Becoming an Author – Part 2: Criticism: The Good, The Bad, The Ugly, and The Worthless

One of the not so happy aspects of being a writer is that everyone who has ever read a book has advice for you. Here are some of my thoughts on the types of advice I’ve received.

The Good

UpwardGood criticism comes from someone who is knowledgeable about writing and editing. It can be about one line, one chapter or an entire book. It consists of specific suggestions that improve my writing. That means a suggestion that mentions a specific problem and a solution that would correct that problem. I’ve written what I think are some excellent chapters for my books but when someone else reads them, they realize that they don’t help move my story along. When you’re busy in your role as a wordsmith, sometimes it is hard to see the forest for the trees. Good criticism can also come from someone who enjoys your genre, and is a potential reader of your efforts. This usually isn’t as specific but may help guide your story to your intended audience.

The Bad

TheBad_BrokenDownCarHow many times have we been told that someone has an idea for the world’s greatest piece of literature but just hasn’t gotten around to writing it?  Why do these people then give us their idea of sage advice on how to improve and what we should be writing? At least half of these people have trouble speaking in complete sentences let alone communicate a coherent thought. I smile and listen patiently to these well intentioned mental litterbugs. When I was in my career as a mathematician, I didn’t run into these types of people but now that I’m writing they seem to be coming out of the woodwork.

The Ugly

Mud Dancer Wearing a MaskAs soon as criticism becomes personal attacks, it’s time to excuse yourself and walk away. I sent a manuscript to an editor who must have been awfully angry with the world because he attacked everything short of my manhood in describing the problems with my manuscript. And I paid big money for his insults. I don’t mind negative critiques that I can learn from; but angry rants have no value.

The Worthless

When someone says my novel was cute, sweet, or nice, I find they didn’t like it but don’t want to tell me why.

~~~

TheGood_ThumbsUpThe best critique I have received from my readers:

“You write female characters better than most of the authors I have ever read.”

“It brought tears to my eyes when she lost her parents.”

“This is one book I will keep.”

Each of these indicates my success with my most important critics; my readers.

What do you find helpful in critiques? What has been your best and worst advice from readers?

Happy Writing!

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Write Campaign 11 Question Tag! I’m It!

I am participating in Rachel Harrie’s Fourth Write Platform-Building Campaign.  Fellow campaigner Diane D. Gillette tagged me in an amazingly fun game of 11 Question Tag, so without further delay, here’s my answers to her excellent questions!

The 11 questions Diane had for me:  

1.  Where is your favorite writing spot and why? My home office because it is quiet and I am surrounded by the math and science books I love.

2.  What author/book first made you want to write?  It was not a specific author or book that got me started.   I wrote an article for http://memoirsfromnam.blogspot.com/. The blog owner, @CJHeck60, asked me how long I had been a writer.  I told her I hadn’t and she said I should.   With CJ’s and my wife’s encouragement, I decided to give it a try.  I found I really love writing.
3.  If you could no longer write, what would your creative outlet be?  First I would perform research in mathematical analysis.  Second I would drum.  I am a second generation percussionist and two of my sons were state HS drum line champions.  When our last son moved out we converted his room into a drum room.

4.  Music or silence when you write?  Absolute, positive, and complete silence.

5.  What is your writing goal for 2012?  Publish at least 4 new bestselling novels.

6.  What pushes you out of your writing comfort zone?  I’m always comfortable writing.  Occasionally I might feel the pain one of the characters feels, but I also get to feel their love.

7.  Where do you go when you need to escape for a while?  I start writing mathematical proofs or work on learning a foreign language with Rosetta Stone.

8.  Which series are you eagerly anticipating the newest release for? (If you aren’t addicted to any series right now, then what new book by a favorite author are you waiting for?)  Book 3 in the Meant to Be series, Finding Each Other, is due out early summer.  Full disclosure:  I’m prejudiced.  I’m the author.

9.  What’s your favorite online resource for writers?  There are several great ones.  I can’t narrow it down to one.  I frequently visit:  John Kremer The Book Marketing Network, The Book Designer Practical Advice to Help Self-Publishers Build Better Books, World Lit Cafe Where Readers and Authors Unite, and Jane Friedman’s Writing Advice  Free Advice for Writers

10.  Do you read any literary magazines? If so, which ones?  No.

11.  What’s something that made you smile today?  Seeing my wife and knowing she is my soul-mate.

Now it’s my turn to tag people.  I choose http://thegoldeneaglesblog.blogspot.com/http://caitlin-lane.blogspot.com/,http://www.christinetyler.net/http://nickwilford.blogspot.com/http://sallys-scribbles.blogspot.com/http://cjparmenter.wordpress.com/http://bornbookish.blogspot.com/http://www.donasdays.blogspot.com/http://writer-steps.blogspot.com/http://raeann28.blogspot.com/

My 11 Questions for You:

  1. If you write about characters who love each other, does their love reflect the love you have in your own life?
  2. Would you be able to write in a genre you really dislike?
  3. You are having a dinner party.  What 4 authors (dead or alive) would you invite and what would you serve them?
  4. What about writing do you enjoy that non-authors don’t realize is fun?
  5. If you listen to music, while you write, does the music influence the mood of your story?
  6. Is your writing better in the early morning, afternoon, late evening, or is it always the same?
  7. After someone tells you they enjoyed reading your book, what positive comment would you like to hear about your book?
  8. If you consider writing your passion, and assuming you have the time, how long would your days be and how many days per week would you write?
  9. How many characters in your writing mirror characters in your real life?
  10. When you meet fellow authors, do you inspire them?  If yes, in what way?
  11. Do you find it difficult to end a story or would you prefer to continue writing the current story?

Have fun!  Happy Reading and Writing!