Sep. 1st, 2015

myaru: (VP - Shiho)
Interestingly, in the revised edition of Le Guin's Steering the Craft, she describes my own workshop experiences - all at school - pretty accurately in her section on The Peer Group Workshop. (Capitalization mine-- sorry. :p) My instructors were strict about what should be said, how, when, and by whom, which may seem tyrannical until you imagine trying to control "free discussion" between thirty people. Try getting through three reasonably long stories while everyone is talking over each other, nitpicking punctuation, and talking more about their own work than the piece in question. It's fun, and by 'fun,' I mean 'makes you want to murder everyone in the room.'

But what she says here encapsulates everything I've been saying about critique/beta reading for years:

Criticism tends to focus on what’s wrong. To be useful, negative criticism should indicate the possibility of revision. Tell the writer where you were confused or surprised or annoyed or delighted, which parts you like best. It’s at least as useful to the author to hear what works, what’s right.

Le Guin, Ursula K. (2015-09-01). Steering the Craft: A Twenty-First-Century Guide to Sailing the Sea of Story (Kindle Locations 1689-1691).

Critique is not an excuse to be an asshole. If you're only telling an author what they've done wrong, you're only doing half your job, and therefore doing both the author and the reader a huge disservice.

You'd be surprised how often I still get this 50% job when people read for me. I'm sure they're not doing it on purpose, but they clearly have an erroneous idea of what makes commentary useful. Like, if they don't find at least fifteen things wrong by the time they're halfway through, the author will judge them, or something.


I should write a longer post about this, but I'd only be repeating myself, and... why ask people to take me seriously when they can get it from someone with credibility, instead?

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