ljlee: (muzi_glum)
[personal profile] ljlee posting in [community profile] go_write
To members: Sorry I completely forgot about this week's midweek Open Chat. I was going to space it out from the last one, and then I got absent-minded, and now it's a bit too late. I'll resume next week, and schedule a post in advance so I don't forget.

To everyone: Let's talk about criticism, specifically criticism of your writing. Some questions to get you started:

- How do you generally respond to negative feedback?
- What's a piece of critical feedback that was painful to you?
- Did criticism help you, and how?
- What was an unhelpful piece of criticism?
- Have you make any changes in response to negative feedback?
- What do you think constitutes helpful negative feedback?
- Giving criticism can be as tricky as receiving it. Do you have any techniques for giving effective criticism?

Feel free to answer one or more of these questions, or to relate any other anecdotes or thoughts about critical feedback.

We'll cheer ourselves up next week with the flip side of this post, positive feedback, so stay tuned for that!

Date: 2016-06-05 06:34 pm (UTC)
jae: (writinggecko)
From: [personal profile] jae
I actually love critical feedback as a general rule, though that general rule has many caveats.

Mostly, I feel especially good about negative feedback if it is solicited, i.e. if I have asked a particular person whose skill set I respect and trust to comment on a draft of a work. Under those circumstances, my "skin" grows very "thick" because I have faith that the person in question is working hard to make my piece as good as it possibly can be. I know that they want to help me, and I'm happy that they're devoting their own time and talents to making that happen.

I have never been in a position of receiving unsolicited professional reviews of any fiction I've written, but I think once I got over the initial shock/discomfort of receiving negative feedback that wasn't specifically aimed at working with me to make a piece better, I'd probably be fine with that sort of negative feedback, too. I think it would definitely take some getting used to, though, and my ability to take it in stride would likely have a lot to do with how much I trusted that particular reviewer's opinions.

I have had a few chances to read unsolicited negative comments about things I've written in other people's online spaces (like in people's livejournals, back in the day), and while that's sometimes smarted a little, I was never hugely bothered by it. Mostly because they were all at least partly right. ;) I prefer the solicited, constructive kind of negative feedback to this, of course, but this sort of thing can actually be helpful, too, even if that wasn't the original intention.

The sort of negative feedback that does bother me is negative comments that are actually attached to the story itself (for example in the fanfiction world, comments on the Archive of Our Own). I am generally pretty bothered by the way fannish culture practically prohibits saying anything negative about fanworks, but I'm actually grateful for that cultural tenet when it comes to story comments. It just feels really different to me for someone to say something negative about my story in their own online space, or in a published place, than it would feel to have those exact same comments on the story itself, for anyone to read who happens to stop by later. I would be incredibly bothered by that (and I'd also find it really unhelpful), so I'm glad it's a rare occurrence in fandom, even if I'm not down with the reasons why it is.

I would also be upset by any negative feedback that was intended to ridicule or make fun of my work. I'm glad that this has never happened where I could read it, because I don't think I'd deal well with it at all.

So how I respond to negative feedback depends completely on the situation, but the vast majority of the negative feedback I've received falls into the first category. My response to that sort of negative feedback is generally to feel really grateful for the energy the person is willing to devote to my story, and get fired up about making their suggested changes (or working with them to figure out a different set of changes that work for both them and me). Everything I've ever written has been made better by that sort of negative feedback, and I'm very glad there are people willing to give it.

Edited Date: 2016-06-06 12:53 am (UTC)

Date: 2016-06-05 07:08 pm (UTC)
warqueenfuriosa: princess leia (Default)
From: [personal profile] warqueenfuriosa
I'm a perfectionist, so of course negative feedback isn't always easy to swallow sometimes. But I'm getting better about accepting it. I know I need second opinions to catch what I missed. I'll be upset for a little while, go for a walk, eat chocolate, swear a bit maybe if the situation warrants it, then re-read the comments and evaluate if the feedback has a point.

Some of the most painful criticisms have come from my earliest attempts at writing (which was dangerous because I was just a wee noob, I could have been crushed permanently) and from my mom.
When I was just starting out in poetry, I shared this poem I really liked on a poetry group. I got totally shredded by this one guy who came in and didn't like sunshine and rainbow poems, he wanted gritty and dark and rape and all nasty stuff (which I didn't want to write and I still don't really). I didn't stay with that group but it stung because that was one of the first pieces of poetry that I was actually proud of.
And the other painful instances of criticism have come from my mom. If I try anything different from what she likes, she looks at me like I'm nuts, tells me, "Why are you writing this? This is weird. I don't like this, go back to writing this other way that I liked better," which stifled my creative voice for a long time.

In the end, I don't mind negative feedback if it is useful. Yes, it smarts, and I need time to move past the sting, but ultimately, if it fits the piece, then it fits and I'll come to see that after a while.
If it's just revenge/jealousy/spite, forget it, ain't nobody got time for that petty drama. I went through a couple writing buddies last year because they were just starting out, I had a little more experience under my belt, and I kept getting this competitive vibe from them. I shared a piece with two writing buddies at the time, they said the story didn't make sense, why was this, why was that....and I figured out they hadn't even read the whole thing. So they were just putting me down to make themselves feel good. That will irritate me faster than anything, I swear. Ironically, I didn't accept any of their suggestions for changes and that piece was accepted very enthusiastically by a paranormal romance anthology for publication.

Giving negative feedback is very hard for me because I know what it's like to be on the receiving end of that. I don't ever want to crush someone's writing dreams. So I try to pick out one or two things for improvement and then I'll point out other things that I liked, that they did well. It's so frustrating to get a manuscript filled with red ink on what a person hated and have no idea what actually worked. To just cross out what you don't like doesn't give a direction to go in or build off of.
So I try to balance the good and the bad together equally, if at all possible.

Nobody likes being criticized of course, but I think if you really want to improve, you'll come to accept it eventually in some way. I had a friend who wanted to be a writer but she wouldn't show her work to anyone and she never edited. She had her work critiqued by an English teacher *once* and she became so discouraged that she never wanted to hear another word of criticism against her writing again.
I don't ever want to be like that. I want my writing to get better. Yes, it's painful, I wish I could skip it. But ultimately, the criticisms I've received have either helped me weed out the crappy reviewers and thickened up my skin, or it's sharpened my writing. In the end, it's a win-win situation for me. I only lose if I let criticism stop me from writing.
Edited Date: 2016-06-05 07:09 pm (UTC)

Date: 2016-07-19 04:30 am (UTC)
warqueenfuriosa: princess leia (Default)
From: [personal profile] warqueenfuriosa
(EEEE thank you!! :D Furiosa is so badass awesome *HEART EYES*)

Your excellent reply got me thinking. Even if the feedback isn't helpful, or it's just plain negative all around, it's still a learning experience. You still get a tougher skin (ALWAYS helpful). You still learn to dismiss whatever isn't useful for you and better focus your energies. And even if the critique leaves you defensive, as long as the seed has been planted, you'll still revisit it at some point in the future to better your writing (when you're more ready to hear it maybe).

So in a way, no matter what feedback you might get, you still get something out of it that will change you and your writing. (But it's still not pleasant to go through :P )

Date: 2016-06-05 10:06 pm (UTC)
dhampyresa: (Default)
From: [personal profile] dhampyresa
I think we define "negative feedback" differently. What you're asking about here would for me fall under "constructive criticism" -- imho, "negative feedback" is not constructive, simply an expression of dislike.

Date: 2016-06-06 10:50 am (UTC)
shorti: (Default)
From: [personal profile] shorti
I agree. Constructive criticism is the stuff you ask for from friends, family and betas etc. Negative feedback is the stuff you get that isn't trying to help you improve your writing in any way. It's just a general comment or reaction to your writing that isn't positive.

I've had negative feedback on the novel that I self-published last year. I don't generally read negative feedback that's truly scathing because it often comes from someone who wouldn't have enjoyed your story no matter how you wrote it. If it's a comment like "I couldn't get into the story" or "it was badly written" I don't tend to do anything about it. You can't please everybody all the time and there will be people who just don't gel with what you do.

If someone points out a plot hole that is quite evident I would take that on board after I crawl into a hole and stay there for a while though :)

Date: 2016-06-06 09:11 pm (UTC)
dhampyresa: (Default)
From: [personal profile] dhampyresa
someone who wouldn't have enjoyed your story no matter how you wrote it

Yeah, this. It's super important to get feedback from people who like the kind of story you're writing. Otherwise you end up "solving" problems that aren't there.

Date: 2016-07-20 08:48 pm (UTC)
dhampyresa: (Default)
From: [personal profile] dhampyresa
Yet constructive criticism also comes from a starting point of "I didn't like this/this didn't work," which seems to me negative rather than positive or neutral.

Not for me. For me it comes from a place of "this is good but IT COULD BE EVEN BETTER let me help" -- I guess it's the (perceived) intent that matters.


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