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Criticizing Criticism

Discussion in 'The Authors' Café' started by Psychic, Oct 19, 2012.

  1. Psychic

    Psychic Really and truly Staff Member Moderator

    Reviewers. You know the deal; they respond to fics with more detail than the average posters, getting into the specifics of what makes a fic good, what makes it so-so, and what can be improved on. Seeing their replies can be encouraging or overwhelming. We hate them, we love them.

    Nobody’s perfect. No writer is – there is always the potential for improvement. There will often be flaws, big or small, that have to be overcome. It can take an entire lifetime to reach the pinnacle of one’s talent, whatever one’s craft, and we acknowledge that.

    So does that not, then, also apply to those whose craft it is to review?

    There are many reviewers who are professional, experienced, knowledgeable, and are earnestly invested in helping writers improve. They dedicate their free time in the hopes that their advice can make a difference to a writer. It’s a fairly selfless act. There are also those who do their best to review, but may lack the professionalism, experience, knowledge, or the drive to really see a writer get better. Others may let their own subjectivity and personal preferences get in the way. Others still kick writers down, whether they intend to or not. And sometimes, it can be really hard to tell them from a good reviewer.

    (I should also clarify; just because a writer thinks a reviewer is mean or unfair does not actually mean they are. In addition, whether a critic delivers a review sensitively or harshly, if they give decent advice, you may as well take it. Most reviewers really are trying to help.)

    So the question is: how do we know when a reviewer is reliable? How do we know who to listen to? How do we know whether a reviewer knows what they’re doing or is being objective? And how do we respond to them as writers, readers, or fellow reviewers? Can we review reviewers?

    In my opinion, it’s not too hard to decide whether or not a reviewer is reliable. Admittedly, a big part of it for me is just seeing how long they’re been around and taking a look at their reviewing history. Are they respected by the community, and do I respect them? I watch how they contribute to a discussion and what they have to say. Open-mindedness and objectivity are also vital to a trustworthy reviewer. I don't have to agree with them on everything, but I'd have to trust them to review even my little brother.

    As for criticizing critics, I can see it being a little risky. While it’s common in the literary world, you don’t see a lot of mainstream book critics being criticized. I also really haven’t seen much of it in the world of fan fiction, where reviewers have far less credibility. So what would happen if the reviewers among us put ourselves out there and received a little crit?

    I propose we as a community find out. I’d love to see what happens when reviewers start putting themselves out there the same way writers do, and I’m eager to take the first step so others may follow.

    So I am currently opening my long history of reviews to criticism! I think I’ve been reviewing since 2006 or so, and I did go through a phase of being awfully *****y to writers, so there is a lot to choose from. To give some background, my credentials are mainly composed of many years of writing/reviewing, plus I spent the last three years working for a minor in Professional Writing/Editing, which I earned in May. I’m not perfect and I’m always willing to improve, so I’d like to see what people have to say, and if there’s anything I/we can learn by doing this. Pretty much any of my reviews are game, so long as you review respectfully.

    Feel free to join in! I invite any other reviewer feeling up to it to volunteer in this thread if they feel up to it. This is a great community, and I’m confidence that we can learn a lot this way.

    Reviewers Volunteered to be Reviewed:
    The Great Butler
    Kutie Pie (includes Shipping Fics reviews)
    Air Dragon
    Shadow Lucario​

    So let me know what you think, and to those brave enough to take up the task, good luck!

    Last edited: Jan 19, 2013
  2. The Great Butler

    The Great Butler Hush, keep it down

    I only just got into reviewing heavily, but I suppose I'll join in. I could learn something.
  3. Kutie Pie

    Kutie Pie 桜咲くこの坂を今も上っている

    Oh, why not. I may not have reviewed in about a couple of months, but I might as well be a brave soul. I have no idea what to do here even after extensive studying of the OP, but I'm here to learn either way. This also goes for reviewing in the Shipping Fics, right?


    Oh wait, duh, of course xP. Fan fics are fan fics either way.
  4. Psychic

    Psychic Really and truly Staff Member Moderator

    Putting your names down! And yes, shipping fic reviews are definitely eligible!

    As for what to do, you can always answer some of the questions posed (like "how do we know when a reviewer is reliable?" and "how do we respond to them as writers, readers, or fellow reviewers?"), or find a review written by another volunteer, and review it the same way you would a fan fic. Whether your style involves lots of quoting the original material, or analyzing different aspects of the material, apply it to reviewing a review instead of a fic. :>

    I'll see about reviewing the two of you! Let me know if you have any preferences for what review I pick.

  5. Kutie Pie

    Kutie Pie 桜咲くこの坂を今も上っている

    Oh yes, the questions. Derp XP. And are we critiquing critique in this very thread? Are there any specific rules about the reviews we should be critiquing?

    I also don't care for the preference of my reviews as long as they're within the last two years of course.

    How do we know when a reviewer is reliable?

    I think as long as the reviewer is tasteful in humor, sarcasm and criticism, they can be reliable. Someone who just seems so angry over everything about what they're critiquing may be taken seriously, but it also depends on how they word everything. If over half of the review is starred out, or the review has nothing to do with criticism of the story, then we can say for sure they may just be trolling. Though I think these kinds of reviews are pretty rare to find here, since they do easily get removed. You're more likely to get those reviews on FFN than anything, though they're also easy to remove and ignore.

    (Yes, I speak from experience.)

    How do we know who to listen to? How do we know whether a reviewer knows what they’re doing or is being objective?

    Same answer as above. You usually can tell if they've actually read the story, whether they quote the entire chapter and pick it apart or not due to the details they point out. It's these particular reviewers who looked to have spent a good hour or two reading through the chapter and carefully wording everything out. It's good dedication that I wish more reviewers would have.

    How do we respond to them as writers, readers, or fellow reviewers? Can we review reviewers?

    I believe I do this a lot with my reviewers. I like to reply back to them, whether on the thread itself or in a private message, and answer any questions they have, clear up any concerns, give my regards and apologies if they say they don't like what they see. (This last part is only if they're being reasonable about it and not just saying "I don't like what you're doing to these characters, you suck". They must actually give reasons as to why they don't like it.) I've noticed these replies can be rather wordy at times. Am I critiquing them? I don't think so. I'll only correct them if I know the answer is actually there in the story and make sure to point it out.
  6. Air Dragon

    Air Dragon Ha, ha... not.

    I think my critique could use some critique as well. Started around the same time as you, so this might take a while... :p

    If you please.

  7. Psychic

    Psychic Really and truly Staff Member Moderator

    Yep, I figure we can post the critiques here. As for rules, I hadn't really thought of it, but I'd mainly apply common sense to it. Like

    1) Link to the review you are critiquing to avoid confusion.
    2) Be respectful of other reviewers, their opinions and way or reviewing.
    3) Don't let your own opinions of a fic cloud your judgement of a review. You don't have to agree with the reviewer, but don't let that affect how you review.​

    Added you, AD. :>

    If anyone has any other ideas, I'm open to them. And if anyone else wants to do some reviewing, you're welcome to (especially since I can only do so many at once, haha).

  8. The Great Butler

    The Great Butler Hush, keep it down

    How do we know when a reviewer is reliable?

    I would say that this question primarily hinges on whether or not the reviewer actually paid attention to the work they're reviewing. Paying attention does not equal liking it, but even if the reviewer strongly disliked what they're reviewing, they should at least show that they know what they read.

    A good attitude about it is a plus. You're more likely to get your point across and be received if you say what you have to say, but do it in a way that doesn't make the author think you're just doing it to be aggressive.

    How do we know who to listen to? How do we know whether a reviewer knows what they’re doing or is being objective?

    Kutie Pie has this right, it's largely the same as the answer to the first question. Mainly, paying attention is key. If you don't look like you know the material, then your review isn't really credible.

    How do we respond to them as writers, readers, or fellow reviewers? Can we review reviewers?

    Yeah, I think we can review reviewers. I don't see any difference between that and reviewing anything else aside from some different criteria.
  9. lovetheangelshadow

    lovetheangelshadow One heck of a Nobody

    Hmm I used to do a lot of reviewing but usually only on tales that I feel have potentional to be awesome (those that cannot even be saved and this is usually the author's own attitude most of the time I don't even bother). I admit sometimes I sound harsher than I intend to, and this has unfortunately gotten me into trouble on several occasions. What really irks me is when a writer blatantly says that they are NOT to be CnC'd in any way shape or form. Often I have to resist the urge to give even one sliver of advice and they think they are so awesome and perfect you want to smack them down with a reality stick (unfortunately rules of certain forums do not allow this...)
    I try to word my CnC's as suggestions and admitting I've made these same mistakes as well. I do try to word my CnC's as gently as possible though my terseness sometimes leaks through....but I never flame or troll ever.

    But yeah I'm scared to critique anymore because I end up getting reported as a troller....
  10. Blue Saturday

    Blue Saturday too fly

    I'd love to join in on this if it's still going on, my reviewing skills need some more sharpening.
  11. Dilasc

    Dilasc Boip!

    I haven't done reviewing of the highest order in... a long time. I'm game for this.

    How do we know when a reviewer is reliable? Detail, detail, DETAIL! If a reviewer makes you say TLDR, then they're doing it RIGHT. It doesn't matter if they're cynical by nature, it's not fair to judge someone based on their life outlook if they're being thourough and precise.

    How do we know who to listen to? Simply put, it's a classic RPG trope: talk to everybody... erm, listen! Though two people may have clashingly different ideas, thoughts and recommendations, it's best to give everyone a fair chance.

    How do we know whether a reviewer knows what they’re doing or is being objective? By reading what they put in their reviews. Objectivity is defined by a lack of personal opinion. There's no easier way to see personal beliefs that reviews that say "I Think..." "I Believe," or "I Like..." however, sometimes these subjective things are NOT BAD! After all, listening to the subjective could help bad yet revered authors improve. I won't mention names... I'm trying to remain objective, here.

    And how do we respond to them as writers, readers, or fellow reviewers? Usually with thank yous or clarification if you don't understand something. Also, gentlemanly arguements/debates on certain points are fine. Sometimes we disagree on points... it's okay to do so. Diversity makes the world a better place after all.

    Can we review reviewers? What's stopping us? The real question isn't 'Can we?' it's more like 'how do we?'

    I reiterate though: I'll give it a whirl!
  12. Shadow Lucario

    Shadow Lucario Well-Known Member

    I've started reviewing more and more things recently. I think I could use a review on my reviewing. That way I can use that review on my reviews to shape future reviews and stop reviewing as I used to review because this review told me so. Say that five times fast.

    How do we know when a reviewer is reliable?

    I say take a look at their other reviews. If they haven't reviewed anything yet then you could be a little wary, but if they have a long history of grade A reviewing (I'm looking at you Psychic and AD), then you best believe they're reliable!

    How do we know who to listen to?

    Take a poke around the forum and see what kind of reviews they've left other people. It's the same as before; if they have been in the game for a while and are genuinely there to help you (*cough* Psychic and AD!) then they know what they're doing. Listening to these types of people will better yourself and maybe their reviewing type will rub off on you.

    How do we know whether a reviewer knows what they’re doing or is being objective?

    Dilasc took the words right out of my mouth. Just read what they put.

    And how do we respond to them as writers, readers, or fellow reviewers?

    Thank them for taking the time out of their day to read your work. And then thank them for taking the time to suggest what they think would work better. They don't need to sit there and read your story so at least say thank you. Maybe even clear up some misunderstandings if there were any.

    Can we review reviewers?

    Why not? I think it's kind of like a performance review at work.

    My more recent reviews are probably what's best to look at. I used to be one of the mindless praisers.
  13. Psychic

    Psychic Really and truly Staff Member Moderator

    Hey guys, this thread is pretty old - Doryuzu, you really shouldn't be bumping - but I am glad to see people are still interested in the topic.

    I am willing to add more names to the list and revive the topic, however this won't work if we don't actually step up to the plate and review one another! I'll admit I dropped the ball last time and kept putting off reviewing the reviewers who had volunteered, but I can't review every single person myself!

    So I'd suggest that everyone review the person who posted before them, in the style of The Review Game. Shadow Lucario will review Dilasc, Dilasc will review Doryuzu and so on. I'll contact our other volunteers and start reviewing as well. Let me know if this works for you guys! :>

  14. Air Dragon

    Air Dragon Ha, ha... not.

    All, righty... To lower the pressure on Psychic, I'll give it a try first. Get ready, Kutie Pie... the sifting... has begun!


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