In today’s Journal
* Quotes of the Day
* Topic: Another Brief Note on Critiques
* And Then There’s This
* Of Interest
Quotes of the Day
“Here’s a revelation for some people: the age of the audience is not a genre.” R.S. Mellette
“PG has never read a book because he wants to impress anyone either positively or negatively and doesn’t think he would enjoy associating with someone who does.” The Passive Guy
Topic: Another Brief Note on Critiques
K.C.’s comment on yesterday’s post drew my attention, especially when I received a similar response to a comment I posted over on TKZ from another writer.
K.C. wrote, “I have had friends with specialized knowledge (i.e. sailboats and sailing) critique the specific parts of a book for technical errors or better description. But other than that and copy edit, nobody gets into my work before it’s published.”
And over on TKZ, Steve Hooley wrote, “I find beta readers’ reviews very helpful, since I write teen fiction and it’s been many moons since I’ve been around teens.”
There’s nothing at all wrong with either of those situations. I can see how a writer seeking technical advice on anything — sailboats, weaponry, idioms used currently by teens, etc. — improves the work. No problem.
But neither K.C. nor Steve are undermining their own confidence as writers. Inviting input on technical details, is not the same thing as inviting critique of the writing or storytelling itself.
My first readers catch misspellings, wrong-word usages (e.g., solder for soldier), technical errors and inconsistencies. But if any of them venture to advise me on the writing itself, I ignore that advice.
And as Steve wrote a little farther along in a response to another comment, “There are as many expectations of the book as there are readers. We’re all different, and we all want different things.”
I agree. And that’s exactly what I said in my earlier comment on his post, albeit in different words. But Steve is right. Readers are all different and they all want different things. If only we writers were somehow able to apply such an austere, striking truth to the weight we give reviews and critiques.
And Then There’s This
Discussions about the value of critiques always remind me of the old saw about a writer’s inability to judge his or her own work: “A writer is the worst judge of his/her own work,” which ostensibly is why the writer needs critique partners or critique groups, etc.
Somehow, most writers fail somehow to understand that one opinion (the writer’s own or anyone else’s) is only one opinion and the very next person’s opinion probably will be different.
Most writers cling to “A writer is the worst judge of his or her own work” anytime they believe their work is Good. The mental rationale? My story can’t possibly be any good, and writers are the worst judges of their own work, so my belief that it IS good is actually proof that is isn’t.
Ta da! How’s that for some mental gymnastics? But wait. It gets worse.
If the writer believes his or her work is BAD, the wisdom of the saying vanishes as if the saying never existed and the writer assumes his or her opinion is valid and correct. And the mental rationale? The same: My story can’t possibly be any good, and my belief that it’s bad is all the proof I need.
And into the drawer the manuscript goes, never to see the light of day or publication.
Talk with you again soon.
See “What Writers Can Learn From It’s a Wonderful Life” at https://killzoneblog.com/2022/05/what-writers-can-learn-from-its-a-wonderful-life.html.
See “A Bookshelf for All Ages” at https://www.thepassivevoice.com/a-bookshelf-for-all-ages/.
See “The Rise of Insta-Artists and Insta-Poets” at https://www.thepassivevoice.com/the-rise-of-insta-artists-and-insta-poets/. I’m far too old to comment without grumbling.
Disclaimer: In this blog, I provide advice on writing fiction. I advocate a technique called Writing Into the Dark. To be crystal clear, WITD is not “the only way” to write, nor will I ever say it is. However, as I am the only writer who advocates WITD both publicly and regularly, I will continue to do so, among myriad other topics.