Monday, June 6, 2016

The Newbie Corner - Those Who THINK They Know

As a newbie, I often showed my work to anyone and everyone. The results were not pretty, but I learned some lessons on both receiving and giving criticism.

1.  The Frankenstein Critique/Edit - This person lives to rip your manuscript or non-fiction work to shreds. There's no encouragement, constructive criticism, or kindness. Yes, writers must develop a thick skin, and it's never easy to hear your manuscript needs a lot of work. Still, there are some people who take their critiquing to a point of brutality. It's best to seek out those who are tough, but fair.

2.  The Pseudo Expert - This person is a fellow newbie disguised as an expert. It's one thing to share the knowledge they've gleaned with a fellow writer. It's another thing to view what they say as gospel truth.

3.  The Professional Who Thinks They've Nailed Your Story - They just don't "get it," but make pronouncements on your plot and characters that have no resemblance to what you wrote.

I've had people go on and on about my story, and I've walked away marveling at the assumptions they made. They were so far off the mark that I tossed whatever they said in the trash. From that point on, I avoided showing my work to them.

Writers:  Have you come across people who THINK they know where you're going with a story, but are clueless? Please share.

Readers:  Have you looked at a cover and jumped to a conclusion about the nature of a story? Do you read the back cover blurb and/or a few pages of the book, so you have a better idea of what the story is about? Please share.


Hilary Melton-Butcher said...

Hi Susan - it's the same as life isn't it - giving advice before asked, or actually not required ... so difficult and perhaps better not done ... I've learnt at times too. Cheers Hilary

Laurel Garver said...

Most often, the non-useful critiques came from a reader who either doesn't know or doesn't like my genre (something I sadly have learned after the fact). And some readers can't separate their personal preferences from actual issues (the first person vs. third person narration, for example; neither is "wrong").

But when you are new to receiving critique, you don't necessarily know there's such a thing as bad fit between a project and reader. It takes some know-how to vet beta readers. The most basic thing is whether they read a lot of books in your genre.

quietspirit said...

Susan: I have asked for input from a friend who told me. "I like it." That was the last time I showed anything to anyone. I was looking for something concrete about the mechanics.

Karen Lange said...

It is interesting how some interpret our work, seemingly with an agenda that makes no sense sometimes. Well, live and learn, right? And we keep learning...:)

Susan J. Reinhardt said...

Hi Hilary - Even when we ask for advice, it's important to have some kind of relationship with the person. I've had some wonderful critique partners/mentors, but those few who didn't know my wasn't pretty.

Hi Laurel - Yes, I agree. If they're not avid readers in your genre, the chances they'll be able to look at your work objectively are slim.

Hi Quiet Spirit - "I like it" is good, but if you're looking for a solid critique, it won't help. I try to stick with people in the writing community for that kind of feedback.

Hi Karen - Unfortunately, some of those lessons are painful. Not all of us have developed a tough hide.

Thanks, everyone, for commenting. I appreciate you!