Chester Pane's picture
Chester Pane from Portland, Oregon is reading The Brief and Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao by Junot Diaz December 16, 2011 - 10:43am
Yes
45% (9 votes)
No
55% (11 votes)
Total votes: 20

Charles's picture
Charles from Portland is reading Mongrels by Stephen Graham Jones December 16, 2011 - 10:47am

if by that, you mean for essays, argument papers and other such things... yes.

if you mean service manuals for 1978 monte carlos written by ametuers? they can suck it

.'s picture
. December 16, 2011 - 10:57am

EDIT

Trying to turn us into copy editors eh?

.'s picture
. December 16, 2011 - 10:58am

OCCUPY WORKSHOP!!! 

Hetch Litman's picture
Hetch Litman from Ojai, Ca. is reading Wise Blood by Flannery OConnor December 17, 2011 - 12:25am

I'm going to have to vote no.  For what it's worth I find it oddly arousing to be a tiebreaker. 

Fylh's picture
Fylh from from from is reading is from is reading is reading is reading reading is reading December 17, 2011 - 1:33am

I doubt it would force anyone to improve their technique, and generally those who quickly seize the chance to comment on someone else's writing are the inexperienced but emboldened types. So I'd go for no.

PopeyeDoyle's picture
PopeyeDoyle from Rio Grande Valley, TX is reading Chronology of Water December 17, 2011 - 8:23am

I'd say yes - not for grammar or anything like that, but for sentence structure and readability.  Craig devotes 1/2  of his essays on the site to technical issues - why not include it as a category in the workshop?

Brandon's picture
Brandon from KCMO is reading Made to Break December 17, 2011 - 8:41am

@Popeye

Because as Kirk said, it's not a subjective category.  Also, I've read a lot of pieces that were flooded with technical problems, and although I'm more than happy to point those out, I'm more concerned about their story.

 

bryanhowie's picture
bryanhowie from FW, ID is reading East of Eden. Steinbeck is FUCKING AMAZING. December 17, 2011 - 8:49am

How about an erotica genre?

PopeyeDoyle's picture
PopeyeDoyle from Rio Grande Valley, TX is reading Chronology of Water December 17, 2011 - 9:33am

@Brandon - EDIT:  I just realized I misread your post.  You said, "because it's NOT a subjective category," but I read it as "Because it's a subjective category."  Why would we exclude something that's an objective measure of a work product? That seems the best reason to include it.

I think the category is important.  Someone said (I don't remember who or where), "Master the craft first and the art will follow."  It's nice to have a good story, but if people can't string a sentence together it doesn't really matter.  People should learn the technical basics of writing and it's a bit silly for the workshop to completely ignore the craft of writing.

Chester Pane's picture
Chester Pane from Portland, Oregon is reading The Brief and Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao by Junot Diaz December 17, 2011 - 9:11am

 I just through technical out they're as a christmas test too see if their was any interest.

It just seems like there should be one more category.  

Over on the Litreactor needs thread, Cowboywerewolf suggested another, perchance more 'subjective' alternative.

Prose.

or perhaps

Style.

 

 

_'s picture
_ December 17, 2011 - 9:15am

Clarity

Renfield's picture
Renfield from Hell is reading 20th Century Ghosts December 17, 2011 - 9:48am

I mentioned in a thread in October that I had a basic critiquing checklist, ordered by priority:

Clarity

Consistency

Narrative voice

Structure

Characterization

Dialogue

Grammar and Syntax

 

Three of those seven categories I have for myself are shared with the workshop, along with the more vague category "Concept." I don't know how everyone else feels is important when doing editorial passes,  but maybe what we all commonly see as important should be considered for the grading in workshop.

 

bryanhowie's picture
bryanhowie from FW, ID is reading East of Eden. Steinbeck is FUCKING AMAZING. December 17, 2011 - 9:48am

I'll admit it, I have no idea what you mean by 'catagory'.  Do you mean structural form or genre?  Or do you mean a catagory in the forum?  

 

Also, where are my pants?

Renfield's picture
Renfield from Hell is reading 20th Century Ghosts December 17, 2011 - 10:02am

"category," I believe he means criteria for the star grading system.

 

Also, everyone, we're all in the workshop here to be writers, right? They want to get those stories good enough to get published. If you're not giving them everything they need (in a reasonable amount) and they aren't asking for it, one of the two of you should just give up. Seriously. It's not playtime in there, subjective or objective, these things are important. Think about what is important for people editing your work and come back to this topic.

Kirk's picture
Admin
Kirk from Pingree Grove, IL is reading The Book Of The New Sun December 17, 2011 - 10:03am

I'll let you guys continue to dicuss this. In my opinion, if we were to add something that was a ranking of the technical merits of a submission, it would probably function differently, unless someone really convinces me that it should be treated the same way that the existing categories do.

I recognize that these things are very important. But on the other hand, this is one of the reasons that copy editors exist.

I just don't see how you would have a gut feeling like "well this is clearly 4 star grammar, right here".

Grammar, to me, is either good or bad. It seems far more binary. But if you can prove me wrong, I'm willing to accept it.

PopeyeDoyle's picture
PopeyeDoyle from Rio Grande Valley, TX is reading Chronology of Water December 17, 2011 - 10:10am

Kirk - I think the people advocating for a technical category are not talking about grammar so much as syntax, clarity, consistency, word choice, etc.  Those are  things that can vary from story to story and that are every bit as important to a piece of writing as concept, character, dialogue and structure.  In fact, sometimes incredible technical proficiency can even make up for lower ratings in other categories.  The craft of writing is every bit as important as the art of creating a story.  There's no good reason to exclude it.  Grammar can probably come into play, but only when it's really, really bad. 

Kirk's picture
Admin
Kirk from Pingree Grove, IL is reading The Book Of The New Sun December 17, 2011 - 10:23am

That's a fair argument. I don't like to just jump into big changes though, so we'll let this discussion continue for a while to see if it leads anywhere interesting.

Brandon's picture
Brandon from KCMO is reading Made to Break December 17, 2011 - 11:06am

I don't do Kirk's job, but I have an understanding of the undertaking in regards to making changes to the site and its functionality.  It seems like workshop goes through this song and dance every few months.  The masses cry out for more categories, more ranking systems, and so on and so forth, paying very little mind to the work that must take place in order to make these changes.  Six months from now we'll be in the middle of another rash of requests.  And a year from now, the same thing.  It won't end.  It never does.

If you're concerned about the technical aspects of the piece, then I would hope you're doing plenty of LBLs and that these LBLs are about as hardcore as it can get.  Personally, I never do them.  That is why I don't see the need--a true need for this category, because the technical stuff (grammar, punctuation, etc.) is going to need to be ironed out in a LBL anyway.  Why does there need to be star ranking system for it?

If you're talking about syntax, clarity, consistency, word choice, etc., does that not fall under the 'structure' category? 

Chester Pane's picture
Chester Pane from Portland, Oregon is reading The Brief and Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao by Junot Diaz December 17, 2011 - 11:44am

@Brandon:

I am more than well aware of the work involved in making an adjustment like this as several of my family members do this very thing every day and I occasionally listen to them explode with frustration.

I do not suggest anything at all be done until, as Kirk said, this discussion leads somewhere that will really make a difference in the quality and effectiveness of the Workshop. A big difference.

And I realize this thing comes up again and again. Just like the maintenance on my car. And ignoring that often leads to me going nowhere.

I agree with your LBL comment. I do use them. And although I am not sure if they are as hardcore as they get, I do my best to address all issues. Concept, Structure, Characters, Dialogue, Prose, and yes, Grammar, Spelling and Punctuation.


I always treat the 'structure' category (and maybe I'm wrong) as the arrangement of events on a macro level. E.G.: Should the ending become the beginning? And would the fact that one of the main characters has one green eye and one blue one serve the story better if it were divulged sooner rather than later. Stuff like that. Again, maybe I am wrong. So until this category thing clears up I might just start lumping all of those other things under the Structure sky. Which is fine too I suppose. I just haven't been doing that.

Oh, wait, just a minute. That is weird. I am working on two monitors here as always. One is for surfing and the other for writing and someone just forwarded this to me. I will paste the jist of it:

 

 Johns Hopkins University:

I am pleased to announce a revolutionary change in the future of this venerable institution. My esteemed colleagues and I have recently concluded that because science is not subjective, from this point forward we are no longer going to employ it as a criteria in the all too rigorous screening of our applicants. From here on out we will be treating all applicants as equals where their science aptitudes are concerned.

We feel we have intimidated far too many students already and  have come to realize that science is nothing more than a technicality, a thorn in the side of the student who has better things to do than bother his or herself with such a superfluous, archaic subject. Besides, they will have plenty of time to get up to speed during the course of their residencies. Nothing like the glare of the OR lights or the fang of the scalpel to inspire greatness. The jazzy rhythm of that EKG alone gets them up to speed faster than any pesky science  course ever could.

Instead they can use that valuable time here at our fine institution in far more effective ways like watching seasons one through fifteen of ER and keeping abreast of all of the latest developments on Grey's Anatomy. There is nothing about science that we can teach that can't be just as easily learned by staring into the steamy eyes of Dr. Mcdreamy.

We no longer feel that something so trivial as science should stand in the way of someone who just might be the world's next great physician."


I am so doing this. Anyone else want to be a brain surgeon?

 

 

PopeyeDoyle's picture
PopeyeDoyle from Rio Grande Valley, TX is reading Chronology of Water December 17, 2011 - 11:53am

I don't do Kirk's job, but I have an understanding of the undertaking in regards to making changes to the site and its functionality.  It seems like workshop goes through this song and dance every few months.  The masses cry out for more categories, more ranking systems, and so on and so forth, paying very little mind to the work that must take place in order to make these changes.  Six months from now we'll be in the middle of another rash of requests.  And a year from now, the same thing.  It won't end.  It never does.

I don't think anyone is saying that it needs to be done right away.  There may be context I'm missing, but I saw it just as a request for consideration.  As paying customers of the site, it's absolutely reasonable to request changes to the site.  It's also reasonable for those who make the site to say, "We're taking it under consideration, but understand that it takes a lot of work and it isn't something we take lightly."

"Should the Writing Worshop add a technical category" is a threshold question that should be debated.  Whether it's feasible is an issue that comes after we've resolved that first question.  It seems a bizarre notion of customer service to say, "We can't concede this one or else they may ask for more."

If you're concerned about the technical aspects of the piece, then I would hope you're doing plenty of LBLs and that these LBLs are about as hardcore as it can get.  Personally, I never do them.  That is why I don't see the need--a true need for this category, because the technical stuff (grammar, punctuation, etc.) is going to need to be ironed out in a LBL anyway.  Why does there need to be star ranking system for it?

I'd hope that those doing LBLs are addressing every issue in the LBL.  Maybe it's best to determine what the purpose of the star system is.  My thought is that it's basically a way of determining what the community thinks a good or bad story is.  The debate, then, is about whether only the ideas expressed in the story are important or is the way of expressing those ideas just as important.  I believe the latter.  A story can be fairly simple in concept and character, but expressed in such an incredible way that it is still worth reading.  Likewise, a story can be a great idea, but expressed so poorly that it isn't really all that worth reading.  The current star system doesn't address those scenarios.  I'm arguing that it should.  Adding a "technical" category or something to that effect would help resolve that issue.  Again - this isn't just about grammar.  It's about syntax, voice, clarity, etc.

If you're talking about syntax, clarity, consistency, word choice, etc., does that not fall under the 'structure' category?

I thought structure was more about the order of the story.  Is there too much flashbackery?  Could the piece be better structured to adequately perform its story-telling function?  This may be another place where we come up with a community definition of what the categories actually mean and what criteria we should use to judge them.  If the community feels that structure is about syntax, clarity, word choice, etc., I'm fine with tthat.  I'm not wedded to the term "technical."  Rather, I'd just like to see the workshop reflect the importance of craft in writing a story.  The Essays seem to grasp this idea, why not the workshop?

bryanhowie's picture
bryanhowie from FW, ID is reading East of Eden. Steinbeck is FUCKING AMAZING. December 17, 2011 - 12:10pm

Oh, is that what we're talking about?  In that case, my vote is no.  Nope.  That stuff is too subjective.  A lot of my grammar suggestions have the note "technically this is right, but I suggest changing it" and then I'll have my change in the text.  Or if it's wrong, I just poing it out (and hope that I'm not wrong, because that happens, too).

Not to mention that things are often incorrect on purpose.  Whether that works or not in a piece is a different judgment call.

Chester Pane's picture
Chester Pane from Portland, Oregon is reading The Brief and Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao by Junot Diaz December 17, 2011 - 1:20pm

Now i am getting confused. 

They're has got to be a l way to think this threw.

First Kirk and Brandon say it isn't subjective and now The Centaur says it is.

Besides, shouldn't that be the job of copy editors?

 

Well, with the revolutionary industry shift currently underway, that is one job that is increasingly being down by the authors themselves. 

Besides, the tighter the piece is by the time it hits the editor's desk, the higher likelihood is that it will be published.

As far as the LBL, that is a somewhat closeted gauge for what the star categories represent. How many people actually open up other reviewers LBLs to see what was said?

I occasionally do, but time constraints frequently limit that level of analysis.

We rely on these stars (at least I do) to inform us, in a flash of the story's overall firmament. They're a navigational guide to direct both the reviewers and the reviewed. 

But I agree, maybe, as Popeye said, it is just a matter of adjusting, within the already existing set of categories, where to shoot those stars.

The last thing I want to do is take time away from Kirk's other, more pressing LitReactor project: The Animation of LitBot.

 

 

bryanhowie's picture
bryanhowie from FW, ID is reading East of Eden. Steinbeck is FUCKING AMAZING. December 17, 2011 - 12:30pm

Some of it is subjective, but the majority of it is objective.  Burnt tongue and other conventional literary techniques show us that once you know the rules and why they are rules, you can break them (if you're REALLY careful and thoughtful about it).  So Kirk and Brandon are more right.

but I still haven't found my pants!

PopeyeDoyle's picture
PopeyeDoyle from Rio Grande Valley, TX is reading Chronology of Water December 17, 2011 - 12:42pm

Oh, is that what we're talking about?  In that case, my vote is no.  Nope.  That stuff is too subjective.  A lot of my grammar suggestions have the note "technically this is right, but I suggest changing it" and then I'll have my change in the text.  Or if it's wrong, I just poing it out (and hope that I'm not wrong, because that happens, too).

Again - we aren't really talking about grammar. The "technical" category would be more along the lines of syntax, clarity, consistency, word choice, etc.  You're right that there are times to break grammar rules - if anything, good use of rule-breaking would be a reason to get higher points on the technical category, so long as you're really careful and thoughtful about it.  Grammar can come into play, but only if it's really, really bad. 

Even if it is subjective, how are concept, character, dialogue and structure NOT subjective?  We're all subject to our own biases on these issues and unless God and/or the moderators come up with set criteria for determining what exactly we're looking for in concept, character, dialogue and structure, then it will always be subjective.  That's just an occupational hazard of critiquing.

Before any new categories are added, we should probably define them in a clear and conspicuous manner so that we can avoid confusion.

Brandon's picture
Brandon from KCMO is reading Made to Break December 17, 2011 - 1:06pm

@Popeye

The star ranking system is a guide, an initial impression--plain and simple.  It's not hard and fast in the least.  Back in the anthology days, we had stories as low as three stars that would make it in front of Palahniuk.  We really had to get used to the idea that stars don't mean shit, and they still don't.  The only purpose they serve is to give an idea (and only an idea) of the strength of the piece.  For those people just starting out in workshop who are hesistant or have reservations about doing critiques, they tend to gravitate towards those lower ranked pieces because it's easier for them to give their two cents.  On pieces that are in the four to five star range, they tend to get stumped.  Again, it's really just a guide.  Obviously, this system isn't without flaws.  If I see a piece that has five stars but only two reviews, then how does that compare to the four-star piece with eighteen reviews? 

Regarding the 'structure' issue, in my mind, I've always viewed it as something relative to sentence structure/overall structure.  All the little things that make up your sentence are part of it just like hidden guns or having your ending at the beginning of the piece are part of it.  It's probably the widest category we have because it contains so much, but you're right--we probably need an agreed upon definition that all people here can refer to.  I imagine some have looked at that category and just thought of it in terms of the entire piece or just sentences, but not both.  If anything, we just need to explain this for workshoppers who are probably a little confused on what we're referring to.  Vanderpool could probably put this together for us.

And Popeye, it's always going to be reasonable to ask any of the staff for something should it be an improvement, but as you can see, there's usually a lot of debate that happens first and a lot of us aren't even on the same page as to what the definitions are for certain terms.  Again, 'Technical' to me is your classic punctuation and grammar, all the stuff you need to know in Elements of Style.  It's very much hard and fast, unlike the star ranking system where one person can think your dialogue is great while another can think it's shitty.  That, and some workshoppers just aren't very learned in the technical aspects.  It hardly makes sense for them to be able to grade something in which they might be missing every comma splice or mistake that's in front of them.  That's why I'd like to keep it as is: to those certain individuals who are doing hardcore LBLs and catching all those missteps.   

PopeyeDoyle's picture
PopeyeDoyle from Rio Grande Valley, TX is reading Chronology of Water December 17, 2011 - 1:21pm

The star ranking system is a guide, an initial impression--plain and simple.  It's not hard and fast in the least.  Back in the anthology days, we had stories as low as three stars that would make it in front of Palahniuk.  We really had to get used to the idea that stars don't mean shit, and they still don't.  The only purpose they serve is to give an idea (and only an idea) of the strength of the piece.

Even better reason to include technical aspects.  These technical matters are a great indication of the strength of a piece - probably even more important than a fairly nebulous category like "concept."

Regarding the 'structure' issue, in my mind, I've always viewed it as something relative to sentence structure/overall structure.  All the little things that make up your sentence are part of it just like hidden guns or having your ending at the beginning of the piece are part of it.  It's probably the widest category we have because it contains so much, but you're right--we probably need an agreed upon definition that all people here can refer to.  I imagine some have looked at that category and just thought of it in terms of the entire piece or just sentences, but not both.  If anything, we just need to explain this for workshoppers who are probably a little confused on what we're referring to.  Vanderpool could probably put this together for us.

I can agree with you on this, then.  Clearly there is some confusion as to what "structure" means, and I'm not sure it serves much of a purpose if it's so inclusive as to include everything from sentence structure to the structure of the entire story.

But I'm with you on the idea.  I'm not wedded to a separate category for technical issues if we already have a category the meaningfully encompasses it.  I think some sort of set criteria would be helpful and maybe Mark is the best person to do that.  But, I'm not sure saying "Structure" encompasses virtually everything else that isn't covered in concept, dialogue and character is adequate.  In that case, it just seems too overly broad to be useful.  Others may have thoughts on that, though.

And Popeye, it's always going to be reasonable to ask any of the staff for something should it be an improvement, but as you can see, there's usually a lot of debate that happens first and a lot of us aren't even on the same page as to what the definitions are for certain terms.  Again, 'Technical' to me is your classic punctuation and grammar, all the stuff you need to know in Elements of Style.  It's very much hard and fast, unlike the star ranking system where one person can think your dialogue is great while another can think it's shitty.  That, and some workshoppers just aren't very learned in the technical aspects.  It hardly makes sense for them to be able to grade something in which they might be missing every comma splice or mistake that's in front of them.  That's why I'd like to keep it as is: to those certain individuals who are doing hardcore LBLs and catching all those missteps.

I agree.  That's why we're having this discussion, I thought?  For those that think we need to have a "grammar" category, I'd disagree.  But if someone is saying that "style" counts, I agree with them and think it should be judged accordingly.  Before we add anything, we should 1: Define the terms we already use, and 2: Define the term we believe should be added.  I can get behind that as a longer-term project. 

 

Chester Pane's picture
Chester Pane from Portland, Oregon is reading The Brief and Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao by Junot Diaz December 17, 2011 - 1:38pm

Again - we aren't really talking about grammar. The "technical" category would be more along the lines of syntax, clarity, consistency, word choice, etc.  You're right that there are times to break grammar rules - if anything, good use of rule-breaking would be a reason to get higher points on the technical category, so long as you're really careful and thoughtful about it.

Word. 

We really had to get used to the idea that stars don't mean shit, and they still don't.

 

Then what is the point of having them? I know what you mean Brandon, but I think they should mean something. Star responsibly. Someone could put an eye out if we all start throwing stars around like they are meaningless. I am tempted to make a point by giving everything five stars from here on out. Or maybe singles would be more effective.

I would love to get Vanderpool's take on this.

Again, I really just wanted to get everyone's input on this. I am fine if it stays as it is. If nothing else it has given me more clarity into the 'Structure' category. The stars in that category will be twinkling accordingly from here on out, or until there is a new category.

Brandon's picture
Brandon from KCMO is reading Made to Break December 17, 2011 - 1:53pm

I told you, man, they're a guide.  That's it.  The author benefits from knowing approximately how strong their piece is, but the person who probably benefits more is the person looking to do a crit.

Chester Pane's picture
Chester Pane from Portland, Oregon is reading The Brief and Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao by Junot Diaz December 17, 2011 - 1:54pm

Hmmmm...

PopeyeDoyle's picture
PopeyeDoyle from Rio Grande Valley, TX is reading Chronology of Water December 17, 2011 - 2:06pm

I told you, man, they're a guide.  That's it.  The author benefits from knowing approximately how strong their piece is, but the person who probably benefits more is the person looking to do a crit.

If this is accurate, we should probably have a separate category for "overall," rather than just averaging the star categories elsewhere.  That would be a better gauge of "approximately how strong the piece is," rather than just equally weighting concept, structure, character, and dialogue.

Since none of us here are involved in the creation of the site, maybe it's best to let the people who are chime in.

1) What is the actual purpose of the star system?

2) What do the categories mean?  How are we to evaluate them?  Why were those specific categories chosen?

As it is, taking your statement as true, arguendo, I'm not sure that the star system is serving its purpose.

Brandon's picture
Brandon from KCMO is reading Made to Break December 17, 2011 - 2:17pm

@Chester

I can give you a really whacked out example of why the star thing shouldn't be taken so seriously.

Let's say that Stephen Graham Jones, Craig Clevenger, and Will Christopher Baer individually rated your piece three stars across the board, then three other writers who are relatively new to workshop with no prior publication gave you five stars across the board.

Now your collective rating after six reviews is going to be 3 1/2 stars, but is that really accurate?  We've got the opinion of three established authors and another three opinions from a trio of noobs. 

What it really comes down to is the quality of the advice in the actual critique, the suggested improvements, and the knowledge of the source.  This is why I don't like getting caught up in the star thing because it offers me nothing compared to what's in the actual critique.

PopeyeDoyle's picture
PopeyeDoyle from Rio Grande Valley, TX is reading Chronology of Water December 17, 2011 - 2:25pm

What it really comes down to is the quality of the advice in the actual critique, the suggested improvements, and the knowledge of the source.  This is why I don't like getting caught up in the star thing because it offers me nothing compared to what's in the actual critique.

Right.  But you said earlier that the star rating does affect how many reviews you receive, etc., so it is important in that sense.  If the star ratings don't actually mean anything, then maybe the site should just get rid of them.  But if they are keeping them, they should probably be as accurate as is reasonable.

 

EDIT:  Or (and I'd be fine with this), just have one rating:  "Overall."

Chester Pane's picture
Chester Pane from Portland, Oregon is reading The Brief and Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao by Junot Diaz December 17, 2011 - 3:10pm

@Brandon,

What? Clev, SGJ and WCB and going to read one of my submissions? Holy shit, I need to get something decent put together.

Yeah, I know exactly what you mean. Totally true. I see that all the time. And I personally read every other's reviewer's post and glance at the respective star ratings to align them with the dossier of information that my private investigator has compiled on them. 

For example, when I read through one of your reviews, I flip open my Tietz file (which is quite formidable I must say) and consider the literary eye you have. When I see your star ratings (grades) I consider the giver of those grades.

On a related note, I tend to grade stories on a sort of bell curve. Again, if I am reviewing one of your pieces I will take into consideration the level of writing I know you are capable of and compare that to the current effort. In other words, I rarely look at the stars as a fixed set of indicators but as a bit of a sliding scale. I use them to communicate not to other reviewers, but to the author himself. That to me is the whole point of the workshop. For reviewers and authors to discuss work. I never read a piece and fill stars in for anyone but the authors benefit.

And personally I am a little dismayed when I see five stars across the board--which means to me the fucker is ready to publish only to open it up and discover basic corrections that still need attention.

But you are right. It is not that big of a deal. Like you said, the body of the post and the LBL is where the real information lies. And I am completely fine with things the way they are.

I've had this illness all my life one symptom of which is a little voice that is always asking "As good as this thing is, could it be better?"

I gather that, where the star grading system and categories are concerned that your answer would be "No."

And maybe you are right. But that stupid little voice of mine just wants to make sure.

Cheers.

 

Renfield's picture
Renfield from Hell is reading 20th Century Ghosts December 17, 2011 - 6:48pm

Oh, is that what we're talking about?  In that case, my vote is no.  Nope.  That stuff is too subjective.  A lot of my grammar suggestions have the note "technically this is right, but I suggest changing it" and then I'll have my change in the text.  Or if it's wrong, I just poing it out (and hope that I'm not wrong, because that happens, too).

Not to mention that things are often incorrect on purpose.  Whether that works or not in a piece is a different judgment call.

I did a critique for someone elsewhere the other day that was indeed mostly correct in grammar. Most of my comments were "single clause, cut comma" where he was keeping the rhythm of the voice even though technically incorrect, and my corrections to keep his asyndetic coordination consistent. This was all done, along with letting some grammar slide, to preserve the narrative voice. I was smart enough to see where he was going, and I don't doubt the regular workshoppers here would be as smart. I think the spirit of these kind of corrections could fit easily into the star system, they will let you know what to expect in the LBL and really drive home what your agenda should be on the revision.

In the other thread, I argued against a Grammar grading because it would never be used consistently due to the varying level of the story and of the reviewer. But something containing all the technical stuff mentioned, word choice, clarity, consistency, etc. is a much more useful and approachable concept.

 

Here's how I define the categories we already have:

Concept - general idea, originality, the general quality of plot points

Structure - The rhythm of the piece, pacing quality in opening, middle, beginning, where important info is dumped, use of exposition, use of flashbackery

Characters - how interesting the characters are, how fleshed out they are, if their actions are believable/consistent

Dialogue - how good the dialogue is, the info conveyed in dialogue, dialogue attribution, if there is the right amount of it

 

With the start system now, I may throw clarity, consistency, narrative voice, and grammar into the star ratings of any of the Concept, Structure, or Characters categories, depending on how relates overall to the particular piece. That's a big swing in grading and is not entirely consistent for me from story to story.

But you know, I'm not in the workshop every day. Whatever you guys think is clear and easy to you for grading.

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ReneeAPickup from Southern California is reading Wanderers by Chuck Wendig December 18, 2011 - 8:28am

I feel like technical issues should be left for those who are good at it. I am not good at it, and therefore wouldn't be able to offer a good review on the technical aspect, but I think most of us who ARE good at it include it in the LBLs, right? 

I would be at a total loss trying to rate someone's technical prowess, when I really am terrible at spotting it.

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PopeyeDoyle from Rio Grande Valley, TX is reading Chronology of Water December 18, 2011 - 8:41am

I feel like technical issues should be left for those who are good at it. I am not good at it, and therefore wouldn't be able to offer a good review on the technical aspect, but I think most of us who ARE good at it include it in the LBLs, right?

Not everyone is good at developing a concept, but we let them rate it. Not everyone is good at dialogue, but we let them rate it as well.  Not sure why things like clarity, consistency, word choice, etc should be treated any differently.

At this point, I'm thinking that the only useful star rating is "Overall" and that the rest should be handled in the critique itself.  But we still haven't gotten any clarification on what actual purpose the star system is supposed to serve.

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bryanhowie from FW, ID is reading East of Eden. Steinbeck is FUCKING AMAZING. December 18, 2011 - 8:49am

Strangly enough, besides using the actual people in the story, when I choose a rating for Character, I also  base my star rating on the setting and how well the setting is fleshed out (just as if it were a character).  This is from a personal approach to writing I have ever since I took an art class and realized how important the background and setting and atmosphere are.  In some fiction, the setting is a second or third character, and often the second most important.  

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ReneeAPickup from Southern California is reading Wanderers by Chuck Wendig December 18, 2011 - 9:17am

Not everyone is good at developing a concept, but we let them rate it. Not everyone is good at dialogue, but we let them rate it as well.  Not sure why things like clarity, consistency, word choice, etc should be treated any differently.

 

There is a difference between what you are good at doing and what you are good at spotting in other people's work--and being that technical aspects are, well, technical, I would think it is more important to get it right when pointint out perceived flaws. I can say I dislike the concept of someone's story, but that's completely subjective, and the author of said story can choose to give me the bird and move on. If I am trying to rate a category where I have to have objective knowledge beyond saying "I don't think this works" or "I think something is wrong here" then I am going to feel like I am letting the person down.

As for the previous poster who said he didn't think many people read the LBLs, what good would a rating for "technical" do, if the author doesn't go back and read the LBL to see what the issue/possible solution for the issue is?

I read a lot of reviews for other people's stories and read some of the LBLs before jumping in to review, and I see a lot of technical help in the LBLs, so I am of the opinion that it's fine the way it is. The people who have a knack for the technical seem willing to help out, and those who don't aren't put in a position where they have to give some half hearted BS in the way of rating because they aren't great at spotting technical issues.

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ReneeAPickup from Southern California is reading Wanderers by Chuck Wendig December 18, 2011 - 9:18am

edit. double post.

PopeyeDoyle's picture
PopeyeDoyle from Rio Grande Valley, TX is reading Chronology of Water December 18, 2011 - 9:29am

There is a difference between what you are good at doing and what you are good at spotting in other people's work--and being that technical aspects are, well, technical, I would think it is more important to get it right when pointint out perceived flaws. I can say I dislike the concept of someone's story, but that's completely subjective, and the author of said story can choose to give me the bird and move on. If I am trying to rate a category where I have to have objective knowledge beyond saying "I don't think this works" or "I think something is wrong here" then I am going to feel like I am letting the person down.

This might be another situation where we're talking about a different thing when we say "technical."  The term might be bad because everyone seems to be talking about a different thing.  By "technical," we are in essence talking about "style."  Is the style of writing clear and concise?  Does the sentence structure work?  Is the word choice appropriate for the piece?  If any of these things are missing, is there a good reason for them to be missing?  Is there a reason a character might be unclear or might have strange word choice, etc.?  These stylistic judgments have both an objective (clarity is important no matter what), and a subjective (different style works for different people) components.  This is true of every single category.    To take your concept example.  There is an objective component (the concept is completely incoherent) and a subjective component (I just find the concept boring).  Technical is no different from any of the others.

A great example of how "technical" can be subjective.  I love the technical aspects of Cormac McCarthy and Annie Proulx's writing.  This famous article takes them down completely (along with Paul Auster and Don DeLillo):  http://www.theatlantic.com/magazine/archive/2001/07/a-reader-apos-s-mani...

There are both objective and subjective components to all aspects of writing.  I'm not sure I understand how technical style is any different than the others.

I read a lot of reviews for other people's stories and read some of the LBLs before jumping in to review, and I see a lot of technical help in the LBLs, so I am of the opinion that it's fine the way it is. The people who have a knack for the technical seem willing to help out, and those who don't aren't put in a position where they have to give some half hearted BS in the way of rating because they aren't great at spotting technical issues.

First, it's probably important to answer this threshold question:  What do you believe is the purpose of the star system?  Until we determine that, it's impossible to say whether it is "fine the way it is."  As far as the LBLs - I see them provide help on everything from concept to character to dialogue to technical, etc.  Why separate out an extraordinarily important part of writing as being unworthy of critique?  Every reader is capable of commenting on "technical" issues as I've defined it above.  They don't have to be a grammarian to do it.

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ReneeAPickup from Southern California is reading Wanderers by Chuck Wendig December 18, 2011 - 10:15am

Maybe that is the issue. I don't think I would be arguing against a "style" category or star rating system.

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aliensoul77 from a cold distant star is reading the writing on the wall. December 18, 2011 - 10:22am

I think there should be a star rating system for the sexiness of the author.  If I don't find the writer sexy, I can't read their works.  I must have a perpetual boner while reading.

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Renfield from Hell is reading 20th Century Ghosts December 18, 2011 - 10:42am

Thanks for the insight.

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Kirk from Pingree Grove, IL is reading The Book Of The New Sun December 18, 2011 - 11:31am

1) What is the actual purpose of the star system?

The purpose is to provide the author with a general, easy to interpret understanding of their submission. If every single review you've received scores poorly "dialog" but highly on "concept" it gives you a good indicator of what you should probably focus on during your re-write. It is not supposed to be something that says "this is the best submission on the site"

 

2) What do the categories mean?  How are we to evaluate them?  Why were those specific categories chosen?

Again, the intent is for it to provide the author with an idea of your feelings. People rate differently, so we've always suggested rate by your gut. My personal take has always been

  1. Very poor - should probably rethink all of this
  2. Poor - needs a lot of work, first-draft level
  3. Average - needs lots of work but has potential
  4. Very strong - very good probably just needs a little more tweaking
  5. Near completion - ready to be shopped around, might just need some minor touches like grammar

But the point is, you're supposed to have discussion while providing a helpful review. If you're rating someone a 1 in dialog, hopefully you're expressing why you feel they did so poorly.

The categories were chosen after a long community-driven process of deciding what categories make make the most sense from a birds-eye view. They were specifically chosen to not be about the minutia of a submission. Again, the point is to provide you with an idea of what your readers feel. If the current categories are the wrong ones, or they need being added to, that's fine and it's a discussion worth having.

Any system of rating is inherently imperfect which is why the important part is the discussion of the piece. But at the end of the day, it does a lot to help the author make sense of their writing. It's no different than any other form of polling. I could ask you guys :

"what should we add to the website" and then provide you with a box to type your thoughts into. Or, I could ask the same question, and give you 5 new features to rate. Or, I could let you rate them all and provide you with the opportunity to explain your choice.

The first 2 options provide me with usable feedback. One is specific and one is abstract. The third option provides the best of both worlds. It allows me to get specific advice as well as get a feeling of the general consensus. 

PopeyeDoyle's picture
PopeyeDoyle from Rio Grande Valley, TX is reading Chronology of Water December 18, 2011 - 11:43am

Again, the intent is for it to provide the author with an idea of your feelings. People rate differently, so we've always suggested rate by your gut. My personal take has always been

Sorry - I asked the question in a confusing manner.  What I meant to ask is - What do we mean by "dialogue," "concept," "character," and "structure."  It seems like virtually everyone in this thread is judging by completely different criteria.  Some are including setting in "character."  Some are including technical details in "structure." I've been including technical details in "concept," as that was the place I thought best to shoehorn it in.  Others, it seems, don't take the star system seriously at all.

If this is the case, then I'm not sure that the star system is servings its purpose to provide a "good indicator of what you should probably focus on during your re-write."  That's best served using the actual critique section because it appears that no one is clear on what the categories actually mean. 

So, maybe the first step is just to define what the current categories (structure, dialogue, character and concept) actually mean and what we should be looking at when providing those ratings.  That way, the star system can better serve the function that its meant to serve.  Maybe that's the better discussion to have.  It also seems like it would be easier for you, rather than attempting to add in a whole new category.

Chester Pane's picture
Chester Pane from Portland, Oregon is reading The Brief and Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao by Junot Diaz December 18, 2011 - 12:54pm
Kirk said:

 

 My personal take has always been:

 

  1. Very poor - should probably rethink all of this
  2. Poor - needs a lot of work, first-draft level
  3. Average - needs lots of work but has potential
  4. Very strong - very good probably just needs a little more tweaking
  5. Near completion - ready to be shopped around, might just need some minor touches like grammar

My sentiments exactly.

And I am on the exact same page as Popeye. Except for the whole Olive Oil thing. I prefer my women to have more voluptuous, erumpent features.

Not to introduce another thorn into this discussion, but I think there should be a red star that is kind of like the Bat Phone for when a piece is off-the-charts, Fo-literary-Shizzle-Dang-Dizzly:

PopeyeDoyle's picture
PopeyeDoyle from Rio Grande Valley, TX is reading Chronology of Water December 18, 2011 - 1:16pm

And I am on the exact same page as Popeye. Except for the whole Olive Oil thing. I prefer my women to have more voluptuous, erumpent features.

Just a bit off:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jimmy_%22Popeye%22_Doyle

 

Chester Pane's picture
Chester Pane from Portland, Oregon is reading The Brief and Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao by Junot Diaz December 18, 2011 - 6:02pm

I know. I was trying to be funny. As usual, I am not a very good comedian.

That's a great movie.