• Member Since 12th Nov, 2013
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Noble Thought

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More Blog Posts129

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Off the Cuff: On Accepting and Giving Criticism · 9:50pm Sep 7th, 2015

The number one rule is: Criticism, constructive criticism, does not mean you did not write a good story. It means that the reviewer, the critiquer, found things that they thought could be wrought better. Criticism is, by definition, not positive. It's aim is to have a positive effect.

Hugs and "I loved this" is not criticism. That's praise. It doesn't necessarily have a positive effect on a writer's ability to construct a story. In some cases, it encourages negative behaviors or encourages a writer to believe they've reached a pinnacle.

But an author needs both to grow. Receiving nothing but criticism can be as damaging as receiving nothing but praise. It can convince a writer that nothing they write, or wrote, has merit.

I participated in the most recent writeoff and entered two stories. I'm not saying which, because it's still ongoing. Suffice to say that one received a mix of criticism and praise, and the other has received a good deal of criticism, and some praise. I'm thankful for both, and I've already started rewriting both. One is nearly done, and the other is getting a multi-chaptered treatment.

It's through this lens that I learned something about criticism. Just because there is nothing but a pile of issues in front of you, or perceived issues, does not mean that you did not write something of merit. It's up to you to take that criticism, dust away what criticism doesn't pertain to what you were attempting to do with the story, and polish those that do pertain into gems to place amongst the settings of your story.

The most important thing I can say about this is: Know what you wanted to do with the story. When you know that, you know what criticism to take to heart, and what to take only as a commentary on the story. But don't discard them. Those that don't pertain mean that someone read something into the story that you didn't intend. If you can find it, you can get rid of it, or smooth it over.

When giving criticism, I would like to try horizon's HORSE system for measuring whether or not a story met its goals.

I like an addition to that, which I'm still refining - what clicked/didn't click for me. Clicking being, "I got it." I'm not sure if I should include a "Liked/didn't like" section, too.

This is a bit less cohesive than my last off the cuff blog, but I feel a bit disjointed right now.

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Comments ( 12 )

If there was a voting system for blogs, I'd give this a fave. I agree with this entirely, but unfortunately there are a lot of people who believe otherwise. :fluttershbad:

I wish I could upvote this.

I agree on quite a few points here—though, I've not really seen horizon's system in action mainly because I don't do the whole write-off thing because lazy, but reading up on it seems interesting and it takes personal preference into account to some degree.

I do feel like this is partially a reply to an author's reaction to a comment you left a couple days ago. Would I be correct in that?


Nope. Mostly in response to writeoff stuffs.

3376459 Curses! Foiled again!

Since I have no idea what happened specifically, I shall languish in my lack of context! *flails*

Usual Skype chat joke aside, you do provide some good points about constructive criticism that I feel a lot of people miss out on—both in the helping the writer improve and in not coming off as "You suck and you should stop trying" regard. Which, to be honest, is why I never post the first comment that comes to mind when I want to critique—I end up coming off rather harsh and I forget the supportive part of the deal. Gotta take a little time to step back and say "Okay, how would I like this presented to me" before I hit post.

The most important thing I can say about this is: Know what you wanted to do with the story. When you know that, you know what criticism to take to heart, and what to take only as a commentary on the story. But don't discard them. Those that don't pertain mean that someone read something into the story that you didn't intend. If you can find it, you can get rid of it, or smooth it over.

I think this is my biggest problem in taking criticism. I fancy myself good at ideas and linking them together, so hearing that one of my strengths doesn't work isn't always easy.

When I give criticism, like I did in the last batch of reviews I did, I try to keep it within the confines of the story. Try and figure out what the writer was aiming for, see the connections between the characters and the events, try to pinpoint what could be stronger or what worked well. I'm not sure how to put a number on that like the HORSE system you linked, but I think the idea is similar.

I'm glad you're giving HORSE a try! I hope it comes in useful. :twilightsmile:

As far as criticism is concerned I think there is a line where it becomes abuse, or is intended to harm others. I would also hesitate to use generalities or stereotypes of a certain group to place blame for the writer's supposed ineptitude. And, if you are intending to roast someone or lampoon anything at least give them some fair warning. Another thing I wouldn't do is take away a someone's fantasy, life will do that anyway, regardless of how many Sharknado movies or 12 oz mouse episodes get made.

However, you should be able to tell them that you don't like something. And, offer considered reasons why you believe something is inappropriate (or not so good) without causing them to become hostile and assault your character as if you slapped them in the face and sexually assaulted their favorite woobie.

In the same vein I don't see praise as particularly harmful unless it's being used as a backhanded compliment to emotionally blackmail, coerce, or double bind another person. Besides, It's not as if you can feel or genuinely appreciate the effects of the degradation, misery, ridicule, and humiliation the prospect suffers, or has visited there upon others, through the magic of the internet. And, the idea of someone sadistically imagining that their target suffers grief and anguish later on, in demonic glee no less, doesn't necessarily feed (or motivate) one to improve or share much of anything with any considered quality or originality.

I hope I didn’t unsettle you.


Nope. You're fine. You still don't know what stories I wrote :twilightsmile: and I'm not saying whether or not you reviewed one or both of them until after the 10th. Well... you'll understand it later. It's more a reaction to a reaction of a friend of mine, along with my own experiences from receiving and seeing some critique from others in chat and the forum.


I thought your reviews were done well. They offered opinions on stories, for all the ones that I saw.

Oh, thanks! You’ll make me blush. I risk ending up self-conscious. :raritywink: Frankly, I could easily requite your praise: I found your own reviews both informative and illustrative. Fortunately, you did not read my story (which you would find certainly pointless and bland)!

I fairly agree with what you say. As someone put it, “better blunt than fulsome”. It’s anyway pretty rare for any piece to elicit only praises. Even the most famous masterpieces can somehow be criticised. And it’s also pretty rare, even for the best authors, to write masterpieces only. Everybody, the most skilled included, has their highs and lows.

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