Critiques: Should I Be Completely Honest? (Repost)

imagesI’m a member of Scribophile. If you don’t know what that is, and you are really interested in writing and getting feedback, Scribophile is the place to be. It’s like Facebook for writers. You do critiques and in turn others critique your work. I wish I had found it years ago. You get some so so critiques, but you also get a lot of good ones from people who know what they are doing. At any rate this blog wasn’t suppose to be an infomercial for Scribophile.

I did a critique yesterday, and I felt awful when I was done.  The young lady who wrote it obviously had writing skills. Her descriptions, imagery, and grammar were better than mine. She could string a perfect sentence together, but that seemed to be were it ended. I read her premise which was a good one, but way overused.

The entire segment of 2600 words, which followed another segment of the same length, covered her main character’s flight on a plane to Italy. Now if the story was taking place in that plane, or for some reason all of the characters in that plane and what they did was important, I wouldn’t be writing this particular blog. But they are not, the plane is just getting her to Italy so she can find the love of her life. Again, it was very well written, and I could picture myself and all of those different people on the plane.

I am what I call a skipper, I have no problem skipping over complete paragraphs of exposition to get to the good stuff. I would have skipped most of what she had written, even though it was written beautifully. I didn’t for the sake of the critique.

While I tried to be nice in my summary and point out all of the things great about her work, and there were many, I felt as if I wouldn’t be doing her justice by letting it end at that. So I told her what I would want someone to tell me.

Your writing is great but the pace is nonexistent. I feel like I’m stuck on that plane and want to get off. You’re providing too much detail and putting a lot of time and energy into characters that we will never see again. You are giving great back story, but it’s too much at once. And finally, you do not need to give us a step by step account of everything that happens from the minute she gets on the plane until the minute she gets off.

I will continue to be honest with writers about their work in what I hope is a constructive manner. I don’t want to discourage anybody, but I want ignore major flaws to avoid hurt feelings either.

What do you think?  Would you want someone to tell you everything is great in your novel when it’s not, or would you want the truth, even if it hurt?
-Jan R

Critiques: Should I Be Completely Honest? (Repost)

17 thoughts on “Critiques: Should I Be Completely Honest? (Repost)

  1. Critique is ultimately an analytical evaluation of the merits and faults of a piece of work (where it fails, and where it succeeds). Unfortunately, times will occur where a piece will have far more flaws than merits- or will have no merit at all…. And yet if you only talk about its merits, you’re missing the point of critique entirely; if you’re not being truthful about its perceived flaws, then you’re missing the point of critique as well.

    Whether your critique is Constructive (offers solutions to the flaws) or Non-Constructive (does not offer solutions) is another story entirely… But regardless, critique absolutely needs to be truthful. It absolutely needs to be honest. And it absolutely needs to be analytical. First and foremost and above all else, a critique has to be these things. Otherwise it’s not critique.

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  2. I get frustrated if someone tells me they love EVERYTHING about my writing even though I know there are real problems with it. It makes me think they must not have been interested enough to pay attention, if they couldn’t find even one thing that didn’t work, but since they don’t tell me where they became bored, I can’t even fix THAT. Or an unreasonably glowing critique — “I love it — keep writing!” makes me think that the writing is SO bad that they don’t dare tell me anything of what they really think.

    I want the truth. I’d prefer it if the critique makes a distinction between opinions (“I didn’t like the pacing of this scene; the action was too frantic, and I had trouble following what was happening”) and fact (“You’ve misused the word ‘stygian’ twice in this scene; it doesn’t mean ‘angry’ or ‘hostile'”), but any thorough and honest critique is useful.

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  3. I would always want the truth. And its probably easier to hear from somebody online than from a close friend or family. If she is serious about writing she will also be willing to accept negative feedback.. surely thats the point? ☺

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  4. It’s a hard but important part of the job. At work I am a proofreader, and sometimes get copy that just doesn’t sound right. And this is from people higher on the food chain than me. I don’t like handing back criticism, but it’s part of my job. I think in some way if someone asks you for a CRITIQUE instead of an OPINION, it’s your job to be honest. Maybe that’s why I’m afraid to have anyone read my writing..haha..

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  5. I always think “Oreo cookie” – it’s something we use in grade school peer critiques. 🙂 “Tell them something good, then something to work on, then something else they did well.” The ratio of critiques to compliments will probably be different for adults, but when I critique I try to make certain that all of my comments aren’t negative. Still, if there’s a glaring problem, it’s GOT to be pointed out. I like critiquers who give me ideas to work on. (Whether I choose to follow the advice or not! 🙂 )

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  6. I would want the truth, but we have to remember that it is only the truth of the critiquer. As writers we must look carefully at all criticism of our work and learn from it. We must take what is helpful to improve our writing and ignore what is not. There will be things we agree with, think about and use as a tool to get better. There will be things we don’t agree with and that is OK too.

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