Utah's picture
Moderator
Utah from Fort Worth, TX is reading Lonesome Dove by Larry McMurtry January 4, 2012 - 12:18pm

Disclaimer:  If you write strictly for your own fun and have no particular desire to be published, this thread is not really about you.

I saw an older story in the workshop the other day and was just glancing through the reviews.  The general consensus was, "Well, this is pretty mediocre and here's why."  Then a bunch of constructive criticsm.  Props to the folks willing to tell him that.  And one guy who gave 5 stars across the board.  Author said, "So, man, am I and everyone else missing something about this piece?  Is there truly some literary greatness hidden here that only you can see?"  And the guy said, "No, no.  I give everybody five stars because I don't think we should judge each other.  We should bolster one another's self esteems," or something along that line.

That's not why I'm here.

Most people here, myself included, don't write to fill a shoe box that we keep under our beds.  We typically write with the bold intention of putting the things we write into the public eye, hopefully for money.  To do that, we need to be pro-level writers.  When you critique another writer in the workshop, please do so with an eye to helping that writer reach a professional level of performance.  Don't critique for my self esteem.  Critique for my ambition.  Tact is fantastic and I'm an advocate.  Be tactful.  And brutal.  Help me learn to be the writer I want to be.  I'll try my best to return the favor.

Here's a gratuitous biblical reference:  Iron sharpens iron.  I've always liked that one. Also, I've always liked Bruce Lee.  And Bruce Lee did not become the recognized bad-ass of the world by not getting his own ass kicked repeatedly by his instructor, Yip Man, and by the more advanced students during his training.

Properly done, writing and workshopping is a contact sport.  We should all be bleeding at the end.

avery of the dead's picture
avery of the dead from Kentucky is reading Cipher Sisters January 4, 2012 - 12:26pm

I actually agree with this completely.  Yes, I will go somewhere and cry over a bad review.  However, I will also go somewhere and revise and try to improve.  I want my good reviews to be earned.  So I can shove them in other people's FACES.  (you know who you are)

bryanhowie's picture
bryanhowie from FW, ID is reading East of Eden. Steinbeck is FUCKING AMAZING. January 4, 2012 - 12:31pm

Avery, stop attacking me!

The five stars across the board is harder on a writer than an honest rating, I think.  Especially if it's the first review.  The elevation of your story by the the 5 star ranking makes you feel worse when you see the 1 and 2 stars that it gets from other people.  

Some stories deserve the 5 stars, not a lot of them, though.  

 

Chester Pane's picture
Chester Pane from Portland, Oregon is reading The Brief and Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao by Junot Diaz January 4, 2012 - 12:38pm

Amen.

I am not here to mouthfuck mindclits either. Or have my mindclit mouthfucked.

I am here to learn and do my best to help others do the same.

And the best way to do that is through brutal, no-holds-barred honesty. And considering that we aspire to be writers, it shouldn't be difficult to do that in a way that is polite or even eloquent.

 

 

Utah's picture
Moderator
Utah from Fort Worth, TX is reading Lonesome Dove by Larry McMurtry January 4, 2012 - 12:47pm
"I am not here for to mouthfuck mindclits either."

Wow.  That might not be your intent, but consider my mindclit inappropriately stimulated by the metaphor.

 

 

.'s picture
. January 4, 2012 - 1:06pm

I agree with Chester but it's always nice to have the mindclit stimulated in the process. Keeps me going I suppose. 

Chester Pane's picture
Chester Pane from Portland, Oregon is reading The Brief and Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao by Junot Diaz January 4, 2012 - 1:23pm

The thing is, if we help each other write better stories, just think of how many more mindclits get stimulated. Readers' mindclits. This is about stimulating readers, not writers.

 

 

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 January 4, 2012 - 1:26pm

The final copy of my story Hardboiled Hell, which I took down to send to publishers, sat for nearly a month with 5 stars. I was, and still am, very proud of that. I do agree with Bryan, though. Sitting on a 5 star story can be hard. But, it's also subjective to the reviewer. I lucked out, everyone that reviewed it found something in it that they deemed 5 star worthy. And, I thank all those people that did review it, you instilled a new found motivation and inspiration, which I think, is the reason why we're all here anyway.

Giving 5 stars to bolster someones self esteem, in my opinion, is wrong. I'd be more offended of that than I would if someone gave me one star. Honesty is key here. Honesty when giving stars and when reviewing and LBLing. You can easily bolster someone's self esteem by pointing out those things that you did like, while giving constructive criticism. And, constructive criticism is not saying, 'well, I just don't like this'. Give me a reason why. Give me an example of how I can make it better. Your example doesn't have to be perfect, but something I can look at and read and say, 'I get whay they're trying to say', then incorporating it. But, there are people on the site who've reviewed my work enough times that if they say, 'I don't like this', I'll know why. Of course, not everything we leave in a review will be used. I understand that. Like I said, most things in a review are subjective to the reviewers style. I write with a lot of word economy. Short, choppy sentences to convey my point. That's just my style. But, if your style is to use big, flowery words and long, showy sentences, so be it. I may, in an LBL, point out that it would read smoother to write it another way, but it's up to you whether or not you use it. It's my subjecitve personal preference. Now, one thing that I do do, is always give 3 points, unless the review is just horrible, but I don't think I've ever given less than three. This isn't to boster confidence, this is because I understand the time it takes to read and review, especially LBL. I don't expect 3 points everytime I review, but take into consideration the amount of time put into it, especially if the story is 3, 4 or 5k words long. That, alone, is worth 3 points to me. I think we should be able to give out more points for really good reviews, or gain an extra point or two for doing LBL's. Not because I did an LBL and should be rewarded, but simply because of the time and effort put behind it. And especially if the LBL is very helpful.

I don't knock those who write because they love to and have no intention of getting published. That's their perogative and if they love doing it to do it, more power to them. I love to write, but I am also trying to get my work to the masses, via paid publications. If your intention is be published, you need to understand that what you write and what the audience wants, may be two different things. Unfortunately, that's how it is, especially if you're a new author. Stephen King, James Patterson and Dean Koontz can write something totally experimental, but it'll be published because they have legions of fans who will buy it. Us, though, the un-published writers who have no name except on this site and maybe a few others, don't have that luxury. So, I expect honest reviews, with honest LBL's. I consider all of you 'fans' because you're reading my work. I also consider you critiquers, because you're reviewing my work. You're the first line of 'fans' that I go through before sending anything out to publishers. And, I trust your comments. If I didn't, I wouldn't be here. I'm also a 'fan' of everyone else's work. There are people on here who, no matter what they write, when I see their name in the workshop, I'm reading their work. I am a fan. If you get published, I will buy. But, despite me being a fan, I will be honest in my reviews, because I'm a fan. Chuck is one of my favorite authors, but I would probably only give Fight Club 5 stars. Maybe Invisible Monsters. This, of course, is subjective. I'm sure some of you out there would give Survivior 5 stars, or Haunted. 

All that being said, I think most of us have come to realize this and review accordingly. I review honestly, and I expect the same in return, whether it's 5 or 1 star.

Arkadia's picture
Arkadia from Australia is reading Selected Poems by W.H. Auden January 4, 2012 - 1:38pm

Thank you for this. Sometimes I feel like I am a huge douchebag, when I see a story I think is really pretty bad and am (as tactfully as I can manage) honest about it, pointing out what doesn't work, why, and how I feel it can be improved. Then everyone else will comment and be like "Well. This was a good read. X and x could be better, but yeah, it was fun. Well done.' and I know they're lying, or holding back quite a bit. If I was the writer, I would want to know what everyone really thought. Even if the ripping-of-a-new-asshole made me go and vomit from anxiety. In my extensive workshopping adventures, I've noticed this:

If someone is really good, people will be extremely honest about flaws in the work -- not necessarily out of some jealous desire to tear them down, but just because since it's good, they can hack the criticism.

If someone is pretty bad, people will either not critique it, or will tell them "This was a good read. I enjoyed it. There are a couple things that could be better and I found some parts a little hard to follow, but it was good. Great job!". When you have no idea what a story is going on about, don't tell them great job and you enjoyed it. Tell them the truth. Goddammit.

STOP BEING ENABLERS. That's really all that needs to be said on the subject.

I once had a PM conversation about nice vs honest critiquing that sums up my feelings pretty well. Someone posted a very, very poorly written story that didn't make sense at all, and I could only assume he wasn't a native English speaker, and in fact was still just beginning to learn the language, since the English was nearly incomprehensible. I posted a relatively long critique that underlined the fact that I felt improving his English is something he should focus on more heavily before asking people to critique his prose. I was as tactful as possible but honest, and sometimes the truth is unavoidably ugly. The writer thanked me for my critique and seemed to agree, he was very graceful about it. But then I got this PM (for the record, I showed a few other writers my critique in case I was being too harsh but they thought it was fine (perhaps they were enabling me)):

Because we don't know eachother, I'll do my best to be as clear as possible regarding the nature of this message.
I hope that you were NOT aware at the time you wrote your review that Mr X's native language is Italian and that he resides in Italy but writes (for this site anyway) in English in spite of the difficulties. A daunting task to say the least and for his efforts deserves a tad more respect.
I doubt very much that you intended anything but to help and for that, no good deed goes unpunished ;) but it hurt MY feelings to read your review and it wasn't even my story.
Furthermore, anyone would be ill-advised to offer their critisism without participating in the workshop and submitting their own stories as well. Everyone has a story and perhaps can even write it but it takes real courage to SHARE it with others.
Thank you for indulging me and I hope I've not affended you too much...
and in the words of a great writer we all know and love:
"To my mind, those who can, do. Those who can't, gripe."

My reply:

Thanks for taking the time to message me.

It would certainly have helped if Mr Xmade it clear that English was his second language. I assumed that was the case, but did not mention it for fear of hurting his feelings in case he was a native English speaker who just had a very poor grasp of written language (most second-language English speakers take the time to note they are writing in a non-native language so I wasn't sure).

Being a serious writer means being able to take constructive criticism. The best thing a person can do for a serious writer is be completely, scathingly honest. Any less and you are doing them an injustice. I'm not saying you shouldn't compliment a writer on what they are doing well - you absolutely should - but it is far more important to have a person who is going to be vocally critical of your work. Most people have friends and family to give them more pats on the back than they will ever need, and this will never help them. I post critiques to help people become better writers, not to coddle them. I hope that those writers continue to improve and put up works so that one day I can say, "Hey, this is AMAZING! Great job!" and they will glow because they'll know that I mean it. Praise is worth nothing if it isn't earned. This is all my opinion, of course, but I simply do for others as I would like others to do for me. I didn't join a workshop to have people coo over how good a job I did, I joined because I want to improve and hoped that the educated criticism of serious writers would help me do that.

I apologize for offending you, but I do believe I gave him the most useful advice he can get. Keep reading, keep writing, improve his grammar. I read through the entire story and had little clue what was going on so I couldn't give much advice past what I gave. When I critique I critique from the perspective of an educated reader - if a stranger is not going to publish one's work or read it past page one, I won't lie about the fact. I will encourage them to improve. I do believe this is how it should be, at least in a writing workshop.

If I was wrong anywhere in my critique please feel free to point it out and I will retract it, for I wouldn't like to give false advice. If Mr X is a native Italian speaker I do believe it would be best for him to get workshop advice for his stories written in Italian, unti he gets a better grasp on the language. There is little an English reader can do to help him until he improves his grammar and we can understand which parts of his writing are lapses in writing skill and which are simply due to his handle on the language. I see no reason for people to be mollycoddling him, perhaps giving him better story ratings than other authors who have a great grasp on the language and good skill in storytelling. I am currently learning Japanese and I certainly wouldn't join a Japanese writing workshop and post my stories until I was exceedingly confident in the language. And if I did, I wouldn't be phased if the Japanese writers told me "This didn't make much sense - you need to get a better handle on the language so we can understand where you are going with this story." Do you really think this would be wrong of them to say?

This site recommends (and actually neccessitates) critiquing before posting your own work. As I only just joined the Workshop I had to get 15 points of critiquing before I could post a story, an amount I only just reached. So yes, I fully intend to participate in the workshop, and yes, I can receive as well as give.

The best trait a writer can have is a thick skin. The sooner one develops it, the better, because they are going to have to use it when it comes to trying to publish your work in the world. This is something you should take to heart yourself if reading a well-meaning critique on another's work upsets you.

Since this is an English-speaking Writer's Workshop, I really don't think there is a fault in remarking one's lack of grasp of the English language, particularly when they don't make it clear they aren't native speakers (though the amount of help one can get from a workshop when not absolutely fluent in the language is negligible). I'm sorry you think so, but I do think if he has an open mind he'll benefit far more from my "read a lot of grammar books" advice than he will from "Great job! Well done." I imagine if he wanted compliments he could post on an English-learner's forum, because in the grand scheme of things, his progress in English is something to be proud of. But here is not the place for it.

Yep, pretty much the sum of my feelings on the whole thing.

Dave's picture
Dave from a city near you is reading constantly January 4, 2012 - 1:39pm

This is one of the primary reasons I joined LR, so I can submit my work and people will tell me, honestly, what works and what doesn't.  I can't fix it if I don't know it's broken.

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 January 4, 2012 - 1:42pm

 As I only just joined the Workshop I had to get 15 points of critiquing before I could post a story, an amount I only just reached.

- Are they doing that again? When I joined, we were automatically given 15 points. They did that over on the old site, The Cult. 

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 January 4, 2012 - 1:43pm

 I can't fix it if I don't know it's broken.

- That about sums it up...

avery of the dead's picture
avery of the dead from Kentucky is reading Cipher Sisters January 4, 2012 - 1:47pm

I will say that when I first started here, I had no idea what was "okay" to say and what wasn't.  I mean, who the fuck am I to tell you (whoever you are) that I don't like your sentence?  But as I got warmed up I realized that all we can offer are our opinions.  And I try to make it known that all my comments are my opinions (and I'm really very opinionated).  I'm not the grammar expert here, but I know what I like and what I don't. 

The point of this being, say whatever you want (within reason - come on).  If the writer disagrees he will scrap it.  It might even be helpful.  And if it is unclear, he will ask a question. 

 

Arkadia's picture
Arkadia from Australia is reading Selected Poems by W.H. Auden January 4, 2012 - 1:55pm

@R.Moon, this was a PM back at The Cult -- as far as I'm aware you start here at LR being able to post one story. Haven't dipped into the workshop here yet, but as soon as the class I'm taking is over I'm gonna be all over that shizz.

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 January 4, 2012 - 1:56pm

 all over that shizz.

- Nice. Yeah, your name looked familiar.

Chester Pane's picture
Chester Pane from Portland, Oregon is reading The Brief and Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao by Junot Diaz January 4, 2012 - 2:14pm

Arkadia said:

Being a serious writer means being able to take constructive criticism. The best thing a person can do for a serious writer is be completely, scathingly honest. Any less and you are doing them an injustice. I'm not saying you shouldn't compliment a writer on what they are doing well - you absolutely should - but it is far more important to have a person who is going to be vocally critical of your work. Most people have friends and family to give them more pats on the back than they will ever need, and this will never help them. I post critiques to help people become better writers, not to coddle them. I hope that those writers continue to improve and put up works so that one day I can say, "Hey, this is AMAZING! Great job!" and they will glow because they'll know that I mean it. Praise is worth nothing if it isn't earned. This is all my opinion, of course, but I simply do for others as I would like others to do for me. I didn't join a workshop to have people coo over how good a job I did, I joined because I want to improve and hoped that the educated criticism of serious writers would help me do that.

Exactly.

As for the non-native speaking discussion, learn the fucking language. If your language skills are weak, take the criticism even more seriously. I have written in German and French and had a new asshole torn on many, many occasions. And I was always grateful. It is great that someone is taking steps to learn, but should keep their mind wide open in the process.

Boo-hoo is not going to fly around here.

LitReactor is not for the faint at heart when it comes to this. I don't want this place to be a fluffy little back-patting gushfest.

If you cannot handle it, there are plenty of other 'softer' places to share your writing. Toughen the fuck up.

Be 'nice' all you want here in the threads, but when it comes to the workshop, be professional.

 

Dave's picture
Dave from a city near you is reading constantly January 4, 2012 - 2:21pm

Chester Pane's picture
Chester Pane from Portland, Oregon is reading The Brief and Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao by Junot Diaz January 4, 2012 - 2:22pm

That looks like Black Dynamite.

Utah's picture
Moderator
Utah from Fort Worth, TX is reading Lonesome Dove by Larry McMurtry January 4, 2012 - 2:22pm

Exactly, to all of you.  We all obviously go out of our way to educate ourselves to recognize and appreciate good writing.  We try to put that into our own work.  And when we critique our fellow writers, we owe it to them to compare what they've submitted to what we know is successful writing.  The better I can help you become, the better I become myself just through better internalizing structures and systems of good writing.  Plus, if my critiques help in some small way for Chester to get to a level where he really hits it big, he has a greater chance of telling his editor, "You should check out that Utah guy.  He writes heartbreaking works of staggering genius."  (I can't make any real claims to altruism; Ayn Rand would be proud.)

I have to have this kind of assault on what I write.  Because everything I write is the best thing I have ever written.  It has to be, or I'd never have the heart to finish it, and because I have a giant ego.  So I write this next story of monstrous beauty and importance and I close the file.  A week later I come back to it, clean up the spelling and grammar and obvious holes and verify for myself that it is, indeed, fucking incredible.  Then I submit it. And try to totally forget about it and invest my ego 100% in some other thing because my newest attempt at the Pulitzer really isn't everything I read it to be, and it is in your hands at the Workshop. 

Thing is, this next greatest story in Western canon, it's just a story.  It needs a lot of work.  And I'm an amateur writer.  I need a lot of work, too.  Every time you point out to me, "Hey, this is a place where your story looks like a bruised banana," I can find some way to, yeah, make that story better, but mostly to get my shit together so the next one doesn't have that problem.  I'm not a masochist, but the process is violent and I've got to take it to get any better. 

Chester Pane's picture
Chester Pane from Portland, Oregon is reading The Brief and Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao by Junot Diaz January 4, 2012 - 2:25pm

bryanhowie's picture
bryanhowie from FW, ID is reading East of Eden. Steinbeck is FUCKING AMAZING. January 4, 2012 - 2:40pm

@Arkadia - I can't believe how nicely you responded to that.  I would have just said, "Eat me and fuck off."  

Of course, that's my answer to every private message I get.  

Chester Pane's picture
Chester Pane from Portland, Oregon is reading The Brief and Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao by Junot Diaz January 4, 2012 - 2:47pm

My wife says that a lot.

Nick Wilczynski's picture
Nick Wilczynski from Greensboro, NC is reading A Dance with Dragons by George R.R. Martin January 4, 2012 - 3:20pm

I've offended people with my reviews at least a couple of times, not that I go into it trying to be mean or to hurt people's feelings, but I agree wholeheartedly with the general sentiment of the thread.

The last draft of Puppet show was 5 stars for a couple of reviews. I was honestly excited when it fell because I still had work to do.

When I do see someone in the workshop who is trying to practice their english (in the sense of learning the language), or sometimes I read a story there that I have nothing nice to say about. I admit that I avoid reviewing such stories.

But still, "taking it easy on each other" is not a fault I've found with this site. I know that my friends on Litreactor are going to take it as seriously if not more so than me. You can get your ass kicked in that workshop, I've seen it happen. It happens to me.

postpomo's picture
postpomo from Canada is reading words words words January 4, 2012 - 3:37pm

I've reviewed two or three stories I felt were pretty much finished, polished, excellent all around. So what to do when faced with this? I found something to give the author. Observations about what made the story so tight, what I personally liked, what impressions I walked away with, if I noticed the weight in a seemingly throw-away line, etc... It wasn't easy, but it's pointless to give any story a "I liked it" kind of review.

if the author makes it clear that English isn't their first language, then I try to help them with that as well as the nuts & bolts.

as for novice stories, I do my best to be encouraging, to give honest feedback without being too harsh (tact, what the fuck is that?). In some cases, it would require pages and pages of LBLs to cover everything, in which case I just go over the fundamentals - spellcheck. get someone to proofread it. maybe learn some grammar rules. read some craft essays. etc...

for me, it's all about writing better stories - there aren't enough of them (at the same time as there are too many).

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 January 4, 2012 - 4:31pm

 I would have just said, "Eat me and fuck off." 

Of course, that's my answer to every private message I get. 

- It is, too. I sent him a PM the other day to thank him for a great review. I was shocked when it said this, followed by 'You're welcome and have a nice day'. So, in the end , it wasn't all bad. 

Vonnegut Check's picture
Vonnegut Check from Baltimore January 4, 2012 - 5:07pm

Utah, I am the person you are referring to, though I think your summary of what I said is slightly simplified.

Here is the copy and pasted text: Well, yes, you got me. I started giving everyone perfect scores a few weeks ago for a few reasons:

(1) Foremost, I think we, as a community of writers, need to encourage one another; writing is after all a lonely endeavor that takes hours and hours of work; to then be scored low by your peers is deflating, discouraging, counterproductive to the process;

(2) We should be here to critique, give suggestions, offer ways to improve to the story, that’s all; it’s ludicrous to score someone on a work-in-progress;

(3) Why grade on Concept, Structure, Characters, Dialogue and not Voice or Pacing or Theme or Setting or Conflict? There are so many things that go into writing a story, some things that any given writer might’ve done well but wasn’t part of this limited rubric; seems silly, yes?

And Utah, if you read any of the critiques I give, I don't hold anything back.

On the old Cult site you could bypass grading all together. I prefer that over anything.

bryanhowie's picture
bryanhowie from FW, ID is reading East of Eden. Steinbeck is FUCKING AMAZING. January 4, 2012 - 5:17pm

Then why not rank everything 3 stars?  Giving 5 stars makes as much sense as giving 1 stars.

The stars may not be helpful to you and might not be something you like to use as a tool for critquing, but it might be to the person you're critiquing and artificially inflating the stars may do harm.  I doubt it, but it might.

Vonnegut Check's picture
Vonnegut Check from Baltimore January 4, 2012 - 5:22pm

My attempt is to encourage while at the same time offering suggestions for improvement. I've pissed people off in the past with my reviews and that is what prompted me to begin giving these five star scores. Again, I wish we could just bypass it all together.

avery of the dead's picture
avery of the dead from Kentucky is reading Cipher Sisters January 4, 2012 - 5:23pm

I'm going to add my petty girl comment here.  I like the stars because I like to look at my submissions in their little list and see how my different submissions stack up next to each other.  Which I realize is mildly dumb and misleading, but since they are my submissions I can look at them however I wish.  For example, I like to look at the rating of the original submission next to the rating of a revision and see how I'm doing.  Sort of.

But that's just me. 

Vonnegut Check's picture
Vonnegut Check from Baltimore January 4, 2012 - 5:27pm

If the general consensus is be honest, rate me appropriately, well, I can go back to that, but it doesn't help the writer, not in my opinion. They're just goddamn stars after all. What it does do in my estimation is upset and/or piss-off writers. Maybe I'm wrong.

I'm wrong all the time.

bryanhowie's picture
bryanhowie from FW, ID is reading East of Eden. Steinbeck is FUCKING AMAZING. January 4, 2012 - 5:32pm

It's a tool to use or not.  I'd say that if you don't want to use them, then look up at the average that the story already has and rate it the same.  If you do want to use the stars, then do it honestly.  If writers are upset or pissed-off by the ratings, then they either don't understand why you gave that rating (maybe you failed to mention the problems in your critique or in your LbL or they just didn't get it).

I've only had one person question why I gave them a low rating.  It was on dialogue.  I hadn't properly explained the problems I was having with their dialogue in the story.  The low star created a conversation about their dialogue and a clearer understanding of what I thought.  Even if the advice wasn't helpful (I think it was), it still made the review stronger.

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 January 4, 2012 - 5:32pm

@Ryan: I can say, with complete honesty, that your reviews are very helpful. You've reviewed plenty of my pieces here, and at Cult. I think though, the star rating is good in that it shows the writer specific areas that need to be addressed more than others. When I write I put pacing and conflict under structure, plot as well. Under Characters I put, voice. Voice can also fall under dialogue. Theme I always put under concept and setting, depending on the story, could fall under characters or structure. Although, I do think there should be a separate rating for setting. 

(1) Foremost, I think we, as a community of writers, need to encourage one another; writing is after all a lonely endeavor that takes hours and hours of work; to then be scored low by your peers is deflating, discouraging, counterproductive to the process;

- This, I think, depends on how thick the writer's skin is. To be in this business, to be successful, we need to have thick skins. I think that's part of the reason for the ratings. Also, being scored low, in my opinon, should be taken as a starting point, something to aim higher for. If the NFL didn't score the scrimmage games, how would any team know where they stand at the beginning of the season? For me, the star ratings are merely a starting point, and a place to set my sights higher. Encouragement can come from the LBL's or reviews. I think that an a review or LBL that lacks encourgemen is a bad review. Just my opinion, but to leave nothing but criticism and no encourgement is in bad taste. If the writer can't handle low scores, then maybe this isn't the right business for him or her. Don't get me wrong, it's okay to feel angry or upset over a low score, but let the review sink in, give it a little time, then go back with a clear head and see what the reviewer is talking about. 

All in all, it's how the writer frames the reviews. Does he see them as counterproductive and discouraging? Or, does she see them as helpful and useful? If worst comes to worst, PM the reviewer, ask them what they meant when they said this or that. Ask what they could've done to get a higher rating. It's all a learning process and I believe the star ratings are stepping stones for the writer in the right direction. Of course, if the writer continually receives low scores, without improvement, then they're either not taking any advice of their peers, or maybe writing just isn't their thing. I think the majority of us here are under the understanding that critiques are meant to help and not be discouraging. You win some, you lose some and like golf or archery (I shot competition recurve for ten years) this is a game we play foremost against ourselves. When I write, I'm only trying to out do my last story and any help I get along the way, 'coaching', is helpful and useful.

wickedvoodoo's picture
wickedvoodoo from Mansfield, England is reading stuff. January 4, 2012 - 5:59pm

The stars thing is something that I have wondered about a bunch of times. I have been trying to use them properly and be honest in my evaluation, and will continue to do so because I know some people put more stock in them than I do.

I do sometimes find myself wishing that we could just skip the star ratings though. I have never once been influenced to edit a story-in-progress because of a low rating. Similarly I have had things rated five stars and had to laugh because I have known it not to be the case. Seems to me sometimes like people pick rating damn near at random.

I will always maintain that rating something out of five or out of ten or whatever is for finished work. It's a totally different game. Take the stars to Goodreads, workshopping is all about the comments and the actual feedback. Or at least it should be. I will still try to be fair with the stars in the meantime though. All fives or whatever seems the very least useful way to go about it.

Nick's picture
Nick from Toronto is reading Adjustment Day January 4, 2012 - 6:14pm

This is just like grade inflation in high schools.  Every kid is on the honor roll....
We'll need to start looking at ratings like this:

3* terrible
4* mediocre
5* good, but not great.

Anyway, RMS gave me a 5* which I felt was a tad undeserved, but his LBL was excellent--really helped my rewrite. Plus it offset some earlier reviews to bump it to a respectable/mediocre 4*.

Vonnegut Check's picture
Vonnegut Check from Baltimore January 4, 2012 - 6:32pm

But Nick, didn't all those pretty gold stars make you feel all warm and cozy? And then you read my LBL and thought now let's try to make this five star piece and sixer.

At least that's what I try to do. But I'm wrong a lot, so.

aliensoul77's picture
aliensoul77 from a cold distant star is reading the writing on the wall. January 4, 2012 - 6:34pm

I tend to be honest with the stars but I do agree the actual review is more important. I learned recently that not everyone wants to hear what you have to say but whatever, if someone can't take criticism then they shouldn't be here. I understand the Holden Caulfield attitude about stars but I think Ryan's just being a rebel, I don't think he intended to mindfuck your mouthclit or whatever.

Nick's picture
Nick from Toronto is reading Adjustment Day January 4, 2012 - 6:34pm

... please don't take that the wrong way.  Your review was much appreciated, and your LBL offered more useful criticism than others who gave lower ratings.

Anyway I think we should abolish the star rating system, like that university that got rid of grades... Brown?

Vonnegut Check's picture
Vonnegut Check from Baltimore January 4, 2012 - 6:41pm

Thanks Danny. You know I hate mouthclits. Dickteeth have always been more my thing.

And Nick, I know brother. No offense taken. I'm just being a self-deprecating douche.

aliensoul77's picture
aliensoul77 from a cold distant star is reading the writing on the wall. January 4, 2012 - 7:21pm

Dickteeth in the anushead? LOL

.'s picture
. January 4, 2012 - 7:55pm

I don't go too much off of the stars when judging quality whether it be my story or someone else's. I think the star system is a reference point for people. If they have 1-2 stars across the board, well then the story is probably crap. 5 stars across the board, yeah it's probably on the better side of good but it doesn't mean the story is in any means perfect or "marketable." I don't we should take the star rating system too serious. 

Sometimes though when I'm reviewing people's stories and the story is really good, like close to final draft quality, I feel like I'm cheating for review points because I can't find enough things to point out for them to fix, thus comes the ego-stroking because sometimes their story actually deserves it.

avery of the dead's picture
avery of the dead from Kentucky is reading Cipher Sisters January 4, 2012 - 8:03pm

I'm qick to point out a good line whenI see one.  Mostly because I'm worried if I don't let them know I like it, they'll remove it from later drafts, and what a crime that would be. 

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 January 4, 2012 - 8:28pm

If they have 1-2 stars across the board, well then the story is probably crap. 5 stars across the board, yeah it's probably on the better side of good but it doesn't mean the story is in any means perfect or "marketable."

- I agree, but is any story, at any point, marketable in the author's eyes? I may think a writer's story is ready for publication, but I can almost guarantee that the writer will think differently when he reads it after some time away from it.That's just how we are. Really, this whole thread is subjective. Some of us find value in the star rating, and some don't. It is what it is and if you find value in it, great. If not, go fuck yourself. Just kidding. If you don't, that's fine, too. The real importance is in the review and LBL. I find the star ratings valuable. It gives me a reference point on which aspects I need to most work on. But, I can see how it can't be. Sometimes we get reviews that are all over the map. Some think the dialogue is great, some think it's crap, but again, it's all subjective. I like using contractions in my dialogue. I think it makes it more believable. But, maybe you don't. Either way, it doesn't make your story wrong, or the dialogue wrong. It's just my personal preference, and your personal preference. 

I'm qick to point out a good line whenI see one.

- I try to do this, too. For every couple of constructive criticisms I give, I try to give one thing that I like. But, of course sometimes there are stories that are very hard to do this. Just seems like everything that could be wrong is, and I feel bad when I come across stories like that. On the flip side though, sometimes it's hard to find things to criticize. Then, I have to nit-pick. But, I don't just want to give a review of all the things I like and nothing that I think could be changed. To me, that's counter-productive and not so much a review as just a lot of praise. So, I have to nit-pick, which I actually enjoy because it's a challenge. And because I like reading really well written stories on here. When someone tells me they had to nit-pick to find things, I take it as a compliment. I feel, then, that I've done my job as a writer. I view nit-picking as complimentary.

aliensoul77's picture
aliensoul77 from a cold distant star is reading the writing on the wall. January 4, 2012 - 8:38pm

I don't think I've given anyone five stars across the board. I've given out a lot of three stars. Three stars to me is average. Four means excellent.  Five is "get this published now mofo!"

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 January 4, 2012 - 8:44pm

I don't think I've given anyone five stars across the board. I've given out a lot of three stars. Three stars to me is average. Four means excellent.  Five is "get this published now mofo!"

- I agree 100%. 

bryanhowie's picture
bryanhowie from FW, ID is reading East of Eden. Steinbeck is FUCKING AMAZING. January 4, 2012 - 8:53pm

If I read it and thought, "If this were in a book, I'd buy that book," it got 5 across the board (lookin' at you Averydoll).  

jl85's picture
jl85 from originally East Tennessee now Southern California is reading everything I can January 4, 2012 - 9:11pm

This is just my personal opinion, but to me the star ratings do matter just as much as the written reviews and LBL. On that note, I tend to rate Structure higher based on the concept of the story and its potential once it's done. My biggest things are the Characters and Dialogue, and with those I am a lot harder on based off of what has been written so far. But everyone reviews and critiques differently, and that is just how I do it. But I do agree that thick skin is a must, and there's no sense in paying to use a workshop if you're not willing to take the review process seriously. I depend 100 percent on honest thorough critiques and I value the opinions of the writers on here a lot!! I don't want to see this turn in to a back-patting competition and people just simply tickiling your balls for the sake of being nice. To make it in this industry it takes a lot of heartbreak and tears to get anywhere and valid fucking critiques are essential to that process.

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 January 4, 2012 - 9:38pm

Very well put, Josef... *commence ball tickling* LOL!

cowboywerewolf's picture
cowboywerewolf from DC is reading Homage to Catalonia January 4, 2012 - 11:19pm

I tend to put the star ratings I give into context. If it's a second or third or fourth draft or whatever, I usually base the stars on what's improved since the last version rather than on the story on its own. The downside is that the rating is no longer objective in that, one person's 4.5 may be a lot better or worse than another person's 4.5. The upside, though is that it gives the author more useful feedback on what's working, what's not, what they've managed to improve, and what they're still missing.

In general, I like the stars because I'm vain and tend to get high ratings. I do think that some people take them too seriously, though. I've always had the impression that they're tools, but that they're intended to be sort of fun.

I mean, they're gold stars for christ's sake.

There are a few people who give 5s across the board and it really irks me when it happens. It blows the curve and, just like all 1s take a ton more reviews to get back to the real rating. It artificially inflates (or deflates) the rating and invalidates it, fucking it up for the people who do care and for the people who take a lot of time and care into it.

Giving all 3s would be better because the math is easier to correct with the other reviews.

If someone wants to skip the rating process, why not just message the author with your review?

jl85's picture
jl85 from originally East Tennessee now Southern California is reading everything I can January 4, 2012 - 11:57pm

Without giving a piece star ratings you can't submit the review and that person wouldn't be able to get points got doing their review.
Rian you silly tickler of balls!

aliensoul77's picture
aliensoul77 from a cold distant star is reading the writing on the wall. January 5, 2012 - 12:29am

I've never had my balls tickled, is this a hot new trend all the kids are doing?

Well, as far as the star ratings go.  In my eyes, you are all stars! LOL

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 January 5, 2012 - 12:52am

I've never had my balls tickled, is this a hot new trend all the kids are doing?

- this I'm not sure of, but a new trend all the kids are doing is beer bong enemas. Yes, you read correctly. Stick the bong in your ass, pour a can of beer into it and proceed to get wasted. Apparently, all it takes is a beer to completely hammered. Also, snorting alcohol. Why you would do either of these things is beyond me...