Monday, January 26, 2015

So you want a Critique? [RANT]

So you want a Critique?

WARNING! Incoming Rant!

A Critique...? Really? Are you sure that's what you want? 

From the responses I've gotten on many different forums, and the responses I've seen others get, plus the resulting peanut gallery commentary, I'm not so sure a Critique is what some of you are actually looking for.

Let's start at the beginning.

Do you even know what a Critique actually is?
noun: critique; plural noun: critiques
1. a detailed analysis and assessment of something, especially a literary, philosophical, or political theory. 
synonyms: analysis, evaluation, assessment, appraisal, appreciation, criticism, review, study, commentary, exposition, exegesis 
"a critique of North American culture"

verb: critique; 3rd person present: critiques; past tense: critiqued; past participle: critiqued; gerund or present participle: critiquing 
1. evaluate (a theory or practice) in a detailed and analytical way. 
"the authors critique the methods and practices used in the research"

THINK: Are you actually looking for a Critique; a detailed analysis of your work, or are you really looking for something else, but that's the word everyone else is using so you're using it too? 

Things you might really be looking for:
    • "Can you check my sentence structure and look for typos?"
    • "Are my characters interesting enough to keep reading?"
    • "Is this fight scene or love scene confusing? Did I describe it well enough that you can see what's going on clearly in your imagination?"
    • "Does this story drag? Is it boring to you?"
    • "Have I used too much narrative and exposition? What should I trim out?"
    • "Should I use additional characters to tell this story, or stick with what I have?"
    • "Should I use more description in this scene, or more dialog?"
    • "Do you like this Main Character, or should I use someone different?"
    • "Should I keep writing this or scrap the whole thing?"
    • "Is my dialog entertaining enough to keep you interested?"
    • "Did I do good this time? Is this an improvement on my last work?"
    Once you know what you're really looking for,
    you then need to know:
    How to ASK
    for what you actually Want.

    Here are some examples of how you DON'T do it.
    • "Will you gimme a critique?"
    • "Can you take a look at my story?"
    • "Can you give me an honest opinion of my story?"
    • "Can you tell me if this is any good?"
    None of these questions will get you what you're after so Stop Asking Them.


    Be Direct!
    Ask point-blank for what you actually Want.
    Don't play around. Ask for what you want in clear, simple English. Being indirect or too broad in your request for help with your work will not only Not get you want you really want, it frustrates the hell out of those of us that want to help you. How are we supposed to assist you when we don't know what kind of assistance you're looking for?
    • You want a Character Interaction check? ASK for one.
    • You want a Plotting check? ASK for one.
    • You want a Grammar and Typo check? ASK for one.
    • You want an Action Scene Description check? ASK for one.
    • You want to know if a Scene is boring? ASK if it's boring.
    • You want to know if you have enough info in your info-dump exposition, or if you have too much? Ask exactly that.
    • You want all of the above? List the entire set of questions and ASK for those things to be checked.

    And just for the record:

    Specify if this is a Creative Writing piece or something you intend for Professional Publication.
    The advice from the Professionals such as myself ("Follow these rules,") tends to be diametrically opposed to the Creative writers ("There are no rules!") If you want to avoid a fight breaking out between them, specify the type of writing advice you're looking for. Seriously.


    Don't just throw your writing at us and ask for a Critique!
    ASK for Precisely what you Want.

    This way, those of us experienced enough to offer you solid advice can give you the solid advice you want.

    And for God's sake...

    Don't Attack those of us that answer you!
    No one wants to help someone that bites the hand that gives them what they asked for. If you're not mature enough to gracefully accept that you're going to hear things you may not like about your work, then you're not mature enough to ask for assistance from those of us that actually know what the hell we're doing.

    There are tons of people that are damned good at writing, but won't say a word because they've been bitten one too many times when all they did was try to help, myself included.

    Suggestion for the Shy
    that want to offer their help:
    Private Message (PM) the person you want to help and ASK if they're interested in hearing what you want to say. If they say "Sure!" PM your analysis of their work. If your analysis is particularly long and detailed, in other words; it's going to take a lot of rewriting to get their work straight, don't expect a reply for at least a week. It takes about that long for the impact to wear off. Remember, it always hurts when someone points out something you got wrong.

    Also, don't expect them to follow your advice immediately. Nine times out of ten they will wait to see if anyone else says the same thing -- or offers an easier solution. If your analysis is supported by others the next stage is to try out your advice and see if it actually works for them. Sometimes it will, sometimes it won't. All you can do is offer. It's up to them to decide if they want to take your advice or not, so don't freak out if they say, "Thanks, but I wanna try something else."

    One more thing...

    Members of the Peanut Gallery?
    Stay the hell OUT! 

    Don't get in the way of someone trying to help someone else. If you don't like the advice offered, it's fine to offer your own take on the situation -- that's actually Helpful. However, don't attack the other people offering advice. That's not just Rude, it's extremely Unhelpful to the person who posted for help. So what if it doesn't agree with what you believe to be true? It's up to the person who Asked for said advice to decide if they want to take the advice offered, or not -- Not You, so Butt-Out!

    I have spoken.


    You may commence with the bitching. ♥