Monday, January 11, 2010

Lazy or incompetent?

Most of the reviews I get on my online writers workshop are very thoughtful and helpful. But I've gotten a few over the last *gasp* (Has it been ten months already?) ten months that were not very insightful- I 've gotten the impression that the reviewer rushed.

I've learned a lot in that time, and I'm sure that some of my earlier crits were modestly helpful at best. I know of at least one crit where I apologized for not being much help, but explained that I'd read some of this person's critiques and she was so good, would she mind taking a look? And she did and her review was extremely helpful.

But I got a review last week that had very little detail- I doubted that the reviewer had spent more than five minutes reading AND critiquing. For contrast, I usually spend at least an hour. Sometimes two if it's someone I crit regularly with.
I read part of this person's own submission and it was okay. Not great, but they weren't completely lost. So I checked their other critiques to see if mine had been an anomaly. ALL of them were ten lines or so, all drivel.

I still didn't want to not return the crit, so I suggested that they spend some more time with grammar and spelling and eliminating typos so that reviewers could focus on the real stuff- plot, characterization, etc. And I recommended some good books on writing. I did not read the entire submission- not more than 300 words of it.

Did I do right? I guess that this person wants basically free critiques. And there are some people who gave real critiques in response to her empty sentences. Which is a shame, in my opinion. You shouldn't be able to get something for nothing in a crit for crit workshop. Not every critique is going to be awesome, but I want an honest response. That is valuable. "Dialogue was great. Setting was nice. The plot moved nicely." is not really helpful. A new writer who is still learning is totally welcome to crit me and I'll be glad for their feedback. But I get annoyed if the person is capable of more.


  1. I'm such a bad, bad critique-er. I love getting crits, I take them well, I really mull over the suggestions, but I can't give one to save my life.
    I want other people to be brutally honest with me, but I can't bear to say anything negative back. Even if I know they want it and it's helpful to them in improving their work. Sigh.
    I'm such a wuss.

    So, while I wonder at the reasons why that person gave you such a lazy crit, they should at least own up to it.
    If they had a crazy busy week, say so and apologize the way you did when it happened to you.
    If they can't bear to say negative things,like me, then quit offering to critique stuff!

  2. I don't like to say negative things either about someone's writing. However, if that's what you signed up for, you should reciprocate by giving well-thought out criticism.

  3. You guys are too nice! I try to notice the good things a writer does- but it's usually the things that need improvement that jump out at me, and I have to remind myself to comment on the good things too. But it wasn't always so- I used to have a lot more head scratching moments and write comments like- "This doesn't seem to gel right, exactly." That could be a real quote. It's not, but I know I went through a period where all I could say was if something gelled or not:)

    I hate going through nits about punctuation and what not(though I do need those crits- I just don't find it as interesting to think about)- but if someone can help me see how to express my characters better, I love that reviewer.

  4. HI, Kelly, I just found you in a roundabout way (a comment on another blog). You caught my attention about the SF&F crit workshop and now I've read several of your blog posts because they're so fun to read. Oh, and your profile cracked me up (yeah, been there). So I'm following (stalking?) you now. I'd be interested in hearing more about the crit workshop. Thanks! Can't wait to read more.