Students and teachers, doctors and patients, the UN and member states—no matter how different the backgrounds are, no matter the gap in experience or who's leading the conversation, it's important for communication to succeed. And the only way to do that is by making sure there's always room for a dialogue.
Dialogue: two sides having a conversation together.
This is about critiquing people you don't know, and who didn't request a Serious Business Full-Length Critique.
welcoming critique: For Authors
- Give critiquers a starting point. Do you know you're weak at dialogue? Are you looking for ways to make X more sympathetic? These are all things you can mention in the Artists' Comments.
- If you don't like asking questions, consider statements. 'I want this piece to make you feel like your soul got used as an ashtray.' (Okay, not that vague. You're not going for Mysterious Artiste With A Fridge of Corpses here.)
- I sometimes see authors go 'yeah I know that's a problem already.' Critiquers cannot read your mind. If you know there's an issue, say so. If you want help fixing it, say so. If it's already on your to-do list, say so.
- REMEMBER TO ASK FOR CRITIQUE. How else will we know you want it?
starting Critique: For Critiquers
- Poke the author's profile. It's good to learn if the author a) knows their subject and b) is experienced, intermediate, or newbtastic. I wouldn't tell someone writing their first story ever to explore the dichotomy of thematic shindigs, for instance. (Yes, 'shindigs' is a valid technical term. Shh.)
- KISS. Keep it simple, stupid! During the chat, a bunch of people said they find really long critique overwhelming.
- Leave out details. Why? Because we don't know what the author wants. Especially for unedited stuff, general impressions suffice. Also, that above thing.
- Make it welcoming/subjective. Consider 'I found the ending lacking' versus 'That ending is terrible.' It's up to the author to ask why. But in the first case, the author has to ask you why you found it lacking. Also, the latter causes sadness.
- NOTE: the author has the right to not go further. I made this poll expecting people to be like 'what the fuck does this mean, neuro?' but even when they didn't, I'd lost 30 seconds max, so...like, whatever?
- Ask questions! Don't get something? It can be about the piece, it can be 'do you want a proofread/critique.' Ask, unlike assume, doesn't have an ass in it. So ASK.
- Don't suggest changes...yet. Especially if you're new to critiquing or you've never edited someone else's work, this leads into imposing your style on them.
responding to critique: for authors
- Be gracious. Assume good intentions. Can we stop wasting time on the 1% of commenters who are trolling and focus on people who've taken the time to leave you feedback? Seriously. Smile, nod, and thank them.
- Reason over emotionality! If you're genuinely hurt, you need to take a deep breath and remember that you are not your artwork and needing to practice more doesn't make you a failure as a human being.
- Yes, you can come back to it later. (I suck at responding to critiques in a timely fashion. No one has eaten my face yet.)
- Ask questions! Don't get something? It can be about their impressions of the piece, it can even be 'what would you replace that line/setting/character with.' Ask, unlike assume, doesn't have an ass in it. So ASK.
- Don't be defensive. This hopefully follows from that first point. If you don't agree with the direction they've suggested, you can either close with 'I'll think about it' (which you should—think about it) or explain why you didn't go that way and see if that clarifies your decision.
what's next? for everyone
- The cool thing about that 'Reply' button is you don't have to hit it right away. If you know you just wrote an emotional response, take fifteen, look at something hot, and then come back and revise your comment.
- Keeping in mind that the other person isn't you, do your words make sense without Extra Special Context Cues? Are you using a special friendly definition of 'utter tripe' that only you are familiar with?
- PAY IT FORWARD. PAY IT FORWARD. PAY IT FORWARD. Authors, I'm looking at you. Critique doesn't grow on fucking trees (or the normal kind). I get that you might have nothing to say to the person who critiqued you, but dig through your inbox and make someone's day a little better.
- By the third or fourth reply y'all should be having a conversation. If you're not...back to the drawing board for me. Also, brush up your people skills.
- Ideally, critique will start off somewhat professional and transition into something more casual. Don't be afraid to make friends.