Monday, June 3, 2013

Super Critique!

First of all, bravo!  The EXPLOSIONS round offered some excellent critique to its participants.  To all of you who took the time to leave feedback--thank you.

We've chatted in the past about the participation in critique rounds and the ratio of people-who-critique to people-who-don't.  Here are some stats for you to chew on:

  • 49 people critiqued during this round.
  • The breakdown of the critiques is as follows:
    • 28 - 1  (Thank you,  Leah Petersen!)
    • 24 - 1  (Thank you, sbibb!)
    • 20 - 1  (Thank you, Michael Wulf!)
    • 15 - 1  (Thank you, Barbara!)
    • 14 - 2  (Thank you, MMChandler and Rebecca M!)
    • 13 - 1  (Thank you, Anonymous!) (Grr.)
    • 9 - 1  (Thank you, Jodi Meadows!)
    • 8 - 1  (Thank you, Danielle La Paglia!)
    • 7 - 4
    • 6 - 5
    • 5 - 7
    • 4 - 8
    • 3 - 3
    • 2 - 2
    • 1 - 11
  • The total number of unique visitors during the peak critique days was 1,295.
  • Which means that not-quite-4% of the total number of viewers over those 3 days actually left a critique.  (And since several critiques continued to filter in over the weekend, the actual percentage is smaller than that.)
Taking into account the fact that it's perfectly okay for people to read our critique rounds without participating every single time, I am admittedly discouraged by such a low percentage of participants.  What I haven't done (because, seriously, who has the time?) is to cross-reference the screen names of the critiques with the screen names of the 30 participants.  Because, without taking the time to make a detailed comparison, I don't know how many of the 49 critters were participants in the round.

(Who, as you know, are politely requested to leave critique for a minimum of 5 other entries.  In order to give back.)

Anyway, it's on the table now.  What I really want to say is this:  If you are not critiquing because you are afraid you have nothing positive to offer, please think again.  Critiquing is a LEARNED SKILL.  You will not learn how to do it--and learn to be confident in your ability--if you don't try.  And I would hope that this blog, above all, would be a safe place for you to flex your critiquing muscles.

The first manuscript I ever critiqued belonged to Jodi Meadows.  TALK ABOUT SCARY.  The gal was lightyears ahead of me in just about everything, and she had recently pulverized-I-mean-critiqued one of my manuscripts, which had left me feeling a bit "I Suck At This".  But if I hadn't jumped in, offering my critique as though it mattered, I wouldn't have begun to grow my wings.  I did have something to offer.  It was a start, at any rate.  And we all need a start.

Let MSFV be your starting place.  A wing factory, as it were.

And, full disclosure:  This critique round was peppered with at least 3 published authors and 2 of my beloved critique partners.  And me.  (If you received critique from "Just Me", that was me.  I didn't play favorites; I chose 5 entries that had fewer critiques than some of the others.)

So there you have it -- dissection of a critique round!  There were fewer entries, so it was a good time to do this.

Thanks again to everyone who participated!  The quality of the critiques was high; I hope that the participants have found it helpful.

Love you guys!  (Truly!)


  1. Thanks so much for doing these. I find that it helps so much to focus on a small portion of my novel. There is always more that can be improved. I always leave feedback and really appreciate those who do the same. Sending you virtual cupcakes and a cappucino to you!!

  2. Thank you so much for hosting this! You do a great job and I agree that it was nice to focus on a small part of my WIP.

    I saved all of the responses to my entry! I tried to be good and return the favor over the course of the contest as time permitted =). I hope what I said was helpful.

  3. Couldn't get in to critique any for this session (didn't even have time to read them) but I always critique as many as possible when i'm in a session. And like you, I try to focus on the ones that have less crits than the others

  4. I didn't critique as many as I hoped to, and for that I apologize. I did read most of them, but often feel I have nothing more to add. I don't want to repeat what others have said, but I appreciate your thoughts and will strive to improve in the future. I DO feel somewhat inadequate for many of these genres, but I can still let folks know what works for me, personally.

    I'd also like to thank everyone who took the time to comment on Buddy. I really appreciate all the positive feedback I received, and will definitely work on tags. Didn't realize I was that adept at avoiding the word said.

    Thanks so much, Authoress, for affording me this opportunity to grow and learn.

  5. This was a great crit round! In adding up the number of hits, it would probably be difficult to factor in the obsessive writers (ahem, ME) who visited their own entry approximately five hundred times between Monday and Friday. So there is that.

    Also, after an entry has eight or nine comments, I do find it difficult to find anything new to say. This time I lucked out & my availability to comment was before anyone else had gotten around to it, but often I have to wait, and at that point I feel redundant. Any thoughts on how to address that issue? It sounds as if I'm not the only one.

  6. Important message to critiquers:

    You do not have to find something new to say.

    You might ask, what is the point of commenting if it's only to say "Ditto to what so-and-so said"?

    One person's critique can be subjective. But if five people all say the same thing about your writing, there's a pretty good chance they're on to something. So agreeing with other critiquers DOES help the author see which issues turn off more readers, and where they should focus on improving.

  7. It is slightly discouraging to see that only 25 people gave out more than 5 critiques, when there should be at least 30 from the entrants themselves. I will have to endeavor to critique more contests I don't participate in from now on.

  8. Ditto to what Chro just said.

    I will take it a step further! I will say DON'T READ THE OTHER CRITIQUE FIRST. In fact, when I am critting, I never read what others have said.

    If 5 or 10 critiques say the same thing, THAT'S A GOOD INDICATION THAT THEY'VE HIT ON SOMETHING IMPORTANT. It's not about "finding different things to say"; it's about offering YOUR critique, and then letting it up to the author to weigh that against what others have said.

  9. Chro & Authoress--good points, and thank you!

  10. Happily, I was on vacation from my day job last week and had time to give more critiques than usual. Whether I'm participating in a round or not, I find the exercise of critiquing invaluable, because it forces me to analyze why something does or doesn't work, which ultimately improves my own writing (I hope).

    FWIW, I've gotten into the habit of composing critiques in a separate document while reading each entry. I don't read other comments until after I've written my own. I do read them before posting, and if I find that five people have already pointed out the typo in paragraph 3, I might edit that part of my comment, at least to acknowledge that I'm not the first to mention it. I agree that it's important for a writer to know that a particular criticism is not just one reader's opinion, but I think there is a point at which hearing the same critique over and over can become demoralizing.

  11. I was so happy for the chance to participate in this round and am grateful to everyone who took the time to leave a crit on my entry. Unfortunately, I only got around to critting 5 or 6 myself; I would have liked to have done more, but unfortunately I was in the midst of dealing with a family health situation.

    I'm in awe of Leah and the others who critiqued so many--some of whom, I know, didn't even have an entry of their own in.

  12. I think most of my issue when I don't leave many critiques is that I'm too busy when the posts go up, and then by the time I get back around to it (a few days later), I'm pretty sure no one is returning to read crits and it'd be a waste of time.

    I also have this weird compulsion to stop critiquing after the secret agent has posted. Like... once the SA has spoken, whatever I'd add would be irrelevant. That's an odd hangup, isn't it?

  13. I love what you said about critiquing being a learned skill. It really is, and I think it helps us all be better writers. I've been absent here as I tried to cope with the work load of my first year as a teacher, but I did try to show my creative writing class that yours was the site to learn how to be good critiquers. I hope some of them are still reading, and see your words today, and take the plunge into offering up some critiques of their own.

    Thank you for all you do for us aspiring writers!

  14. Heather - I promise you, anyone who has an entry posted on this site will check back for at LEAST two weeks to make sure they don't miss any critiques. Just in case.

  15. I saw your call on Twitter for extra critters and did what I could. Normally I only critique ones that are in the genres I write, but this time I chose ones that had the fewest critiques so far. I'm blown away by those who did 20+ crits. Cupcakes for all!

    As for the people who are NOT critiquing, for whatever reason, this community is only as good as we make it. You must give in order to really benefit. I'm in an online critique group as well and I know I've learned just as much from the critiques I've given as the ones I've received. It's easier to objectively spot areas of improvement in other's work and you then learn to find those things in your own.

    Learning to critique is a valuable lesson for a writer and this is a safe place to do that.

  16. Thanks for hosting this-- I found it to be an awesome, helpful experience. For my own entry, it was really useful to see where people were agreeing, what they liked and didn't like, and to have a few of my own suspicions regarding problems confirmed.

    It also helped critiquing the other entries, for the simple fact that problems that stuck out like a sore thumb in something I hadn't read before now stick out in my own manuscript. And it helped me to realize what I liked about various writing styles and didn't. Every once in a while I try beta reading stories that sound interesting, partially because it helps them out, but because it's a great exercise.

    Something that stood out to me when doing this was how the writing and voice could really make me want to keep reading, even in a genre I might not normally like. So it was definitely a learning experience.

    Thanks again for taking the time to host this. :-)

  17. Like Chro, I did the math and only 25 people gave 5 or more critiques. This leaves 5 of the entrants who didn't fulfill their side of the bargain. This is assuming all the SUPER critiquers had an entry in and Anonymous Grrr is only one person!

    These people know who they are. I hope they've gained enough feedback from this round to realize how important and beneficial these critiques are - and participate more fairly next time!

  18. Mea Culpa
    Guilty as stands. At the moment I struggle between depression as I overcome the loss of a husband of 40 years to a floozie on the internet... and being a glass half full person... up and down it goes.

    I will try to participate more. It would probably be good therapy. But I must say, it's always nice to get the emails through with your posts. You always somehow fill me with renewed half glass fullness.

    At the moment I am living in a world of the sixties. It's an amazing time. Things were really happening but, but,

    Its truly hard to live in it because as free as it was to set the future generations, they still didn't have computers,internet nor cell phones... awfully hard to have to go to a telephone and not just reach into your bag and dig out your iphone, and look up the address on it, then do some emails...


    Zara Penney

  19. Sometimes thoughts go faster than fingers and of course out pops something infinished...

    I am working on a novella that is set in the sixties.
    I am also working through a graphic novel. As an illustrator it does interest me as a concept. An illustrated book for grownups.
    Zara Penney

  20. I did try to leave a critique behind, but for some reason had trouble with the filters...(not too certain why I wasn't able to - it was a little strange - and could have been my end) Hopefully this comment will show up and if it does I should be able to in the future.

    Best - Poppy Wrote

  21. I didn't critique during this round, but I didn't have an entry in, either. When I do, I go out of my way to do at least 6 critiques. (If I'm spending all that time on the site refreshing the page, I should be doing something useful!)

    I think I'll listen to Chro and stop reading the other critiques first. That way, I won't be self-conscious when I repeat someone else!

  22. That's a good point about going ahead with a comment that might repeat what others have said--it is helpful to weigh changes when 8 people say something similar needs to change vs. totally different opinions that don't seem to have as much consistency. I know I've skipped commenting if "everything's been said already."

    Also, Leah's comments were really inspiring. She'd commented on every single one I read, and I learned something new from a comment she made that impacted my own edit's later that day.

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  24. Authoress, you are so right. I critiqued ONLY ONE because I ran out of time. I'll get faster with practice, but right now I'm learning how to identify what works for me and what doesn't and--most important to the writer, offer a WHY--and it's agonizing.

  25. I know, I know, I was so slow about getting my critiques in; I haven't even read the ones I received yet. It's been crazy. But I promise, I'm here posting replies so everyone gets critiqued!

  26. Well we're probably past commenting on this post now, but I just got around to it so...

    I agree with everyone who said don't read any of the crits before you do your own. It can be intimidating. I almost always go back and read the other crits after I've posted my own, and there are times when someone I respect as a critiquer has said they love something I noted as a problem, or has said something was a problem that I loved. And if I'd read theirs first I might not have made the points I did. Who knows which one of us got it "right?" These are excerpts. Something can be a perfectly valid point and just not fit the particular work in question. But if you don't say it, you're holding back something that might prove really valuable to that author, if not there, then in another passage. Or to another author reading that entry.

    Half of why I critique is that it helps me find the crap in my own stuff. Just because we know better doesn't mean we're not doing it too and just not noticing.

    Having been through the process of two books now, and a couple short stories sold, I can assure you: No editor or beta reader or critiquer is right all the time, some things are subjective, and YOU are the only one writing your book.

    Critiquing IS a learned skill, just like writing. And the better you get at either one, the better you get at the other.

    Practice and all that. ;)

  27. Zara, If you're still following this:

    I started in this industry when I was just starting to recover from a massive depression. Hang in there and don't put more expectations on yourself than you need.

    If you can't pay forward now, or even pay back, then do it when you can. I'm in a good cycle right now, so I critique 28 entries for no other reason than that someone did it for me once. :)

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