Dark & Stormy Night, Bro!
October 10, 2012 5:39 AM Subscribe
How to critique 'bad' writing?
posted by Chorus to Writing & Language (33 answers total) 14 users marked this as a favorite
I'm on an advanced writing course and we are tasked with critiquing work from the introductory beginners course. The college has provided general guidelines like: don't get personal or be mean. I have three pieces of writing in front of me and I do not even know how to begin. The pieces are supposed to be a scene from the short story the beginners will work on this term.
The three pieces are what I will call 'classic beginners writing' and I know what's wrong with them from an objective standpoint. But putting it into 'out loud' words is killing me. In an ideal world, I'd just say:
Piece One - The narrator witnesses a scene of brutal animal abuse... just so she can meet her love interest (!)
My critique: Animal abuse brings me (probably most readers) right out of a story. Also, you are only using it for shock value. Where is the real story? Write that instead.
Piece Two - An obviously real argument between the narrator/writer and her mother that just screams 'major mother issues'.
My critique: Therapy. Writing is great therapy too, yes, but [[okay, I can't put this part into words. I just plain don't like it. It's like I'm peering into your head where you're right and mom is wrong, wrong, wrong. That's not a story.]]
Piece Three - Seven curses in the first paragraph alone, a paragraph which is all about a hot woman entering narrator's boring work and him 'snagging a ball on his thigh' as he shifts in his seat.
My critique: I can't even.
BTW, this is face-to-face critiquing. The lecturer will lead the critique, but I know the floor will open for us advanced students to respond. Giving a critique is part of our coursework and there'll be more to come, so I really want to get a handle on it and not feel so intimidated. Is it totally disingenuous to just find something nice to say about each piece, then shut up and let the next person have at it? Is this one of those 'grin and bear it' things and just say enough semi-nice, semi-insightful things to get through?
I was thinking of doing the sandwich approach: "This piece has good X. It didn't personally resonate with me because of Y, but the elements of Z were interesting/thought provoking/particularly strong"
Is this one of the cases where (in general) people don't really want to learn or receive a 'real' opinion, they just want to be read and talked about? I have a hard time judging those types of situations :/