Literary Critique: Rephrasing

I’ll start off by saying I am guilty of this.  I didn’t even realize it was a negative thing until recently.  I don’t mind when people rephrase my sentences, so maybe that’s why I didn’t think of it as a bad thing.  The only time I cared was when someone told me my writing was boring and then rewrote my whole introduction.  I didn’t like the way he rewrote it either, so I understand how rephrasing can be a negative thing.

I thought about why I do it.  It’s not because I think I’m a superior writer.  It’s just easier to get something across with an example.  To be honest, I’m better at spotting awkward prose than I am at writing it.  Even now, I can see awkward prose in my own stuff, but I’m not good enough to fix it.  In those cases I just simplify the sentence.  It’s better to have simplicity over awkwardness.

Now that I’m aware some people don’t like it, I’ll try to do it less.  Do you get annoyed when someone critiques your writing and rephrases a line?

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6 thoughts on “Literary Critique: Rephrasing

  1. I had an editor rephrase my whole story. I was so angry I stayed up the entire night, boiling with rage. They had turned what was a sweet kind of aloof love story into some steamy, cheap romance. I even asked my friends and family if I was overreacting but they all said I was justified in feeling that way. I ended up telling them I wouldn’t work with them especially as they had changed things around after telling me they loved my story, and without asking me. I didn’t like the way they handled things and decided to move on from them 😦 That was a year ago, but I’m not worried. There’ll be more opportunities 🙂

    • Yeah, I think that is part of the problem. When the other person rephrased my intro he butchered my character. He turned him from a angsty, self-critical character that wanted to kill himself because he was in so much pain to a self-centered guy that was killing himself because he had nothing better to do that day. I was offended at the way he trivialized suicide, but I didn’t reply because I’m not fond of conflict. I’m a lot like you. If something upsets me, I ask friends and family to weigh in because it feels like I’m too sensitive at times.

      You did the right thing by leaving that editor. There definitely has to be a certain chemistry with critters and editors, and it’s an intangible quality that you only discover through the process of critiquing/being critiqued . I found a few really awesome critters on a literary critique site, and they love my crits as much as I love theirs. At least this is what they tell me XD. One of my best friends is also a writer, and while we write different styles, I heavily rely on her for writing advice. I don’t know why, but she has a way to get through to me without being offensive.

      I will definitely try to limit myself to only rephrasing a line or two here and there when I critique other people’s work. If a critique upsets the writer then it’s counterproductive, and I don’t want to do that to other writers. Thank you for sharing your experience. I can certainly see why you were so upset!

  2. Yeah, I usually get a bit annoyed when someone rephrases something I write. But, then, I get annoyed during critiques period. hehehe I keep my mouth shut until I’m in a better frame of mind to listen to what was said so I can have an unprejudiced opinion of it. Most of the time then I’ll go back and read what they’ve rephrased and I’ll either like it or not but I won’t be annoyed by it. Rephrasing can be tricky so I try to never do it with someone’s writing. A lot of the time the rephrasing will be in our style and our voice, not in the writer’s so I dislike it when I see people doing it to other people’s writing.

    • You have a good point Katie. I think most everyone gets offended when a huge chunk of their writing is rephrased. Some people like having a line or two rephrased and others don’t, and that comes down to personal preference. Friend A and I would reword each others stuff all the time. I’d say we both rarely used the rewritten lines, but it helped spur other ideas of our own. I’ll try and approach most people as if they don’t like it, and then as I get to know them better talk to them about their preferences. Yeah, my writing is fairly stylized so it wouldn’t fit in with another person’s prose. Like I said, I didn’t really understand this until recently. Thank you for sharing your thoughts 🙂

  3. I rephrase in two cases; when it is the most straight-forward way to get across what I’m trying to point out – such as if it has to do with grammar or punctuation OR when I’m not sure what’s wrong, but I know how I would write it if I were going to write the same line … maybe because it illustrates a different style, hmm.

    • That’s a good point Dominka 🙂 Sometimes it’s hard to explain what you mean without rephrasing. Just telling someone their sentences are too wordy isn’t going to help them much. It doesn’t bother me personally. I’d say my favorite rephrasings I’ve received tend to be the ones where people pare my sentences down because I have a bad habit of using unnecessary words to convey a point. Friend A rephrases some of my awkward prose, and I may not agree, but it helps me think of it in a new way. I read one of the blogs you posted that had some good advice about rephrasing another writer’s work. The advice was to state something like, “This is how I would do it. . .” as a preface to the rephrasing. I read it on the phone and didn’t come back to comment :$ The post had a lot of good resources. Everyone has a different writing style, and I know mine doesn’t necessarily fit into other’s pieces and vice versa. Thanks for the comment ^^

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