Thursday, July 12, 2007

OY!!! BE. HONEST.

I apologize for not letting this subject drop, but I'm very passionate about it.

Please. PLEASE...Be honest when you're critting someone's work.

You don't have to be mean, and you don't have to tear them down. But please remember that a person joins a crit group in order to get honest feedback that will help them improve their writing. They do it so that when they take their MS out into the world to shop for agents, they don't get every door slammed in their face.

When you fail to point out problem areas, and instead choose to mindlessly rave about it because you don't want to hurt their feelings, you're doing them a _complete_ disservice. You can cheerlead, but for the love of God, tell them the TRUTH. Isn't that what you want? Sure, compliments are nice...but if you have a legitimate problem, don't you want to know, even if it stings a little to hear it said out loud?

Without too much detail, I'll share with you an experience I just had. I crit a person's (we'll call this person a 'he' so I don't have to continually say "this person") work. It was the first chapter I'd read of his work. I hadn't so much as read a crit of his work done by another person. Basically, I was completely clueless as to where he was in the critting process.

The chapter had some big problems. I pointed them out and made suggestions as to how he could fix them. I pointed out what was good about the chapter and tried to be as gentle as possible. Guess what? He is now scrapping the book entirely. YUP. Wanna know why? Because, as I found out later, he had always felt he had certain problem areas -- even went so far as to say, I think I need help with this and that. Rather than help him with those areas, the people critting the wip said NO... you don't have a problem, this is great. People, IMHO, who KNEW better.

And then I come along and reinforce his concerns by pointing out those very issues. Only, over the past few months, he's become convinced he doesn't have those issues in his writing at all. *bangs head on desk* Talk about a shock to the poor guy.

So, I'm left wondering -- WHY did they do that? Was it cheerleading and a fear of hurting their feelings? Or, as I suspect, was it an attempt to cushion the blows so that they'd receive crits in return? If that's the case, I think it's sad and pathetic.

You're there to receive truthful feedback that will help you improve. Be courteous to the other members in your circle -- give it back.

9 comments:

Hélène B said...

You are preaching to the choir sistah!

:-)

Jen said...

Helene,

LOL -- one of the critters said my writing was near perfect, despite some concerns I raised. *ruh roh*

(g)

Jen

Carol said...

Jen,

I did my own rant on this a few weeks ago on my LJ, maybe I should bring it to my blog.

You couldn't have said it better. All this type of critting does is place a pillow over sharp spikes. It doesn't matter how fluffy you think the landing is, you're going to be impaled.

When I first submitted my work for crit, I was ripped to shreds, and grateful for it. I get more than enough rejections with a polished ms. Could you imagine my prospects if I had submitted it before caring critters got hold of it? That's right. Critters who care are honest and tell you what's wrong and how to fix it. Leave the ego stroking for your mama. If you think critters are rough, wait til you face agents.

What's worse is when the writer openly says, I have problems in a particlar area. I've never seen a more open door for assistance. How horribly cruel for this to be said and critters convince her that her writing in that area is fine. Shame on them.

Of course, when someone comes along with no history of this and does give an honest crit...well by now even the writer has bought into a false assuance that her writing is pristine, and look who ends up being the bad guy. The one person who cared enough to try to better this person's writing. Oy vey, indeed!

Um, sorry to go off, but you touched a very raw nerve. If you'd like, I can pm you as to how I really feel. (VBG)

Hélène B said...

"Leave the ego stroking for your mama."

Carol--my mom is my HARSHEST critic! She rips my stuff to shreds. LOL

Carol said...

Hi Helene,
And look where you are. See, Mama knows best. (wink)

Please don't misunderstand me. I'm not saying to pulverize anyone. I'm just saying, be truthful. If you're going to lie to me in a crit, do both of us a favor, and skip my work. You aren't doing any favors with this.

Jen said...

Helene,

I'll admit my mom thinks I can do no wrong. LOL. When I told her D.A. wanted changes, she said, "But I love your book just the way it is!." (g) Now that's supportive. :)

My sister, on the other hand, still refuses to read FI. She did read BTPM, after which she said my characters were BOTH whiny, but that she liked the book overall. See, even sisters can be overly kind when they don't like something. lol.

Oh well, I guess what really upsets me is that I've been sort of made to be the bad guy in this situation and it sucks. (g) Had I been overly mean, I'd take the credit -- but here I was just trying to be helpful and now I have to deal with the fact this person just gave up.

And I know the other side of the argument -- this person shouldn't be so easily swayed... it still sucks. :)

Jen

Jen said...

Carol,

I like your pillow on spikes analogy...that's exactly it. It does no one any good. Granted, some people may be very honest in their crits and just haven't reached a level where they can spot the same problems in their own work. I get that... heck, I used to be one of them. I shudder to think of some of the "advice" I dished out when I was just beginning. But alas, I know some of these writers -- for the most part, they knew better and I can't begin to fathom why they did that.

I guess that goes into my mantra -- "consider the source." lol

Anyway -- yeah, sore subject with me too. Blah.

Jen

Beth said...

Jen, ultimately the writer is responsible for own choices. If he can be so easily discouraged by constructive critcism, writing is not the career for him.

OTOH, he may be disheartened for awhile and then bounce back, determined to learn from his mistakes and make himself a better writer.

Either way, you've done him a favor. So away with the guilt. :)

Jen said...

Beth,

You're right. It still irks me to no end, though. (g) Oh well -- too many other things to worry about right now.

Thanks for jumping in.

Jen