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Much as I’m looking forward to Saturday’s GSHW meeting with John Joseph Adams, I’m a little nervous about the get together with my critique group, which takes place on the same day, after the after-meeting nosh at the local diner.
I’ll be receiving feedback on Waking up Jack Thunder from my beta readers. I’ve seen enough critiques over the last couple of years to be able to spot some of the warning signs which can tell you if you're about to receive a less than stellar review.
Since I know many of my LJ friends get feedback on their own work, I thought I’d share some of those tell-tale signals here. 

You know you're in for a rough critique when...
1.   In the run-up to your next session, you read several group emails, asking for confirmation of how to spell words like ‘illiterate’; ‘trite’ or ‘cliché’, and yours is the only story to be reviewed.
2.   Before the meeting, the meanie in the group keeps smiling at you.
3.   Before the meeting, other group members point at you and laugh.
4.   Before (and during) the meeting, nobody will look you in the eye.
5.   In the pre-meeting chinwag about books you’ve been reading, someone says, ‘Not the worst thing I’ve ever read’, and everyone turns to look at you.


6.   The group leader places a black cloth on his head when it’s time to critique your story…


7.    … then asks you to give up any concealed weapons.
8.   When it’s your turn, the people on either side of you move away.
9.   When it's your turn, someone hands you a box of tissues.
10. Someone else removes all nearby sharp objects.
Rest assured, no matter how rough Saturday’s critiques get, I shall abide by the code set out in The Critiquee’s Charter, and leave all concealed weapons at home. 
How about you?
How can you tell when you’re in for a rough critique?

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( 52 comments — Leave a comment )
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Feb. 10th, 2010 02:53 pm (UTC)
lol That's a great list.

Feb. 10th, 2010 03:08 pm (UTC)
Thanks, though I'm sure you'll never need to worry about anything on it :)
Feb. 10th, 2010 02:59 pm (UTC)
I wouldn't know about the signs warning you that you're in for rough critique, but when I submit, I actually welcome them. For one thing, they liked you (and the story) enough to read and critique it. Also, there was apparently something done well enough in the writing that it managed to hold their attention long enough to formulate said critique unless, of course, they're offering a critique on your flash fictio0n, which is meant to be succinct. Critique is a wreath of pretty flowers which smell bad: however, it is needed, to point out things in your story which you;d probably be kicking yourself over, several months from the proverbial "now". And yea, I did paraphrase Spock.
Feb. 10th, 2010 03:09 pm (UTC)
Hehe, well that told me :P
(no subject) - snapes_angel - Feb. 10th, 2010 03:14 pm (UTC) - Expand
Feb. 10th, 2010 03:04 pm (UTC)
At the Milford Conference (aka critiquing workshop), which is held each year in North Wales, there's a rather charming tradition of handing out chocolates (or other sweets) to the person you're about to deliver a (shall we say "challenging"?) critique to. The three times I've attended, I've received a lot of chocolates.

There was one year when the self-styled Suicide Twins, who had both just received tough-love critiques, jumped in the lake that is conveniently situated close to the farmhouse. Needless to say, we both survived. Indeed, my fellow twin thrived!
Feb. 10th, 2010 03:12 pm (UTC)
That chocolate-giving thing wouldn't work for me.

I'd start digging out my early work by the truckload if I thought there'd be some chocs in it :)
Feb. 10th, 2010 03:11 pm (UTC)
That was great :-)

I can tell I'm in for a bad critique by the layers of concessive phrases that precede the critique, things like "Well, everybody has different types of things they like," or "You know, I'm not so big on XX [some thing that features prominently in the story]," and so on. That, and small, small complimentary remarks ("I love that you made sure to use Courier font!" or "I didn't spot any spelling errors at all!")

In honesty, though, the people who've critiqued my stuff have been really thoughtful in how they expressed stuff, and yet still honest, and I've always appreciated it. My first reaction (in my head; I don't say it out loud) is "no-no-no-no iz perfect as it izzzz!" ... but then I think about it some more and realize the virtue of what the people are saying. --Most times, anyway. Every now and then I've had some comments that I thought were off base, or where I could see what they were saying, but I didn't want to alter what I had done, even understanding their point.
Feb. 10th, 2010 03:14 pm (UTC)
"I love that you made sure to use Courier font!"

Lol, I'll have to remember that one :)
Feb. 10th, 2010 03:11 pm (UTC)

11. You're asked if everything's okay with your day job, and when you say it is, everyone breathes a big sigh of relief.

12. If you don't have a day job, people give you copies of the newspaper want ads.

13. John Houseman comes back from the dead, hands you a cell phone, and tells you to call your mother and tell her you'll never be a writer. (That's a reference to an old movie called The Paper Chase.)
Feb. 10th, 2010 04:19 pm (UTC)
Ooh, the day job question, now that's a mean one :)
Feb. 10th, 2010 03:12 pm (UTC)
I really don't know. My critiquers usually look at me and ask: Are you sure you want to hear this?

Your list sounds like my memories from primary school...
Feb. 10th, 2010 04:20 pm (UTC)
Ouch :(
Feb. 10th, 2010 03:13 pm (UTC)

That was worth a good chuckle. Well done!

A few to add:

11. You know you're in for a rough critique, when all the critiquers form a line like in the movie "Airplane" and they're all waiting for a chance to get at you.

12. You know you're in for a rough critique, when the kids walking around in the lobby tell you they can write better than you ( and they can't even read yet ).

Feb. 10th, 2010 04:31 pm (UTC)
Ah, Airplane. Great movie! We have the 'Don't Call me Shirley' edition :)
(Deleted comment)
Feb. 10th, 2010 04:32 pm (UTC)
I'm confused. Wouldn't Hershey's be better as a punishment? ;)
(Deleted comment)
(no subject) - jongibbs - Feb. 10th, 2010 06:43 pm (UTC) - Expand
Feb. 10th, 2010 03:53 pm (UTC)
Nice list!

I actually can't tell when I'm in for a good critique or a bad one. The chapters I tend to be the most worried about are the ones with edgy content--sexuality, extreme violence, highly controversial issues. Those are the chapters I dread getting critiqued, but they actually tend to be more positively received than the others.
Feb. 10th, 2010 04:33 pm (UTC)
It's strange how that happens, isn't it? What we think folks will swoon over, they hate and vice versa
Feb. 10th, 2010 03:55 pm (UTC)
My group has more or less accidentally created a code for these things:

"This didn't work for me" - I didn't like it at all.

"It needs tidying up" - You can't do grammar for sh*t.

"It's a bit rough round the edges" - You also can't do plotting or characterisation.
Feb. 10th, 2010 04:32 pm (UTC)
LOL, yes--ouch!
(no subject) - jongibbs - Feb. 10th, 2010 04:36 pm (UTC) - Expand
Feb. 10th, 2010 03:56 pm (UTC)
That was very funny.

you know your in for a rough one when it starts with
"I don't wish to discourage you, but.."
Feb. 10th, 2010 04:36 pm (UTC)
Feb. 10th, 2010 04:51 pm (UTC)
My group was a 'read it out loud in frount of everyone' group. So there was no doubt how people were going to react - I mean you in a fact to face you can't help notice if someone fell asleep during your work.
Feb. 10th, 2010 05:27 pm (UTC)
The Monmouth writers do that (read aloud, bot fall asleep - at least not often). It's a great way to hear how your work sounds without any personal emphasis on certain words.
(no subject) - bodgei - Feb. 10th, 2010 05:48 pm (UTC) - Expand
Feb. 10th, 2010 04:59 pm (UTC)
When someone lugs in a large hammer with blood spattered on the head, looks meaningfully at your fingers and declares that it's time to make the world a safer place for readers..
Feb. 10th, 2010 05:03 pm (UTC)
And since I'm not really part of a group, my togh love comes from editors. They have resources to hire thugs to kneecap me in order to spare their slushers any unnecessary pain!
(no subject) - jongibbs - Feb. 10th, 2010 05:28 pm (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - bondo_ba - Feb. 10th, 2010 05:33 pm (UTC) - Expand
Feb. 10th, 2010 05:07 pm (UTC)
Feb. 10th, 2010 05:28 pm (UTC)
Feb. 10th, 2010 05:07 pm (UTC)
Nice list! Personally, I'd be afraid to harshly criticize anything written by an author who would NEED to be asked to hand over all concealed weapons. :D Nothing like adding a little danger to a beta reader meeting!
Feb. 10th, 2010 05:29 pm (UTC)
Hehe, good point :)
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( 52 comments — Leave a comment )

Things What I Wrote and Other Stuff

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