Friday, May 1, 2009

Proust vs. Eisler

Oh yay, I get the first post of May!

The topic of today is criticism, constructive criticism. I took part in contest judging recently and part of my job was to say the good, and the bad, in each entry. The instructions did not mention the ugly, and while I think that lack was important, it also made judging difficult. If I couldn't say simply that the writing sucked, what could I say? Yes, I am speaking tongue-in-cheek.

Giving a critique of someone's work slaps me with a couple nagging questions:

1. How do I separate the person from the writing? Or rather, how do I direct my criticism so that I speak to the writing rather than the person?
2. How much of what I think is bad in someone's writing actually relates to stylistic differences between that person and myself? Related to that issue (call it 2B), how do I keep my criticism from deleting the other person's voice and substituting my own?
3. How useful is it for me to critique a genre that I don't write? Or, if I am not familiar with the differences between genres in things like pacing, event structure, and grammatical expectations, how can I offer useful direction?

Those questions stop me in my tracks. I'd like to think that they don't matter, but I get the nagging feeling that they do. ...Especially since the literary landscape is not some homogenous slough, no matter what impressions come off the bog.

1 comment:

purpleprose 78 said...

I judged the contest too. I do read/write the genre but not all the pieces and parts that I was asked to judge. I think good writing is good writing is good writing. Seriously, I read one entry and absolutely hated it the first time through. The second time, I read it with an eye towards critique. I took the four questions that we were asked to answer and it became clear to me that the entry did everything it was supposed to do. I had been prejudiced against the entry because it was a subgenre that I didn't read. The entry wound up being one of the ones that I scored highest. I'm sure you did fine as a judge.