Friday, December 2, 2011

IMPORTANT: On Critting Etiquette

There's a whole lot of WONDERFUL critting going on here today, and most of you don't need to read this.

When you're leaving critique for someone, please don't say things like "I WOULD NEVER BUY THIS BOOK."

Just -- don't.  That's not what we're asking here.  We're asking for helpful, tactful feedback.  Okay?

I'm deleting anything that I deem harsh.  And "honest" is NOT the same as "harsh."

You know I'm all about "honest."

Okay, public service announcement over.  *Mother Hen steps away from the podium*


  1. Giving honest and respectful feedback is an art difficult to master. I wrote about the importance of honest feedback for one of my Script Magazine columns. We'll only grow as writers if we hear the truth, but that doesn't mean bitchslapping us with it. Tact, people. Use it.

    Thank you, Mama Hen. :)

  2. Wow.

    I just... wow.

    I don't think I'm physically capable of doing that. I can't believe anyone would be...

  3. Cluck, cluck. (That's hennish for, "Thank you, Authoress, for tactfully saying what shouldn't have to be said at all.")

  4. Wow. This is the first time I've seen something like this on your blog, which is remarkable given the quantity of critting that goes on here.

    Sort of shocked. Usually people are so well-behaved and constructive. o__o

  5. *sheepishly raises hand* I'm sorry. I've been told, a few times, that I occasionally come across as a bit too harsh; I haven't checked yet, but I'm afraid one of my (eight or ten) comments may have been deleted. I didn't outright say I wouldn't buy anything, I think, but I may have been unduly harsh.

    Sorry, authoress. And sorry, anyone I may have been too harsh on. I'm going to double-check every word I put out, at this point.

  6. Ouch. Thanks, Authoress. There's a difference between being critical and being discouraging.

    I scanned the entries at lunch, and I'm excited to dive right in later. They look great!

  7. And "honest" is NOT the same as "harsh."

    I don't think this can be said enough. I still run into people who don't believe it.

  8. Alaina, I saw a couple of your comments, including one where someone claimed you weren't being constructive. I, however, thought the comment in question was fine.

    I don't know if you wrote any of the comments that were harsh enough to get deleted--I was at work when that went down--but the ones I've seen that are still up seem fine. (Including a critical one on my own entry.)

    Some people are more comfortable sticking to praise. Some are more comfortable pointing out what doesn't work for them. Hurtfulness is never okay, but not loving someone's work is.

    After all, how often do we hear this one from agents: "I just didn't fall in love with it." ;)

  9. Alaina, I'd like to give you a *real* hug.

    Thanks for your humility and honesty. I deleted 2 posts because, yeah, you kinda did say you wouldn't buy the book. I don't think you meant to be hurtful, and I'm glad your heart is open to gentle correction.

    You're warmly welcomed here, and I'm so thankful for your response to this situation.

  10. Thanks, Lewis. *feels better now*

    Good luck in the auction!

  11. R.C. It's not about "sticking with praise," though. It's the difference between, "You probably don't need the third paragraph here," and "The third paragraph is overblown, redundant, and positively boring."

    Harsh vs. honest. Praise has nothing to do with it. :)

  12. Oh, I'm definitely aware of that, Authoress. :) I meant to add that there are many shades of critiquing styles in-between. And my main point is that Alaina's comment which I saw get called out (NOT one of the deleted ones, which I did not see) was perfectly constructive in my eyes.

    I admit, I'm not very effusive and emotive in my praise, and I tend to focus on how I can be most helpful to the author, pointing out my readerly reactions. As a result, the parts I say I like may not stand out enough against the criticism.

    So when I saw that particular comment get called out and thought, "Well, that might not feel very good for the writer, but I don't see anything wrong with it," I got a little worried about how my own comments might be received. *blush*

  13. Actually, R.C., it sounds like your style of critique is just the kind I crave! :)

    And yes, several of Alaina's critiques were perfectly appropriate and I did not delete them. Those are probably the ones you saw. (There was one in particular that I thought was quite good.)

    Saying fluffy things to make a writer feel better is never productive...but neither is being harsh. It takes a delicate hand to find the balance, and I think this community is a wonderful, collective example of how to do things right. :)

  14. Hooray for same-page-ness!

    (Boo for bad puns on a writing site.)


  15. I wonder if it was someone still bummed from not getting accepted into the auction. "Rejection" can do negative things to some people.

  16. For any hurtful comments I did leave, since I know I sometimes didn't strike the right balance:

    I'm sorry. Every excerpt on here has something to recommend it, whether or not it's something I personally like: be it voice, style, or just overall wonderful-ness. If I said something to hurt anyone, please, don't be offended. Take it as someone who's still learning how to critique well... and thank you for being patient with me. I hope that, even if I'm accidentally and unnecessarily harsh sometimes, what I say can still be useful to you.

    *leaves chocolates for Authoress and everyone else*

  17. Alaina, your comment on my entry was good - thank you! It wasn't, "Everything about this is super fabulous," which is, you know, nice to hear/read, but you did have a good point. :)

    I'm thrilled everyone around here is so supportive. What a cool community to be part of!

  18. Are we allowed to respond to questions asked or clarify confusions on the feedback posted? I dont remember anything saying we could not reply to comments -- but well, since the postings are "anonymous", I would think that would probably defeat the purpose, so I refrained.


  19. I've been refraining from clarifying anything, even if they’re right (my fingers itch to do so). I’m trying to keep away and let the piece stand on its own, under the assumption that that’s how it’d work if an agent/publisher/reader would read it.
    But I'm a polite person and not thanking people for their comments goes against my grain. Especially if they’re helpful.
    If it's not allowed, then I apologise.

  20. Yes, I always (ALWAYS!) encourage people to stay quiet and NOT respond/clarify. Your piece needs to stand on its own, and, often, commenting on the comments comes off as justification. And we should not strive to justify our words. Let them stand on their own, as Aldrea said.

    Also, it's highly unlikely (highly!) that the critters are going to come back and see your comments. Most people critique and move on. There are literally hundreds of comments passing through these gates!

    In the end, I believe it's good form to remain silent.

  21. Alaina -- What a beautiful response, reflecting a beautiful spirit. Thank you!

  22. Mother Hen is just going to have to keep clucking about this as there are so many critters critting in such a cruel way. But the hens and roosters have escaped the chicken house so not much you can do unless you're a fox.

    Many a writer is bruised and bleeding...


  23. I just wanted to say that I'm loving my crits. All six have made useful suggestions and I'm already playing around with the piece keeping their ideas in mind.

    Loving it!

  24. I'm coming into this kind of late, but I don't think any one would be intentionally hurtful in this community. I just don't think it works that way. So even when commenting on something that didn't quite come out right, remember there's someone at the end of a mistake. We all make 'em!
    Keep smiling people!
    Best of luck to everyone!
    Can't wait to see what happens with the auction!

  25. Sorry, just close one of those gaps above. Slipped! Two points if anyone can find it! hehe : )

  26. Is it "anyone"? What I'd win? Two points? I'll take it. :)

    Best wishes to everyone next week!