ToB - Perfect World

The Perfect Critique (Elements of Critique, 4/4)

Last in the series. Take a look at the opening explanation if you haven't already. What I define as critique/concrit might not be what you expect if you've been pointed here from a fandom source.


Obviously, there's no such thing as a perfect critique. But I wrote three entries about critique habits I hate. My suggestions for good critique habits are in there, but perhaps harder to find than my complaints, so it's only fair that I take the time to outline them more clearly.Read more...Collapse )
Saiun - technicolor Reishin

The Elements of Critique, 3/4: Unsolicited Commentary

Take a look at the opening explanation if you haven't already. What I define as critique/concrit might not be what you expect if you've been pointed here from a fandom source.


The message here is, essentially: consider why an author has decided to show their work to you before you comment.

Imagine you have just finished a story or article you’re proud of. You take it to your nearest friend or reader, ask them to have a look at it. What do you think? you may ask. You might be interested in their initial thoughts, or maybe you just want someone to see what you created. That’s okay, by the way.

Instead of delivering a few comments, your reader launches into a full-on critique of the work, complete with discussions on how it can be improved. That’s awesome, because we want our criticism to be delivered with ideas on how we can address the problems being outlined, right? Right.

However… maybe you weren’t ready for that level of commitment. There is a difference between asking for someone’s opinion and asking for a critique. Read more...Collapse )

This entry was originally posted at Discuss here or there as you prefer.

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Saiun - technicolor Reishin

The Elements of Critique 2/4: Stream-of-Consciousness Criticism

Take a look at the opening explanation if you haven't already. What I define as critique/concrit might not be what you expect if you've been pointed here from a fandom source.


Continuing with the theme introduced in the previous post - critique as a way of helping the author as well as oneself - we have what I call the "stream-of-consciousness critique," or the practice of taking notes as you go along and dishing that out to the author.

Like I said, the most well-meaning attempt at critique can be unhelpful at best, and destructive at worst. This is one way a critique can be misleading without the critic realizing how or why. Read more...Collapse )

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VP - Silmeria kicks your ass

The Elements of Critique 1/4: Giving the Good with the Bad

Take a look at the opening explanation if you haven't already. What I define as critique/concrit might not be what you expect if you've been pointed here from a fandom source. Granted, I'm several years out of date on fandom, so who the hell knows. Maybe now I'm preaching to the choir/totally wrong.


Critique and "constructive criticism" are--in my experience--contentious topics in online writing communities. I'm speaking mainly of fandom groups, but not just those. You could say I have ~feelings~ about it that I’d like to express in a pointed fashion. While I have never received a deliberately hostile critique, I have had several critique experiences that I found less than helpful, for reasons that I think can be fixed with some consideration from both parties. When you offer a critique to an author, I assume you’re doing it because you want to help them. I know I do.

So let’s be helpful! I’ll start the series off with an obvious point, which a whole lot of people still miss. Not everybody, just… a number of people that isn’t negligible.

Give the good with the bad when you critique.

No, this doesn't mean you should praise the author. (For some reason, this is always the first assumption. Why?) It means you should bring attention to the good things about their story in addition to the bad things.

Read more...Collapse )

I highly recommend taking a look at that Zen Habits article if you offer critique in any context. It's perceptive and definitely worth reading.


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Miang - I want to be myself

The Elements of Critique: Foreward, Explanations, Excuses

So, a while ago--maybe like, two years ago? Ha--I promised a post on critique. It turned into four posts, which I wrote some time last year to experiment with content marketing techniques. I needed something to talk about, and well, I have wordy opinions about critique that I firmly believe are the right ones, and I'm not going to let reasonable arguments get in my way!

However, since the series was originally written for a class exercise, the style is a little different from what I normally post on LJ/DW. I don't think it needs rewriting otherwise, so I'm slapping it up as-is. If you think it sounds arrogant, try to remember two things: 1) it is, and I'm not sorry which you should expect by now, and 2) you don't write the kind of article I was experimenting with unless you intend to sound like an expert. Based on my studies, it doesn't seem to matter whether that expertise exists or not. :P

Unfortunately, I've spent so much time in fandom that it inevitably crops up in my examples when I address things I don't like. Almost all of my fandoms have, at some point, had ugly fights (usually via anon-meme) about the right to deliver concrit and the obligation of writers to listen to their reviewers or have specific aims for their writing process. And I definitely have opinions about that.

Also, something to be aware of:

In this series, critique =/= fic reviews.

Confusion on this issue has cropped up in the past, so I want all readers to understand that I'm talking about a formal review process--the type you usually see in writing classes, circles, and so forth. I'm not suggesting that this process be applied to your average FFN/AO3 review. If it's applicable to anything fandom-specific, I guess you could draw parallels between this and the beta process, although again, it's been a long-ass time since I had a beta for my fan fiction. I do eventually criticize the point of view that cropped up in those anon memes, and I do it precisely because those commenters seemed to be equating the two types of feedback when talking about the importance of listening to their reviews, and in retrospect I don't agree.

tl;dr, this is the kind of topic that starts arguments. May as well get the most obvious potential misconception out of the way. I'm trying to define the good and bad things about serious critique, not just fic reviews or related concrit, but it comes up.




  1. Critique: Giving the Good With the Bad

  2. Stream-of-Consciousness Criticism

  3. Unsolicited Commentary

  4. The Perfect Critique

If there's anything else you'd like to see examined, let me know.


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VP - Shiho

The Purge begins. (Completed.)

As promised some time back in September, I'm locking down the majority of my old entries. Here's what you should know if you're interested:

  1. A select set of entries will be unlocked again. Here's the list.

  2. Friends-locked entries from January 2016-onward are exempted.

  3. I'll take requests to re-open others, but no guarantees.

  4. I probably won't cross-post new entries to LJ, but I'm still thinking about it.

This process may take a few days. I'm not exactly in a hurry.

And uh, yeah. Guess that's it. Comment if you have any concerns, but I'm just going to plug away at this task while I'm still motivated. Feelings of motivation often die suddenly and horribly when I least expect it.

EDIT: But why the hell is LJ adding random number hashtags to my tag lists on edited entries? WTF. Not all of them, just some.


02.06.2018 - done.

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Saiun - technicolor Reishin

Maintaining mirrors and the recent LJ exodus.

It's that rare beast: an unlocked entry!

My concerns these days are pathetic and not at all fun to read about. The one exception, I'd say, is the cats. Who doesn't like cat stuff? I mean.

...Yeah, I mean. If you don't, just don't tell me.


So, about the subject line.

Listen--I hate ads and like convenience, so I'll spend money on journal platforms if that's what it takes. Even though I don't post often nowadays, I still like to have an unnecessarily extensive selection of user icons to choose from, and LJ specifically locks its mass-entry editing behind a paywall.

Livejournal has shitty customer service, though--not to mention questionable policies and zero transparency, or at least that's how I remember them. (I'd be lying if I claimed to have paid attention the last two years.) I don't want to give them money anymore. Dreamwidth costs enough, considering my post frequency. More than enough. I kinda sorta want to get rid of the LJ account, but I have a few concerns about that:

  1. There might be people following me that still use LJ as their primary writing/reading service;

  2. There are probably a lot of backlinks to my so-called meta posts, which I've been encouraged to keep public despite my desire to shut the whole thing down;

  3. I don't want to risk losing the name.

While at this point I think it's dumb and paranoid to think people out there still hate me enough (usually for RPGamer stuff, but there were other... incidents) to impersonate my account, it HAS happened before, and I'm not interested in leaving that door propped open even a little. The one benefit that maintaining the LJ account has is that it's an established area I've been known to occupy for over a decade.

So, the point? I'm considering locking down the content on the LJ mirror (though I may unlock specific entries, like the ones on this list), and posting primarily on DW without cross-posting. However, I'm not sure how LJ's dead account detection works, though, so I might continue cross-posting, but stop keeping track of comments. Considering how inactive I've been, that won't make a difference for most. Just to keep everything clear:


One of the things I'd like to do (eventually) is streamline what's locked and what's open so my journal looks more coherent from the outside. You know, just in case. But that's really hard to do--not to mention a whole ton of work I don't need--when you've got to repeat those changes across platforms.

Now, I'm buried under work/classwork at the moment, and probably won't make these changes any time soon, but I wanted to open comments to anyone who might have them. I've mentioned this in locked entries before, and have pared down my original intentions, which involved locking/deleting everything. If you have an opinion:

  • On DW, everyone with a valid account can comment.

  • On LJ, comments are restricted to my Friends List to avoid spam. Sorry. :/

If you don't have an opinion (which is what I expect), I'll do something about this lockdown when I need to avoid some real work or a final project. So, sounds like we're looking at December. :P Possibly earlier, but... yeah, no.

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Dragon Age - Alistair

100 Things 020: Mystery Formula

Brought to you by the mystery novel formula, although the post isn't about mysteries of that sort.

In the end, I had to give my Tales of Zestiria obsession a little outlet. Not too much, because the last thing I need is an epic on my hands, but something. I found out I'm pretty rusty when it comes to fan fiction. I also noticed a few other things.

1. It took approximately 0.05 seconds for me to slip right back into the Pairing Fanfic Formula.

2. I hit the same story/characterization triggers every other Zestiria author does, though I didn't know that until I looked at the AO3 archive afterward.

3. Gasp, this... is not actually a bad formula.

I also realized that I open original stories differently, but that's another topic. Short stories - at least as I write them - involve more plot, and therefore need more precise openings... not that I always manage to make that happen.

The formula I default into isn't a bad formula by itself. It has setting, buildup, and payoff, which is why it can be satisfying to read; it can, and often does, have some kind of "emotional turn" that makes the scene feel complete-- like something happened. (I don't recall which writer gave me the phrase "emotional turn," but it has served me well every time I've bothered to use the concept while writing.) It just so happens that in pairing fic these elements are focused on cuddling instead of something else. It's actually not a bad basic structure for individual scenes.

I think this would still be true if the content is entirely fluff. You can still have a transformation of mood and/or emotion in the scene, which satisfies the requirement for "change" in fiction, which I know people loooove to argue with. Stories don't necessarily need conflict! Shit doesn't have to change! It can still be interesting! And I guess that's all true in fan fiction, when a reader might want to just wallow in their obsession with Mikleo Sebastian Maglor a character they love, and see some stream-of-consciousness contemplation on a canon event. I don't think that's very interesting, but whatever. Some people do. Point is, it's more interesting if something changes, even if that change means we're just moving from contemplation to happiness, or giddiness to contentedness, or some other minuscule difference. The formula can do that.

Which isn't to say I think I should write it all the time. It IS a formula, and if I write ten things according to this formula, they're all going to sound the same, since those ten things will definitely all be pairing fic. Somehow this doesn't happen if I use it for the basis of my scene structure in a longer story, because there are other things happening (and how exactly is a Sorey/Mikleo makeout session not something happening, I mean really) and the formula becomes a vehicle for other elements of craft.

So yeah. I haven't come up with an excuse for #2 (automatically falling into all the cliches) yet. Give me a few more hours for that one.

This entry was originally posted at Discuss here or there as you prefer.

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  • Current Music: Tales of Zestiria OST D3 - 元凶たる神の御座
Saiun - technicolor Reishin

100 Things #19: The Valley Filled With Clouds

"The problem with writing is writing. The discoveries in writing will be made in writing. The solutions to story problems - structural, motivational, existential - will be found in writing. ... Your middle will not arrive through thinking, and while it may arrive in dreaming, dreaming is more likely to produce results if you fall asleep while writing."

The Portable MFA in Creative Writing, p.30

My own creative process drives me crazy. This problem probably isn't unique to me.

For as long as I've been writing, I've been what people call a "pantser" - when I've got an idea for a story, I skip the outlining and development parts and jump right in, figuring that it'll take care of itself. Who needs a plot to start with when it'll just grow out of the process on its own like a slimy, scary-looking mushroom? And I thought that's how it was done. I didn't take writing classes until much later, and it never occurred to me - apparently - to pick up a book on how to write fiction when I was younger.

By 'younger,' I mean seventeen or so, which is when I first attempted to write seriously. Prior to that I had written "novels" and storybooks and stuff, but not with any intent. I did it to get ideas out of my head, or sometimes to entertain my friends. Plot isn't really necessary when you're pandering to your own group and their in-jokes.

But this is still the way I work, and knowing how important plot is, thanks to my overpriced degree and experience (I guess), I keep feeling like I should grow up and start plotting before I write. Have an outline. Actually develop characters before I try to write them! No doubt that would make them slightly more interesting.

Have I tried to do this? Yes.

Has it worked? No.

I understand the concept. I could write an essay on it, or pass a test. I can diagnose the problems in novels, short stories, fan fiction. I can even (apparently) give good advice on improving plot and addressing related problems when I'm asked to give someone a thorough critique on their work. But sit me down with my own outline, which I will have spent quite a bit of time on, by the way, and I think I might be able to follow it for two chapters before I run off the rails and end up somewhere completely different. Part of me feels that sticking to that narrow path will stunt the creative growth of the story, but the real problem seems to come down to characterization. Like: I think Character A will do these things and make these decisions, but after writing her for two chapters I realize she'd rather do something different. I might've spent hours working on her backstory, her details (e.g. profile stuff like who her extended family is, or what her education is), and think I developed her personality, but I always find out I'm wrong.

So the character isn't going to do that in chapter three, and because she doesn't, chapter four is a wash. And we probably can't get to Point C on time; there'll need to be eight extra chapters. Maybe. Who's counting? And I can't say she won't change her mind in chapter five, because I just decided that such-and-such must've happened to her when she was a kid - it sounded good when I wrote it down just now, anyway! - and so Point C might be a no go. Oops.

This is both more fun (because I can do whatever the fuck I want and just have fun with it) and more irritating because it means I'm always going to have to waste a first draft on exploration.

Or it means I don't know what I'm doing.

Or it means I'm doing it wrong. Fuckit, then; who cares.

I like exploration. That's more than half the fun when I write fan fiction, after all. But I've never been comfortable or happy with the idea that I can't get something right on the first draft, so the suspicion that I'm always going to have to "waste" the first one makes me angry. There's no way I can get the first round right, because I don't know what it's going to throw at me, and yet that's the way I feel most comfortable in the development phase... you know, when it's actually going on. After I'm done for the day, though, I sit here and think I shouldn't do it this way. I should know better. Or do it better.

That quote at the top of the entry is something I found recently, which seemed fitting. But what made me think about all of this again - I don't normally dwell on it - was Terry Pratchett. He said two things that hit me as true-- for me.

How do you write stories? You make it up as you go along. This is a terrible thing to have to tell people.


But it's what I call "The Valley Filled with Clouds" technique. You're at the edge of the valley, and there is a church steeple, and there is a tree, and there is a rocky outcrop, but the rest of it is mist. But you know that because they exist, there must be ways of getting from one to the other that you cannot see. And so you start the journey. And when I write, I write a draft entirely for myself, just to walk the valley and find out what the book is going to be all about.

A Slip of the Keyboard, p.58-60

He goes on to compare his style of drafting with what he knows of Larry Niven, who's fond of index cards. He's "sure true writers do not work like this." Me too, except that apparently isn't the case.

So I read this, maybe two months ago, and thought if he could do it, I should give it another try. Try to embrace it. I did just say it was fun, somewhere up there. The process of discovery really can be. And when I try to change it, I clearly meet resistance on the inside, even if I think I'm trying to do the right thing. I tend to abandon stories that I start the other way, with outlines; I never abandon the ones that happen more organically. (Excluding some of the really long ones that I decide aren't working. If we're talking short stories, it's true.)

It's hard to embrace. However, it seems to me that kicking the plot into shape after might work better for me, because there's something to shape, whereas doing it at the beginning means trying to work with very little. And it's no wonder that it's so difficult when I'm trying to build a recognizable house with only a quarter of the materials when, if I wait, the others will show up later.

It might be less profitable to fight the process than it will be to fight the issue with multiple drafts. Which I've made progress on, but I still feel deep down like I shouldn't have to. Acceptance is hard.

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Saiun - technicolor Reishin

Innominat, Maotelus, and The Five Lords

Wow, rain. It's coming down hard.


Tales of Zestiria has a decently interesting world. It saw fit to explain very little of that world, unless I missed a ton of skits or scenes. Now, I'm not saying this is a bad thing; it told me what I needed to know, and anyway, a world like this, with so many mysteries, is exactly what I would've loved writing fan fiction for. It leaves room for creative speculation.

One thing I would've liked to see explained further, though, is The Five Lords...Collapse )

In Zestiria's defense, I did try to finish the game quickly; I might've missed things. I tried not to, because I like completing things, dammit, but I had limited time. :/ I went for the prize, and didn't take the time to do the thing with Edna's brother, or the crucibles, so I dunno, maybe those explain more? (Although the crucibles looked more like gameplay challenges.)

So whatev. Either these are dumb questions, or the game needs a sequel, so I can buy it.

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