Well, how’s that for a long and wayward title to a blog post? Do you have the feeling you’re in for a rant? Good, because you are!!! Buckle up and grab some popcorn, it’s going to be a doozy.
Those of you who follow my meandering posts on a regular basis might recall how much I adore anonymous sniping and otherwise nasty forms of internet discussion. While blogging and the Internet in general have transformed the speed and ease with which we can communicate, it’s also had some nasty side effects. Common sense and good old fashioned manners seems to go out the window when there’s a computer screen between the speaker and the listener – probably because the speaker is an ass, but I’ll digress on that point for the moment.
I think a large portion of the problem is lack of accountability. The sniping in comments when cloaked by a username or plain old ‘anonymous’, those I can overlook because as far as I’m concerned, if you don’t have the nerve to sign your name to a sentiment, I don’t have time to listen to it.... huge disclaimer – that’s not all anon comments, just the ones that are derogatory or otherwise intend to twist the topic.. I get the need to use anon for certain things, such as asking questions that you’re afraid not knowing makes you seem less than professional (I’ve done this... I’ve never signed anonymous to insult someone, but then, I’ve never found the need to insult someone when they’re not standing in front of me either... I’m funny that way – if I’m going to say it, I’ll say it to you).
This particular thing has been bugging me for a while, in many facets. I mention blogging because obviously we can all relate – as I am discussing it on my blog and all... I’ve also had other cyber friends email to complain about crits they received on various posts and contests... which I also disliked – if you have a serious problem with the crit, open it up on the board you’re on, don’t email me about it because then I feel the need to reply with long windy diatribes about not asking for crits when you want praise... (Ornery aren’t I? I am. I know that) Not everyone likes critique, and I do understand that. A lot of us blogging, do so because the back pats for our writing really do give us a boost... yes, I like them too, obviously, I’m still here. I also like the connection with other writers... la, la, but, if I put my stuff up for critique, I want to hear the flaws. That’s the point – to get it ready for publication, not to get unabashed praise.... That is my take, but if it’s not yours then either a) don’t put it up for inspection or b) only put it up for critique with people whose opinion you trust implicitly and will be nice enough for your own sensibilities....
Why am I ranting about this? Because whining about the person who took time to read your stuff and then write, sometimes paragraphs in response, makes me nuts!!! It also makes me not feel like critiquing because I’m afraid I’ll alienate someone. Just, dear writers, keep this in mind, and I think I speak for most writers who are willing to critique for you (but if I’m wrong, correct me in comments) – when I take the time to read for you and offer my honest opinion, I am not pointing out things that I find wrong to be mean, rotten, nasty, or any other variable of evil. I’m pointing out things that read wrong to me. I’m pointing them out from the position of having studied fiction writing for all of my adult life, both as a writer and reader. I’m pointing them out from the position of having learned a good deal of craft both on my own and through very reputable class work... If my qualifications are not good enough for you, don’t ask me to read. If you do ask me to read, do not take anything less than unabashed applause as an insult and ask me “who the f#@% are you to criticize me? You’re not even published... or any other variable of implying that I’m beneath you”..... Critique – criticize... anyone else catch the connection there?
Arguing my critique, especially in an inflammatory way, is a waste of time. Why? Because you ask someone to critique to get a fresh set of eyes primarily.... Your critique partner is not the God of your ms, their opinion and insight should not be viewed as a direct order as to how you NEED to change your manuscript. Take it in the spirit it’s intended: as a gift of time and talent which you should thank them for. Mull their insights and use or discard as you see fit. If you receive the same type of feedback from more than one reader, I’d say it’s probably a good change to make, but it’s still your novel and a critique does not take your authorship away...
Ah.... basically, arguing a critique point by point is like calling the person who just did you a huge favor a big moron. It’s obnoxious. And furthermore, it doesn’t make you exactly a rocket scientist to have trusted someone you don’t respect with your work.
Wow, that portion of today’s rant took up a lot of space didn’t it? It’s been simmering for a bit. I’ve had a few beta readers critiquing for me, and all are lovely. They’ve offered some wonderful and useful feedback and, I hope, they’ve pointed out everything they truly found wrong because, just in case anyone wondered, I can take it. I want all of the ugly uglies... because it’ll make it stronger in the end. There are also a number of writers that I would critique for any time they needed, but in the future I’ll be more careful with that – I think from now on I’ll need to know someone fairly well before I let something like blatant honesty ruin the relationship. Or maybe I’ll just give out a disclaimer: I’m brutal so if you want me to read for you, prepare to hear what I actually think!!!! It wouldn’t work anyway, though; the people who need the disclaimer are too convinced their work is perfect.
But on this note, while it might not really bother anyone that I’ll be more selective in critiquing for people, it bothers a lot of us that agents and editors rarely offer feedback. Most of them have said in interviews or on their blogs that they do so sparingly because they get such nasty responses when they are, in reality, trying to help. And for free!!! They don’t get paid to respond to writers they aren’t publishing. Why do so many aspiring novelists feel that the fact they finished writing a book entitles them to something? It doesn’t. You wrote a book because you wanted to. You’ll get it published if it’s good enough, you try hard enough, the fates align just right... and a plethora of other things. But if it’s never published, don’t blame anyone else for being tasteless – it’s annoying.
Anyway, most of us treat feedback from agents and editors like nuggets of gold. Because they’re rare. And they’re especially rare because of all the nitwits who queried before us and then sent hate mail because they were given honest feedback. What does this have to do with the Internet Mentality? They’re more rampant now that you can just click the reply button and spew your anger over email.
In researching agents, I found more than one that will not reply to e-queries unless they want more material. It’s terrible, because it leaves you hanging out there, wondering if they even got your query. Do you know why they don’t reply? Because of the nitwits that load their inbox with nasty diatribes and insults at being rejected. It has nothing to do with them not being polite and everything to do with the dwindling lack of common courtesy exhibited by so many writers and aspiring writers... and they’re ruining it for the rest of us!
I’m guessing that the people who do this must be pretty green, or they just have such a bad temper and lack of self control that they don’t think. I can’t imagine many of them finding an agent, even if they’re brilliant – if you’ve ever done this, you should realize that agents do talk to each other, and I’m sure they mention stuff like that.
Well, this is lengthy enough of a rant for today. But I’ve just finished reading a great editor blogger who’s been email flamed over an honest and non-offensive post, and I’ve seen countless agent pages stating they won’t respond to email queries... if you’re anon, or snipey, just remember, there’s someone on the other end of that keyboard and they might stop playing. You might be ruining countless writers’ chances of learning more about that agent so they can submit, or learning more about the business... you might be taking away countless critiques simply because you are too immature to have honest communications with those around you when there’s a little screen involved that keeps you from accountability.... ironic that you should be an aspiring writer with those particular faults, but there it is... if your biggest hope in your chosen profession is to ‘make a difference’ – well, that you’ve done, but I doubt it’s the difference you were aiming for...
Okay guys – long rambly rant wrap up.... your turn, what’s ticking you off today?