Vision: A Resource for Writers
Holly Lisle's Vision
By Vicki McElfresh
©2001, Vicki McElfresh
bane of every writer's existence isn't long, sleepless hours in front of a
blurry monitor, bouts of writer's block, depression, or even a story that simply
goes nowhere. The bane of every
writer's existence is criticism. Criticism
is the final stage of the writing process, the moment when all the long hours
have been spent, the sweat wiped away, and only the words and pages remain.
It's the most vulnerable moment in a fledgling writing career, or even an
established one. Criticism, and how
a writer handles it, can make or break a career.
any piece of writing to a friend, spouse, or teacher, is frightening, especially
when the work is something the author takes great pride in. In a face-to-face setting, there are certain rules to follow.
Don't interrupt the reader with questions like, "What do you think
so far?" or "Have
you gotten to the part where my character falls in the river? It's my favorite."
Comments like these won't make the critic like the story any better.
They will likely annoy him. Likewise,
don't comment on every laugh, muscle twitch, or sigh.
When the critic is done reading, he will gladly explain what the
strengths and weakness were. But
not while he's reading.
the reader has begun his comments, listen
carefully and don't interrupt. Take
notes. When all the commenting is
done, ask questions on comments that don't make sense or aren't agreeable.
If someone has been kind enough to take an hour or so to read and comment
on a piece of writing, don't tell the critic he simply didn't understand the
story when the comments aren't agreeable. Explaining
the story to the reader won't change his opinion, but it will change his mind
about the writer. When asked to
read future piece, he'll probably decline.
After all, why bother when the writer didn't appreciate the service the
groups have made the critting process easier.
Readers are faceless entities whose existence is bound to a login name.
There are no laughs or sighs while a piece is being read, but there are
posted comments. The same rules
apply online as in person. The number one rule, even online, is be polite.
that consist of "I liked this," could be responded to with the simple
reply: "What did you like?"
Sometimes, the online setting frightens prospective critics, so their
comments are terse. A little
prompting can give the critic courage and also elicit a more helpful response.
online readers take the opportunity to criticize pieces so harshly that their
comments discourage the writer. Don't
respond to such a crit with anger. Don't
call the critic an idiot, moron, or other choice term.
Don't reply at all. But do
read his comments carefully. Even a
harsh crit can have helpful advice.
readers take the time to carefully plan their criticisms.
These crits usually contain encouragement and helpful advice, but honest
crits can also sting. Before
replying, consider the comments carefully, skim the story, and think about what
the reader has said. The
critic whose spent time reading a story and writing a crit isn't going to
appreciate being told, "Well, author X read this story, and his comments
are completely opposite of yours. I
don't think you're qualified to comment on my work."
Or, "I don't care what you say, I like the plot to be ambiguous.
It gives the story ambience."
matter where a piece is being reviewed, thank the reader for his time and
comments. Offer to crit one of his
pieces if he is a fellow writer. Ask
questions if a comment is unclear, or if there is something the reader didn't
a writer responds to the comments of well-intentioned friends and family will
likely determine how a writer will respond to prospective editors and agents.
Editors aren't concerned about helpful comments.
They will rarely comment on submissions.
If an editor doesn't understand a story he simply return a rejection
letter that says, "Not for us."
of family, friends, and online critics as future editors.
Listen closely to what these people say, and hopefully, an editor will
one day say, "This is exactly what we were looking for."