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22 February 2006 @ 06:52 pm
Concrit (or, how Rachel got her mojo back)  
So this is the topic du jour, and I simply must put my oar in (as Marilla would say -- I'm on an Anne of Green Gables kick, more on that in a mo).

My own opinion on concrit is a little scrambled. The thing is, I'm not sure what end it serves. Sure, furiosity and imadra_blue are advocates of both giving and receiving it, and it seems to be a very respectable thing to do, to hold this standpoint. Very few people, I'm sure -- at least in this end of fandom -- just want people to die with love of their fics (like Diana! ... sorry). At the same time, I'm pretty sure that all I want from people is geniune appreciation. 

Let me first point out what 'genuine appreciation' means to me. It means that someone has read my story, has seen any number of flaws in it, has seen things they liked in it, and when they came to the end the likeable things over-balanced the flaws. In this case they could be said to have liked the story 'overall.' In the other case, flaws will be top-heavy and that will make the person dislike the story 'overall.' In either case, it doesn't matter if you have the prose of Margaret Atwood or the jaw-dropping awfulness of Cecilia Ahern's syntax (to name the two published authors who are the most poles apart in my opinion). It's the 'overall' impression that rules the day.

In that case, noting flaws like canon errors, misspellings, habits you dislike -- nicknames, to name one of mine -- really does seem, not pointless, but over strenuous. Why knock yourself out doing it, in other words. I'm certain I loved fanfic a lot more back in the day when I could read a smooth, quick-talking, platinum-haired and leather-clad Draco without throwing my eyes up in disgust and pity. It's only as I've let go of a lot of my pretensions that I've even been able to return to fic that isn't gratuitous, ego-boosting PWP.

If my interest in any given story is overtaken by seeing things I don't care for, I let it well enough alone. Every so often, I venture on to the pages of writers I dislike but who get amazing quantities of appreciative feedback. It doesn't matter -- each time, I'm confused and disappointed afterwards. Yet, what would I achieve by telling people that? After all, my opinion is only equal in validity to everyone's else's, not superior (much as I would like to think otherwise). 

I'm not saying it's a good thing to have canon errors, misspellings and annoying habits in your writing -- of course not. However, if they're there and I can stand them, because the story itself is so good, then I put up and shut up. Everyone makes mistakes -- I've seen Margaret Atwood herself make them (not canon errors obviously, but others). 

In other words, a story is more than the sum of its parts. I know I make mistakes and get even whopping things like characterisation wrong (see the thread on Following The Wrong God Home to see just how wrong I can get it), but you know what? Two or three people adored that story at the time. Does that makes them stupid or mistaken? Not in the least -- it means that they could put aside their misapprehensions in favour of the 'overall' story and what good qualities it had to offer (seemed to have some, but don't ask me -- I'd be the last to know, I'm sure).

This is where Anne comes in. I only started reading the Anne books this weekend out of sheer boredom, as I seem to remember her being disgustingly beautiful and talented -- everything I dislike in a protagonist, in other words. And she hasn't changed. My reading horizons have, however; I can now keenly appreciate a gifted author when I find one, even if she persists in describing Anne as a bloody lily and devoting whole paragraphs to descriptions of landscape. (AHH! WHY, LUCY MAUDE, WHY?) On the other hand, her character insights are razor-sharp and she has a non-invasive wit that appeals to me a great deal. You find some authors like that -- again, Margaret Atwood -- the ones you'll read whatever they choose to write. Fandom is the same, and I have some writers (they know who they are) whose fiction I will read no matter what. Of course, nobody's perfect and I like some things better than others. And there are a lot of authors out there who have written things I like -- I just don't love them unswervingly. You cannot be a Diana to everyone.

So, my point? Honestly, if you like something really well, then you should be able to ignore its faults. This is my motto in life as well as fiction. Some time or another, it might be appropriate to point out one or two things that can be improved. However, this kind of thing is delicate, and most people's egos are fragile, fragile things. I should know -- hand-spun glass has nothing on mine. I know that, however well-intentioned, concrit out of the context of beta'ing always makes me ... disappointed. Sure, it often makes me resolve to do better -- and I'm not saying I don't want it at all. I'd just prefer that genuine appreciation, I guess!

As for stuff you don't like, in my opinion, it doesn't deserve my help. And you can be guaranteed, along with death and taxes, that what you regard as utter shite will be unreasonably loved by someone.

Anyway, I'm mainly happy because, while I was trying to study biochem, I grabbed some scrap paper -- fully intending to draw a few structures or something -- and ended up handwriting three pages of my Remix assignment. HOLA. Two months. Over?
 
 
Current Mood: dorkydorky
Current Music: "Mother, We Just Can't Get Enough", New Radicals
 
 
 
Minnowminnow_53 on February 22nd, 2006 11:34 am (UTC)
You make some very interesting points. I'm actually an editor, and find it very hard to read content without form: a fic has to be really good to allow me to overlook certain weaknesses. I note every wrong tense, unnecessary or inappropriate metaphor, misplaced quotation mark... And yes, I'm sure those weaknesses are present in my own work, because none of us can judge ourselves objectively.

But it's true: if a story is really good, I do read on. My favourite R/S author, who I won't name, has a few, though not many, inconsistencies and areas that could do with revision: in content, though, not in style. She has never used a a beta, and writes so well enough that you can overlook the bad points. Still, I have a list of things I would like to tell her...

So. You can like something but see its bad points. And brood on them... As well as brooding on your own stuff. But generally, if it's really bad, I find it unreadable.

^_^xx
Minnowminnow_53 on February 22nd, 2006 11:39 am (UTC)
OMGF
As usual, I can't write a simple comment without errors! Take out the 'so' in the penultimate sentence in the second para. :D Sorry.

PS. I LOVE the Anne books. All of them. No. I ADORE them.

^_^xx
Re: OMGF - scoradh on February 22nd, 2006 11:40 am (UTC) (Expand)
Re: OMGF - minnow_53 on February 22nd, 2006 11:56 am (UTC) (Expand)
Re: OMGF - scoradh on February 22nd, 2006 11:58 am (UTC) (Expand)
Re: OMGF - nitedula on February 22nd, 2006 01:45 pm (UTC) (Expand)
(no subject) - scoradh on February 22nd, 2006 11:40 am (UTC) (Expand)
(no subject) - minnow_53 on February 22nd, 2006 12:05 pm (UTC) (Expand)
(no subject) - scoradh on February 22nd, 2006 12:08 pm (UTC) (Expand)
(no subject) - minnow_53 on February 22nd, 2006 12:12 pm (UTC) (Expand)
(no subject) - scoradh on February 22nd, 2006 01:02 pm (UTC) (Expand)
(no subject) - minnow_53 on February 23rd, 2006 12:26 am (UTC) (Expand)
(no subject) - elsie on February 22nd, 2006 03:41 pm (UTC) (Expand)
(no subject) - minnow_53 on February 23rd, 2006 12:29 am (UTC) (Expand)
foreign thinks about youforeignthinks on February 22nd, 2006 11:35 am (UTC)
"...the prose of Margaret Atwood..." & "...reading the Anne books..."


OMGCANDIAN!!
every Starbucks should have a polar bear: Don't quote me -- Wildescoradh on February 22nd, 2006 11:38 am (UTC)
Huh. Would you believe I didn't even spot that?

I've never been there, but they make it seem like a worthy place to visit, right enough.
(no subject) - foreignthinks on February 22nd, 2006 11:46 am (UTC) (Expand)
(no subject) - scoradh on February 22nd, 2006 11:49 am (UTC) (Expand)
(no subject) - foreignthinks on February 22nd, 2006 11:38 am (UTC) (Expand)
(no subject) - scoradh on February 22nd, 2006 11:41 am (UTC) (Expand)
kabeyk on February 22nd, 2006 12:02 pm (UTC)
For once I was actually quite tempted by the honest anonymous concrit meme, because, although I think I'm pretty aware of most of the problems with my own writing, I'd still quite like it if someone else told me them openly.

God, I've never read that Cecilia Ahern book (the first one), please tell me it's terrible. Anne Shirley! Oh, she wasn't perfect, I bet she had a really spotty arse. Or her flawless freckles spelt out 'harlot' or summat.

I love you.

kxx
every Starbucks should have a polar bearscoradh on February 22nd, 2006 12:04 pm (UTC)
If you're aware of them then you've no need. Oh, don't do it -- I don't like to see people I like on it! If you want crit I can give it to you. Speaking of which, did you hand in your springsmut or what?!

IT IS TERRIBLE. Not a shadow of a doubt.

She did have red hair. TBH I can't see why that's such a trial, I and most of my friends dye our hair that colour -- but I can never see a red-haired girl wearing pink without thinking of Anne and how wrong it is!
(no subject) - kabeyk on February 22nd, 2006 12:13 pm (UTC) (Expand)
(no subject) - scoradh on February 22nd, 2006 01:01 pm (UTC) (Expand)
(no subject) - derringdo on February 24th, 2006 09:30 am (UTC) (Expand)
jehnt: james mcavoy - rawr!jehnt on February 22nd, 2006 01:09 pm (UTC)
I guess with me, when I offer criticism, it's because I really liked the story. I don't know, maybe that's weird. If I don't overwhelmingly like a fic, I don't comment on it. At all. Period. I also have large amounts of trouble with complimenting people (in real life, "Oh, it's half-decent. I suppose you didn't totally botch it." is a RINGING ENDORSEMENT from me) so it's always hard for me to come up with a way of saying I liked something without feeling like a complete fool. I need to come up with a disclaimer to that effect to put on all my comments, or something.

I'm used to having to bully people into pointing out any faults in things I write. I always wish that people would just TELL ME if there's anything wrong with my work but all I've ever managed to get people tp point out are places where my grammar is not entirely correct (which is usually done for stylistic reasons and to ensure there's good flow, and I always get the feeling these people don't understand that, so I don't change it). So, really, I guess the real reason I offer criticism is because if I were in the writer's place, I'd like to receive it. *shrug*
every Starbucks should have a polar bearscoradh on February 22nd, 2006 02:33 pm (UTC)
I can totally understand that. Comes a point when you're so apathetic about a story that you can barely read it, not to mind go to all the effort of pointing out faults and whatnot. For me, though, I have no problem gushing stupidly when I really like something; I only hope people realise my sincerity. I'm a sort of -- chipper? -- person in rl, I often have people telling me how 'happy' (in an OMG CLASS A NARCOTICS sort of way) I am, and I go the excessive as opposed to the spartan route.

I guess I perhaps am alone in wishing that my writing were perfect enough, first off the mark, for there to be no need of crit at all. I mean, I understand you have to go through apprenticeship and learning and bloody disheartening stages but. I'm impatient. I want to be good NOW.

I don't know, was there an undercurrent there that I'm blaming you for a response you gave? Not in the least; rather, I'm honoured that I merited the attention. If that was the case. ♥
(no subject) - jehnt on February 23rd, 2006 12:05 am (UTC) (Expand)
patron saint of the mediocre: me; all rightthrupenny on February 22nd, 2006 01:15 pm (UTC)
I'd never give concrit if I wasn't asked specifically for it in a beta-type capacity. Partly because I've an overdeveloped sense of what's appropriate, and partly because I'm really not any good at it. When I read a fic that could use serious work, my overpowering urge is to rewrite it myself, not guide the writer in how to do that themselves. I haven't got the patience or the altruistic nature to come up with anything more helpful than 'write it again, but better'. Instead I write bitchy posts and then delete them ;)

Honestly, if you like something really well, then you should be able to ignore its faults.

Yes! And as to your later point about some people liking things you think are utter crap, I'm a total sucker for all kinds of fanon things that I know lots of people hate. It takes all sorts, and in terms of characterisation at least, canon isn't half so rigid as some make out.

However, this kind of thing is delicate, and most people's egos are fragile, fragile things.

I can't imagine what it would be like to have a thick enough skin that I could take crit from all comers. There's just no way. :|
every Starbucks should have a polar bear: Douglas Adamsscoradh on February 22nd, 2006 02:37 pm (UTC)
My idea of an indepth review is much gushing with one or two sentences saying things like "There's no such things as blocks in England, maybe you'd want to watch that in future -- but the story was so good I hardly noticed." Now, if people don't want to eg hear they've got a story littered with Americanisms, I don't care. I don't think they should be there, and Americanisms are nothing to be proud of (imho). It's amazing how many people I know who loathe Americans simply for their bullishness is similiar cases. However, that's a serious segue.

Ooh, like what? Leather trousers? I just hate 'beauty' in anything -- I want interesting details and quirks, or just to be left to make up my own mind. Because -- OH MY -- ordinary looking people experience just as much pain and ecstasy as beautiful ones -- perhaps even more so and for that very reason.

You'd have to be sure that you thought you were excellent to begin with, I think ...
(no subject) - thrupenny on February 22nd, 2006 03:17 pm (UTC) (Expand)
not your typical annihilatrix: Angst: Keepin' it realfuriosity on February 22nd, 2006 01:16 pm (UTC)
At the same time, I'm pretty sure that all I want from people is geniune appreciation.
I've seen people express a similar sentiment before, and my only advice is to say "concrit not welcome" in your header. The point is, online everyone's a critic. Most people will refrain from concrit unless the author asks it. When I review in-depth (which I rarely do these days), I always mention things that distracted me -- but only those. There are plenty things I don't mention in a standard review because as you say, it is pointless to mention them, but if there's something that distracts me during reading your fic, I dunno, I can't "put up" with it because I'm literally thrown out of the fic, and that's never a good thing.

A good book is a page-turner, the kind you have to tear yourself away from, and if the book itself is throwing you the fuck out, then it fails at being a page-turner. I don't think a piece of fiction is ever perfect -- at a TWH panel I went to, someone (Holly Black?) said that novels are never finished; they're abandoned. And with fanfic, you have the opportunity to actually change things that might make your story less of a page-turner -- a possibility that you are never afforded with published fiction. So why mention it? Because the author can, if they want, make edits and prevent those who read it in the future from getting thrown out and thinking less of the fic for it.

In the end? You put it online, you'll get people telling you they don't like it. That's not something that's ever going to change, unless governments begin cracking down on things you can and cannot say online.
every Starbucks should have a polar bearscoradh on February 22nd, 2006 01:20 pm (UTC)
Mmm, that's an option I'd never take, being inherently wishy-washy. I'd prefer appreciation, but if it's a choice between no review and a concritty one, just sign me up for crit, eh?

I don't think a piece of fiction is ever perfect -- at a TWH panel I went to, someone (Holly Black?) said that novels are never finished; they're abandoned.

Interesting point, although it strikes me as kind of depressing. I know I'd love to ask Atwood wtf was up with half of Lady Oracle, but of course it's a done deal at this point.
Zilch. Zero. Nothing. Nada.: meinmyth on February 22nd, 2006 02:23 pm (UTC)
I think my version of a perfect book would be something like The Handmaid's Tale by Margaret Atwood or perhaps The Green mile by Stephen King (the only King book I could bring myself to read and promptly fell in love after watching Tom Hanks superb performance). When it come sto fanfiction, I'm afriad I'm quite bad at giving constructive criticism or well...criticism at all unless the fic was excruciatingly painful, which I usually detect while reading the first paragraph or so. Though I enjoy receiving constructive criticism because there is nothing more (in my opinion) refreshing than going back and correcting your work or perhaps looking at something with anotehr interpretation or at a different angle.

I also find it quite hard to receive constructive criticism because I think most people who find your fic shit don't bother tell you why and like you said, those who do like it usually ignore the flaws.

Now, when talking about your fics: Well I think I'm not the only one who thinks it but the sheer goodness and perfection so completely overrides any flaws that I wouldn't notice them if they were any. There are some authors who aren't particularly keen on complete adoration but at time that's all you have to offer because the fic was simply that good and you just have to accept it really.
every Starbucks should have a polar bear: Aw sugarscoradh on February 22nd, 2006 02:28 pm (UTC)
My perfect book ... probably The God Of Small Things. I quite liked the Handmaid's Tale, but it wasn't as -- gruesome? -- as it could have been. I think, once you start down a path like that, your bounden duty is to keep going and satisfy your readers' salacious curiosity! Plus I think the epilogue did nothing for it except remove the chill, because we saw that Gilead didn't last and so, well, the story wasn't so bad after all, you know?

Sorry ... I don't think you were looking for that kind of response, but I had to say it for some unearthly reason!

I think if you are going to say something bad, when you liked the story well enough, then you've got to keep it balanced unless you want to dishearten the person entirely. And if that is your aim, there's better ways to go about it than to leave one review -- I think.

I think I could just about bring myself to accept it, just this once ... mind you, I'm pretty high on M&Ms right now, so that stance is apt to change. (♥)
(no subject) - inmyth on February 23rd, 2006 06:36 am (UTC) (Expand)
(no subject) - scoradh on February 27th, 2006 03:10 pm (UTC) (Expand)
someone's always looking for DB Cooper: can'tbelievethisnumena on February 22nd, 2006 04:09 pm (UTC)
Haha! The Anne books! I loved those when I was a kid (and your post made me want to read them again - only I've just discovered they've been sold.) There's also the Story Girl series which was fun, and another series..Uh. Emily of New Moon. (Yeah, I was a really big fan.)

Must agree with you re: concrit. I rarely offer it unless I'm a beta for the author, especially the small(ish) things. I think of fanfiction as something that's just supposed to be fun. I don't think it needs to be absolute perfection - as long as the good outweighs the bad I'll read anything.
every Starbucks should have a polar bearscoradh on February 27th, 2006 03:14 pm (UTC)
I'm up to Anne of Ingleside now -- the only one I haven't read before. I don't like her quite as much now, she gets more intolerable the older she gets.

Perfection is something you'll never find in fandom, that's fer sure.
(Deleted comment)
every Starbucks should have a polar bearscoradh on February 27th, 2006 03:19 pm (UTC)
As far as I'm concerned, those things don't even count as H/D. I don't understand why authors can't step back from the necessity of having one dependant, soppy partner and one manly, strong one -- and it's equally implausible for both Harry and Draco. They're so fucked up they're never going to have a normal relationship with anyone -- that's why they come together! (in my head)

I'm really looking forward to Springsmut. There's a lot of potential in minor ships. A lot of people decry them for being original fic dressed up as fanfic, but for me that's where the attraction lies. It's less obvious and annoying than it is with H/D.

(Deleted comment)
for life is a proscenium stage and...: angel formerly known aswearethestars on February 22nd, 2006 05:16 pm (UTC)
I suppose I should introduce myself since I randomly friended you and then never said Hello.

Hi.

Anyway. This specifically, "As for stuff you don't like, in my opinion, it doesn't deserve my help. And you can be guaranteed, along with death and taxes, that what you regard as utter shite will be unreasonably loved by someone." is a wonderful thing to remember and is making me smile entirely too much.

I know, no real point in my comment other than introducing myself and sticking that little quote in my head for use as later mantra.

every Starbucks should have a polar bearscoradh on February 27th, 2006 03:15 pm (UTC)
Hi! Sorry for the delay in replies -- med school entails some necessary sacrifice in terms of internet time (woe is me).

I find it hard to accept at times, but that aside, it's still terribly true.
Trinity Daytrinityday on February 23rd, 2006 11:58 am (UTC)
You know, I have nothing to add to this. Really enjoyed reading it--made me thing and all that. But I don't think I have anything really to say to it.
every Starbucks should have a polar bearscoradh on February 27th, 2006 03:07 pm (UTC)
I often feel like that. ♥
Kattakattahj on February 24th, 2006 12:50 am (UTC)
My reading horizons have, however; I can now keenly appreciate a gifted author when I find one, even if she persists in describing Anne as a bloody lily and devoting whole paragraphs to descriptions of landscape. (AHH! WHY, LUCY MAUDE, WHY?)

Would you believe that Emily of New Moon is even worse from that aspect? Go to amazon.com sometime and read the first couple of pages. The girl has purplish-grey eyes, for crying out loud.

That said, the Emily books introduced me to Ilse, Perry and Aunt Elizabeth, so I like them anyway.
every Starbucks should have a polar bearscoradh on February 27th, 2006 03:07 pm (UTC)
All I remember from her was an excessive love of italics. She excused them away with an 'oh, but I have italics in my SOUL or something,' but really they were inexcusable.
(no subject) - kattahj on February 27th, 2006 09:34 pm (UTC) (Expand)
Caitcoralia13 on February 26th, 2006 08:21 am (UTC)
Hooray, mojo! Good for you for working out this other stuff - it's always easier to conquer a bad mood/depression when you can identify the root as specifically as possible.
every Starbucks should have a polar bearscoradh on February 27th, 2006 03:06 pm (UTC)
Yes -- long may it last! Although I have got an ulcer on my tongue from drinking too much Dr Pepper ...
(no subject) - coralia13 on February 27th, 2006 05:01 pm (UTC) (Expand)
BOFbest_of_five on February 27th, 2006 12:26 pm (UTC)
Hi! I saw this touted somewhere (can't remember at the moment) and thought I would wander in and offer my 2 cents/pennies?

I don't mind concrit at all, I have to say. I usually take it as a sign that the reader was engaged in the piece. I love outright appreciation just as much as the next person, but I think people leaving concrit take the time to want to try and be involved in your work. Sorta like fanfiction is a way for me to be involved in JKR's world, so to speak.

While I like concrit, outright crit doesn't do anything for me. If you (generic person) are telling me you think my writing is X, I want to hear atleast one specific example of that and also how you think X could have been written. The example is a must, the alternate would be gravy.

Re: leaving concrit, I think I'll do it if I have a certain rapport with the author. For the most part, I'm not there yet. But also, I typically only review fics I enjoy :)

every Starbucks should have a polar bearscoradh on February 27th, 2006 03:04 pm (UTC)
But also, I typically only review fics I enjoy :)

Same here. I think that is the essence of positive critical feedback -- as far as I can see, there's absolutely no point in wasting all that time and energy on something you don't even like.

From experience, few people leave reasons for either liking or criticism -- 'this was good' is about as much as you can expect most of the time ...
Caitcoralia13 on March 21st, 2006 02:18 pm (UTC)
It has been so long since I've seen that little bunny on my friends page! I miss you.