1. Welcome to the Fantasy Writing Forums. Register Now to join us.

How to critique horrible writing?!

Discussion in 'Writing Discussions' started by Asterisk, Sep 27, 2013.

  1. BWFoster78

    BWFoster78 Myth Weaver

    I tend to follow the golden rule: Give the feedback in the way I'd want to hear it.

    My goal in seeking feedback is first to learn what I need to improve to become a better writer and second to improve the piece. What helps me most is brutal honesty in the form of a detailed explanation of what I did wrong.

    I do second what other have said, however. A true beginner can't improve everything at once. Focus on one or two points.
    Asterisk likes this.
  2. Helen

    Helen Inkling

    Be very, very, very nice.

    Just point out positive things and suggest ideas for improvement.

    With things like spelling etc, suggest an editor.

    As the story / the writer improves, he (or she) will gradually lose the things that don't work.
  3. Pat Harris

    Pat Harris Scribe

    I second the comment to always, always be nice. It's possible to be nice even when giving "point blank" criticism, which is, after all, meant to help. That way, regardless of whether the person is receptive - and I think most of them will be - you will have done your best in the best possible manner. I've critiqued stories for several new writers and it's a real delight to see someone you're working with and encouraging improve.
  4. Asterisk

    Asterisk Troubadour

    Wow, I never even imagined receiving so much help! Thank you, Mythic Scribes! I could have never done it without you all!
  5. Scribble

    Scribble Archmage

    I am for brutal honesty - with guidance.

    If a piece of writing isn't working but you don't provide suggestions on how to fix it, what is a newbie to do? Most writing advice sounds utterly abstract the first time you hear it. (Show don't tell, use description to set tone, make every sentence do more than one job, etc...) Without concrete examples advice can be more confusing than helpful. Take their characters and provide example with their own story.

    If they want someone to tell them it was wonderful the way it is, they should have showed it to their Mom so she could put it on the refrigerator. If they want to improve, they'll just have to take their lumps.

    Do be sure to establish that you are doing this to help them and provide encouragement, mentioning the points you liked.
    Last edited: Oct 15, 2013
  6. Addison

    Addison Auror

    There's no rule to how to deliver critique. You don't have to do it that way, or any specific way. it's good that you don't want the critique to be a lie. No one, especially writers, want to be lied to about their work. If it needs work then tell them it needs work. Tell him that you noticed his spell check was broken. Point out where the sentences dragged on. Say that you couldn't get hooked because you couldn't find the plot of the story. He gave you that story because he wants to know what was good just as much as what was bad. So tell him the truth. He'll respect and appreciate it.
  7. VanClash

    VanClash Scribe

    It's better for them to know now and improve on it than continuing ahead as if nothing was wrong. My viewpoint has always been "I'd rather learn I'm doing it wrong now that learn I'm doing it wrong five years down the track."

    Personally I feel you should and give them critique on the framework of the novel itself. Work on improving the 'framework' on the novel first, plot, dialogue, etc. As important as grammar and spelling is, it can be patched up at a later date, but without that essence of the writing 'flow' the story is just a pile of words. Spelt correctly or incorrectly.
    Last edited: Oct 16, 2013
  8. Motley

    Motley Minstrel

    I've done this before. Everyone gave good advice.

    I'd only add a tip to include links in your critiques to sites that explain things like run on sentences and such with a "this might help make things more clear" or some such. If he wants to learn, he can go learn. If not, there's nothing you can do about it.
  9. T.Allen.Smith

    T.Allen.Smith Staff Moderator

    This doesn't pertain directly to the OP but I find it interesting due to the varied views on critiquing horrible writing. I submit that there is little distinction between critiques at any level of performance.

    In my experience, the best critique partners espouse the following:
    1) Straightforward honesty.
    2) Knowledge on craft fundamentals
    3) An understanding of style and a willingness to accept elements of style they may not personally like (as well as the a ability to recognize style differences for what they are).
    4) A willingness to provide detailed feedback & cite specific examples (a tremendous help towards improvement).
    5) The desire to provide guidance when & if it is needed or requested
    6) An understanding of story structures
    7) The ability to suspend the writer's mind when reading for impression & not issues of craft (I struggle with this one)
    8.) Genuine caring & an interest in helping the writer improve

    Being a good crit partner, like anything else, is a learned skill. It's also something we can constantly improve upon. In the past couple years, I'd say my abilities as a critique partner have improved dramatically. Yet, there's still a lot for me to learn. The more crits I do, the better my eye (I think)...the better, and more constructive, my delivery.

    Don't be afraid to give critiques regardless of the writing quality. You aren't required to be perfect or possess the finely honed senses of a professional editor & guidance counselor. The only basic requirements are an openness to learn as you go & the genuine care and desire to help another writer improve.
    Last edited: Oct 16, 2013
    BWFoster78 likes this.
  10. Svrtnsse

    Svrtnsse Staff Article Team

    Critiquing someone else's work is also a great way of learning and understanding concepts you may yourself struggle with in your own work.
    GeekDavid likes this.
  11. GeekDavid

    GeekDavid Auror

    This right here.

    There's nothing like trying to teach something for learning how little you know about it.

Share This Page