Matt Attack's picture
Matt Attack from Richmond, Va. is reading As I Lay Dying, William Faulkner April 3, 2012 - 6:16am

Question: When you guys (and gals) critique a submission, whether that is WAR, Thunderdome or even general workshop submissions do you ever take into account the individual style of the author? 

Obviously, not everyone is going to be minimalist or use flamboyant language or any of the other myriad of ways and styles we choose to write in. However, when looking at some critiques (not just my own) I have noticed if the reviewer doesn't like say....a minimalist style, they grade it poorly without ever taking that into an account. (Just an example) Minimalism is not going to feel like a piece by Faulkner. 

Flaminia Ferina's picture
Flaminia Ferina from Umbria is reading stuff April 3, 2012 - 6:41am

I do take style into account when I critique. I appreciate it a lot when a writer is developing a personal voice and it shows - it's a strong plus for me and I try not being partial to a particular genre: if something doesn't plain click with me I rather not review beacause it may depend on my personal taste too much.

Someone's style might not be fine tuned yet, but if it's got potential it gets my encouragement. A unique style is what makes a writer be remembered and recognized.

R.Moon's picture
R.Moon from The City of Champions is reading The Last Thing He Wanted by Joan Didion; Story Structure Architect by Victoria Lynn Schimdt PH.D; Creating Characters by the editors of Writer's Digest April 3, 2012 - 6:41am

I've gotten to the point where I usually know what a writer's style is because I've critiqued so many peoples work on here. I know certain peoples work right off the bat before I even read their work. I know your style, Doll's, Utah's and several others.

I do though, tend to critique style. My own writing is very stylistic, but more often than not I read through the story first before I begin to critique. This helps me to gauge the writer's style. Sometimes I do suggest a style technique that I use, but normally it's because I think the stylistic choice will help to make the story stronger. I wouldn't suggest a minimalist style choice to someone whose story is written in a traditional literary style.

Grigori Black's picture
Grigori Black from US is reading Radium Girls by Amanda Gowin April 3, 2012 - 6:46am

I definitely take style into account. I read through a piece once or twice to see how the writer handles the story and look for the consistent 'voice' of the piece. It makes it easier for me to pick it apart when I'm ready to do an LBL.

Though I have to admit I treat most of the stuff I've reviewed as either a rough draft or 'work in progress' so my reviews may be a little bit harsher than people expect. 

Matt Attack's picture
Matt Attack from Richmond, Va. is reading As I Lay Dying, William Faulkner April 3, 2012 - 6:52am

if something doesn't plain click with me I rather not review because it may depend on my personal taste too much."

 

A unique style is what makes a writer be remembered and recognized."

You'll always be my favorite Umbrian. LOL. I would agree, I have read stuff and it just didn't sit with me....it wasn't bad, but my own personal biases would screw up their grade, so I didn't put in a formal review. I try to go into all of them without any preconceived notions and base my stuff on consistency, stylistic, plot, everything. Not just, "this isn't dense literary! This is dumb! " but there are people who do it....

I wouldn't suggest a minimalist style choice to someone whose story is written in a traditional literary style."

I do see it....in some ways having a different school of thought is very fluid and I do try to borrow from all of them, but doing it just because it's your style and to hell with everyone elses...yeah, I get ya Moon. Yours and mine are different, but I can normally pick it out....always entertaining. 

 

look for the consistent 'voice'"
 

Exactly. 

avery of the dead's picture
avery of the dead from Kentucky is reading Cipher Sisters April 3, 2012 - 6:53am

I think it would be silly to not take the style into account.  Everyone has their own way of doing things.  Now, that said, I'm always going to offer suggestions on how to make a sentence read smoother, flow better, whatever - if it's needed. 

Because no one's style should be clunky poor writing.

Matt Attack's picture
Matt Attack from Richmond, Va. is reading As I Lay Dying, William Faulkner April 3, 2012 - 6:55am

Because no one's style should be clunky poor writing."

Ha! This is true. 

bryanhowie's picture
bryanhowie from FW, ID is reading East of Eden. Steinbeck is FUCKING AMAZING. April 3, 2012 - 7:02am

look for the consistent 'voice' of the piece

This is what I look for.  If the style is too far away from what I feel comfortable commenting on, I'll skip the story.  If I'm not interested in reading it, I'm not going to have very good feedback.  Genre and style has stopped me on the first page and made me go, "I won't be able to help."  

Not that the story is beyond help, just that it's beyond my ability to help.  Of course, I still try when possible, but if I go the first page and can't say anything helpful, I just give up.  That first page is usually the one with the most noes.

bryanhowie's picture
bryanhowie from FW, ID is reading East of Eden. Steinbeck is FUCKING AMAZING. April 3, 2012 - 7:03am

no one's style should be clunky poor writing.

I love you.

avery of the dead's picture
avery of the dead from Kentucky is reading Cipher Sisters April 3, 2012 - 7:05am

Well, I really don't want anyone making an excuse of "that's my STYLE" every time I make a suggestion.  And really, anything that isn't a grammatical correction in a review is basically an opinion.  You can scrap it if you want.  But I think most of the suggestions should at least be considered, because it might help the sotry and even help you develop your style further. 

We should be pushing ourselves.  And we can't push ourselves if we stubbornly refuse to leave our little style closets. 

Matt Attack's picture
Matt Attack from Richmond, Va. is reading As I Lay Dying, William Faulkner April 3, 2012 - 7:09am

if we stubbornly refuse to leave our little style closets."

I read an essay by Chuck this morning where he said when he started out, every couple of months he mimicked other styles and then eventually borrowed from each for his own. I think it is kind of like music.....you can have influences and sound similar, but in the end it should be your own and will only grow if you look for different sources. 

A friend of mine tells me: "Life and art are a buffet, grab a plate and try everything."

Flaminia Ferina's picture
Flaminia Ferina from Umbria is reading stuff April 3, 2012 - 7:14am

no one's style should be clunky poor writing.

Poor: never.

Clunky: if a situation requires it and you're a fucking genius.. why not? I'm stressing on the fucking genius factor though.

bryanhowie's picture
bryanhowie from FW, ID is reading East of Eden. Steinbeck is FUCKING AMAZING. April 3, 2012 - 7:19am

I think that should be the Lit Reactor's Workshop Motto:

No one's style should be poor writing.

Speaking of bad writing...

avery of the dead's picture
avery of the dead from Kentucky is reading Cipher Sisters April 3, 2012 - 7:25am

I always wanted to create a motto, or a catch phrase at the very least. 

But then, I have a serial killer like need to be remembered. 

bryanhowie's picture
bryanhowie from FW, ID is reading East of Eden. Steinbeck is FUCKING AMAZING. April 3, 2012 - 7:31am

Skin suit, avery?

Matt Attack's picture
Matt Attack from Richmond, Va. is reading As I Lay Dying, William Faulkner April 3, 2012 - 7:31am

Skin suit, avery?"

I could see that.....she does think people who smile irrationally all the time is somehow normal. 

Matt Attack's picture
Matt Attack from Richmond, Va. is reading As I Lay Dying, William Faulkner April 3, 2012 - 7:41am

I'm stressing on the fucking genius factor though."

I would like to see that.....I really would. 

Nikki Guerlain's picture
Nikki Guerlain from Portlandia is reading Necronomicon Book Three April 3, 2012 - 8:03am

i definitely give a lot of consideration to style. if i'm bored it's likely to do with a style that i find unappealing or an undeveloped/poorly developed style. the number one rule should always be: Don't bore the reader.

It's fine to write for a particular audience which may not include me but as far as i'm concerned i want to write for people like me because 1) i have money and i spend it but am picky about what i spend it on because i use the library, 2) i have lots of wonderful things to read so it takes a lot to make me choose to spend my time reading a particular work, 3) i'm inundated by shiz that's unoriginal, boring, tries my patience and i really find it refreshing and am extremely loyal when i discover a new writer, and 4) i like to have fun.

i rather reach more people and write for the low common denominator and sneak in themes and morals and ethics etc into a story that is FUN (even if it's disturbing, gross, etc). I want to have fun. who doesn't except for money grubbing tight asses and even then they like to have fun it just usually involves victimizing someone.

style makes or breaks a story really. You can have the same story (like a bass line) but because of the way it is written (or played, i.e., style) you can hate it or love it or be bored by it.

so for WAR it's pretty darn important to my vote. for critique it's just one of the things i point out but i don't stop there.

those are just my thoughts.

 

Matt Attack's picture
Matt Attack from Richmond, Va. is reading As I Lay Dying, William Faulkner April 3, 2012 - 8:25am

1) i have money and i spend it but am picky about what i spend it on because i use the library, 2) i have lots of wonderful things to read so it takes a lot to make me choose to spend my time reading a particular work, 3) i'm inundated by shiz that's unoriginal, boring, tries my patience and i really find it refreshing and am extremely loyal when i discover a new writer, and 4) i like to have fun."

Yeah, I have always hated those elitist artists/writers/musicians who get mad because you don't get their 'genius'. Give me a fucking break. True genius reaches everyone simultaneously, whether it is the art house dweebs or the dude reading it on his lunch break at the lumber mill (which was me 4 years ago) 

 

end rant. 

avery of the dead's picture
avery of the dead from Kentucky is reading Cipher Sisters April 3, 2012 - 8:24am

"True genius reaches everyone simultaneously"

I can't disagree more with that.  It isn't like there is some universal novel that everyone is going to say is good. 

Nikki Guerlain's picture
Nikki Guerlain from Portlandia is reading Necronomicon Book Three April 3, 2012 - 8:27am

i think what matt is saying is that true genius is accessible to everyone. everyone meaning the vast majority. it'd be like saying if it has a 90% or higher rotten tomatoes rating, it's probably pretty fuckin genius.

Matt Attack's picture
Matt Attack from Richmond, Va. is reading As I Lay Dying, William Faulkner April 3, 2012 - 8:27am

Well, we'll just have to disagree. Obviously not everyone likes The Beatles, I don't, but I can still appreciate what they did for music and the artistry of their craft and on occasion enjoy a tune or two. 

Matt Attack's picture
Matt Attack from Richmond, Va. is reading As I Lay Dying, William Faulkner April 3, 2012 - 8:28am

i think what matt is saying is that true genius is accessible to everyone. everyone meaning the vast majority. it'd be like saying if it has a 90% or higher rotten tomatoes rating, it's probably pretty fuckin genius."

Agreed. 

bryanhowie's picture
bryanhowie from FW, ID is reading East of Eden. Steinbeck is FUCKING AMAZING. April 3, 2012 - 8:30am

This will be the name of my next novel: 

Some Universal Novel That Everyone Is Going to Say Is Good, by Bryan Howie

- with introduction by Averydoll and afterword Matt Attack.

R.Moon's picture
R.Moon from The City of Champions is reading The Last Thing He Wanted by Joan Didion; Story Structure Architect by Victoria Lynn Schimdt PH.D; Creating Characters by the editors of Writer's Digest April 3, 2012 - 8:31am

I believe, whether or not a person likes a book, there's always at least one nugget of genius in that book. No matter what I read and no matter if I like it or not, there is always something I find in it that I can take away and learn from.

Nikki Guerlain's picture
Nikki Guerlain from Portlandia is reading Necronomicon Book Three April 3, 2012 - 8:33am

and matt- i can't tell you how much i hate elitist fucks. it's one of the main reasons i left The Cult. i have a lot of patience wading through d.b.'s for worthwhile people but jesus a girl can only take so much precious "i am a writer" bullshit. seriously those people are dinosaurs. and by the way of dinosaurs, they will go extinct. there's no room in this world for that. yes, yes, there are exceptions ... but who wants to be the douchebag exception?

avery of the dead's picture
avery of the dead from Kentucky is reading Cipher Sisters April 3, 2012 - 8:34am

@howie - I'll buy 6 copies.

PandaMask's picture
PandaMask from Los Angeles is reading More Than Human April 3, 2012 - 8:35am

I agree with R.Moon

I go back to what I've always said. If you hate the Beatles you obviously haven't listened to enough of their songs. That or you hate life.

Matt Attack's picture
Matt Attack from Richmond, Va. is reading As I Lay Dying, William Faulkner April 3, 2012 - 8:40am

This will be the name of my next novel:

Some Universal Novel That Everyone Is Going to Say Is Good, by Bryan Howie

- with introduction by Averydoll and afterword Matt Attack.! 

I love it. I'll rewrite my thesis statemtent. True genius attempts to reach everyone simultaneously. It's not going to, but there are some things that are universal and talking fucking lemons isn't it, that is, unless you're putting your spin on human experience using them. Love, hate, fuck, eating, shitting (Read Ulysses) ect ect. 

 

@Moon, agreed. Totally agreed. 

so much precious "i am a writer" bullshit"

Agreed. Avant garde writing for the sake of writing is terrible. 

That or you hate life."

I don't hate it. I both rue and lament it. LOL

 

Damn, this is starting to spiral........I feel like I just created a Nine Inch Nails album in the form of a thread. 

Chester Pane's picture
Chester Pane from Portland, Oregon is reading The Brief and Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao by Junot Diaz April 3, 2012 - 8:40am

style makes or breaks a story really.

PandaMask's picture
PandaMask from Los Angeles is reading More Than Human April 3, 2012 - 8:47am

@Nikki

I agree. Like I've heard, if you're that great at something why brag about it? There's no reason to if you know already.

R.Moon's picture
R.Moon from The City of Champions is reading The Last Thing He Wanted by Joan Didion; Story Structure Architect by Victoria Lynn Schimdt PH.D; Creating Characters by the editors of Writer's Digest April 3, 2012 - 8:49am

^agreed

Nikki Guerlain's picture
Nikki Guerlain from Portlandia is reading Necronomicon Book Three April 3, 2012 - 8:51am

totally panda. it's one thing to say hey i'm a resource i'm open if you'd like to use me and quite another to be all douchey about it. i mean, unless it's on purpose and ironic. then that's pretty funny.

Matt Attack's picture
Matt Attack from Richmond, Va. is reading As I Lay Dying, William Faulkner April 3, 2012 - 8:51am

 

HAHA, perfect. 

Nikki Guerlain's picture
Nikki Guerlain from Portlandia is reading Necronomicon Book Three April 3, 2012 - 8:53am

do they make litreactor whore mugs? that'd be awesome and a bit cheeky.

PandaMask's picture
PandaMask from Los Angeles is reading More Than Human April 3, 2012 - 8:54am

I want a SlutReactor mug.

 

Nikki Guerlain's picture
Nikki Guerlain from Portlandia is reading Necronomicon Book Three April 3, 2012 - 8:55am

oh! even better. i want one of those and a tshirt too. or maybe a tshirt dress that i can wear with boots!

Matt Attack's picture
Matt Attack from Richmond, Va. is reading As I Lay Dying, William Faulkner April 3, 2012 - 8:56am

If they don't I want this in T-Shirt form. 

Nikki Guerlain's picture
Nikki Guerlain from Portlandia is reading Necronomicon Book Three April 3, 2012 - 8:57am

awesome matt.

PandaMask's picture
PandaMask from Los Angeles is reading More Than Human April 3, 2012 - 8:58am

I want a nice quotation.

"Deep throat my words and ingest them in your mind."

Chester Pane's picture
Chester Pane from Portland, Oregon is reading The Brief and Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao by Junot Diaz April 3, 2012 - 9:03am

Guzzle, guzzle, guzzle.

Profunda Saint-Sylvain's picture
Profunda Saint-... from Calgary, AB is reading Hitchiker's Guide to the Galaxy Series April 3, 2012 - 9:05am

I'm going to buy Howie's book too. Even if it's just full of poorly drawn diagrams of things he's eaten in the last year and long-winded descriptions of parts of trains.

I am incredibly uneducated and inexperienced with doing reviews, but these threads are super helpful for going forward, I am going to join the workshop as soon as I start getting pay cheques from my second job, so it'll be good to know what I'm doing.

Of course everyone has styles they like more than others, I have given away about a million books over the years due to just plain hating the way it's written, even though the story seems like something I should love.

Matt Attack's picture
Matt Attack from Richmond, Va. is reading As I Lay Dying, William Faulkner April 3, 2012 - 9:13am

Even if it's just full of poorly drawn diagrams of things he's eaten in the last year and long-winded descriptions of parts of trains"

I would imagine several sections devoted to his sexual prowess and the phrase "love and fuck" over and over. 

I look forward to seeing you in workshop Meat! 

avery of the dead's picture
avery of the dead from Kentucky is reading Cipher Sisters April 3, 2012 - 9:15am

Bryan Howie once wrote in a thread that pussy was his favorite condiment.  That line has apparently stuck with me.  I'd be looking for that section in the book. 

 

 

Flaminia Ferina's picture
Flaminia Ferina from Umbria is reading stuff April 3, 2012 - 9:23am

hey i'm a resource i'm open if you'd like to use me

I like this part of the conversation. Told the same to a 24 year old last Friday.

Nikki Guerlain's picture
Nikki Guerlain from Portlandia is reading Necronomicon Book Three April 3, 2012 - 10:27am

oh flaminia! :-)

jyh's picture
jyh from VA is reading whatever he feels like April 3, 2012 - 11:04am

I'd like to chip in on the whole "Can Genius Be Universal" question (employing only the minimum requisite amount of pretension) --

I think the fact that music (the Beatles) and movies (90% Rotten Tomatoes rating) were used as examples (no books were given as examples of universal acclaim, or the closest things possible) speaks to the nature of writing and language itself.  The content of a book (barring any with illustrations) is nothing but arranged words.  No one can write a book, story or even a sentence which will have the same meaning to everyone and therefore cannot be considered an example of universal genius.  Movies and especially music do not have meaning the same way language does, they do not necessarily make a statement, where a complete sentence necessarily does and therefore a collection of sentences will make at least one.

Also, part of the very concept of genius is its localization.  

I believe, whether or not a person likes a book, there's always at least one nugget of genius in that book. No matter what I read and no matter if I like it or not, there is always something I find in it that I can take away and learn from.  -- R Moon

Bingo

Now, please destroy me.

Chester Pane's picture
Chester Pane from Portland, Oregon is reading The Brief and Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao by Junot Diaz April 3, 2012 - 11:23am

@Cris: I hope to god you used Howie's favorite condiment on that.

Matt Attack's picture
Matt Attack from Richmond, Va. is reading As I Lay Dying, William Faulkner April 3, 2012 - 11:54am

@Hopkins, all art is subjective, but certain themes do have universal appeal. Plus, I am not sure how, but this thread lost it's way somewhere...

Flaminia Ferina's picture
Flaminia Ferina from Umbria is reading stuff April 3, 2012 - 12:05pm

@Chester. Unfortunately kid was a local student who thought he could pick a lady in the venue and introduce her to his parents, so I had to cool him at first base (is that how you say it in the States? First base, right? -- I know. Not my fault).

PandaMask's picture
PandaMask from Los Angeles is reading More Than Human April 3, 2012 - 12:07pm

So let's get down to the core of the matter. Bad reviews from the new people. Should they be made aware, shunned, taught, or killed?

No one on this thread is new that I can see, so it's safe...

Of course reviews are subjective, and I doubt people will agree.