Critiques and Nathan's Sandwich Rule

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wilderness
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Re: Critiques and Nathan's Sandwich Rule

Post by wilderness » October 14th, 2010, 3:24 pm

I think critiques are tough on both sides. It can be tough when no one gets or even notices a line you thought was so funny. I like cheekychook's idea of layering in the positive and negative, but when you are giving a critique it can be hard to find an even number of positives and negatives. I think the sandwich rule is sort of a minimum to make sure we are not completely crushing someone's hard work even when we are trying to help. But it's very important that we didn't just slap-dash the positive on there, that it seems sincere.

When I receive critiques, I like them to be fairly thorough and tough, like Sommer. And likewise, when critiquing others, I try to point out the positives, but I definitely want to be clear about what could be improved. I have to say, polymath's method seems a bit hard to follow. Yes, perhaps I could infer that any part you didn't comment on wasn't working but I might not be able to figure out why. It all seems very round about. For some writers who find taking criticism very difficult, that may be the perfect method. But I don't think it would gel perfectly with everyone (not me anyway) -- and that's fine.

I think two people have to think alike in some ways in order to give proper critiques to each other. I think that's why it's great to get several readers, if you can, and hopefully one or two of them will hit that sweet spot of criticism for you. Even in the forums, I find that some people find my advice very helpful, others not so much. We are on different pages, and that's okay -- I can only hope they find someone who gives them the type of critique they were looking for. But just as important as giving positive feedback, I think it is important for those receiving critique to realize that others are only trying to help.

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Re: Critiques and Nathan's Sandwich Rule

Post by bcomet » October 14th, 2010, 3:53 pm

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Last edited by bcomet on October 15th, 2010, 8:01 am, edited 1 time in total.

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Re: Critiques and Nathan's Sandwich Rule

Post by Sommer Leigh » October 14th, 2010, 4:49 pm

I should have clarified in my original comment that I give very detailed expectations to my critique partners about what I expect and want from them and what sort of reaction they'll get from me when they give honest feedback. So they aren't flying blind or anything :-)

Like Margo, I like specific positive feedback ("This works!") but general positive comments to soften the criticisms aren't necessary with me and I've seen that done a lot. I guess what I meant in my rambling comment is that I think the sandwich rule is only useful if it comes with specific positive feedback. At least for me!

I think the sandwich rule is a great rule when helping strangers who are not detailed with what they want from their critique partners. However, I do think an author has some responsibility to let their partners know what they expect from them. Reading and giving feedback on any piece of work, especially an entire novel, is hard work and very time consuming. The more info they have about what you want, the better.

My husband is one of the first people to read what I've written/rewritten and he is often plagued by terror in giving me criticism. To him it is akin to me asking him if my new jeans make me look fat. He usually opts for positive (and kind of unhelpful) feedback over honest criticism. Then we have conversations that look like this:

Me: "It's ok to give me criticism honey. I need it to make what I'm doing better and if I haven't noticed I'm failing somewhere, someone has to point it out to me."
Him: "Oh-kay...well...if you say so. I hate this character. He's irritating and doesn't add anything and slows the pacing down. I find him completely irredeemable. Also I kind of didn't like what you made for dinner last night."
Me: "Wait, WHAT."
Him: "You said criticism was necessary! You said if you didn't notice, someone has to point it out to you!"
Me: "With my writing! That wasn't a free pass! You suck at this."
Him: "ARGH. You people are so irrational and confusing."
Me: "My people?"
Him: "You know, women. And writers."
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polymath
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Re: Critiques and Nathan's Sandwich Rule

Post by polymath » October 14th, 2010, 4:58 pm

I corresponded with the writer in terms we both understood. The writer I addressed got it, as evidenced to me by the revisions. The writer understood the terms but not their methods. The writer was most of the way there, as evidenced to me by the paragraphs that did work well, just needed that one little umph to see the differences and fully grasp them.

Okay, so the example I paraphrased didn't connect as closely here. It's an offered example of two writers connecting on a positive exchange of ideas. That's its sole purpose.

Narrative point of view is a complex topic. Grasping its nuances doesn't happen overnight. I could name dozens of reasons, if not hundreds of reasons any given opening is slow. But I won't fall into the twin traps of indifference and overtreatment in critiquing. Remote narrative distance and unsettled narrative voice as pertains to narrative point of view were the main issues in that case.

Also, some readers like slow openings, while other readers want to be grabbed by the neck and hauled bodily into a narrative's setting. That particular manuscript was close enough in projecting the writer's creative vision that I could tell it wanted to be a throat grabber. My creative vision didn't interfere, which is a common coercive influence in workshop critiquing, for good or ill. I took what was given and worked with the writer from a mutual understanding.
Last edited by polymath on October 14th, 2010, 5:04 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: Critiques and Nathan's Sandwich Rule

Post by Margo » October 14th, 2010, 5:04 pm

LOL, Sommer. Did you record my last conversation with my diabolical plotting buddy? Those people make me so mad. You know, men. Men critters. ;) I kid. But he does sound like that sometimes.
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Re: Critiques and Nathan's Sandwich Rule

Post by Down the well » October 14th, 2010, 5:06 pm

Sommer Leigh wrote:Me: "It's ok to give me criticism honey. I need it to make what I'm doing better and if I haven't noticed I'm failing somewhere, someone has to point it out to me."
Him: "Oh-kay...well...if you say so. I hate this character. He's irritating and doesn't add anything and slows the pacing down. I find him completely irredeemable. Also I kind of didn't like what you made for dinner last night."
Me: "Wait, WHAT."
Him: "You said criticism was necessary! You said if you didn't notice, someone has to point it out to you!"
Me: "With my writing! That wasn't a free pass! You suck at this."
Him: "ARGH. You people are so irrational and confusing."
Me: "My people?"
Him: "You know, women. And writers."
This is why my husband has never read any of my creative writing, and never will until he's able to go down to the bookstore and buy it. Though I'm sure your husband had good intentions, lol.

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Re: Critiques and Nathan's Sandwich Rule

Post by cheekychook » October 14th, 2010, 5:32 pm

Down the well wrote:
Sommer Leigh wrote:Me: "It's ok to give me criticism honey. I need it to make what I'm doing better and if I haven't noticed I'm failing somewhere, someone has to point it out to me."
Him: "Oh-kay...well...if you say so. I hate this character. He's irritating and doesn't add anything and slows the pacing down. I find him completely irredeemable. Also I kind of didn't like what you made for dinner last night."
Me: "Wait, WHAT."
Him: "You said criticism was necessary! You said if you didn't notice, someone has to point it out to you!"
Me: "With my writing! That wasn't a free pass! You suck at this."
Him: "ARGH. You people are so irrational and confusing."
Me: "My people?"
Him: "You know, women. And writers."
This is why my husband has never read any of my creative writing, and never will until he's able to go down to the bookstore and buy it. Though I'm sure your husband had good intentions, lol.
Ditto.
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Re: Critiques and Nathan's Sandwich Rule

Post by Sommer Leigh » October 14th, 2010, 5:40 pm

Down the well wrote:
This is why my husband has never read any of my creative writing, and never will until he's able to go down to the bookstore and buy it. Though I'm sure your husband had good intentions, lol.
I use mine because he teaches English and is quite a bit better at spelling and grammar (and math. I hate him.) than I am. So he is helpful in that regard. He's very good for saying things like, "You don't know what this word means." Me: "Yes I do. Oh. No I don't."

He is not very helpful at content. He can kind of remind me about something I've written or something I've forgotten when I mix something up, but mostly he's just very good with editing my grammar.
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Re: Critiques and Nathan's Sandwich Rule

Post by sierramcconnell » October 14th, 2010, 6:35 pm

I think I'm okay with critiques as long as they don't come at me like this:

"What the HELL were you thinking?"

I have had that happen twice. One of my friends decided she wanted to read my book back in 2006, and me, a fledgling writer and idiot with a first draft, said, "okay, but I haven't even edited it" and she looked at it and said that. "What the Hell were you thinking? Is he some choir boy? He's far too young to be in a relationship with a king. You're going to have to age him up, honey. And in the first place, what were you even on to think about writing this crap? It's going to have to change or it'll never get published."

I was so broken by the time she was done with her tirade. I tried to defend it, and she told me I would have to take it and change it if I were to ever survive in the editorial world. I only had half the book written at that point. She asks from time to time to read my stuff and I glare at her. I think she finally got the point.

I had such phobia from it I never again worked on the book and will not even though I have the rest of it summaried and I rewrote the summary to be better. It's much better. I was so afraid to even write that I had panic attacks and hyperventilation for two years.

All because of her.

I got last year's book written and betaed a few times. I had one person start to beta and her replies were increasingly...

"OMG. I mean, I seriously said that out loud. WHAT THE HELL WERE YOU THINKING?"

My reply this time? I laughed at her. Because she was right. I kept reusing 'that boy' and 'he said' for three male characters. I used cues and clues but it got confusing fast. I had to rewrite the scene to make the introductions earlier so I could use their names. It was hilarious though, because she was such a jerk in her betas and she didn't last long when I asked her to stop disappearing. "Well, FINE. I mean, I have a life, too."

"You didn't email me but two paragraphs after three months. I sent a blanket email of 'where my betas at' and you said, OMG I TOTALLY FORGOT ABOUT YOU. What do you expect me to say when I get a rushed reply of only five more paragraphs that say, "are you f-ing nuts" every other line?"

She finally stopped responding. I guess she 'forgot' again.

Everyone else I've dealt with have been wonderful. So I don't mind critique of 'this needs to change, that confused me, that over here is really strange, I missed this -oh, I see it now- can you make it more obvious?' without any 'you da bomb' so long as they're not completely reeming me.

But now if they do, I just ask this:

"Where's your book?"
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Re: Critiques and Nathan's Sandwich Rule

Post by cheekychook » October 14th, 2010, 7:42 pm

Okay, so I got a personalized rejection on a partial today that totally employed the sandwich method. Heavy on the bread and condiments (very talented writer, well developed characters, story has potential, particularly drawn to male lead, admired ability to capture detail, loved the dialogue, sure another agent will feel differently), very light on the meat (didn't connect the way I'd have liked). Not a very tasty sandwich. Where is my perfect bite? :thud
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polymath
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Re: Critiques and Nathan's Sandwich Rule

Post by polymath » October 15th, 2010, 4:43 pm

My favorite version of the classic club sandwich;

Toasted pumpernickel marbled rye
Sliced hickory smoked turkey breast
Crispy applewood bacon
Heirloom Beefsteak tomato
Sliced Swiss Emmentaler cheese
Roasted garlic aioli
Romaine heart lettuce

The Dagwood stack;
Slice bread
Aioli
Salt and peppered tomato
Bacon
Cheese
Lettuce
Ailoi
Slice bread
Aioli
Turkey
Aioli
Slice bread

Skewer with frilly toothpicks and cut into quarters.
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Quill
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Re: Critiques and Nathan's Sandwich Rule

Post by Quill » October 15th, 2010, 9:23 pm

This week's special at my house:

whole wheat bread
honey Dijon mustard
roast beef
caramelized onions
Gorgonzola cheese
heirloom tomato, super ripe

grilled

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cheekychook
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Re: Critiques and Nathan's Sandwich Rule

Post by cheekychook » October 15th, 2010, 9:39 pm

Okay, I'll bite (ha!).

sandwich du jour

artisan italian bread
drizzle of olive oil
splash of balsamic vinegar
thinly sliced prosciutto
fresh mozzarella
locally grown tomato
fresh basil leaves
schmear of roasted garlic (optional)

panini pressed or not according to preference
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Re: Critiques and Nathan's Sandwich Rule

Post by bcomet » October 16th, 2010, 10:47 am

Football Saturday Sandwiches:

His:
Organic Flax Seed Bread, toasted
Butter on one side/ Horseradish Mustard on other side (lots)
lettuce (will share any selection)
tomato (will share any selection)
turkey
roast beef
lots of pepper

add Lagunitas Little Sumpin' Sumpin' ale
discuss beer satisfaction

Hers:
Pepperidge Farms Seeded Rye, toasted
butter on one side/mayo on other side (not too much)
fresh herb lettuce
really red fresh tomato
really ripe avocado slices
lots of pepper

add mimosa (fresh pulpless orange juice with Domaine Carneros Taittinger 2006)
(groans over constant beer commercial coming from other side of couch/ misses "Touchdown Dance" terribly)

Fancy Sandwich:
Organic Flax Seed Bread, toasted
Butter on one side/ Horseradish Mustard on other side (medium amount)
avocado spread over butter side
fresh herb lettuce and fresh baby spinach
tomato slices
in separate pan sautee fresh brown mushrooms in butter / adding in pieces of white and green bok choy
add liberal amount to sandwich
sliced roast beef
doubled over leaf of raw bok choy
lots of pepper
hold on with two hands

add:
beer from selection being touted on far side of couch
whole heartedly concurs, ignoring woman in the middle holding her head

thinks:
(daydreaming: "Wow, the Lions scored??? last Sunday."
comes back in room/refocuses on current game: Can this really be Michigan playing?
Shakes head and speculates on who will be next year's new coach in the Big House.)

(Woman seems to have blissed out, eating thin piece of chocolate and sipping champagne drink.)

(All three look up as bird flies into window a third time? What's up with that bird anyway?)

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J. T. SHEA
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Re: Critiques and Nathan's Sandwich Rule

Post by J. T. SHEA » October 16th, 2010, 10:17 pm

You people are making me hungry! Now I have to go and make a sausage sandwich. Brown bread, sausages, brown sauce. I'm hungry and lazy and I used up all my imagination writing, so I have none left over for recipes.

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