Forum / Constructive vs Negative

  • Erika-byrne-ludwig.thumb
    Erika Byrne-Ludwig
    Jun 30, 01:49am

    I generally believe that if you can't say something "positive" then abstain. Am I right or am I wrong?

    I recently posted a story on a different writers' blog - which I won't name. My story received 5 critiques. 3 of them were telling me to: 1) give more details about characters; 2) not mix poetry with prose or write the whole story in free verse; 3) make it more exciting (?). One of them tried to be constructive but was a bit patronising I felt. He/she suggested I check my grammar, and make longer paragraphs. One of them was thoroughly empathetic to what I was trying to achieve. The only suggestion he/she made was not to listen to the negative critics. Naturally, I liked this positive comment.

    Should we just depend on positive comments though? I sometimes would like to ask a question in one of my comments, query this or that, but I tend to abstain as there is always a risk of it being taken the wrong way. How does anyone feel about "negative" comments?

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    David Ackley
    Jun 30, 01:47pm

    Does one consider it an insult or a compliment if it is suggested you're capable of making your work better? Answering this question honestly would probably tell you how you'd respond to criticism. If it's taken as negative or harmful, then you should probably not encourage feedback on your work, because there is the risk that you'll misconstrue what might be intended to help you get it where you want it to be.

    On the other hand, posting on a site like this, or perhaps the one you mention, to my mind is not an automatic invitation to criticism of any kind. Motives for posting can vary widely, and and unless the author has specifically asked for feedback with the posting-- I'd concur with your initial statement--say something positive or keep quiet-- just to stay on the safe side of the line.

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    Rachna K.
    Jun 30, 02:43pm

    I agree with your first sentence, Erika.

    As a personal rule, I only ask for feedback if I need some guidance to improve a story/poem that does not look/feel complete to me. And asking more than one person at a time, might be confusing. So I stick with one person's feedback that I know is objective and will help my work to shine, regardless of how I feel.

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    Mathew Paust
    Jun 30, 03:21pm

    Feedback public v. private? When in doubt, I PM. Artistic sensibilities can be more than normally susceptible to misinterpretation of nuance and tone.

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    Charlotte Hamrick
    Jun 30, 09:26pm

    I strongly agree with Davids last paragraph. IMO, it's presumptuous of someone to give criticism on these (very public) sites unless the writer invites it. I have pm'd a writer a few times with minor suggestions but I've actually decided not to again, going forward.

    As for my own work, I have privately asked for opinions from writers I admire. It's helpful to have input from writers with an aesthetic similar to your own.

    Hope this helps.

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    Adam Sifre
    Jun 30, 10:57pm

    I don't know. I am used to going on critique sites like Scribophile, and I'm used to giving and receiving detailed criticism.

    Fictionaut is not that kind of place, I suppose. And I rarely give critiques on a poem because, well, it's a poem. But it's no skin of my nose if someone makes suggestions on what I post.

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    Erika Byrne-Ludwig
    Jun 30, 11:32pm

    Interesting views. Thank you all.

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    Adam Sifre
    Jul 01, 12:49pm

    Look at it this way, When you publish, you can't expect the world to walk on eggshells. People are are going to talk shit, whether you're work is Moby Dick or Twilight.

    The more negative criticism you deal with, the better you will be at recognizing valid issues and ignoring useless blathering.

    For those who enjoy giving criticism, I have left some punctuation errors here so that you have something to do. As my president says, "Enjoy!

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    Mathew Paust
    Jul 01, 06:21pm

    He ain't mine.

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    Charlotte Hamrick
    Jul 01, 07:04pm

    I would add that Jane or Joe Blow's critique is irrelevant , anyway. In the new world of SM, we all learn to ignore useless blathering. :)

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    RW Spryszak
    Jul 01, 07:15pm

    After ups and downs I've reached a point where I seem to have a filter regarding criticism. Anybody can say/write/think anything they want. Presumably when posting on a public site where critique is possible or even asked for, one should expect to get it.

    To me, reading what you've listed here as comments you've gotten, I'd filter out probably all of them. "Make your sentences longer" is horseshit. "Give more details about characters" depends on whether it's a short story or a novel, and even then I'd just get the essence of the character. I can't even begin to list the writers who use very spare descriptions of characters. "Don't mix poetry with prose" sounds like some MFA pedant on the loose. And "make it more exciting" is particularly useless to you.

    I would filter that out. But, as happens in what I've been putting up here, when people want to talk about consistency of voice since it is First Person, THAT is valuable criticism.

    So take what registers and forget the rest, would be my advice. For a person's opinion to have an effect, it has to be valued in the first place, If it isn't valued, for whatever reason you believe, walk away.

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    Tim Young
    Jul 03, 08:57am

    Walk away, Renee. Here it seems constructive is positive and vice versa.
    Fictionaut has been very good to me!

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    David Ackley
    Jul 03, 09:36pm

    Good discussion.

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