META/POLL: The Purpose of Criticism

Martin Phipps martinphipps2 at
Sun Feb 17 17:34:09 PST 2008

On Feb 18, 2:23 am, Tom Russell <milos_par... at> wrote:
> 3. Is offering suggestions and alternatives, and pointing out flaws,
> tantamount to attacking a work or author?

It becomes a problem when you forget that your opinions are merely
your opinions and that a story is not objectively flawed just because
you think there's a problem with it.  You need to keep in mind that
the way you would write a story is not instantly the right way to
write a story but simply the way you would have written the story in
the author's place.  Finally, you should avoid making generalisations
about the author's writing and stick to making comments about the
writing in question; this is especially true if you could be accused
of making generalisations based on a mere sample of the author's
recent work, ie that you haven't, due to your own personal
circumstances, been able to read enough of the author's recent work to
make such generalisations.

In any case, I think you've over stated the need to forcibly state
your opinion.  Time and time again you have overconfidently stated an
opinion as fact.  The fact is that you read something and you form an
opinion, not that that opinion itself is automatically factual.  You
should probably stick to the facts in the future: just tell us how a
certain story made you feel and correct factual errors, if any.  Feel
free to say how you would have written the same story but don't insist
that your way is somehow the right way.

Negative feedback is useful if you're going to do a TEB later.  It
also helps to keep an author grounded: the fact that somebody might
criticise his work later might encourage him to stay within certain
bounds and not take a story to places it doesn't belong.  Now this
might arguably limit creativity but the reality is that some genres
don't mix very easily, say for example the funny animal genre and
drama.  I wouldn't take it personally if I attempted something that a
reader thought couldn't possibly have worked anyway because it would
mean I tried something and it didn't work but it wouldn't reflect on
my writing ability in general, just on my own personal lack of taste.

I have to admit that your comments have sometimes been helpful.  But
you need to balance this benefit against a consideration of how the
person being reviewed will feel.  You can easily guage this by
imagining that the comments you make are being made about your own
writing.  And, yes, Tom, the negative comments you make can easily be
made about your own writing.  I sincerely doubt that there is anybody
here who posts stories that they think aren't "finished", although it
may be arrogant for us to describe what we do as "art".  At best, it's
entertainment.  If something doesn't work for you as entertainment
then say so and feel free to speculate as to why.  But don't expect
anybody to write simply to please you: I've tried that and it worked
so far as I got better reviews from you but then I actually felt bad
about my own writing because I wasn't writing for my own entertainment
anymore.  And in a situation where nobody is getting paid, it is kind
of important that the author himself have fun, isn't it?


More information about the racc mailing list