Workroom > Review My Writing - Getting Started

Fair comment?

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Jo Bannister:
This isn't a piece for literary criticism (although feel free, if anyone wants to) but to try to establish what are reasonable expectations of people seeking and offering criticism.  It's here rather than in another section because this is where we currently find a divergence of opinions; and it's a new thread because it's about generalities rather than the particular piece we're disagreeing on.

Heidi, who knows I value her opinions, thinks some of us (including me) are being too tough on novice writers.  In particular, she points out that there are two boards for criticism: one for novices, one for more experienced writers who want it warts and all.

The introduction to the novice section asks for "polite, honest feed-back from fellow wordsmiths".  And there are three elements to that, all of which are important.

It is important to be polite.  I hope we can all agree on that.  There is nothing to be gained by deliberately or negligently upsetting someone.  There should be no room here for hurtful or malicious personal comments.

It is also important to be honest.  Small children learning to do joined-up writing need encouragement, however hard it may be to find something praiseworthy in their efforts.  Intelligent adults with an interest in writing do not need to be mollycoddled in quite the same way.  By the time they're posting work for people other than their own families to read, they should have mastered the basic techniques.

Yet time and again we see work that would fail an end-of-term exam at school.  And to pretend that's good enough is to set up false expectations from which no one suffers more than the original poster.  If being kind leaves people thinking they can become writers without learning the fundamental rules of written communication, they're in for a lifetime of disappointment.  I have written professionally since I was 17 years old.  I have employed other writers.  I would not give a first interview to an entry-level reporter who didn't know how to punctuate reported speech.  Nor would any other editor.     

Which brings me to the third important element: the reference to "fellow wordsmiths".  Surely that presumes a degree of capability in the business of writing which stands above that of the general populace.  And that seems fair enough to me.  This is somewhere to learn about creative writing, not to learn the English language.  That is a necessary prerequisite, for the novice board as much as anywhere else.  Being inexperienced is not the same as, nor an excuse for, being sloppy.  No writer worthy of the name should be posting first drafts.  You do your re-writes and your edits before hitting the send button. 

Gyppo put it well in a recent discussion.  He said we don't take ourselves too seriously, but we do take our writing seriously.  As indeed we should.

OK everybody - tell me I'm wrong... 

Lin Treadgold:
I think it's a question of balance, Jo.  When I was teaching, we were always trained to balance the rough with the smooth.  Being honest isn't always what everyone wants to hear.  Many get upset when you tell the truth.  When I give constructive criticism, I treat it a bit like Morse code with dots and dashes. The dashes being not so good and the dots are what I liked best.  However, politeness doesn't cost anything, so we can give away plenty of that.  Also lots of encouragement is important. There are those who were on our previous forum who thought they were the best writers since sliced bread. There are times when firmness is a must, but being polite should not be omitted from the feedback. 


Well--I wish I'd read this first. I did address some of these issues in my response to my recently posted work. Geez I wrote a thesis for a masters in theology at a catholic women's university and was told my writing was well above expectations.

As I said in my other response I must write that butter book. I don't have a lifetime to do it. I wonder if I should write it out as best I can and see if I can get someone to edit it. I have no idea what something like that costs.

Any suggestions?

I think it depends on which board you place your work, that is why there is a choice here

And English is not everyones native tongue on these boards either. To try and relate what you want to say from one tongue to another would be an extremely hard task I think. I have enough trouble with my own language without trying to translate that to even USA English.

Let’s remember also that people can have ‘natural talent’ without knowing the rules. Writing isn’t just about ‘rules’ it’s about passion and learning.
I agree that a review should be handled correctly as per which board they choose to post. I also was told to leave on a positive note rather than a negative.

If I posted in the shark board, I should expect all guns blazing. However, if I posted here I wouldn't expect full in-depth crits. I want to know does something have potential, float your boat or should it end in the trash.

All just my opinion of course


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