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on critiquing...

discuss amongst yourselves. ;) Someone actually started what I think may be a beneficial discussion on imaginaries--it's been a long time. The below is what I came up with in reply, which I think stands just about well enough on its own.

Basically, my critique really depends on the piece. I'd like to crit everything as if I were an editor deciding on its publishing fate, but a good chunk of what I read would get tossed out at the first paragraph, without any further comment--when that happens, I tend to make general comments about writing, add supporting nits explaining those comments, and then see whether I think the idea as a whole was worth developing at all. I don't really know how to crit such pieces better--I don't want to discourage anyone (well, I might harbor the occasional evil gleam, but deep, deep, down, I think anybody can write if they practice, and spend time thinking about it, and critiquing). Then there's the stuff that shows immediate promise, and those I'll tend to be harsher with, trying to find every last thing that bugs me about them, and the focus may just be on word choice, or odd grammar, or flow of sentences... occasionally characterization, but usually that's either there or not there; very rarely is it "nearly" there, and only when it's "nearly" there do I feel at all qualified to really give suggestions, or point out _just where_ it doesn't work for me.

My tendency is towards systems that can be easily demarcated, easy metrics and all that. But I haven't worked out in my own head anything that I think would work with how I go. The closest I've got at the moment might be something along the lines of, for an overall score--

0) wouldn't read past the first sentence
1) wouldn't read past the first paragraph
2) skimming after the first scene, or first few paragraphs, seeing if it gets any better
3) skimming because it mostly works, and I'm curious as to whether the end makes it worth while
4) stepping out of belief fairly frequently to nitpick, but overall enjoying
5) noting the odd nitpick, but engaged enough that I don't really want to step out
6) barely noticing a nitpick at all
7) stepping outside of space and time

Then there would be a separate scoring for how I felt at the end:

0) completely robbed, wishing I'd not gotten there. wanting to strangle the author.
1) confused, hoping that the author just needs to explain stuff a little better for it to all work out
2) slightly annoyed
3) appeased, at least
4) satisfied
5) completely blown away

Something interesting to toss onto the end of this might be "how much you'd be willing to pay to publish it". But that's rather hard to really get into, given disparate economic backgrounds, etc. Maybe we could put fake money on the site to trade around. But while nice in theory, I think that would get abused quickly.

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February 2016


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