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Critique me! "Moonlighting"

Getting good at getting criticism. Getting good at giving it. TL;DR - be specific! Show your work.

By L.C. SchäferPublished 9 days ago Updated 9 days ago 4 min read
Critique me! "Moonlighting"
Photo by Johann Walter Bantz on Unsplash

The thing I love about Vocal, is how supportive everyone is. Comments are always kind and encouraging.

The thing I dislike about Vocal is that... comments are always kind and encouraging.

I do understand why, and I appreciate the empathy being shown. Writing is personal - or it should be. If you are not bleeding on the page, if there is no little bit of you in what you write, the page will be dull and empty and flat.

When I write, I make a gash and bleed on the page. That's not to say it always pours out easily (sometimes it doesn't). But there's always something of me in it. There has to be, or it's no good. An offering, a sacrifice. A little death, to bring the piece to life.

The more of yourself you pour into the work, the better it's likely to be. But the more of yourself you pour into it, the harder criticism might be to take.

The softest souls can make beautiful writers.

The rhino-skinned can take lashings of criticism, but without that squishiness, how appealing was the writing to begin with?

Without criticism we cannot improve. We risk stagnation.

But soft souls can be crushed and the potential wasted if we are careless with feedback.

Here we are, oscillating to and fro between a need for validation, and a thirst to just get better.

Erotic werewolf fiction disagrees.

Caught between the rock and the hard place: staying soft when we write, sharp when we edit, calloused when we take feedback, and back to soft again when we pick up the pen. A whirlpool of ego and ink. I need to say something. I need to be heard. I need you to give me your eyes and your time. I need you to engage with my scribblings. I need you to help me improve. I need you to think about my feelings. I need. I need. I need. I. I. I.

Most of the time, I welcome feedback. What I struggle with is letting anyone read what I write at all.

Once I've gathered up my guts and shown them to the world, I can take almost any feedback, positive or negative... with just one caveat: as long as it's specific.

"Well that was shit" doesn't help me one jot. Mind you, nor does, "Good work".

"You have a typo here. This run on sentence could use some work. You've got a lot of purple prose in this bit. You've stacked your adjectives here and here. I don't like this sentence structure, I think writing it like X or Y would work better." I actually prefer that over "Wow, lovely piece!" That'll be the ole ego again.

You can write, "Great story, well done" without even reading it. How deeply has that harsh critic engaged with something you wrote? They took time out of their day to really read it. Not just skim through, but spending precious mental energy to actually get their teeth into it. React to it. Think about it. And then they took even more time to share the results with you.

That is humbling, for me. It can be too much sometimes, when it's someone you know. It can be a world of awkward. There's often a suspicion that they're "just being nice". But there are so many people you don't know - and they've all got opinions about things. Most of them are more than happy to share those opinions. Shitting on your writing can be the greatest compliment they can give you. The greatest gift.

This is what separates the wheat from the chaff. It's what separates you, a Writer, from any old tw-- with a pen. This is what separates this version of You (the Writer) from the little kid you maybe used to be who just wanted to write. You ask to be shat on.

Here's a piece of mine that I wrote just for fun. It's unpolished and silly. There were no re-writes. There's a little of me in it, but this is not a piece that is close to my heart. It's not my "baby". I snipped its umbilical cord loose with hardly a thought and shoved it roughly off the branch and into the world. If ever a piece qualified for iron maiden feedback, it's this one. I know it's raw. I know it's a little derivative - I wrote it off the cuff because the idea tickled me, and I don't care too much whether anyone else likes it.

If you want to flex those critic muscles, here are my questions to you:

1. Did I make any grammatical or spelling mistakes? Could be a typo, or an obscure grammatical error, I don't care - hit me!

2. Did anything else pull you out of the story? What was it? No matter how big or small a detail.

3. Did anything else stand out to you?

4. When someone gives you feedback, what are you hoping for?

Edit - My suggestion to Vocal: Can we have tags that indicate the level of feedback we are hoping for? #KidGloves #IronMaiden


Thank you for reading! Please comment so can I reciprocate.

If you enjoyed that, try this:

NonfictionFictionFeedback Requested

About the Creator

L.C. Schäfer

Flexing the writing muscle.

Never so naked as I am on a page. Subscribe for "nudes".

I'm also Twitter if you'd like to connect elsewhere.

I value feedback, and reciprocate reads and comments.

Also writing under the name S.E. Holz

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Comments (17)

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  • Chris Heller5 days ago

    When I took English classes in college, and it came time for peer critique, my professors would always advocate for the "Compliment sandwich" method. Basically, when giving a critique, you both start and end with things you liked about the piece -- language used, narrative elements, cadence of sentences, etc. Then, the middle should be the meat of your critique -- spelling and punctuation errors, things you didn't understand or thought could be implemented better, etc. And to top it all off, they wanted the critic to give their interpretation of the story's themes and ask questions of the writer. And of course, they encouraged no fluff or BS about it too. I still swear by this method to this day, and it's never done me wrong. Anyone and everyone should feel free to try it too.

  • Novel Allen6 days ago

    I made a friend, we got on well, until I pointed out a mistake, maybe I was a bit funny, but he just dried up and disappeared. What Donna and I did was make the correction separate from the real comment, and delete it afterwards if so desired. I am ok without deleting mine, none of us are perfect. Sorry, but not everyone wants the truth. I agree for the private chat thingy, would be a great help.

  • Dana Crandell7 days ago

    I do try to be a little more specific and verbose with my comments, but I'll admit that I often shy away from pointing out what I see as errors. The few exceptions I've made have been well-received, as far as I know. I try to be polite even when I'm being honest. I appreciate honest critique on my work as well. But enough about me.😁 One of the things I enjoy about reading your work is seeing your sense of humor pop up, often unexpectedly. The wolf meme and its caption and your choice of tag suggestions are great examples. By the way, you left some jacks laying around at the bottom of your text. Might want to pick those up so no one steps on them.

  • Mackenzie Davis8 days ago

    Back to say that I love the idea of the tags. :D

  • See that's the thing, I suck at telling someone that there's something bad with their story, especially in public. I usually only comment the stuff that I liked in the story and things like that. Like I feel it's not my place to correct other's mistakes when I'm not perfect myself. But with all honesty, I've never spotted any grammar mistakes or typos in your stories. Also, I totally agree for the hashtags like kid gloves and iron maiden!

  • Excellent ruminations. I would take exception with only one thing. Not everyone is nice on here with their comments. Some can be downright abusive. I've experienced it. I've also been accused of it. BTW, on your "Moonlighting" piece & apart from my poor attempt at humor with "grapple", I loved the idea of Death selling ice cream & greeting others as a friend rather than enemy. There are others who have talked of death as friend, but I seriously don't recall any of them referring to Death as your jovial friendly neighborhood ice cream salesperson or Uber driver.

  • Brin J.9 days ago

    I wish I could agree, but one bad experience taught me not everyone wants to hear criticism. They think their writing is perforce, or they just want to express themselves. Understandable. But since idk who I can give my constructive feedback to, I’ve kept my comments light, not wanting to be lashed out at. I didn’t deserve it the last time it happened. I even remember what it was about, that’s how much it impacted me. A guy wrote in quotations but didn’t express who was the speaker. Confused, I asked him to clarify which character that dialogue belonged to, and he found me on FB and attacked me. Brutal. Unnecessary. I cried and didn’t return to Vocal for months. So if people want to receive helpful criticism, then Vocal should incorporate something so that things like this don’t happen. Maybe make a private chat box solely for giving constructive feedback? Idk… I probably wouldn’t use it anyway. The damage was done and I’m not interested in going through that again.

  • D. D. Lee9 days ago

    I agree with you 100 percent. I did love the fact that writers on Vocal were very supportive of each other's work. But the more stories I read, even my own that had errors, the more I learned that the support is skewed to positive feedback only. While it's encouraging to get good feedback, I'm also looking for some constructive criticism on my work to help better myself. My friends are good at telling me somethings but they aren't writers or avid readers so they can only provide so much. Good article based on your story nonetheless. Vocal should allow an option for readers to leave constructive criticism of stories privately for the writer and them the choice to read it or delete the message before viewing. If I don't have anything positive to say about the piece I won't comment.

  • I don’t know what to say… good… bad… perfection? I liked your article though!

  • Sid Aaron Hirji9 days ago

    I have responded to some ppl harshly/critically. One was a ts saying coming out disabled to your workplace means you will not get harassed. I told him-not always the case. Another was to a guy who said walmart is a great place to work. both comments removed

  • Lamar Wiggins9 days ago

    In the two plus years I’ve been on vocal, I’ve had at least 5 people give constructive critiques without me asking for them. I appreciated them as well, except one where I think they just didn’t like the overall believability of circumstances surrounding the MC mishaps. I get it, but it was a micro fiction which can take some imagination on the readers part. Before vocal, I had someone say that they loved the story content but I sounded like a news reporter slinging facts around 😂. I’ve been working on that and have improved. In this setting, on this platform I feel it’s best to wait for the writer to ask for critiquing unless it’s a simple typo which I have pointed out a few times. This is why I’m glad that the critique community was created so the writer and the reader doesn’t have to feel bad that others can read comments about how the work should have never been published in the condition it’s in 😁. At the same time, I fully understand where you are coming from. It seems that we know beforehand that 99% of the comments on a story will be nice and supportive. I’ve read some things on here and was like- “did we all read the same thing because this was damn near terrible to me” and of course I don’t heart or comment. My biggest issue is finding plot holes that creates too many questions in my head. These stories are the closest I’ve come to letting it all out for everyone to see, but I stop myself in hopes that they may realize the issue and fix it. I think I’ve already said enough here, lol. But if I have time later I would love to reread moonlighting and give it a more critical view. I will leave something of mine that I know needs help ( just not completely sure where it needs it. I just know it does.) for you to help with. Thank you.

  • Mackenzie Davis9 days ago

    I am 100% on board with this, LC! We are on the same wavelength, as I have been drafting another art essay discussing this exact thing. I will happily extend my workshop brain to your piece. I understand. It takes guts to willingly subject your own work to critique. When I did college workshops, I was terrified the whole time, both of hurting others and of getting hurt. You have to start somewhere, though. The benefit of Vocal is that you can choose what piece you want feedback on; in a workshop you just bring whatever you wrote that week, complete or not (though it’s ideal that it’s complete, so that the feedback can be the most targeted). So already, you are using what you have to your advantage! Wonderful read, btw. Very compelling and necessary for us all to hear. 😊👏👏👏

  • Rachel Deeming9 days ago

    So. With this platform, I don't criticise. I read, I absorb, I write something good if I feel something from reading a piece but I don't criticise. The reason? I don't know who I'm dealing with really. I have a sense of you all from your writing in the same way that you do about me in mine, but I don't really know you. Not like I do people I encounter. I have no frame of reference for you, no knowledge of your character. So, I could criticise your work but how do I know that I can do that without upsetting you? Because I don't want to upset you. Not at all. I want to publish and read published work. I think that if I wrote in a comment a criticism of someone's work, even a typo, it's out there for anyone to see and I don't feel comfortable with that. Can you honestly say that if someone writes what may be a criticism on your piece that you would be totally okay with that? I know that it would depend on what they're saying but for me, I just don't know whether it's a good thing on here. I'm not going to lie - I read some terrible stuff, some of it getting TS status and if I do, I don't comment or like. That's my way of saying I did not appreciate this in any way. I can tackle people if they comment on mine - I'm happy to do that. I can take criticism because I'm quite secure in my writing. It's not to everyone's taste but I know it's not bad. Not everyone is like that though. And, L.C., you know, as a writer, that things can be misconstrued, taken the wrong way, nuance lost. I think if we were mates and you gave your writing to me to read and I knew that you were okay with me commenting, then I'd have at it. But here? No. I'd rather read and not comment on stuff that I think needs work. Having said that though, I would love to offer a critique for your work and I would be happy for you to critique mine. No problem at all. I'm going to check out your story today and will offer constructive comment if needed. Sorry. This has turned into an essay. Thanks for prompted the discussion. It will be interesting to see if others offer their views.

  • I don't go looking for things to critique when I read on Vocal usually, but I'm always open to them on my own work. Usually what I look for is less of a question of taste and, like yourself, a question of objective quality. But if you'd like, I can certainly mention anything I notice for improvement when I read your stuff, L.C. :) And of course, I invite the same in return :) Typos always sneak through on me, and I always appreciate when they're (or any other errors) are pointed out.

  • ema9 days ago

    In my opinion the writer is not always such, that is, when I read I am relaxed, naturally I can think that that piece could be written differently, but I don't say it, because in that moment I am a reader. I think that when someone wants in-depth criticism they should say it and request it clearly, as you have done now. In this way the reader/writer places himself in another perspective and participates in the author's work. Doing an in-depth critique requires much more time and attention than regular reading. But now you ask for a criticism on a piece that "It's unpolished and silly. There were no re-writes. There's a little of me in it, but this is not a piece that is close to my heart." Then I think it is unfair, if you know it's unpolished, why would anyone else take the time to work on it? 😊 I think the interesting thing is to ask for critique on pieces that we love and on which we have worked a lot. Then the work makes sense, even if we don't know if we are ready to accept those criticisms that hurt our writer's ego. So this is my critique to your piece today 😅

  • Mohammed Darasi9 days ago

    I swear to you, I was literally thinking about this exact this a couple of days ago. I want to improve my writing, so constructive critism is more than welcome. I joined a zoom group a couple of days ago for poetry critique and they were so openly honest with he critique (asking questions, giving alternative ways of writing something etc.) And the authors were equally patien and listening to the points so honestly. After the meet up, I literally though "people on vocal are too nice" 🤣 and started thinking of doing a similar thing for vocal writers (maybe I will when I figure out something, because a blanket meet would be way too much to handle). Anyways. I'll have a look at the piece and critique as you requested (bear in mind I'm not that experienced in writing, so it'll be from a perspective of a reader and novice writer)

  • Mother Combs9 days ago

    Great article with good points. I can never find fault with your writing tbh

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