Monday, October 3, 2011

The Compliment Sandwich

Recently, we had a discussion in my creative writing class about not using "The Compliment Sandwich" when discussing someone's writing, but to just give them straight commentary about the problems of the piece and what needs to be improved to make the piece correct or slightly enjoyable.  Not say anything that works with the piece or anything nice. 

I disagree.

I am all for the compliment sandwich!  I'll even serve with some nice freshly cut strawberries.  I understand letting another writer know that what they wrote isn't really working, but since this is such a hard industry I think we could also use a little sugar coating, as long as the truth is clearly spelled out for the person.  We don't need to insult them, but we do need to give them accurate advice.

For example;

Jen's character is interesting with her desire to walk kittens as a career.  But at the same time, she lacks any depth.  She has no other desires or goals in life.  Jen doesn't have any relationships other than Tabby, her cat.  Try adding another character - human character and give Jen some goals.  What does she like to eat?  What does do her spare time?  Does she have any super powers?  You've got a good beginning, but it needs more.

See...

Compliment
Advice
Compliment

It's helpful and it doesn't destroy the writer.  This would probably be different if the work was terrible.  But it can be done.  I had to critique a classmate's paper that had no conflict, the character's life was perfect, she lived with a guy that we (the reader) didn't know if he was a friend, boyfriend, brother, or just roommate, and it was riddled with simple spelling errors.  She's a college student in a writing class.  Not the best, but I didn't tear her down or the work.  I gave her a lot of different ways to improve it. 

As fellow writers, I think we should encourage each other to be better and to keep writing.  Writing is a difficult dream and sometimes a nice little sandwich on the way is helpful.  It lets us know what's wrong, but it also lifts us up.

Sometimes we do need tough love if nothing is redeeming or good in the story, but most of the time... I'm kind and I'd rather encourage with help. :)

What do you think?

13 comments:

  1. I'm a big believer in the compliment sandwich when it comes to discussing someone else's writing. People are more likely to listen when it doesn't feel like you're tearing them to shreds.

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  2. I'm a fan as well. It's like your writing is affected by your mood, and if you think your writing is riddled with problems and nothing is good, you don't want to write. Hope you didn't think the critique I gave you was too harsh. I honestly liked the story and still think about it sometimes. Your a good writer, don't give up!

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  3. I use, or don't use it based on the writer. Some people need the sugar coating. Some get annoyed with it. I don't think it is a one soze fits all thing. Which is great because it is one more thing that makes us all different. :)

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  4. I agree with the compliment sandwich.

    Seriously, I can not support just pressing negativity upon an aspiring writer with no respite acknowledging that there was somethng worthwhile in their story.

    With the compliment sandwich, you give a good dose of support and advice.

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  5. I am very much heartened by a compliment sandwich. I'm all for 'em.

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  6. I strongly support the compliment sandwich. Not that I can't take tough critiques, but you get more flies with honey, you know? And you don't crush a person's zest that way, too.

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  7. Oh thank you. Yes, I like the compliment sandwich. I think it is important to be honest in what is wrong, but also show what is right. I don't want them to feel so bad they quit. Constructive criticism is a good thing.

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  8. Compliment sandwich for the win. Like with kids - the secret is to praise them when they do the right thing more than you chastise them when they don't. Showing someone your writing is like baring your soul.

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  9. totally agree. be hard and helpful, dont destroy us! do they want to see our crushed spirits and tears? we need to encourage other! (but keep a thick skin too)

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  10. Several years ago I put a piece of writing out there for a general read through. I specifically asked for an overall opinion and not an indepth crit. Were my characters okay? Was the premise interesting?

    The first person who responded tore me a new one. How could I put this piece of writing, so obviously flawed, out there? Everything about the piece (in their eyes) sucked. I used vocab incorrectly, my characters disgusted her...

    Other people responded with a compliment sandwich. They were encouraging and thought it just needed work.

    But nothing ever made me get over that first, horrible comment.

    Took me about seven years to ever share again, and to find a crit group.

    So I completely agree with you. And I didn't realize it, but this compliment sandwich is how I critique. Writing is a personal and very hard path to go down - the last thing writers need it to be punched in the gut.

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  11. stop by tomorrow to pick up an award!

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  12. I love the idea of an advice sandwich. It gives writers hope that their work has merit and that the weaknesses can be corrected.

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  13. Huge fan of the compliment sandwich too!

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