Critiquing the Wild Writer: It's Not What You Say, But How You Say It

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by Andrew Burt

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More by Andrew Burt

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Futureproofing Your Writing

Critiquing the Wild Writer: It's Not What You Say, But How You Say It

Writing effective critiques--those that help the author--has a certain requirement that I learned the hard way. If you're reading this, presumably you want to help authors by writing critiques of their work that they can learn from. Beyond all the How To's about what to include in a critique (the plot, the characters, the world, the ideas, etc.), there's one vital element that is often overlooked. That's what this little book is for.

This is a collection of articles I've written over the years that solved a thorny problem I faced running the uncharted territory of the first critique group on the web: Complaints from authors that they were being attacked by reviewers in the workshop. It turned out that generally the reviewers weren't trying to attack authors; it also turned out the authors on the receiving end just weren't hearing the critiques. Something was blocking them from understanding the useful comments they were getting.

After a few years, I figured out what the issue was, and what worked to solve it. It's succeeded fabulously well. Complaints dropped to nearly zero. Authors were helping authors. The very few complaints I still get, invariably are failures to adhere to the simple rules below.

About the Author

Dr. Andrew Burt, former Vice President of the Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers Association, has published dozens of short stories and several books, and founded & herds Critters (www.critique.org), the first writers workshop on the web. Critters is also home to other writers' resources, such as the Black Holes response time tracker and other fun tools for writers (and readers). He's CEO of ReAnimus Press and its newly acquired subsidiary, the Hugo-winning Advent Publishers, helping authors such as Ben Bova, Robert Silverberg, Ursula K. Le Guin, Ed Bryant, and many others breathe life back into their great books on author-friendly terms. Outside of science fiction, he's been a computer science professor (research in networking, security, privacy, and free-speech/social issues), founder of Nyx.net, the world's oldest Internet service provider, and a technology consultant/author/speaker. For a hobby, he constructs solutions to all the world's problems. Fortunately - nobody listens.


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