Tag Archives: criticism

EVEN GREAT AUTHORS GET DECKED


Dave, an acquaintance, shared an article with me that made me giggle. It seems even authors that time and academia have deemed “classic” or “noteworthy” get creamed by critics from time to time. In the universe of literature, no one is exempt from a scathing rebuke.

Feeling glum because someone dissed your work? Read this. You’ll feel better. You may still have to re-write, but you will feel as if you are in good company.

The 30 Harshest Author-on-Author Insults In History

[Editor’s note: While your Flavorwire editors take a much-needed holiday break, we’re revisiting some of our most popular features of the year. This post was originally published June 19, 2011.] Sigh. Authors just don’t insult each other like they used to. Sure, Martin Amis raised some eyebrows when he claimed he would need brain damage to write children’s books, and recent Pulitzer Prize winner Jennifer Egan made waves when she disparaged the work that someone had plagiarized, but those kinds of accidental, lukewarm zingers are nothing when compared to the sick burns of yore. It stands to reason, of course, that writers would be able to come up with some of the best insults around, given their natural affinity for a certain turn of phrase and all. And it also makes sense that the people they would choose to unleash their verbal battle-axes upon would be each other, since watching someone doing the same thing you’re doing — only badly — is one of the most frustrating feelings we know. So we forgive our dear authors for their spite. Plus, their insults are just so fun to read. Click through for our countdown of the thirty harshest author-on-author burns in history, and let us know if we’ve missed any of your favorites in the comments!

For the complete article, go here:

http://flavorwire.com/188138/the-30-harshest-author-on-author-insults-in-history/view-all

The Value of a Sidekick


Thank you, Wretched Richard’s Almanac, (http://richarddaybell.wordpress.com/2013/05/07/wretched-richards-almanac-5-7-13/) for providing the inspiration for this post.

Authors are loners of sorts. We tend to write books in privacy.

Yet, to improve or validate our work, we need helpful others. The helpful other, like the sidekick in the old-time western film, provides a counter-point to our own perspective about our work. A sidekick will read our story and truthfully dissect it for us to make either the story or the author better.

A valuable sidekick is, above all, a truth-teller. It takes a brave person to tell a creator that his creation is flawed. A sidekick is also a diplomat; The truth-telling, to be effective, must be done tactfully. Finally, the sidekick must be knowledgeable. Effective criticism comes out of taste or expertise garnered through experience. If the sidekick is an avid reader in our genre–and has an artist’s soul of sorts–he discerns when a story works or doesn’t. Because our sidekick is intelligent, he can articulate  the “why” when the manuscript fails.

I feel fortunate to have three sidekicks to give me the necessary kick-in-the-pants I need to improve my work. Sometimes I am obstinate and ignore sage advice. It is to my own detriment when I do.

A valuable sidekick is trying to make my writing better. That, to an author, is a priceless gift.

When the Criticism is Harsh


As creative types and authors, we know criticism is coming. Since we invite it, we steel ourselves. Yet the savagery with which some critics deliver their opinions can penetrate our defenses. It cuts to the quick of us.

On those occasions, bring the following sage words to mind.

From AP and Hello magazine, quoting Paul Emsley, award-winning artist and painter of Princess Kate’s first official portrait. His painting has been harshly criticized:

“At first the attacks were so vicious that there was a point where I myself doubted that the portrait of the duchess was any good,” Emsley, 75. “But now I’ve had time to reflect, I am still happy with it and am getting on with my life. There is nothing I would have changed.”

After devoting nearly four months of his life to the painting, Emsley says the criticisms that he describes as a “witch hunt” and a “circus” were “destructive” to him and his wife and two daughters.

“Some of the words written about it were so personal. I’d be inhuman if I said it didn’t affect me,” he said. “When you take on commissions like this it is hazardous and you expect a bit of flak, but I expected nothing like the criticism I have received. I didn’t expect it to go to the levels it did.”

“It really wasn’t pleasant and I stopped reading what had been written,” Emsley said of the conversation that exploded online and in the worldwide press. “I have coped with the criticism by going back into my studio and getting on with it.”

Or you could do what Taylor Swift does and write a song about it. 🙂

As a Writer, What If I Am Just Average?


On WordPress, I continue to be amazed by the collection of talent. Sometimes an author’s writing floors me with its power, cleverness, raw emotion or beautiful use of language.

I am none of those things. I am a nerd who can correctly string together a series of words. As a writer–as a word artist–I am average.

How then do I expect to compete in the commercial marketplace? The same way an average employee competes in the workplace. By showing up. By giving my best effort. And like a tidal wave, by sheer volume. A dose of self-promotion is important, too. If I don’t market, I won’t sell. (Please don’t stop reading here. The best of this post is yet to come.)

I’ve said this before and I will say it again: throw enough at a wall and something will stick.

Part of succeeding as an average writer is finding my audience. I do that by writing in all the ways that appeal to me–short stories, haiku, flash fiction and novels. (In 2013, I hope to add internet content to the list.) Then I analyze. Of those things I like to write, what are people reading?

I need to look at my statistics. What do statistics tell me about what readers like in my work? Is it my true confessions? Is it self-improvement or how-to articles? Pop culture? Or factual pieces? Humorous stories? The off-the-wall?

Success is finding the match of my abilities with a need in the marketplace.

Ask the reader.

So I am asking you right now. What do you like best about this blog? Why do you stop by? Is there something which you’d like to see more often? Any answer is a helpful one. Silence hurts. So tell me something, anything, that will make this blog a better experience for you. Even if it is what you don’t like. Say, “Fay, dump this. Keep that.” Bring it on. Help me get better.

For me, that’s what it is all about. The best part is serving, helping, pleasing you, the reader.

The next best part is getting good enough to earn a paycheck! But that’s another post for another day.  🙂

When To Stop Writing


A few days ago, I finished rewriting on my contributions to The Writers of the Desert Rose Cafe Anthology. I sent my revisions to the members who collate the contributions into the final manuscript. The volume will be turned over to Acorn Book Services for formatting and uploading to the marketplace for e-books. (Hopefully in December.)

I received a couple of specific criticisms from the publisher on two of my pieces. However, I revised almost every story, including my biographical paragraph.

After re-reading the pieces multiple times, I wanted to yank out several of my entries because now I hate them. I don’t want them published under my name. They aren’t perfect. They aren’t mature. They bore me. Some are pablum.  Pablum suggests simplistic writing.

I tell myself. “This is a first effort, so the stench of the amateur shouldn’t surprise anyone.” That’s my scared self speaking.

I’m delighted that the editor suggested changes to improve stories. Consequently, there are two or three pieces I think deliver entertainment for the reader. Satisfactorily. Worth the price of admission. Maybe leaving the reader curious about what comes next from this author.

And I grew. As an author. As a wordsmith. As a human being. As an experimenter.

Striving to make something excellent is good, to a point.  Sometimes a writer rewrites and rewrites, seeking perfection in a piece. But there  does come a time to stop: stop reworking, stop criticizing, stop touching up. At that point, it’s time to publish and let the chips fall where they may. It’s time to face the music.

Am I ready for the commercial press? Book buyers will vote. Readers will tell me.

If my collection of work is a screw up,  I hope a reader is brave enough to spell out specifics for me, not just the critique “I don’t like it.”  It’s the “I don’t like it because. . .” that helps me improve the next time.

Point of View


Recently, I read C. J. Gorden’s post on the writing element called point of view. It was an eye-opener for me. In her post, C.J. talks about taking a manuscript that she believed was editor-ready to a panel for critiquing. She learned much from the comments of the professional readers.

You can read C. J. Gorden’s entire piece here. I recommend it:

http://cjgorden.wordpress.com/category/elements-of-writing/point-of-view-elements-of-writing/

Her experience made me realize how uninformed I am as an author. I shoot from the hip. I may be lucky enough to string words together coherently, but I don’t know the first thing about many of the elements that make good, even great, writing.

I think I will follow C. J. Gorden’s example when I think my novel is editor-ready. I will pay a professional to read and critique it.

 

Quotation for 7-15-2012


Taking criticism can be hard. The next time you receive some, look at today’s quote to help you reframe the words that cause you consternation.

“If you are irritated by every rub, how will your mirror be polished?” 

 — Rumi