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New Writing Lessons--WHAT A CRITIQUE LOOKS LIKE

These lessons, by one of our most consistent FaithWriters' Challenge Champions, should not be missed. So we're making a permanent home for them here.

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Re: New Writing Lessons--WHAT A CRITIQUE LOOKS LIKE

Postby glorybee » Tue Aug 27, 2013 1:33 am

Steve, this is great!

I'm still hoping that Graham will stop by with his thoughts about what we're saying about his piece. I DID check with him--more than once--to be sure that he wanted this to go public (in fact, it was his idea). Graham, if you're out there reading this thread, check in with us, will you?

Anyway, Steve, your insights were very helpful, and I especially appreciated your thoughts about what I didn't say. I think that in my future critiques, whether for FW or elsewhere, I'll make sure to say "I had no problem with _________, ________, and ____________." I wish I had done more of that in the body of Graham's story; except for one instance of 'this semicolon is used correctly,' I didn't note any of his positives there.

Theology is my weakest area, and that's certainly why I didn't catch some of the things you did.
Jan Ackerson

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Re: New Writing Lessons--WHAT A CRITIQUE LOOKS LIKE

Postby glorybee » Tue Aug 27, 2013 1:45 am

Shann wrote:I want to clarify. By no means did I think that the opening was weak. I thought it was quite good. I just would not have given it a 5. I think opening with an active line is more of an attention grabber than a passive one. I also questioned the string of adjectives made it less appealing to me. It's a personal preference and the second paragraph would more than make up for the things I thought could be tweaked a bit. It's hard for me to see so many fives because I feel it is nearly impossible to prefect a piece in less than a week.

I did think he had a strong beginning and would have rated it a 4.5 or so.

Just because I commented on it and gave suggestions that were only my opinion did not in any way mean I thought it was weak.


Yikes, Shann! Hope I didn't step on your toes. Your opinions are as valid as mine, or Steve's, or Graham's, and this back-and-forth is how we get value from these sorts of discussions.
Jan Ackerson

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Re: New Writing Lessons--WHAT A CRITIQUE LOOKS LIKE

Postby Shann » Tue Aug 27, 2013 1:57 am

No you didn't step on my toes at all. I just didn't want people to think I said he had a weak opening. I didn't think that at all and wanted to make sure people, especially Graham, didn't think that was what I was saying. I respect him and believe he is quite talented.

swfdoc1 wrote: I did not see anything I disagreed with (with one tiny possible exception—see just below). Interestingly, you have had two points of disagreement with your assessment that we know of: you and Graham over how well it fit the category, and you and Shann over the strength of the opening. In each case, I agree with you (sorry Graham and Shann). I thought the opening was strong not weak, although I MIGHT (but only might) have given it a 4.9 just to put it a TINY tick below categories 6,7,9

Now, I hope you will critique my critique of your critique! :D
Shann

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Re: New Writing Lessons--WHAT A CRITIQUE LOOKS LIKE

Postby Come forth » Tue Aug 27, 2013 2:08 am

How dare you all talk about me like this :lol: :lol: :lol:

Hey guys, this is great and I've got to say that I keep learning all the time. Jan and Steve (and everyone else of course), you guys are great. My level of education pales compared to you guys and to be quite honest I haven't got the faintest idea what most of it is talking about. I know that past/present/future/positive/passive/leftonthemoon tenses are for me lost in space. But I enjoy writing and I love my God.

Here is my five cents worth.

Two main areas I disagreed with were the accent and the topic.

For what it is worth, in my opinion, the whine was ESSENTIAL to the story because it was that sound which told Eli AND Granny May that the enemy were approaching. Without that distant spiritual whine there was actually no story at all. And it was the lack of spiritual hearing (Jesus says I wish you had ears to hear) that left everybody else without knowledge of the approaching hoard. I personally feel that this is quite clear in the story and don't agree with Steve's comment that this is just because I am the writer. Remove the whine and you have to change the entire story line to give another reason for the intense need that both Eli and Granny May feel.

However, I still learn massive lessons from this. I could have made the whining of the congregation clearer and a sentence or two from some of the players (Like Eli saying "Can't they hear that? Don't they wonder what it is?") may have highlighted the point.

But I'm not complaining about the critique or Steve's comments. I love them both and always find Steve to be full of wisdom; although to be honest half the time I can't understand a word he says. :lol: :lol: :bow :bow; (or is it ,.:--or just what the heck) good learning for me here.

The second thing is the accent. I certainly wasn't trying to use a Southern American accent. I wouldn't even know how. However, after reading Jan's comments I could easily see why she thought I was.

The accent I was using was sort of a Yorkshire, uneducated rural England. It was the country voice I would use if playing around.

I guess, I'm still not comfortable with using -- in stories; not what I remember from Grammar School at all. I recognize my poor understanding of punctuation and need to grow in this area. Too many years since I studied English Lit and far too long being able to write how I like instead of to a standard.

Steve's comments about the ending theological conclusions leave me shaking my head a little (Mainly just confused like; did I really imply that? is that what I really left them thinking?)

I think over all Steve's point is a good one; we must be careful what conclusions we leave in the minds of readers. Not wanting to change the focus of the thread I'll leave that right there.

I'll call back in later but that's more than enough of me for now.

Blessings; Graham
May we all get eyes to see and ears to hear,
A Revelation of His Word, crystal clear.
Admitting our need to be drawn in,
Less of self, more of Him.

My prayer for us all.
God bless us with the Revelation of His Word, Graham
http://www.shekinahcloud.com/page/page/8464330.htm

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Re: New Writing Lessons--WHAT A CRITIQUE LOOKS LIKE

Postby glorybee » Tue Aug 27, 2013 3:19 am

Aha, Graham, there you are!

I'm glad you're defending your choices. I definitely learned from you about the uneducated Yorkshire accent. I think it's fascinating that it can be written in a way that looks like a rural American accent--but if you read it aloud and I read it aloud, we'd no doubt sound very different.

And you definitely don't have to use a dash in your stories, if you don't want to. Use commas and full stops, even a few semicolons (if you wish).

Thanks for being such a good sport, Graham.
Jan Ackerson

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Re: New Writing Lessons--WHAT A CRITIQUE LOOKS LIKE

Postby glorybee » Tue Aug 27, 2013 3:28 am

Graham, one more thing--

I was thinking about your reluctance to use a dash, thinking perhaps that you'd not been taught how to use them in school. I was ready to admit that maybe that was a UK/US difference, so I went into the archives to read some stories by my favorite British former FW writer, Helen Paynter. She hasn't written here since 2008, but you can find her entries archived here:

http://www.faithwriters.com/member-profile.php?id=18411

She wrote both prose and poetry, so I scanned half a dozen or so stories. I found dashes in almost all of them.

So I guess I'd encourage you to start to experiment with dashes, maybe running a few sample sentences past your writing buddy to see if they work. Couldn't hurt.
Jan Ackerson

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Re: New Writing Lessons--WHAT A CRITIQUE LOOKS LIKE

Postby swfdoc1 » Tue Aug 27, 2013 11:18 am

glorybee wrote:Yikes, Shann! Hope I didn't step on your toes. Your opinions are as valid as mine, or Steve's, or Graham's, and this back-and-forth is how we get value from these sorts of discussions.


Ditto what Jan said. I should have summarized what you said about the opening more carefully.
Steve
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“The chief purpose of life … is to increase according to our capacity our knowledge of God by all the means we have, and to be moved by it to praise and thanks. To do as we say in the Gloria in Excelsis ... We praise you, we call you holy, we worship you, we proclaim your glory, we thank you for the greatness of your splendor.” J.R.R. Tolkien

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Re: New Writing Lessons--WHAT A CRITIQUE LOOKS LIKE

Postby swfdoc1 » Tue Aug 27, 2013 11:27 am

Come forth wrote:However, I still learn massive lessons from this. I could have made the whining of the congregation clearer and a sentence or two from some of the players (Like Eli saying "Can't they hear that? Don't they wonder what it is?") may have highlighted the point.


I think that idea is right on target.

Come forth wrote:although to be honest half the time I can't understand a word he says.


Sometimes I speak English, but sometimes I speak Grammarian or Theologian. You should hear me when I speak Lawyer. :D
Steve
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things are gone." C.S. Lewis
“The chief purpose of life … is to increase according to our capacity our knowledge of God by all the means we have, and to be moved by it to praise and thanks. To do as we say in the Gloria in Excelsis ... We praise you, we call you holy, we worship you, we proclaim your glory, we thank you for the greatness of your splendor.” J.R.R. Tolkien

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Re: New Writing Lessons--WHAT A CRITIQUE LOOKS LIKE

Postby swfdoc1 » Tue Aug 27, 2013 11:50 am

glorybee wrote:I was thinking about your reluctance to use a dash, thinking perhaps that you'd not been taught how to use them in school.


Jan,

You and I have something interesting in common: we both like dashes more than the average writer or at least the average editor. Most style manuals say to use them sparingly, but I use them a bit more than sparingly, and I've noticed that you do, too.

When I have to be the editor for my own writing--always a bad idea--I usually take out a few in the second draft.

Which is not to disagree with your advice to Graham. I'm definitely a pro-dash renegade.
Steve
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"When the Round Table is broken every man must follow Galahad or Mordred; middle
things are gone." C.S. Lewis
“The chief purpose of life … is to increase according to our capacity our knowledge of God by all the means we have, and to be moved by it to praise and thanks. To do as we say in the Gloria in Excelsis ... We praise you, we call you holy, we worship you, we proclaim your glory, we thank you for the greatness of your splendor.” J.R.R. Tolkien

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Re: New Writing Lessons--WHAT A CRITIQUE LOOKS LIKE

Postby Mike Newman » Tue Aug 27, 2013 12:44 pm

Long live the dash!

Talk of the dash reminded me of a question I have about its briefer cousin, the hyphen. If this is too far off topic, feel free to tell me to post this elsewhere.

I tend to use a fair number of hyphenated adjectives and am wondering if that is distracting to the reader. Let's assume that the adjectives are good ones and worthy of not being cut, should I avoid multiple hyphenated ones (I don't mean multiple ones describing the same noun)? I was editing my entry for this week and saw three in one paragraph.

I think your answer is going to be that it is distracting, but I would love to hear your opinion.


Thank you all for the great discussion going on,
Mike

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Re: New Writing Lessons--WHAT A CRITIQUE LOOKS LIKE

Postby lish1936 » Tue Aug 27, 2013 2:05 pm

I'm so intimidated by the collective knowledge of Steve and Jan (and quite inarticulate when it comes to critiquing a piece the way they do it), that I'm reluctant to weigh in here because I'm sure some of my comments come from my own lack of knowledge. And I hope Graham will not be offended by anything I might say/ask, because I'm just learning at his expense. :D

I took the challenge Jan suggested and read Graham's piece. Perhaps because I'm a "title" person, I first took account of the title and found it on the weak side as it related to the story. I noticed the title - whether good or not so good - was not mentioned as part of the critique. Do the judges consider titles?

I also had some questions about sentence structure/awkward phrasing (for which I could be wrong, and probably am). For ex:

"took sick and couldn't get there herself." Is "herself" necessary? Or this one:

"I think we had better all pray." Is "all" okay as is, or "I think we all had better pray."

Or this: "Stop them fighting." Should it not read, "Stop them from fighting."

I also found what I considered to be cliched phrases: Ex. "fighting for the Lord."

Admittedly, I'm bit slow in picking up the storyline with stories such as this one, so I had to read it twice before understanding it because the first paragraph or so left me wondering. Again, this could just be me, and something that nothing or no one can fix. :lol:

I was also surprised by the high ratings on some of the categories, especially in categories 3 and 4.

So let me know where I've gone wrong. :thankssign

Lillian
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I love to write. Nothing escapes the crush I have on the written word. I'm hooked on words!!

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Re: New Writing Lessons--WHAT A CRITIQUE LOOKS LIKE

Postby Shann » Tue Aug 27, 2013 2:17 pm

From everything I've been told, Lillian, the judges do not consider the title. I believe Deb once said something like a person could have a great title, but the rest of the story is not as great so they don't weigh in on the title.

I'm glad because I'm the opposite of you. I hardly ever read titles. Often I notice them when I'm leaving feedback, and i THINK ONE BIG THING TO MENTION ABOUT TITLES IS MAKE SURE YOUR title doesn't give away the ending. I've seen that quite a few times in the challenge and it can make a big difference in how I feel while reading. If the title gave away the ending then I find I don't feel the suspense as much as I would have before.

I think too Lillian that you did a great job on picking up on some of the awkward sentences. In my opinion, it may sound more natural to say I think we had all better pray, but you should keep the verbs together had prayed, so your example in my opinion is stronger. I thought all of your examples made great points and will be curious to see what Jan says.
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Re: New Writing Lessons--WHAT A CRITIQUE LOOKS LIKE

Postby Come forth » Tue Aug 27, 2013 6:08 pm

I don't want anybody to feel that they need to be worried about offending me. The whole idea of this is to jump in, rip the piece (and the writing skills of the writer for all I care) apart and learn, learn, learn.

Dave said:
...and feel a little guilty that I did not pick up on all those semi-colons.


So it's all Dave's fault anyway and that's fine by me.

Lillian wrote:
"took sick and couldn't get there herself." Is "herself" necessary? Or this one:

"I think we had better all pray." Is "all" okay as is, or "I think we all had better pray."

Or this: "Stop them fighting." Should it not read, "Stop them from fighting."


I could be wrong here but then again that is the whole purpose of this exercise.

The prayer and fighting comments are speech and are written as I believe those characters would speak. I also occasionally deliberately leave obvious words like 'from' out to make it short, sharp and more dramatic. In the 'all' comment -- (I'm learning) -- that is the way I and most people I know would say it.

I agree with the 'herself' comment -- reads better without it and should have been left out.

I don't agree that something as important as "fighting for the Lord" in the context I used it can be considered a cliché. I think this is where a writer, his/her beliefs and the concepts of marketing/writing a best seller can come into conflict. Fighting for the Lord is far from a cliché for me personally; it's a lifestyle. So, having said that I do agree that many readers would find it a cliché; but I don't write for readers (as essential as they are).

DASH IT ALL

I'm still not comfortable with --. I looked at some of those stories Jan and the only dashes I saw were what I would call a hyphen and were used how I would use them. Something like, this man is guardian-protector, to connect two words into one; or to separate a word for some reason like emphasis "John, you are go-ing!"

But my lack of comfort is fine; that is also part of learning and I will get my head around this punctuation issue.

This does bring me though to another interesting issue - proper grammar in story writing. I'm not talking here about punctuation -- that would be an easy out for me. But when it comes to certain circumstances in the story I think we can bog the whole thing down if we insist on correct English sentence structure and absolute correct verbs, tense etc.

The obvious example is speech. I can not portray someone if I insist every word is correct. Example; "Ee, by gum, matey, take dat 'at hoff yer top." This is how my old granddad would have told me to take my hat off inside the house. And I've already mentioned more subtle examples above.

Another example is in drama. To keep things short, sharp and active, obvious word can be left out (as in "stop them fighting" above which could and should probably read "stop them from fighting").

Blessings; Graham
May we all get eyes to see and ears to hear,
A Revelation of His Word, crystal clear.
Admitting our need to be drawn in,
Less of self, more of Him.

My prayer for us all.
God bless us with the Revelation of His Word, Graham
http://www.shekinahcloud.com/page/page/8464330.htm

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Re: New Writing Lessons--WHAT A CRITIQUE LOOKS LIKE

Postby glorybee » Tue Aug 27, 2013 6:22 pm

Sorry for my absence most of today. My MIL was suddenly hospitalized and we've been out of town. Typing this from my phone--will be home in a few hours and will respond to you all.
Jan Ackerson

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Re: New Writing Lessons--WHAT A CRITIQUE LOOKS LIKE

Postby lish1936 » Tue Aug 27, 2013 8:29 pm

Shann wrote:I believe Deb once said something like a person could have a great title, but the rest of the story is not as great so they don't weigh in on the title.


Oh, okay. It's just that from everything I've been told in years past, the title shares the same importance as the first sentence "hook." It's the spark that lights one's interest to read on. Recently, I heard about a book that was written by a former baseball player called, "Scars and Strikes." My immediate thought was, what a catchy title for a book about the life of a baseball player. I probably never would have thought of it.

But you and the judges are right, Shann. A great title does not always indicate a great story.



Comeforth wrote:I don't want anybody to feel that they need to be worried about offending me.


Thanks, Graham.

Blessings,

Lillian
E-Book - Retirement Lane - How to Celebrate Life After 60

Fortunate 500


I write even when I think I can't, because I must. :-)

I love to write. Nothing escapes the crush I have on the written word. I'm hooked on words!!

"Let words bewitch you. Scrutinze them, mull them, savor them, and in combination, until you see their subtle differences and the ways they tint each other." Francis Flaherty

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