Furry Writers' Guild Forum

Critique/advice VS proofreading


Come across some differing opinions on one topic after having a little rant in a rant group and thought that I would see what others thought.

It’s good to have other people read your work to supply feedback in various forms. How do you feel about having something submitted for proofreading (typos and fragments that don’t sound right to the ear, as an example) and having a full blown critique of your work returned? Similarly, thinking about this from a different perspective, how would you feel if you asked someone to critique and you got a couple of typos highlighted? Should the people we request help of be following our requests or should we be more open to whatever we get back? Not quite sure what to think here as yet.

Personally, I’ve finished the bulk of my work on a piece when I submit it for proofreading to my ever helpful partner or another. I try to learn from every piece I write but I really do suck at catching typos when I read through (if any tips for that - please share! :slight_smile: ) so I try to ask someone else to catch those for me. I’d be a little disappointed if I asked to be dissected and only had a couple of errors highlighted… Actually, I’d be similarly annoyed. But I am a derp who likes to keep to spec when asked to do something and will only exceed, in this area, in terms of advice. I like to learn from one piece and go on to the next rather than work one to death, but that is just me. I feel I learn quicker that way instead of just getting pissed off at myself.

So…what does everyone else think? What experiences have you had? (And how do you catch typos?! ^^ )

I imagine there are a lot of differing takes on this. I would say, a lot depends on the context of how you’re getting the proofread/beta.
For instance, if you’re paying for proofreading, then I would definitely expect all the errors (as much as humanly possible) caught.

That being said, if it’s a free feedback, I’d happily take whatever they felt like doing. Primarily because I’m pretty prolific, and if you write fast and write a lot, you exhaust avenues of feedback really quickly. Beta readers are like gold and often hard to find. Readers who will actually proofread for free are almost impossible to find. So I would probably shower them with praise and chocolate and pray they catch as much as possible.

If I sent a story out for proofing and it came back with a ton of critique, I’d probably cringe a little, shower myself with chocolate, and then examine the crit and see if I agreed with it and should take the advice, or leave it and maybe not use them for proofreading any more.

But either way, every eye on the book that can help polish it even a little, to me is something to cherish and be grateful for.
Though I think it stings a bit for everyone… like a flu shot. A little pinch and it protects you from getting all that feedback after the thing’s in print and its too late to fix.

From the point of view of an editor, if your beta readers want to offer more than just a simple critique, as long as they aren’t blowing smoke, then you should take whatever they can give you. You don’t find free help that wants to be that thorough that often.

However, if you’re asking for a critique and you get more comments on your spelling errors than on your story, then it may be time to find a new beta reader.

Personally, I like to have critiques that are as thorough as possible. If you suspend your ego, getting detailed comments from thoughtful readers can really help you improve your work. I am grateful when a beta reader takes the time to examine my writing carefully, and I definitely will take their feedback into equally careful consideration. So if I asked someone to proofread something for one particular type of error and they gave me additional suggestions, I’d be happy to see what else they had to say even if it wasn’t what I was originally asking them about. Conversely, if I ask for a critique and a reader catches one or two typos then says, “This is great!”, that actually really bothers me/makes me suspicious that they weren’t really paying attention.

Then again, I am also a relentless perfectionist who is continually trying to improve things. Therefore I am hungry for criticism and often unwilling to consider the possibility that something is truly good enough now to leave alone. “Art is never finished, only abandoned,” as da Vinci would say. I have to push past that tendency in order to submit anything at all.

Also, I really appreciate when an editor who turns down one of my pieces takes the time to tell me why. These sorts of comments helped me polish at least one short story and get it accepted elsewhere.

Just a few of my thoughts. :slight_smile:

This is the best critique ever! ^^

Or time to improve your spelling.

Edit: That may sound snarky, but this is actually something we talk about in my critique group: don’t bring your story to the table until it’s actually ready for critique; if you bring a story to the table that’s riddled with low level spelling/grammar errors, then those errors will distract people from being able to give you a good critique at a higher level.

If I give someone a story to read that’s rough and I specifically just want high level feedback on it, I do get annoyed when they start picking at grammar and wordsmithery. I’ve given you this story because I need feedback before refining it, so why are you bothering with the nitpicks? Otherwise, I’m find with people pointing out any errors I missed because we all miss things.

Myself, I’ll always ask when kind of feedback they prefer because it’s going to me a larger time commitment when I have to start proofreading for you and beta reading. Usually if I’m not giving a full proofread, I’ll point out common mistakes I see them author continue to make. Correct the first few and tell them they should make sure to correct the rest. But if you give me something that’s so riddled with mistakes that I can’t read it, it’s going to be hard to give you proper beta reading feedback because I’m stumbling over your prose so much.

I’m more saying critiques that are “The story was okay, but you misspelled these few words”. You said the story was okay, but what was “only okay” about it?

That sort of thing. I’m not talking about first drafts done by people without a spell-checker.

Beggars can’t be choosers-- take what you get and be openly and unselfishly grateful for their comments even when they aren’t very useful. Someone cared enough about you and your work to try and help you along. Time is the most valuable thing on the planet, and they freely gave you theirs.

That said…

Many if not most people don’t know how to properly critique a work of fiction. Some lack the literary skills, while others are unable to express valid observations in a useful way. I’m as grateful to these people as anyone else, since their time is as valuable as anyone else’s. But… Next time I tend to try elsewhere.

For what it’s worth, I personally obtain most of my feedback via posting my rough drafts bit by bit as I write them to two furry e-mail lists, which date back to roughly 1997 and are still stumbling along. It’s a formula/format/medium that works well for me. They’re where I mostly learned how to write, and my fellow subscribers were my best teachers. Not necessarily by providing formal critique, mind you. Rather they mostly just told me what they did and did not enjoy. Give it long enough, and that helps a lot all by itself.

Here is a review I wrote that turned into a critique. It’s also a Horrible Example of why POD books should never be published without at least being proofread. In this case, I felt that the two novels by T. R. Brown are basically quite good, but they’re overlaid by so much bad spelling and grammar – which should have been easily correctible, if they had undergone any basic proofreading before being published – that they’re at least very difficult to get through. Apparently some readers feel that the plethora of spelling and grammatical errors make them impossible to get through.

Spelling suggestions at every level work for me, but then I have mild aphasia and sloppy typing skills, so I’ve learned a long time ago to not hang up on corrections.

At a certain point in the writing process, I don’t want certain suggestions on how to make things better or what a reader wants to see. General speaking, I follow Rabbit’s thinking. Once I submit to an editor, I only want the editor’s suggestions.

Also, Happy Birthday, Arian

I don’t usually have too much to say, but I have edited several anthologies of original fiction for FurPlanet Productions. I just got a short story for one that I told the author is basically very good, although he ought to polish it up. A lot. He said, “If its not too much trouble could you tinker with it and then let me know where I was off? I am TERRIBLY out of practice with writing.”

Right there, I’d say to learn the difference between it’s and its. One of my most repetitive jobs has been taking apostrophes out of “it’s” and putting apostrophes into “its”. I think this qualifies as editing rather than proofreading, since it’s obvious that so many authors are not just making typographic errors. They don’t know the difference between the two.

One of my most frequent changes in this particular story has been to take an overly-long sentence connected by “and” and make two shorter sentences out of it without the “and”. Short is good.

Another error he made has been appearing in so many writers’ stories that I’m wondering if this is considered an error today, or whether the rules of writing have evolved without my noticing it. This is the less-frequent use of commas today. I am constantly adding more commas to sentences to make separate clauses more clear. This may be my personal style rather than an error, but I believe that having a comma to make it clearer which of two characters is talking, for example, is a good thing.

Commas do seem to be disappearing from prose of all kinds. In my case I “naturally” use too many in rough draft, so I’ve accumulated a huge bucket full of the things sitting here next to my word processor. Even worse, due to lack of demand no one accepts them for recycling anymore. At least they’re not known to be actively toxic…

I’m pretty sure I tend to underuse commas in first drafts (and probably in final drafts). Clearly Rabbit and I should set up a comma exchange.