Thursday, July 18, 2013

Critiquing Critiques...

You know, in anything in life, you run across people who are out to bamboozle you. Doesn't matter if you are experienced in your craft, or just beginning, someone will always try to pull one over on you or extricate your hard earned cash from your grasp.

I helped out my daughter's friend, recently, when she contacted me to have a look at her WIP. She told me she felt something was lacking. I read over it, gave her constructive feedback along the way and found the spot that was bothering her.

Now, when I critique something, it takes me a while to read it because I'm trying to digest it in a professional manner. This isn't something I can just read for enjoyment. I will read a little bit, write down some notes, try to figure out where the story is heading, and make comments along the way. It's a process, right? You all know how to critique.

Well, when I told her my thoughts at the end of it all, she thanked me profusely and mentioned that I had given her much more to work with than the woman she paid to critique it in the first place.

Now, I don't know about you, but I was a bit taken aback at the fact that she got so little info and help from someone she paid. It's hard to find a good, honest, professional more often than not, I suppose.

While this shouldn't have shocked me, it did. I know there are all sorts of people out there who are just in this for the money. Take their advice, or leave it, you paid for it. Tough. It just irritates me. I work hard for my money, and I know my daughter's friend does, too. I guess it sickens me that this is happening more and more, these days.

In my opinion, writers are part of a community that should work together, not compete against one another. There are people out there who read SO MANY BOOKS, we just can't be shoving ours under their noses and forcing them to buy. Truth is, if they don't like your work, there isn't a thing you can do about it. But there is ALWAYS someone out there who will like your work.

When I began Word Weavers with my pal, Jenna, we did the author trading cards. The goal behind that, was for authors to take not only their cards to book signings, but those of other authors as well. That way, if someone comes up to you and says, "You know, your book was okay. I liked it, but it could have been..." you whip out a card from a fellow author in that genre and say, "Sorry you feel that way. Here, go to the link on this card, you might like this book instead."

I know, rose-colored glasses over here. But you get my point. We writers, we can't please everyone, but it's good to be a part of a strong community where you can point readers in the direction of someone they might like. And you can trust that other authors out there are doing the same for you. Why don't we help promote each other more? What's the harm in sending someone to purchase a fellow author's book? Yes, we're losing a sale, a follower, a fan, but we just might gain ten more!

What are your thoughts on this? How do you feel about promoting the work of others? How do you want to see this community of authors working?


Alex J. Cavanaugh said...

I like your attitude, Mel! I'll always help promote other authors and recommend their books. After all, it's not a competition.
I'm glad I've never paid for a critique. Again, so many helpful writers online we shouldn't have to.

D.G. Hudson said...

I agree, we should work together, but a lot of those who promise critiques/editing/mentoring don't always know how to do more than line edit. There's more to it than that.

Not all editors are created equal. Choose wisely. Even in a free mentor matchup I've been working in this summer, I found one author seemed to like nothing about my story. I was rematched and it's been like night and day. The second was exactly what I wanted and needed. That first woman wanted to get into revising her own book, and didn't want to mentor. I wouldn't have known this, but I researched her site and there it was. All the info about HER book she was editing for her readers and how it was taking all her time. The second made me feel I was a writer again. I'd promote that second writer anyday.

Sometimes we stick in our thumb and pull out a rotten plum...Know when to throw that rotten fruit (advice) away.

Mel Chesley said...

@ Alex ~ Thanks, Alex. And I agree, we have such good resources available if we would just use them.

@ D. G. ~ Yes, there is that. If someone is going to volunteer to mentor, they should set aside that time, as promised. Doesn't always work that way, though. If it is asking someone for a favor, we sort of have to expect to work around their schedule, but it we pay for it, they should work around ours. It is what we're paying for, after all. And yeah, gotta know when to walk away from that rotten fruit (advice).

Bevimus said...

First off, it's wonderfully warm ladies like you that make the writing community what it is- supportive, friendly, welcoming and not secretly out to get you. I've run across a hell of a lot more blogs from people like you who are more than willing to help than I have individuals offering vague and/or cryptic assistance at a steep price.

Secondly, I think that a lot of people operate on the pay-it=forward principle. Like me: no WIP, no dreams of publishing in the near future. But I do writers 4 writers, promote new releases, use the blog to stomp for writing competitions, events, what-have-you whenever i can. And I do this with the belief that someday, however long from now, when I am looking at publishing there will be a whole host of awesome bloggers who be more than happy to help out with cover reveals, promotions, etc. cause they're like you- awesome peeps.

All my experience thus far has backed this belief up. So screw the money makers- we're more powerful than them.

Mel Chesley said...

Amen to that, Bev! I know I'll be more than happy to help when you reach a point where you need a hand. I like the pay it forward-ness of the writing community. I suppose it is just shocking when I hear of people paying for help and then not getting what they need.

Unknown said...

I'm with you on that - being recommended books that are suited to you is no bad thing, in turn it might make that person more likely to recommend you to people they know etc - by paying it forward you could end up with a lot more gain for little loss.