Tuesday, April 14, 2015

A Matter Of Opinion

*DISCLAIMER: I'm about to rant.*

I have a huge issue with judgmental writers. Thankfully, I haven't come across too many since I made my way into the writing community, but they're out there, and they irritate the hell out of me.

The people who tell you you're a terrible writer, doomed to fail, because you had a couple "telly words" in your third chapter.

Those who say there's only one right way to describe an emotion/character/setting.

The ones who read through your chapter and return it completely rewritten "how they would have done it."

The champions of the pat-yourself-on-the-back club.

The few I've met happened to wander into my life at very unfortunate times. Times when I might have already been worrying about my writing ability, or after a particularly tough rejection. I was looking for new eyes or another writing friend, and instead, I got judged and picked apart and left feeling every bit the terrible writer I feared I was.

(This last happened almost exactly a year ago, by the way.)

And thinking back on those emails and conversations makes me so mad I could spit. When did it become a thing to tear others to absolute shreds and call it critiquing? Does it really make some people feel that much better about themselves when they set themselves up to be the writer that's higher up on the totem pole by kicking everyone else down below them?

When I have to write something critical in my notes for someone, I stare at the screen thinking of ways I can give them advice on what I think should be changed while also making it damn clear that my opinion is not the only thing to be considered. I suggest they have other people read it and get a few opinions on the issue. I tell them not to change a freaking thing if it doesn't feel right to them. I give them examples of how to change things without just diving in and rewriting it all the "right way."

Because --and this is very important-- how I would do it, and what I think, doesn't mean a damn thing. It's not my book. My only job is to read it, and give out whatever advice comes to mind. That's it. It's not my job to try and convince someone that my way is best and they're doing it wrong. It's not my job to whine and moan when they don't take my suggestions. It's not my job to turn their book into anything other than what they want it to be.

The writing community is a very small place, and a lot of us are dealing with the same anxieties and insecurities. We should be helping, and supporting, not tearing people down. We're supposed to be creating things, not destroying confidence.

And this is not to say that being critical in a critique is a bad thing, because it's not. There's no point in reading for someone if you pass over any problems you see in favor of comments that say "This is all so great!" because then you're just doing the author a disservice. Point out the issues, but don't be mean about it. There are some hard and fast "rules" of writing that someone just starting out might need a better handle on, but when it comes to a person's voice or how they choose to tell a story, that's all up to them to sort out.

All I can do is hope that my notes help in some way, and support that person as much as possible. Being another set of eyes doesn't have to turn into some kind of competition, to decide who's got more natural talent, or a better voice, or the prettiest language and anyone who says it does is doing something wrong.

Support each other. Be nice, be helpful, and above all else, remember that they're YOUR opinions for a reason. They don't need to be carried by anyone else.

*END of rant.*


  1. <3 Finding your people in the writing world is such a trial-and-error process, and I've come across more of This Type than I care to count. But finding the right people is such magic.

  2. Agreed! There's always a better way to say something even if its unpleasant. In publishing industry, there isn't an absolute right or wrong way of writing. It's not a mathematical theorem. Drawing generalizations and thinking "my way is the best way" doesn't bode well on that author.

    This reminds me of a prospective CP who went about lecturing me about kindness, Jesus, and church. And that happened when I was trying my hardest to be polite. -_-'

  3. Hi, This is a good post, indeed a great job..