crticiser's boots for them. It's all about raising their ego by depressing the writer's hopes. Take away their delusions and dreams and you're left with an old man, sad and lonely, sat at a laptop in their underwear!

    Some people buy into it and follow the formulaic processes being presented (and in turn usually destroy the creativity in their work) and others see right through it. So why do some think of it as great advice? Well, the core of what is being dispensed as ultimate wisdom is basic writing foundation. If a writer is bad, the advice will make them better. It won't make their writing good or even great, but it will make it mediocre to acceptable. Anything that is formulaic will never be creative, original or outstanding. It's also easy to justify the formulaic approach because you can point to examples of it in all literature. However, you can also find full stops in all literature but that punctuation mark alone does not make a great read!

    Sadly, whilst condoned by many at WF, I think the individual in question should be dealt with because they do put off new writers and crush enthusiasm, typically to build their own brand as a writing expert. Interestingly, as you have observed, the quality of their own work does seem to indicate that the formula alone does not make for good reading.

    If this were my forum, the individual in question would be dealt with. He's not outrightly offensive nor is he aggressive or badly behaved, but he is self-serving and issues advice that is not only wrong but also based on little more than the sort of advice handed out on cheap correspondence courses. It's often an exercise in promoting his own work or blog or friends or ego. He did the same to me, probably because I don't talk about what I do in writing or publishing on here. I just laughed because the comments were preposterous. I have challenged his opinions on a few other threads but I don't receive replies.

    Topcol, the most important thing is that you learn to write your way. Listen to what people have to say, but be prepared to ignore or even question any advice (including what I'm saying here). If you want to be creative, original or outstanding, you're going to have to do something that is non-formulaic. Trust your writer's instinct. You'll know when things are right or wrong. It takes time, practice and experience, but every step takes you closer to that final goal. For example, for me the Anniversary piece wasn't great, but it lost an original tone when you reworked it. Never mistake mass acceptance for a sign that something is good!

    The world is filled with people who build themselves up (in their own delusional minds) by trampling on others. In the UK we have a word for such people, that is somewhat similar to the name of the county you live in!

  3. #3
    topcol,

    The single negative critique made you want to give up writing?
    Hmmm.

  4. #4
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    Quote Originally Posted by Pete_C View Post
    Sadly, whilst condoned by many at WF, I think the individual in question should be dealt with because they do put off new writers and crush enthusiasm, typically to build their own brand as a writing expert. Interestingly, as you have observed, the quality of their own work does seem to indicate that the formula alone does not make for good reading!
    But in this instance the negative critique and the follow on comments all conspired, in the end, to help out the OP and - topcol, jump in if I'm misrepresenting - crystallised your vision and made it stronger. I see what you are saying, Pete, but I think the solution is not to remove any sort of scathing crit but to counterbalance it with our own, to provide a broad spectrum to choose from, to show the writer some other reactions in the face of such a crit. Otherwise the risk is echo-chamberism. Writing is a slog, and a good book is hard won.


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  5. #5
    topcol, it stings like the devil, doesn't it? And sometimes, they don't even get what you are trying to say. I know; I think we have all had that one moment where someone we felt was better at this craft we love to do, dissed our work. Well, you are in good company! And don't you dare think of leaving here or leaving writing. I don't even like the word 'critique' because it has a negative connotation to it. But here's the deal - take what you need from anyone who voices their opinion and leave the rest. Because of well-worded critiques I am aware of the fact that my sentences are often way too long (thank you semi-colon), that I can go on and on about something that may seem irrelevant to the story at hand, and I am comma-happy. LOL. Sometimes I write like I talk, with lots of pauses, which require lots of commas - or so I think. My point is, its not that your critiquers are wrong in their observations, it may just be that they are having an off day and not doing the best job of being supportive and encouraging. I had one of those day myself, and set myself to right because the wonderful people here were not willing to see me go down the tubes. I love your writing, so keep on. Please.
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  6. #6
    To grow as a writer you need a thick skin and a well functioning internal radar. The thick skin helps to avoid bruises caused by the stones thrown by dunderheads (as well as the slight nicks and cuts from the instruments used by well meaning critics), and the radar is what you use to find the nuggets you can collect and save. If you've spent much time reading you have built a database inside your head of 'things that work' even though you might not yet know how to tap into that store of knowledge. When a bit of advice, or even sharp criticism, feels right, when you say to yourself, "I can see that." then that advice is meshing with the data you have stored -- that's the stuff that will help you. If it doesn't sound right, disregard it.
    “Fools” said I, “You do not know
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    But my words like silent raindrops fell
    And echoed in the wells of silence : Simon & Garfunkel


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  7. #7
    I'm sorry, but this topic is not clearly worded, and the OP rambles on far to much. 3 / 10
    You can never hate something so thoroughly as that which destroys what you love, and who is more guilty of this crime than the stranger who was once a lover?

  8. #8
    Silence is the hardest of all criticism of all to accept or receive. Even people being dishonest. You don't improve that way. I guess encouragement is important. In my case. I gave my own criticism none of it harsh, and hope still that someone can provide comments. More or less I am in the same situation as you. Yet my hardships faced by English I try to correct. I know English convinces people to read a work and make it presentable. I am confused as to why people sometimes don't have time to help. I must have critiqued 5 stories. Not including one I volunteered to do by a pm. That person faces a lot of hardship so I had decided on helping him.
    Last edited by Theglasshouse; January 24th, 2018 at 03:21 PM.
    I would follow as in believe in the words of good moral leaders. Rather than the beliefs of oneself.
    The most difficult thing for a writer to comprehend is to experience silence, so speak up. (quoted from a member)

  9. #9
    Quote Originally Posted by Theglasshouse View Post
    Silence is the hardest of all criticism of all to accept or receive. Even people being dishonest. You don't improve that way. I guess encouragement is important. In my case. I gave my own criticism none of it harsh, and hope still that someone can provide comments. More or less I am in the same situation as you. Yet my hardships faced by english I try to correct. I know english convinces people to read a work and make it presentable. I am confused as to why people sometimes dont have time to help. I must have critiqued 5 stories.
    Yes. Silence is worse.

  10. #10
    Quote Originally Posted by topcol View Post
    I recently received several critiques from different WF members about a short story I wrote. All but one liked the story and gave me constructive criticism where it was needed. I followed the advice in said critiques and the response to the changes made me see that the criticism was well-founded.

    The single negative was extremely long and difficult to follow at times, it also included two errors which I explained in my response to said critic.

    At the time, I believed that I was in the position of a tyro being admonished by a master of the craft. I was very much chastened by the critique's content especially as it was not only patronising in tone but also employed sarcasm, not a very helpful method of encouraging aspiring writers to improve.

    This single negative critique went some way towards provoking me not only to quit WF but also to give up writing. However, today I read a series of critiques by WF members about a piece written by my one negative critic. The critics in question are clearly much more experienced writers and I have taken note of said critiques to guide my own development as a writer.

    I'd like to say to others like me that it is well worthwhile checking out the efforts of those who offer such unfairly negative critiques because you may find that they too have a lot to learn about writing as an art.

    topcol
    I don't actually view critique as being positive or negative.

    Some critique focusses on any perceived flaws in a piece. Other critique may be more nurturing and fluffy.

    The critique that I value the most tries to strike some kind of balance and is honest - and is the type I try to give.

    I don't critique poetry as much because, in spite of my efforts, there are many poems that whoosh right over my head. Saying "lost, bewildered, confused" a lot of the time makes for poor critique, so I stick with poems that I think I understand.

    I don't believe in being fluffy as it does no-one any favours. Nor does tearing work down while giving what appear to be canned responses. However, tailoring suggestions for improvement to each individual piece is highly valuable.

    Recently, I've started leaning towards being more formulaic with my writing. I don't like it. I feel stifled. So now I'm starting to tread a path between formula and (hopefully!) flair.

    What I would say is no writer receives one-hundred per cent approval. I'm not a believer, but even God didn't manage that with his/her/its Bible.


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