Wednesday, 30 November 2011

Guest Post No 5 - Nancy Williams on Critiquing - are you a 'blaster' or 'respectful?'

Hello! Today we have our final guest post before we begin our writing challenges. I know most of you have been super busy. I've been visiting many of your blogs and been inspired by the body of work. 

Welcome to new followers. You're most welcome to post to the challenges, but you need to become a member to be eligible for the Featured Writer, Runner Up or the Encouragement Award. Becoming a member is easy, just read the Submissions Page then join up using the linky in the right sidebar.

I hope you're ready to post to the first challenge for this Friday, December 2. On Thursday linky will go up, ready to receive your fabulous prose or poems in response to the image in the left sidebar. Don't forget to click on the image for further inspiration. This challenge is open to everyone as are all our challenges! I'll be asking for help in choosing a Featured Writer so the award system will continue.

I'm also putting up the next challenge, Sparkle!, for two-week's time, Friday, December 16. This is my response to those who thought a month was too long between challenges. Will be great to have another challenge before the holidays.

So over to Nancy, a RFWer member from Denver, Colorado. Nancy has been very ill and I wish her a speedy recovery. Thank you for rising from your sick bed Nancy, and posting for us...

Critique: What works and what doesn't.

Hi everyone:

Denise has asked me to put together a post on critique. I hope this is helpful.

I have been a member of a local writers group for over eighteen years. In those years I have been a member of an in-person critique group and after only a few years I became the moderator of that group. That said I know a little about critique.

There are two types of groups. One that is hard core, nothing withheld, blasts you out of the water with their comments. The other type is respectful.

The 'blasters' believe that only this type of group will benefit a writer. They give no positive feedback. They tell it like it is. What's wrong with that? Critique is opinion. Many of the 'blasters' are not published. Often, they don't know what they are talking about. For example, I had a friend who was advised to change her voice. What is our voice; it is who we are and what we present our characters as. Why? Because she is an Italian American and thinks and talks in that kind of lingo and her series is a suspense drama featuring mob bosses. But they are misguided and totally hilarious. Not the average mob story. However, after reading only one chapter to the 'blasters,' she was told to change her voice. None of them knew what the story was about. (An editor has requested her book.)

A respectful group is the best. Why? Many of us are sensitive people. When you read our writing, you have a window into our hearts. It is hurtful to leave comments that are over the top negative and it isn't necessary. All of us had to start writing at some level. I trust that no one here is perfect, I certainly am not. A 'blaster' may easily harm a new writer, even a seasoned writer making it hard for that person to continue to write. I know several talented writers who put away their stories after being 'blasted' never to write again. A tragedy.

Examples: In my group I once had a married couple and the lady would start her comments with; "I would never buy this book, but…" Hello! Don't tell someone that. You're not looking at the final product. I repeatedly had to correct her and finally they left.

I was once told that my characters, (not in a current published book), were spoiled and he didn't want to read about that. Guess what, I couldn't work on that book for over a year. The argument for such a comment is; I need to show the characters change and grow. This person wasn't into fantasy and had a journalist background. His mistakes were always the same because he brought a journalistic style of writing to a fictional piece. This is different than voice, since it is dry and concise writing.

How to give feedback:

Our comments to each other are limited because of the blog structure.

The most important thing is to start with praise. What works? There is always something that the writer created that stands out.

Next, find one or two mistakes unless the writer has asked for more. If I have come across a 'blaster' comment for one of you all, I try to say something that helps elevate what that person has said. Remember, 'blasters' do not know everything even though they pretend to.

Don't touch a person's voice. We all have our own unique voice, if it doesn't work for you leave it alone.

In the blogging world, we come into contact with people from all over the world.
Don't assume they share the same writing rules. If you don't understand a reference, you’re a writer, look it up, increase your vocabulary.

I hope this will help. In January, 2012, I will add a critique post to my blog and take your questions. I believe examples are the best tools we can provide.

To all my RFW's friends, I look forward to reading your stories.

Thanks for having me Denise.

Thank you Nancy for your informative post. Critique can be problematic so we need all the help we can get. 

Madeleine has made a checklist for us to consider when commenting on each other's writing. In conjunction with Nancy's post, this should prove very helpful, along with the critique postcard that is available to use with your posts.

Now, let's get our stories and poems ready for linky on Thursday. Have a great weekend reading each other's stories. Don't miss Sparkle! the challenge for Friday, December 16...

RFW challenges are back!

Denise (L'Aussie)


  1. Hello.
    Nancy, sorry to hear you've not been well. Hope you feel better soon.

    It's especially meaningful to me since I've suffered at the hands of a few "blasters". I agree 100% that a respectful approach is the best. We do indeed all have our own "voices" and to trample all over that would be like crushing a person's soul.
    Thanks for a wonderful guest post.

    I've seen Madeleine's Critiquing Pointers before & mentioned then that it was a good idea. I shall keep it as a handy reference if I should ever decide to offer a critique.

    Denise, I'm so happy RFWers is returning. As a creature of habit, it's become part of my routine & I have missed it. Looking forward to seeing everyone Thursday/Friday.

  2. Andy, lovely to see you back! I'm sorry about the 'blasters' but I'm afraid they'll always be there. Your work is beyond beautiful. Can't wait to see what you make of our winter house. Rather ironic for me as summer starts tomorrow, Dec 1st!


  3. Denise, I appreciate that.
    I keep forgetting your seasons & ours here in the US are back to front. Guess you'll be basking in the heat & humidity! lol
    Yes, I'll be posting this week...I'm working on a little something. ;-)

  4. Yay! Looking forward to your 'little something'.

    I'm in the air conditioned library writing the last few words of my 50,000 word novel. Nearly done!

    I forgot to finish my story for RFWer before I left this morning but will definitely get it done for Friday. Wish I had a bit of that snow. We're having one of the hottest springs on record!


  5. Don't like summer or snow! My favorite season is autumn. My wife took a few autumn/snow photos a few weeks ago in our neighborhood. They're posted on my FB if you'd like to see them.

  6. Hello everyone:
    I sure hope my post is helpful to all of you. Madeleine's check list is brilliant and one that we should keep available as a reminder. See you all on Friday.

  7. Great post Nancy, a lot of food for thought. It is hard to critique another's work without sounding anodyne or cruel. When posters have asked for a full critique I assume they want a 'warts an all' approach to feedback.

    I admit to having received such spiteful criticism of my own writing that it set me back a long time. Nevetheless, taking a step back and viewing others comments more objectively has helped me to mature as a writer.

    As the advice goes 'if only one person makes the observation you can ignore it, but if everyone is saying the same thing then there must be some ring of truth in the feedback'.
    I was brought up by someone who felt that we must hear all our faults constantly in order to correct them and improve, forgetting that if you know you're always going to get grade C's and D's you've got nothing to aim for. If you get A's and B's then you work harder to keep them.

    I do get exasperated when commenters clearly appear to be commenting on/influenced by others' sometimes erroneous comments rather than my posted excerpt, so I have started witholding comments until the end to allow people to express their own views without the influence of another's opinion.

  8. Hi Nancy,

    Hope you're feeling better by the time this hits the airways.

    There's an old saying: if it can't be said in public it shouldn't be said at all!

    But, that old saying came from a time when manners and etiquette within society were both of more importance than self-aggrandizement.

    Unfortunately, in today's society the latter is more noticeable and opinion rarely thought through before spouted! ;)


  9. Thoughtful post on critiquing, Nancy. It's a great reminder, together with Madeleine's pointers. Hope you get better soon.

    Hi Denise: Yes I'll appreciate your posting the linky for me on Thursday. Thank you:)
    I'm tied up (not literarily;)) from Thursday till Saturday afternoon at the earliest. I'll do my RFW blog rounds then:) Looking forward to reading you all. And thanks for linking Adura's Eyes on your Blog roll. I'm still green eyed over your hot spring, you lucky lady!

  10. Dear Nancy,
    Lovely post.
    Thank you for sharing your experience. We can all learn from this. The respectful way is really best.
    I've been struggling with a paper for the university and had my rough draft critiqued by students who barely took the time to read through my text.
    So different of an experience than writing free texts for RFW!
    Hope I get my text posted/linked before the linky closes!

    Kind regards,

  11. Hi Anna! I hope you make it! I will keep linky open a bit longer for a few of you...



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