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The Different Types of Critiquers

I am always grateful to anyone who offers to critique my work.  But have you noticed the different types of critiquers out there? 

First are the Adoring Non-Critquers.  These are your friends/family members/adoring fans who can't find anything wrong with your manuscript.  These people are perfect for those days when you just need some ego-stroking, but they really aren't helpful at all when it comes to the actual manuscript.

Next are the Line Critiquers.  These are the people who find my typos and tell me a period is missing on page 37 or I should have used an em-dash instead of parentheses on page 63.  These people are most helpful when I have polished a manuscript and want someone to gloss over it right before I send it off on submissions.  They usually are not at all helpful when I'm still working from a first draft.  And sometimes I find these people annoying, because they will try to fix any and all grammical "errors," even if I have used the error on purpose for stylistic reasons.  They only have eyes for the grammar.  They are not at all concerned about the storytelling.

Third are the Research Critiquers.  These are the people who check every single reference in your book to make sure they match.  They are the ones who tell you on page 12 your MC has red hair but on page 94 the hair color has changed to brown.  Or they are the ones that, for example, will tell you that your main character's father could not have been killed while driving a John Deere tractor because John Deere did not sell tractors until three years after the dad's death.  These critiquers are concerned about the story only in its plausibility.  These people are indespensible, but can also be truly annoying (only because they can unravel your well-constructed manuscript in seconds).  I try to get my RCs to read my second draft, which is when the story is coherent but not polished.  That way I haven't done a lot of work on something that may need to be changed because it isn't plausible. 

Fourth, and by far the most valuable, are the Global Critiquers. These are the people who can see the whole picture and can point out where the story is dragging, or where the characters are a little flat, or where things get a bit muddled and need to be revised for clarity.  They are the ones who focus on the storytelling.  These are the people I trust with my first draft, and every draft thereafter.  And, in my limited experience, this is where the professionals are.

And last, though I hate to mention them, are the Non-believers.  These are the critiquers who can't find any redeeming value in your book, who think you are wasting your time, and who have nothing postive to say about your work.  Luckily you can usually avoid these kinds of people, since they don't normally go around offering to critique manuscripts, but they are out there.  They are bitter individuals and I recommend steering clear if you find one.  And if you happen to get one, I'm really truly sorry.

Have I missed any?  Let me know if you've found any other species of critiquers.

Marina has added The Remodeler to my list.  She says, "The remodeller thinks your story is good, but if you just changed your prince to a pauper, or the brutal murderer to a fairy godmother, or completely rewrote the ending or changed the whole point of the story--well, then it would be just perfect!

"They don't critique the story you wrote but suggest ways to change it to the story they would have written.

"At first this frustrated me, but after a while I came to see it was actually a good thing.  It meant that they could find nothing wrong with your story, it just wasn't exactly to their taste."

And ocotillo_dawn has added The Reactionist (my name for this type).  "They essentially give you their reactions.  They tell you who the characters are as they go along (were they jerks, suspicious, sympathetic?, and not just at the end) and they tell me what their visceral reaction to sections are.  So little notes: "my eyes were rolling", "haha", "yawn", "give me a break", "wha???", "guh", "yay!". The like. That sounds a little like the global, and there is overlap, but its much more sequential and gut first reactions.  They do not comment on plot, structure, story arct, etc.  HIGHLY VALUABLE, and anyone can do it (and be asked/trained to do it), no writing/English lit experience necessary.  I've written characters that I thought were sympathetic, I get a couple comments that say "What a spoiled brat" and I know I've gone over the top with his whining."

Thanks for chiming in, Marina and ocotillo_dawn!


( 70 comments — Leave a comment )
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May. 23rd, 2009 07:51 pm (UTC)
Whenever I've been in critiques groups, I have always been around the Non-believers and the line critiques. At this point I think I've given up on critique groups. One group had more than three people that were a combination of those two. They literally assassinated any kind of writing that I brought to the group. The fact that I spoke another language was always brought up as a reason of why my grammar apparently was the so bad. After a few months I gave up, couldn't handle it anymore.

Surprisingly one friend and my daughter have been good at Critique my work so far. They have not been Adoring Non-Critquers and are quite good at finding flaws in either the plot or the grammar. I know people say it's not good to have family or friends read your work, however so far I think I'll stick to them, until I find someone else.
May. 23rd, 2009 08:18 pm (UTC)
Sorry to hear your bad critique experiences. Hugs.

I've found the best critiquers are those who are willing to swap complete manuscripts. Maybe that's because they have the whole thing in front of them/

Critique groups don't work well for me, either. Mostly because I have schedule issues. Translation: I don't like sticking to schedules. Though, oddly enough, I love having deadlines. But deadlines ARE NOT schedules, IMO. Maybe that's because when I'm under a deadline I still get to pick my own schedule.

Good luck finding good critiquers!
May. 23rd, 2009 09:44 pm (UTC)
I'm bless with two wonderful critique groups. One small group mostly helps with grammar, tightening, clarity and logic--and as a sounding board to see if the story has general appeal. My other group of readers are fall more in the global reader category. I prefer to save my global readers for last and hand them a very clean manuscript so nothing will distract them from seeing the over arching problems with character and plot--their critiques can be painful, but always offer growth and honesty.

What I find is that even critique partners don't always critique at the same level or with the same style. I have a great partner who lately has gone soft on me. She used to have all kinds of comments and suggestions, now she only points out grammar mistakes. I think this happened because she is sensitive to strong critiques and has begun to feel unsure about her own skills.

I don't have any adoring critiquers.

I do have a "faceless critique" partner. She is a woman I have swapped manuscripts with for probably five years now (through email). From the beginning, we have kept our relationship purely professional (very little personal chat). We are honest with each other and know each other ablities. It's fun to help another writer grow and have them do the same for you.

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May. 24th, 2009 08:20 am (UTC)
I'll be your adoring critiquer!

You do make a good point about sending out a clean manuscript to your global critiquers. I guess I do that, too. Though I like getting feedback on a first draft from these type because they can often help me see the flaws and figure out how to fix them.
May. 24th, 2009 08:10 am (UTC)
Hi, I came here from writerjenn - this is an absolutely brilliant synopsis. Thank you so much for putting it together. Would it be possible for me to link to this from meta_writer? I think our members could benefit from the clear and succinct way you've put this together! Thank you so much again.
May. 24th, 2009 08:16 am (UTC)
Hi! I'd be honored if you linked to this. And, really, it was no trouble at all to throw this list together. I'm glad it can be of some use to others.
(no subject) - chris_smith_atr - May. 24th, 2009 08:38 am (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - elissacruz - May. 24th, 2009 08:48 am (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - chris_smith_atr - May. 24th, 2009 09:45 am (UTC) - Expand
May. 24th, 2009 09:08 am (UTC)
Here via meta_writer. Excellent post. May I link on my journal?
May. 24th, 2009 09:15 am (UTC)
Go right ahead. I heart links!
May. 24th, 2009 10:17 am (UTC)
Hmmm. I seem to be a line, research AND global critiquer.
May. 24th, 2009 08:04 pm (UTC)
Yeah. That happens a lot. I am, too!
May. 24th, 2009 11:10 am (UTC)
Hi Elissa, I found you through writerjenn's blog. I've had all these types of critiquers and also another type -- the "remodeller". The remodeller thinks your story is good, but if you just changed your prince to a pauper, or the brutal murderer to a fairy godmother, or completely rewrote the ending or changed the whole point of the story -- well, then it would be just perfect!

They don't critique the story you wrote but suggest ways to change it to the story they would have written.

At first this frustrated me, but after a while I came to see it was actually a good thing. It meant that they could find nothing wrong with your story, it just wasn't exactly to their taste.

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(no subject) - ocotillo_dawn - May. 24th, 2009 04:59 pm (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - elissacruz - May. 24th, 2009 08:12 pm (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - ocotillo_dawn - May. 24th, 2009 09:07 pm (UTC) - Expand
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(no subject) - ocotillo_dawn - May. 24th, 2009 09:35 pm (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - altariel - May. 25th, 2009 10:09 am (UTC) - Expand
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(no subject) - altariel - May. 27th, 2009 03:45 pm (UTC) - Expand
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May. 24th, 2009 08:17 pm (UTC)
Sorry to hear your horrible crit experience. I've been there, done that, too. It think we all have.

I should add here that when I have to critique a book I personally find boring, it is difficult not to get too critical. I have to remind myself that I can't turn into the Non-believer, because everyone deserves some honest but HELPFUL feedback.

And, yes. Sometimes critiquers just don't click with your style. And that's okay.
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here via metafandom... - dharma_slut - Jun. 1st, 2009 04:27 am (UTC) - Expand
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May. 24th, 2009 07:07 pm (UTC)
Altogether marvelous post and comment thread! I'd like to second ocotillo_dawn's suggestion to add the "mirror" type in "super valuable" column. Gut reactions are what your real readers are going to have, after all.

I'm wondering if we can posit corollary writer-types. Especially in fic, a lot of beginning writers seem to want only line-editing (having not a clue that they first need to learn how to write). I lately had a newbie writer fire off a first chapter to me. It was a strong story idea with extremely amateur writing, so I found a handful of flaws (POV chaos, pacing, adverb excess...) which, caught and corrected, would tighten up her writing.

She fired the next chapter and the next off to me without incorporating a single one of the writing tips I'd pointed out in the first one. Not that my word is God, but damn, Skippy, how many times do you want me to tell you the same thing?

I'd asked her up front what kind of beta she wanted, and her ("warning! warning!") response was, "Oh, anything! I'll take anything!"

From here on, man, I'm directing any writers wishing my beta or critique services to this post and making them specify which critter they want me to be.
May. 24th, 2009 08:21 pm (UTC)
Thanks. The nice thing about this post is that some newbies don't know what kind of critiques are available, so this is a nice list to show them as well. Though someday I'll post writer types. That would be fun. I've seen all kinds, myself.

And I'd be honored if you directed any writers here. I had no idea people would find this topic so interesting!
(no subject) - emeraldsedai - May. 24th, 2009 09:28 pm (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - elissacruz - May. 24th, 2009 09:34 pm (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - ocotillo_dawn - May. 24th, 2009 09:11 pm (UTC) - Expand
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May. 24th, 2009 08:33 pm (UTC)
Here via a link from altariel. Poignant post and very entertaining, too. I've encountered all of those groups, some more often than others. Really good critiquers who get the technical and the "general" stuff are definitely rare and true gems. :)
May. 24th, 2009 09:39 pm (UTC)
Thanks. Glad to know this is useful but still fun to read. Thanks to everyone else for chiming in, too.
May. 25th, 2009 06:24 pm (UTC)
Great post! I did one not too long ago on the different dysfunctions found in a critique group, but this was great to outline the type of critters there are out there. Excellent stuff!
May. 26th, 2009 12:03 am (UTC)
Thanks. I'll have to check out your post. And I hear great things about your various thesauri. I've been meaning to check those out, too.
May. 29th, 2009 03:40 pm (UTC)
I'm very much a global CP these days. I loooooooooooooooove entire manuscripts. Unless it's going out for a submission and you want a line edit, I almost never take anything less than a couple of chapters any more.

I've met all of them at one point or another, and have pretty much given up on crit groups now. Just...too difficult. My god, the egos sometimes!
May. 29th, 2009 11:40 pm (UTC)
I love entire manuscripts, too. And I second the sentiment that it's difficult finding a good crit group. I've only had one that has really been wonderful.
May. 29th, 2009 11:14 pm (UTC)
This is utterly brilliant. With permission, I would like to link to it.
May. 29th, 2009 11:40 pm (UTC)
Please, link away! I can't guarantee anything else I have to say is utterly brilliant, though. :)
(no subject) - mmegaera - May. 29th, 2009 11:46 pm (UTC) - Expand
May. 30th, 2009 01:57 am (UTC)
In discussing this with someone who read from the link on my journal, I realized that for me at least the Research Critiquer has a close cousin, the Questioning Critiquer. The kind whose only comments are attached to specific details and are along the lines of "No, really, is that true?" The Questioning Critiquer seems to think that researched details are invented by the writer out of whole cloth and can't possibly be real, and gets so sidetracked by the concept that s/he can't notice anything else.

I write historical fiction with fantasy elements in settings unfamiliar to many people, so this may be a type of critiquer peculiar to my genre [wry g].
Feb. 25th, 2010 09:30 pm (UTC)
Sorry it's been so long, but I keep forgetting to check the comments here!

Yes, I think this may be a close cousin. Or maybe a Research Critiquer having a bad day? :)

Thanks for commenting!
Jun. 1st, 2009 12:14 am (UTC)
My last crit experience popped up a cousin of the Remodeler, the Kind-of-Missed-The-Pointer. This is the crit where you get back what is a detailed edit for style rather than grammar that would, well, ruin the effect you are trying to create, or is some attempt to bend your style into their style. I think this can lead to experiences like ocotillo_dawn's, because what else are you going to do with a critique like that but disregard it?

EDIT: Which is not to say that I think ocotillo_dawn is this sort of reviewer.

Edited at 2009-06-01 01:56 am (UTC)
Feb. 25th, 2010 09:33 pm (UTC)
Sorry for the late reply. I forgot to check the comments on this post after awhile. Yes, it's been 9 months. Oops.

ROFL. I've known so many Kind-of-Missed-the-Pointers in my day.

Thanks for commenting!
(Deleted comment)
Feb. 25th, 2010 09:36 pm (UTC)
You're welcome. And sorry about the really really really late reply (yes, 9 months late--oy). I forgot all about checking the comments on this post. But better late than never.
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