Following is a critique that appeared in recent comments on a FtQ submission. It illustrates several of the things NOT to do when criticizing writing, whether here or anywhere.
“I hate stories with lots of description, and this one is no exception. The description itself isn’t that great, either.
“I also don't like Magical/Paranormal stories, also. They're WAY too popular nowadays.”
Let’s start with “I hate.” That phrase and its more common expression, “I don’t like,” makes it personal. It’s not about the narrative any more, it’s personal, and that’s not in any way helpful to the writer. He or she can’t do anything about what you hate or don’t like.
Here, the critic hates lots of description. All a writer can take away from this is to cut down on description, which is also not terribly helpful. The critic goes on to make it personal again with “The description isn’t that great, either.” No help for the writer there.
If you want to contribute to a writer with a comment or critique, think of how you would like to receive it, what it would be helpful for you to know. In this case, to address what this critic said:
- Instead of “I hate lots of description,” how about “The amount of description really slowed the pace for me and I lost interest.”
- As for “The description isn’t that great,” there’s no guidance or help whatsoever in this negative shot. Give examples of the description that don’t work for you, or suggest other ways to do it, but don’t just stop by, piss on someone’s writing, and blithely move on.
- Finally, your reading preferences have no place on FtQ or, for that matter, in a writing critique. This blog is about the craft of creating a compelling fiction narrative. To simply reject writing because the genre isn’t one you like is totally useless to the writer, as it is to simply accept it because it’s one you enjoy.
Good criticism is comes from clear-minded, thoughtful analysis of the narrative and a discussion of what does or doesn’t work to put a story into a reader’s mind. Genre really shouldn’t matter when you’re analyzing how it works—so please leave that part out.
The comments offered by FtQ readers are almost always helpful, and I truly appreciate their contributions. It speaks of the communal aspect of a very lonely art. So keep the crits coming, and keep them considerate and focused on craft.
© 2012 Ray Rhamey