Tag Archives: writing criticism

People Pleasing, and why I won’t do it

To start with, I have never been a fan of being a “people pleaser.” Catering to the desires of others – especially desires of what they think I should be, do, or say – has never appealed to me on any level. It’s fake. It’s awful. It’s atrocious. I am who I am, and no one can change that. What does this have to do with writing? Let me open a few cans of worms.

1. I can’t stand the idea of writing to reach a specific audience. Will young millenials – a term I utterly despise – sit themselves down long enough to enjoy anything I write? To quote whatshisname from Gone with the Wind, “Quite frankly… I don’t give a damn.”* I don’t write for anyone in particular. I just write, because I can’t not write.

2. Writing contests make my skin crawl. I like the idea of getting money for writing, but I turn into a Nervous Nelly at the thought of the requirements. Wordcount limits, required subject matter, etc., and then there’s the possibility that I might not have rights to the piece after they get ahold of it… I’ll put it this way – Most of what I write feels like a child I’ve raised from birth. If I no longer have the rights to do with it what I please (even a short piece), it limits me considerably. Oftentimes, short excerpts that have nothing to do with anything else sneak their way into longer writings – usually months or even years down the road (and, in some cases, decades).

3. I hate unsolicited line edits. Yes, I hate them. Receiving them is like dressing up in something really pretty, then having someone point out a zit on your face. I know my work is not perfect. If I want deep criticism and word choice advice, I’ll ask for it. In the meantime, get over it. Of course, if I have something utterly silly like “the the” in there, please point it out.

4. My characters are who they are. I don’t necessarily control them. They will fly off the handle, say off the wall stuff, chase after squirrels,** and get flustered when they have to walk through a room full of spiderwebs. I can try to change who they are and what they do, but when I do that, it brings about the biggest writers’ blocks I’ve ever had to deal with.

5. I don’t care about tropes or about avoiding them. If I tried to make sure I wasn’t writing something that had already been written before, I’d be lying to myself. As Solomon once wrote, “There is nothing new under the sun.” Until you get this, you will forever be looking over your shoulder for the Trope Police. Just write the thing. Worry about originality later –– much later.

6. Never ask me to write anything specific. Just don’t. It’s another pet peeve, another writing block, etc. Also, do not ask me to copy anyone else in any way, shape, or form. I will glare at you, and possibly write you into one of my stories –– which could be good or bad.

7. Don’t be surprised if you ask me what I’m writing and I don’t have an answer. I should, I know, but I often have no way to put it into coherent language. I just write. Period.

8. Please, please, please don’t try to “ship” any of my characters (aka – hook them up). I will immediately stop sharing my writing with you, or kill one of them off just to spite you. Seriously. Just don’t do it. It’s tacky and annoying. Keep your shipping suggestions to yourself, and everyone will stay happy. Who knows? I might already have plans for it, and just don’t want you to know.***

9. I follow the characters I choose to follow (or rather, the ones who drag me into their lives). Some of the others just don’t open up to me. If you have issue with that, I’m not apologizing. You’re not writing the story –– I am.

10. I don’t care what Freud or any other psychologist, phsychotherapist, etc., has to say about this behaviour or that. Don’t get too analytical. It totally turns me off. And remember: There is no way I’d ever take Freud seriously. Ever.

All that to say: Don’t crimp my style, and let your criticism be truly constructive. Drop all expectations, and get to know my work before you rip it to shreds –– and I will do the same for you, should you trust me to read your writing. I will find as much good in it as I can. It is, after all, like your own child. You can’t say to a mother, “Your child is ugly.”**** It’s just plain rude.

Thanks for letting me get all that off my chest… Hope I didn’t scare you off. 😉

*Probably the only detail from that film that I actually loved. Apologies to anyone who loves that movie – it’s simply not my favorite.

**This only happened once in my writing, and there were mitigating circumstances.

***There is one exception to this: If you are my writing buddy, and have read a substantial amount of my work, you are allowed to make such suggestions. Otherwise, don’t bother.

****I mean, you can, but I don’t recommend it.

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NaNoWriMo: Day 13

Another late upload because of a Knife Errant play session. Today I talk about restraining the inner editor. Last day to vote in the poll!

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by | November 14, 2013 · 2:03 am

Different Species of Critics…

I hate to admit this, but critics are a valuable resource to anyone in the midst of the writing and editing process. There’s a few different types, and I’ll list the least helpful first:

1. The Yes-Men: These people will read anything and say it’s awesome. At least, it seems that way. They might think they’re helping by encouraging the writer, but without offering any more than a general compliment, a yes-man is not getting into the nitty gritty details that are needed to fine-tune a work.

2. The Haters: Haters are gonna’ hate. It’s a fact. Some folks just want to make everyone miserable, and they’ll say stupid things to push your buttons. Statements like, “This is crap,” or “You suck,” really don’t go deep enough to explain whether the reader is simply being an ignoramus (I love that word), or if they honestly believe that what they’ve just typed is true. Different writers might react to such comments in different ways, but I figure that if my writing has caused a strong reaction, then I must be doing something right… I hope.

3. The Grammar/Spelling Nazis: No one is perfect. Even the grammar and spelling Nazis aren’t perfect (though they won’t always admit it –– and I know because I can be one). I’d like to think that my spelling, at the least, is perfect, but it’s not. I have weaknesses –– terrible ones. My grammar? Ha… right. As much as I appreciate the effort to perfect my spelling and grammar, such things are details that I would ask specific people to address during a later draft. Suppress that inner Grammar/Spelling Nazi!!! However, if I am ever so atrocious with said details that you feel that you’ll go blind from trying to read it, please print out my writings and send them back to me with red pen marks and notes all over them…

4. The Romantics: I run from writing romance. I’ll be honest. It is awkward. It is cliché. It is ridiculous. Yes, I do give in sometimes, but… I try to avoid it. However, now and again, there will be the reader who suggests a pairing, and I cringe in the same way that I would cringe if fingernails were scratched across a chalkboard. Does it have its place? Absolutely. Am I going to force it? No.

5. Anti-Tragedy Readers: Hear me out. I am not necessarily a writer of tragedies, but I do put my characters through hell (Just ask Feann, from Perseverance). If you don’t like it, read a different book. Life is not fair, and my characters are fully aware of that fact…

6. True Critics: These are folks who generally read quite a bit and ask all of the right questions. Things like, “Why on earth did _____ do that?!” or “What about the _____?” or “Who is _____?!” or “I’d like to hear more about _____.” Even comments like, “_____ really acted out of character in that scene.” or “I like how _____ said this.” can be beneficial. Reactions, questions, advice, etc. These are the tools with which a writer can learn exactly how to tweak things to make the story read smoothly and have deeper meaning to the reader.

So the next time you are asked to critique my writing (I can’t vouch for anyone else), here’s my request: Tell me what you like, and then be completely honest with what could be better –– even the enormous plot details. Don’t hold back! I might not go with everything that you say, but I will consider it. Most likely, I will be very happy to have a challenge to work with. Otherwise, the editing process grows stale, and I get ready to throw in the towel… and we don’t want that, now, do we?

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