Nonverbal Communication: The Downside of Online Writing Courses

The first week of Craig Clevenger's 200 Proof Storytelling writing course is over.  Reading material consumed, Sexy Beast case study completed and first writing assignment turned in.   The experience has been intense.  The excitement of meeting everyone and learning from Clevenger is a few days has left my head spinning. 

Over the weekend, the class was divided into critique groups.  Each of us were in charge of critiquing our groups' dialogue assignment.  What a great idea!  Not only can I take in the lectures from the comfort of my home, but I don't have to travel anywhere for the workshop.  

Wrong!  Reading a peer's work and making comments isn't too hard.  When I have more to say than the comments written on the writing I find myself in a jam. My feedback felt light and unhelpful.  In a more traditional setting I'm afforded the opportunity to verbally explain myself to the writer.  In the online classroom, you need to ensure you include everything in the written feedback to avoid a tedious back and forth conversation in the forum.  I prefer the instant verbal interaction, but I adapt well.  

Another problem I faced when critiquing was figuring out how to present the feedback.  Should I write on the submission or create a separate document.  Should I type my comments directly next to the line I'm referencing, or should I put everything at the end?  Is there a way to go line-by-line in the margins of a word document like you can with Google Documents?  I was too tired last night dig into research, so I chose to write directly next to the line I was commenting on.  

This process helped me keep track of where I was in the piece.  I think I could have been more thorough in my feedback.  A summary at the end expressing everything else I wanted to say could help.  I'll do better next time.    

The third problem, more of a set back really, with the online critiquing was feedback lost in transference.  Two group members sent me their critiques on my .rtf formatted document.  Upon opening the file I only saw my dialogue scene sans comments.  Do I need to view it in another program?  I hope I'm able to remedy the situation.  My partners took the time to read and comment on my work.  Their feedback is valuable to me.  It's the only way I'm going to improve.  

The whole process was a bit frustrating for me. I feel powerless over the different variables.   More practice with written communication, I'm sure, will improve my feedback and experience.       

What process do you employ when critiquing work online?     


Michael Offutt said…
With the person that is editing my novel, I just send her a chapter in Microsoft Word and she sends it back to me in like a month or so with the editing marks made in the document. It's been working well thus far. Have you ever tried Skype? You could do feedback through Skype like the kind you are used to with a video feed and even sharing your desktop.

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