Re: Multi-tiered forums


Anthony Head

Due to the recent ‘poetry wars’, (talk about a cat fight…), my attention has been drawn to a new concept: tiered critique forums.

I support the good poet’s idea, albeit for different reasons.

Personally writing, I can testify that as my writing grows, so do my forum needs. Initially, like many new writers, I simply wanted to be stroked. I wanted someone to tell me that my time wasn’t being wasted, that if I applied myself and learned well, I could and would write stories worth reading.

At that point, I used the forum much like Mom’s refrigerator. I just wanted to post my crayon art work up and at worst, have someone tell me I needed to stay within the lines.

As I grew and my abilities developed, my forum needs changed. I no longer needed ‘attaboys’. I now needed direction. Through my posts and your generous responses, and the posts/riposts of others, 🙂 I began to learn my craft.

Framing the scene, overusing words and commas, showing, dialogue… Trivial things to an experienced writer, new and exciting things to me. My postings became more demanding, more seeking of educational responses. I sought no blanket comments: “Good Story”, “Held my interest”, etc. No, I wanted to hear JohnObx explain my procedural errors in dark alleys while being kicked in the kidneys. I needed to hear Lisa explain why I couldn’t cover my habenero (sp?) peppers in chocolate. I looked forward to getting that first paragraph past the comma nazis.

And I learned. I have learned more than I thought possible and in an amazingly short period of time.

Now I’ve reached another step. I call it the professional review. I am now satisfied enough with my writings that I am submitting them. I welcome the R-slips. I want to know why the editor of the New Yorker didn’t accept a story. (Hey, aim high – takes longer to hit the ground.)

You’ve probably noticed that I am not submitting much for critique anymore. That’s because I do not want to dilute my conceptions of my work by exposing it to too many uninformed opinions.

“Whoa!” “Say What?” “Who the **** does that stuck-up SOB think he is?” “The jerkwad wouldn’t know a comma from a semicolon if I tattooed them on his ass…”

OK, y’all calmed down now? See, that’s the issue. Just as we have all levels of writers here, we also have all levels of critique. At a certain point in everyone’s writing, we all will need to focus our remarks and our responses to those remarks.

As an example, if I am writing a fantasy story and I post an excerpt, at this stage of my writing I will post it looking for specific critiques. “The protangonist is describing agriculture in local terms: do you understand his references?”

If the forum is a single level, over half the readers WILL NOT READ MY REQUEST. I’m sorry people, but it’s true. We’re in a hurry, we skim the ‘instructions’ and rush into the good parts. It’s natural – especially for beginning writers.

But if the forum is tiered, those experienced writers or anyone who wants to challenge their peers, can post and expect the reader in the advanced forum to follow directions.

If I posted the same request in an advanced forum, I would anticipate the reader responding after carefully and throughly understanding my piece. “Hmm. Ok, he’s said the shoulder width of the wer is two arms broad, and the furrows are a double wer-length apart. That means the king’s soldiers could really stand two abreast….”

The advanced reader might also mention that I spelled something wrong, or had an errant comma, but the reader would focus on the points I identified as important.

Am I making sense?

I realize I might have insulted someone or two of you. Please: I am NOT suggesting or saying you are not competent to critique my work. Even an amateur eye might identify something useful. I am saying that I feel the forums could be improved by providing a tiered approach so that a developing writer can seek out a speific level of critique.

So, vote everyone? And Maria, if the votes support my thesis, what would be the next step? Shall we let this run for a week?

Thanks all for your patience. And believe me, the least word from each and everyone of you is valued.