Author Topic: Crit groups and the writers  (Read 5111 times)

Offline Kimmy

  • Hero Member
  • *****
  • Posts: 3528
  • Karma: 530
    • My Facebook Page
Crit groups and the writers
« on: May 03, 2010, 03:06:32 AM »
Have you guys been involved in groups and read others work, only to think either a)this is soooo much better than mine!!! or b)this is kinda bad?  I've been lucky with my group in that I think they are talented and have good ability, but I was in another group where this person self pubbed and her writing was kinda bad.  How do you handle that?  What do you tell them?  I always try to be nice and say something positive, but sometimes there isn't much good to say.  I truly want to help and give good comments, but this person thinks her writing is good - and yes, I know 'good' is subjective.  Anyone have ideas?
Kimmy :)

Triangles--Spencer Hill Press, 2013
Lost Reputation--Evernight Teen, 2016
Parallel Triangles--Evernight Teen, 2017
@KimberlyAnnNJ
https://www.facebook.com/kimberly.a.miller.180
https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/5820784.Kimberly_Ann_Miller

Offline Tabris

  • Hero Member
  • *****
  • Posts: 4993
  • Karma: 997
  • I rock!
Re: Crit groups and the writers
« Reply #1 on: May 03, 2010, 06:45:03 AM »
When confronted with someone whose writing is astonishingly bad, I try to work in baby-steps rather than tackling every issue at the same time.  (Note: I haven't encountered that HERE.  I've encountered it on fanfic forums and when I tutored my way through school.  So yes, some of the people I have worked with here have gotten some of this advice, but the key is, if the writer is heinous, I only give one piece of it at a time.)

For example, I might suggest not doubling adjectives ("because I have a hard time visualizing that") in order to find one strong noun that does the work of all those things.  Or maybe "Instead of having three block paragraphs of solid dialogue, it would confuse me less if you broke it up with speech tags."

I put the burden on myself ("I couldn't understand this two-hundred-word sentence at all--maybe you could break it up into three or four smaller sentences?") and then suggested how she might tailor her writing for the slower reader.

And finally, if all else fails, you can always talk only about the story. "I liked the character a LOT but I really wanted more of her. More of her thoughts, more of her actions -- so I think it might help if you shortened the breakfast scene where she's buttering her toast because I REALLY just wanted to get ahead to the next things she would be doing!"

Offline Kimmy

  • Hero Member
  • *****
  • Posts: 3528
  • Karma: 530
    • My Facebook Page
Re: Crit groups and the writers
« Reply #2 on: May 03, 2010, 07:04:05 AM »
Thanks, Tab, great advice!  Luckily I have only seen this a few times, but most of what I see here and in my new group is pretty good!  I hate hurting someone's feelings.  OH, and I am going to PM you...
Kimmy :)

Triangles--Spencer Hill Press, 2013
Lost Reputation--Evernight Teen, 2016
Parallel Triangles--Evernight Teen, 2017
@KimberlyAnnNJ
https://www.facebook.com/kimberly.a.miller.180
https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/5820784.Kimberly_Ann_Miller

Offline clutzattack

  • Hero Member
  • *****
  • Posts: 683
  • Karma: 136
    • Groundwire
Re: Crit groups and the writers
« Reply #3 on: May 03, 2010, 07:53:50 PM »
By "Critique Groups" do you mean the Public Groups on QT's main site? (And what is the difference between that and this forum?)Or something you stumbled on elsewhere? 

Offline Kimmy

  • Hero Member
  • *****
  • Posts: 3528
  • Karma: 530
    • My Facebook Page
Re: Crit groups and the writers
« Reply #4 on: May 03, 2010, 08:05:27 PM »
No clutz, I mean groups I attend locally.  We read each others stuff and give critiques of the pages.  I have been to 3; one where we email the pages beforehand to bring with us to the meeting once per month, and 2 where we read at the meetings and give comments. I prefer the one where we email beforehand, it gives you a lot more time to give opinions and focus on the work without rushing.  Crit groups, face to face, are good because you get feedback and can ask for clarification right there, and you can see their faces when they tell you what they think!
Kimmy :)

Triangles--Spencer Hill Press, 2013
Lost Reputation--Evernight Teen, 2016
Parallel Triangles--Evernight Teen, 2017
@KimberlyAnnNJ
https://www.facebook.com/kimberly.a.miller.180
https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/5820784.Kimberly_Ann_Miller

Offline Ed Wilson

  • Newbie
  • *
  • Posts: 9
  • Karma: 4
Re: Crit groups and the writers
« Reply #5 on: May 07, 2010, 04:20:34 PM »
I'm actually enjoying my critique group at the moment. I live sort of in a rural area so it would be difficult to find a local one. Anyways, I never expect anyone to be perfect during the critiquing phase.  The reason why most people join a group is to improve their writing ability. The only way to get an outside opinion is to show your work to complete strangers, lol. They're likely to be more honest.

I'd rather my group members be honest than spare my feelings. I think people who only want sycophantic feedback are really only selling themselves short.  Luckily, I haven't ran into any terrible writers. I joined a small group I found through this forum.

Offline MarkQuiet

  • Hero Member
  • *****
  • Posts: 277
  • Karma: 69
Re: Crit groups and the writers
« Reply #6 on: May 10, 2010, 10:23:56 AM »
I'd rather my group members be honest than spare my feelings. I think people who only want sycophantic feedback are really only selling themselves short.  Luckily, I haven't ran into any terrible writers. I joined a small group I found through this forum.

Feelings won't be spared - got it....  >:D
 :draw:
If writing is a passion then editing is an obsession and only through obsession can writing be great.
The Alice Chronicles: Rabbit Slayer (YA/Urban Fantasy)
The Alice Chronicles: Family Ties (Book II)
weblog: http://alicechronicles.blogspot.com

Offline Ed Wilson

  • Newbie
  • *
  • Posts: 9
  • Karma: 4
Re: Crit groups and the writers
« Reply #7 on: May 11, 2010, 08:47:09 AM »
Hey,

I've got a few scathing remarks I can make on your work MarkQuiet....mwahhahahaha. j/k

Offline Jim W

  • Hero Member
  • *****
  • Posts: 214
  • Karma: 50
Re: Crit groups and the writers
« Reply #8 on: August 07, 2010, 04:29:33 PM »
Hey Kimmy,

I know what you mean.  Sometimes I find it really hard to be positive with crit groups.  The absolute worst thing I ever read was in a third year history class in college (I kid you not!  Third year!  The guy was a history major!  He had to write three or four papers a semester for two solid years before getting to me!   :eek:).  The writing was so dreadful I didn't know where to start.  :(  I spent hours marking up his ten page paper, all the while thinking he could not have possibly done any editing on it.  I still shudder when I think of that paper, and it was fifteen years ago.  Sometimes people are just lazy editors.  I always make four or five passes before I let anyone read anything.  You might suggest that to your 'problem writer,' in a non-confrontational way.  Something like, "I like to do a number of editing passes before turning stuff over to the group, so that they can concentrate on the important things.  It's hard to see the forest for the trees when there's a lot of typos and misspellings."  Say it while you're discussing your work, not hers, so it doesn't feel like a direct assault.  If they're there to learn, they'll pick up on it.  If they're only there for positive reinforcement, though....

I've also been part of large workshops that ran for three days a week for four months.  I learned a lot about criticism in that class, but the most important thing I discovered was that the really bad writers--the ones that need the most help--are also the most defensive.  Sometimes there isn't a lot you can do about that.  But I find that if you write your criticisms rather than do it face to face, it helps a great deal.  And humor helps.  I also agree with one of the previous posters.  Use first person instead of second.  "I find this awkward," or "I think this might work better," takes a lot of sting out of the commentary.  I try not to give person-to-person commentary anymore because I know I can be blunt.  Just a couple of weeks ago, something I wrote made someone cry (and it bothered me that it upset her), and it wasn't even commentary on her writing.  It was a brief essay I wrote.  Looking at it through her eyes, I realized it was a little harsh in tone.  But she's also a new writer, and one of the hardest things new writers have to learn is how to take constructive criticism and how much work this really is.  Us older warhorses sometimes forget how much the ebb and flow of peer review can sting and bite, how daunting the process can be.  So I commend you for worrying about how to deal with it, because sometimes I forget that myself.

The other thing I learned about crit groups is that the real bad writers either give up early or hang around and get better.  I don't know if that helps, but it's often a passing discomfort for the group as a whole. 

As for critiquing, if there's a lot of problems and the work is long enough, breaking it up into small pieces and delivering them in doses can also tone down the writer's feeling of being attacked (and if she's new, she might feel that way).  I use lots of smiley faces, and I try always to find something positive about a work somewhere, no matter how slight.  If there's a bit of dialogue that works, or a turn of phrase that doesn't come off as cliched, let them know you liked that.  If nothing else, tell them you liked the theme or setting, something nice and nebulous.

If they're serious about writing, though, it might be a good idea to let them know that their early drafts need a lot of work.  That was the hardest thing for me to learn:  how much revision is really involved in getting something presentable.  Recommend your favorite books on writing.  Tell them that we all go through a rough patch in the beginning, that it'll take a lot of work to get through it.  Let them know you've gone through it too.  That way, instead of being confrontational, you're being supportive and realistic. 

Ultimately, it really all depends on what your problem writer wants out of the crit group.  Some writers are looking for praise.  Some are looking to improve.  You'll probably learn what this writer wants pretty quick.  I wouldn't invest a lot of time on a sloppy writer who just wants praise.  They won't learn much from what you say.  But if they're willing to learn, try to be as positive as you can, but don't pull your punches to do it.  A bad writer who doesn't get help doesn't get any better.

Find that out, and it might make the next step easier.

Hope you find this useful.

Offline bodwen

  • Hero Member
  • *****
  • Posts: 3024
  • Karma: 1301
Re: Crit groups and the writers
« Reply #9 on: August 07, 2010, 05:40:13 PM »
I point out every weakness I perceive, in as respectful a manner as I can.  After all, isn't that the point of a beta group?

Offline violet

  • Hero Member
  • *****
  • Posts: 3498
  • Karma: 1224
Re: Crit groups and the writers
« Reply #10 on: August 07, 2010, 06:40:45 PM »
I point out every weakness I perceive, in as respectful a manner as I can.  After all, isn't that the point of a beta group?

You'd think so.

I always try to be positive but truthful. I can't tell you how much that has backfired. So at this point, I've pretty much given up beta-ing.

Offline RPG123

  • Hero Member
  • *****
  • Posts: 288
  • Karma: 57
Re: Crit groups and the writers
« Reply #11 on: August 07, 2010, 07:42:46 PM »
Kimmy,

I really wonder about a person who joins a crit group and already thinks they're perfect.  If the writer really thinks they're perfect they wouldn't bother with a group.  Insecurity comes to mind when I hear of someone like the person you described.

My answer, give her examples of "good" writing.  "I see what you're trying to do here, blankety blank is really good at that.  You should read blankety blank by said author."  That way you never even have to say "you're no good at this."

Also, I don't think that everything about writing is subjective.  Whether or not you're interested in the story is subjective, improper grammar (for example) isn't.  Stick to what you can prove and that leaves less opportunity for offense.