Writers are an odd, lovely bunch. We’re all rather quirky, prone to theatrics, and have idiosyncratic tendencies. Which are traits that help us become who we are: Storytellers on ink-and-paper.
We are imaginative, dreamy, and we tend to get passionate about our work. So what happens when we get together and poke holes at each other’s beloved novels?
A very long time ago, writers were pictured as hermits…a lonely peculiar artist laboring within the confines of a metaphorical cave, with only words to keep him company. Now? Hardly the case. Writers flourish from every crevice of such a cave. Writing groups and communities abound, with promises of better sales, much like a store window banner enticing shoppers to come and avail of their 50% merchandise discount.
And so it is that we’re equipping ourselves with Alpha and Beta readers. We clamor for literary agent sites that offer free critiques for our queries, first pages, pitches, whathaveyou. We see the sign CONTEST! and we jump in with our 250-words, never you mind that they’re unpolished, unedited, unfit to be seen by any other person excepting our dear mother (who loves us anyway, and could probably get us to try out for American Idol even when we sound like a loon or a strangled lunatic, whichever image you prefer).
But. Getting a critique is essential for progress. Having a second, or fourth, or tenth pair of eyes check out what we’ve been slaving over for years can help us spot problems we had missed. We know this, and therefore, we seek for critiques.
Now, there are etiquettes we need to observe. Just as we’ve been taught to follow the Golden Rule (if you don’t know what it is, you’re a lost cause, kid), we should mind our manners when offering or receiving crits from others.
1. We get it. This is your ultimate MASTERPIECE and you’ve poured your soul, sweat, blood (is that what the stain on the corner is?), guts, and other bodily innards into this manuscript. We know because we’ve done it too, minus the bodily innards, of course. Do NOT curse us, invoke the Furies on our heads, threaten or toss notes with cut-up magazine letters on our doorsteps if we say Chapter 4 does not flow, or you have comma abuse problem and must seek professional help. We won’t come near you even with a 100-foot pole if you do.
2. If you are even remotely afraid of copyright issues, do NOT post your work at all and then accuse the hapless writer who stumbles on it and offers to help of attempting to steal your crap. Trust me, unless your Stephen King, you’re not worth plagiarizing.
3. Do NOT sit and pout in writer’s forums, or whine that no one’s come to offer a crit on a piece of work you’ve put up for review. Honey, it’s a give-and-take relationship. If you don’t make an effort to help others, they’re not gonna come and help with yours. It’s nothing personal. Everyone’s busy, and if you’re too busy to give, everyone else will be too.
4. If you’ve gotten, say, ten similar feedbacks that are not to your liking, do NOT dismiss them and go off to look for someone who’s willing to tell you you’re the next J.K Rowling. Especially if that someone is (again) your dear mother.
5. Magic words do work in real life. Saying “PLEASE” and “THANK YOU” will earn you brownie points. More if you actually send real brownies. =)
6. When offering crits, DO remember that there is a real, alive person behind the name or avatar. Someone who’s got feelings, too.
7. When you offer crits with the intent to showcase how SUPERIOR you are, please…DON’T. This is not an EGO 101 class. If you must feed your ego, go somewhere else. Visit your mom, for goodness’ sake.
NOTE: Moms are just AWESOME!
The bottom line is: It pays to be NICE. The people who sign up to be your critiquers, Alpha or Beta readers, are your homies. They have your back. You need them. So play nice. If you’re involved in writing communities, the same adage applies.
Got any more critiquing woes? Feel free to share. You can also read up on other rants…er, discussions on this topic here.
|Photo by Niklas Hellerstedt|