Tag Archives: critiques

The Good, The Bad, and The Useless

Just like gossip, give a story to five different editors and you might get back five different edited copies. When this happens to me, I try to find a common theme in the critiques. In one instance years ago, a novella I wrote was reviewed by seventeen different classmates and received seventeen wildly different edits. This was the first, and so far, only time I’ve had that happen.

When you submit your writing for editing and critiquing, what advice do you consider accepting? What do you reject? And what editing do you merely shrug your shoulders and laugh at?

In some cases, it may depend on the type of person you are. Do you follow the crowd or do you break out of the pack? Do you believe everything or do you always have questions? Or, like most of the rest of us, are you a little of both? Whatever your personality, taking advice from someone else concerning your writing should always be taken with a grain of salt and a good sense of humor.

Individuality makes a story glow. If the advice you receive from someone else changes your story too much, then it ceases to be your story – it turns into someone else’s writing.

I have a friend who is a literature professor and he’s just like that: the only high grades in his classes are from those students who learn to mimic my friend’s writing style. I’ve never let him edit any of my own efforts because I already know how it would turn out: my story would cease to be my own and would mutate into his version.

That’s not to say some stories don’t need major overhauls – some of mine have and I’ve redone them accordingly when I’ve received good advice. However, when a good story you’ve written is edited with the intent to change the theme or style, that’s when it’s useless advice. Stick to your guns, or pens, and get a second or third or fifteenth opinion.

Bad advice is just that: bad, mean-spirited and it follows a dark path.  Bad advice is recognized by its very personal overtones: phrases like “This really sucks” and “I’ve never heard anything so stupid” or, the classic, “You call yourself a writer?” and other direct attacks.

Good advice is free of personal diatribes and has a very constructive style to its critique. This type of advice will help you turn your story into a work of art. Like a good mechanic who gives your car a tune-up that lasts, a good editor/advisor will help you fine-tune your writing. Instead of personal attacks and instead of trying to turn your writing into a clone of their own, good advisors will help you polish your work into a diamond.

How often do you get bad or mediocre advice? Are you able to “read between the lines” and recognize when someone is purposely trying to mislead you? What is the best advice you’ve been given and by whom?

J J Dare is the author of two published books, several short stories and about thirty works-in-progress.

Current enthusiasm is co-authoring at Rubicon Ranch

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Highfalutin Flying Pigs by J J Dare

When friends and acquaintances find out I’m a writer, a few of them want to pick my brain about something they’ve either written or want to write. For the most part, I don’t mind. I mean, after all, everyone starts somewhere and a few of the lucky ones end up on a bestseller’s list.

A few months back an acquaintance from school sent a manuscript she’d written to a group of our former classmates. She asked everyone to take a month or two to read it. I took her literally at her word and read it on the last day of Month Number Two.

The problem with critiquing anything is: opinions are subjective. Others may love what I dislike. One thing I don’t like is pretentiousness – in person or on paper. In my neck of the woods, highfalutin flying pigs are shot and roasted – metaphorically, of course.

This manuscript was a challenge. Every fifth or sixth paragraph was written in Babelfish German. I know Latin (though, as the years go by, I remember less and less) and can vaguely translate a smattering in other languages, but this was migraine-inducing.

Here’s an example of what I faced: “Der Esel fliegt schnell Fett Himmel. Wer kratzt mein Zeh-Saft? Das Gestein beißen das Brot.”

Which loosely translates to: “The Donkey flies fast Fat Sky. You scratch my Toe-Juice? The Rock bit the Bread.”

The German words she used added nothing to the story except irritation. It was simply a play to get noticed – until someone who actually speaks German starts translating.

I have used foreign words in my stories but I limit myself to the easily recognized. The French words c’est la vie, au revoir and bonjour are familiar to American readers. The Spanish compadre is used down here more often than friend – and that’s kind of weird since this region is full of Cajun-French influence.

I draw the line when I feel myself trying to impress with my limited foreign language knowledge although I was rather impressive when my kids were younger. Sadly, they’ve caught on to Mom making up her own foreign words to sound smart. They speak French and Russian, so they are way out of my league now and I’ve stopped trying to bluff my way past them.

 How to tell a fledgling writer I would not buy their book if I need an English/German dictionary at my fingertips? It’s not easy when someone is dressed to the nines and you have to tell them their underwear is showing.

😯

^^^^^

J J Dare is the author of two published books, several short stories and triple digit works-in-progress.

Current enthusiasm is sharpening intangible knives and co-authoring at Rubicon Ranch

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Sniper Attacks by J J Dare

When I read public reviews and ratings of written works, I’m not overly impressed. While constructive criticism is an enormous aid, anonymous potshots are devoid of help in the continued growth of a writer. The most valued critiques are those sent personally. It shows that the sender took the time to thoughtfully address issues they have with an author’s work.

I stopped reading my own reviews a long time ago. I write because I love to write. Money is nice but it’s not the entire reason I put words on paper. I need to write thrillers and conspiracies. It’s how I see the world.

Not everyone sees the world as I do and the first time someone negatively criticized my work, I went on an ice cream binge that lasted for days. An ice cream hangover is not as fun as it sounds.

I want to send a shout-out to the people who have taken a moment out of their lives to constructively evaluate my work. Your words help me improve as a writer, and, oftentimes, as a person. Thank you.

Then, there’s the other side of the coin. Sniper attacks.

I was looking at books online the other day and a few reviews caught my eye. The one that stood out and still has me laughing was, “Don’t waste your Money!” This was a review for a book offered as a free download. I really wanted to write “moron” in reply to the review, but since I could not effectively critique the reviewer, I’ll write it here as a general catchall for useless reviews.

Moron.

Mr. Anonymous is the sniper every writer meets. He takes cover in the shadows, shoots and disappears. This person masquerades as a reviewer providing guidance for potential readers, but unless there is merit in the review, both the potential reader and the author lose.

I have a hard time understanding why a regular person becomes a demigod when they hide behind the cloak of anonymity. A person’s identity is their credibility.

Here’s a review of an author’s book that completely missed the mark by an anonymous reviewer and brought the book’s rating down for no reason (copied in all its misspelled glory):

“I wasted money on these book. I like romance not police storys. I do not read police storys. I did not like it.”

The book was under a thriller/detective and crime category. Crime, romance; yeah, it’s easy to see how the reviewer was confused.

When an anonymous review attacks the author personally, it adds a new level to writer angst. A while back, I read the following about a book I ended up purchasing despite the shameful potshot (reviewer’s grammatical errors included):

“A novel should not reek of halitosis. Shame on you.  Buy some mouthwash and rinse your mouth out because your write stink. Or better yet, don’t every write again.”

What a horrid way to bring a writer down. A personal attack is the lowest form of reviewing and holds no authority. Shame on YOU, Mr. Anonymous.

An anonymous reviewer revealed the obvious:

“This writer wrote this book to make money. Do not waste money buying this book to line the writer’s pocket with coin.”

Writers write. We also like to eat more than ramen noodles.

The majority of the world produces with the expectation of a return. Very few people work without payment in some form or other. We survive in an economically-driven world. I wonder what this anonymous poster does for a living.

No writer is immune to anonymous criticism. An inflated sense of self-importance is behind every sniper attack:

“Overrated drivel and non-linear plot. Historically inaccurate. Too much mysticism. Spend your money on therapy instead.”

Duck and run, Mr. Anonymous. God is going to be mad at you for ripping The Bible.

Hit and run reviews are a form of cowardice. Would the reviewer who panned a writer’s work say the same thing to the writer’s face? I think they would not or at least, they would be more polite and less snippy. The ability to namelessly post anything has led to an internet playground rife with faceless snipers.

Some of the snipers may have less altruistic reasons for their public denouncements. The community of writers is filled with diversity and there is a harmonious unity to this merry band of authors. The exception is made for a few underhanded individuals who anonymously criticize their fellow writers’ works in order to advance their own. They are the scabs of the writing world.

Writers in the public arena deal with pointless reviews and sniper attacks. Stand behind your words with a real name, Mr. Anonymous. Even if something deserves a place in the garbage can, trashing it anonymously is detrimental to all.

 J J Dare is the author of two published books, several short stories and triple digit works-in-progress.

Current enthusiasm is sharpening intangible knives and co-authoring at Rubicon Ranch

Facebook addiction

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