This person’s been a very active, prolific writer for a couple of years now, and she’s grown a lot in the amount of time I’ve known her. She cowboyed up and joined a couple of online critique groups and watched and learned from the critics. She stopped writing so much fan fiction from Avatar: The Last Airbender and started working on her own creations. I don’t read her work – she writes what she calls “romantica” and it’s not my taste at all – but I do read her critiques from time to time.
A little background.
Some months ago, deviantART implemented a critique system, by which artists can rate and critique other artists. They give from one to five stars on vision, originality, technique and impact. While useful for critiquing literature, dA – like most other online critique forums and sites – isn’t conducive to providing a method of critiquing a full piece unless it’s very short. So the critics end up giving copy editing advice and corrections on spelling, grammar, word choice, punctuation, show vs. tell, and passive/active tenses. Oh, and POV sometimes.
This particular lady has been an active critic on dA for quite some time. She’s usually first on the scene and goes line-by-line through the piece inserting her “corrections”. A couple of people have sort of taken her to task on this. They feel this is copy editing, not critique. She doesn’t offer much input on story issues, characterization, plotting or anything which requires a larger context to work in. For one because she can’t with a system wherein authors are submitting their pieces one bit at a time (a chapter, for example, or a scene/partial chapter).
I didn’t know she’d been called out on this before, so when she posted a how-to on critique – giving and receiving – I told her I thought she did a good job, and while I didn’t agree with every point she made, I did think it was a good, useful guide for people.
She got very defensive. She implicated that because she was part of more than one critique group, she has the knowledge about how it’s done, and this (her method) is how it’s done, period. And instead of attacking her critique method, why don’t I join a crit group and go crit someone?
I stepped back, reiterated how valuable I thought her input was, and pointed out that not only did I join a crit group, I helped found (a now-defunct) one. And I wasn’t attacking her critique method, only stating that making spelling, grammar and punctuation corrections is copy editing, not critique, and that I felt critique went beyond the available scope provided. I explained how critique is generally done in Story, Section, Scene, Sentence and Word scopes, but only the latter three are available when the piece is submitted in small segments. (There are probably more aspects, those are just the ones I can recall in descending order of magnitude and importance.)
I stand by my statements, and didn’t apologize for them. She can get defensive if she wants, but the fact is, copy editing is very helpful to writers struggling with those aspects of their writing. But correct grammar and diction and style and usage and punctuation in a story with huge plot issues and arc problems is useless. Both weaknesses will get the author rejected. She also moves from the assumption everyone she reads is seeking publication – something she’s not doing to the best of my knowledge – which is incorrect.
What do you think, writers? Those of you who utilized crit groups, did you get feedback on your overall story, or just the immediate section, be it a chapter or two or a few scenes? And if you’re a critic, what do you look for in a piece you’re critiquing? Less – i.e., a small portion of the story? Or more, meaning a bigger portion so you can see the larger contexts/problems?
Sound off, everyone. Let me know.
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