No, no – I’m not talking about gaming again! I’m talking about critics today, you know them; scaly, covered in warts, yellowish green color, bulging blood-shot eyes that live under bridges… Oh no, wait, those are TROLLS – I always get those and critics confused… **snicker**
If you write, create art, have an opinion you state publicly or hell for that matter breathe, there is a good chance that you have or will run into a critic at some point in your life. Many of these are do-gooders, “Really? You’re going to wear that to the part this evening?”, who mean well and are simply trying to save us from ourselves (thank God someone is looking out for me!). These folks are harmless and mean well, they are generally our friends, family and co-workers and we have learned to sort through their feedback and pluck out the truly helpful bits and pass on the rest. But what about those critics we have never met? Those who will read our work, find the weak areas and punch holes in it? You know those holes that are connected straight to your gut and heart? Yeahhhh – ouch!
I took my first on-line writing class several years ago, I was excited to be writing again and looking forward to meeting other writers and getting feedback on my work. The first couple of weeks were great – the honeymoon period where we all get to know one another and get a sense for each others styles. Third week we were broken up into smaller groups and were given an assignment to write a short story with an option of viewpoints, one of them being as if we were the main character writing in a journal. This was the first big piece we were to do for class and of course I couldn’t wait to get started on it.
I decide to write the piece from the view point of a seriously disturbed girl who in the end kills her best friend/lover (the mc was bi-sexual – the former bf/lover was female). I paced the girls psychosis through the days, building them up so you got a sense as to why she kills this girl in the end. It was not meant as a ploy for sympathy but rather a statement on much of what we were seeing in the media at the time I wrote it. The bullying of children and the effect it has on them psychologically were the driving matter of the story.
I loved the piece (and still do as rough as it is) and posted it in my groups section. Of course every hour or so (OK lies – like every 5 minutes) I would sneak in the forum to see of anyone commented and after a few hours someone did – and I was crushed. One of the guys in my class posted about three paragraphs about my story – all of them saying how horrible it was, how horrible I was, how I just wrote it for shock value and how ashamed I should be. He called me hedonistic and said I had no value for life and how my existence was a waste. I was stunned to say the least. No one else posted to my piece and I didn’t blame them, how do you follow that up?
The instructor sent me a note and said she was shocked he had written that and that she thought it was one of the best pieces written – she loved the angle and view point and encouraged me to keep writing – but all in private. No one challenged this guy – not even me. Eventually – a day later he replied again and said that he was wrong to have attacked me the way he did, that he was just shocked and outraged by the piece. I still didn’t respond. As a matter of fact – I never posted to that class again.
I was pissed off then at him and my instructor for not saying something in my defense – today I am pissed off at me, for not staying in the class and keeping with it.
Look, we write in hopes that someone will read our work and that act in and of itself, invites critical reviews. We cannot avoid them, nor can we ignore them. Not everyone is going to love our work – if you feel differently, figure out a way to get over give up now and stop wasting time. I don’t mean to be a hard-ass about this, but if we are too fragile for bad reviews then we are too fragile to look to be published. I made the mistake of letting a critical review sideline me and I will not do it again – nor should you.
Stephanie Myers gets a lot of crap for the Twilight Saga – frankly I have slung some of that crap BUT I also give her credit for writing a series that got kids reading. I also give her major props for not only writing the first book but also for seeking out publication and getting it in spades – good for her! It is more than I have done. This woman has more critics that Carter has little liver pills (yeah that’s a grandma metaphor that will be missed by many – look it up). If she had let one critic sideline her where we should be today?
Critical reviews need to be looked at objectively. Read other reviews by the reviewer or, if in a critique group, listen to feedback they give others. Do the same issues crop up again and again from them? Could be they have a broader issue that isn’t solely directed at you – and is more of a generalization? Does the review tend to review all of your work poorly when other tend to like it? Could be there is a deeper issue and you are never going to be able to please this reviewer – it happens. In cases like that you need to learn to filter that individuals feedback/review out.
While critical reviews can be tough to read, they can be extremely helpful to us when looked at objectively. If you see the same issues being brought up again and again – there is a good chance there’s an issue that needs to be addressed in your work. Be happy that people have cared enough to let you know and work to fix it. If you are in the potion to do so, ask questions of the reviewer to0 get more specifics.
There is great truth in “That which does not kill us makes us stronger” and last I checked, no one has died from a bad review. Just keep a few things in mind when you read you get you first “Critical Hit”:
1. Step away and give it some time. It probably isn’t as bad as you thought and when you reread it (and you should) you may find that there is a great learning opportunity embedded in the review.
2. Don’t answer to it and if asked about it respond with something like “I appreciate the time the reviewer took to read my work”. Either of these items can put you in a defensive position – don’t go there you will not win. Take the high road whenever you can.
3. Remind yourself that not everyone is going to love your work and that’s OK. keep close those who love your work and the praise they have given you – this is our audience and at the end of the day it is they who matter most.
4. Be proud that you write and accomplish the goals you set for yourself and keep pushing forward!
Have you had bad reviews/critiques? How do you handle them?
I just realized something the other day, I’ve been featuring some of the awesome writers I have met during the Writer’s Campaign and it dawned on me they are mostly female! I think it’s the guy’s turn to get some featuring here – wouldn’t you agree? Here it is Part I of the guys – Part II to follow next Monday!
In addition to some great excerpts from his books (I am particularly found of the playfulness in Sam, the Strawb Pirate), Scott’s blog offers great writing tips and advice. I love Scott’s honesty and feedback – he has a gift when it comes to critiquing that is a rarity. I am so honored to have met him through the Campaign and am proud to count him amongst my writing pals! <3 ya Scott!
The man who named this feature! Seems only fitting he should be here but in all fairness he would have been anyway The naming thing was a bonus for me. I love Micheal’s easy going approach to writing and life in general. His post today 7 Things to Do When You Feel Like You’re Losing Your Mind is a perfect example of why his site is one of my faves to go to when I am having a “terrible twos” moment with my WIP.
OK first off let me say I have a HUGE designer crush on Jon’s site! His site drew me in before I ever read a word on it but once I started reading – I was hooked – I am big Jon Yang fan! His site is chocked full of FUN, from gaming to music to 0f course writing – Jon’s site has a bit of everything I love. Need a break from writing? Check out Jon’s comparison/contrast of the Footloose movies, need blog help? Jon’s got you covered there to with his book The Rough Guide to Blogging and its companion blog.
There you have it – three of my fave fellas from the Writer’s Campaign. You guys rock and I am so glad to have had the opportunity to meet you
I’ve had some big changes in my life as of late, what with the job situation, trip to see the family and such and I have been finding it difficult to get back into writing mode. I’ll get back to it, I always do, and more than likely this weekend because the plot lines are already twisting their way through my grey matter, but I decide to give myself a bit of time to decompress this week. One of my favorite things to do to murder time is play MMORPGs, my fave still being World of Warcraft. yeah – I’m a geek/dork – so sue me…
Interestingly, I have found that a lot of us writers are geeky/dorky types,which really isn’t too much of a surprise as a large number of my artist friends are geek/dorky gamers as well. Many of us seem to be drawn to MMORPGs in general (World of Warcraft in particular) birds of a feather and all! I have a theory as to why we are drawn to these types of games that I would like to toss out there for discussion.
Putting aside the art of games (which as an artist I am really drawn to) and the stories (again – I’m a sucker for a good story) and the social interaction (yes for those of you that do not play cooperative online games – contrary to popular belief there is a LOT of social interaction) there is the task/completion/reward cycle. That is the heart of why I play MMORPGs.
There is something so satisfying about getting a number of quests, going out and completing them and then turning them in for a reward. In my day to day life, I go to work, clean the house, run errands and so forth – it can become monotonous and no one is standing off to the side to give me a gift when I finish these things. OK sure – they payoff for work is a check every 2 weeks, it’s great to have a tidy house and clean close and comfortable to have a full fridge but for the most part, the rewards are either on a long cycle (the paycheck), assumed (the clean house and clothes) or abstract (the full fridge which you really only notice around snack and meal times).
In an MMORPG I get a task, I do it, I get a reward. I have a to-do list, I get to check it off and I get a gift IMMEDIATELY. There is a feeling of completion and worth that is so addicting, it is not surprising that people can sink hours into these games without realizing it. I’m not going to get into the debate of the evil video games stealing lives, any addictive behavior can be an issue if it begins to affect ones ability to work or tend to their family, I don’t care if it is heroin, video gamin or the quilting club – my point is more to the reason I think a lot of us creative types play video games.
What we do is hard – despite what others think (I have been told on several occasions that I am lucky I get paid to play all day HA! Discover a mistake on a $50K print job you worked on and I’ll show ya fun…). Being a creative person is mentally draining and just as exhausting as physical work. It can be frustrating working on the same art piece or chapter for days on end because it’s just not working. It is easy to hop into a video game and do the tasks there – task/completion/reward – in a few hours time. yes it is a video game but mentally it satisfies the part of our brain that needs to check things off out to-do list and needs to be praised for a job well done.
So if you are a gamer – why do you play?
In a somewhat related note, I managed to catch part of the Blizzcon opening ceremony and watched the trailer for the WoW XP – and kept waiting for the “just joking” statement about Mists of Pandaria. I’m on the fence about the Pandaren but of course I will need to finish that goblin and worgen off so I can roll one! Oh and one more thing – Chris Metzen is still OMG hawt!
Back from vacation – yay! It was great to get away for a while and see family and friends but it is always nice to get back home. I had this crazy idea I would be able to keep up with the writing, the Campaign, Twitter and Google+ while I was gone and – well dear readers (if you are still out there) – you see how well that worked out for me! I need to get better at setting up posts ahead of time and then setting them to auto publish but gosh darn it (yes I just said gosh darn it…) I am such a “in the moment” person, which beings me to today’s post…
Our cell phone contract expired a few weeks ago and we were waffling back and forth on what to do (do we stay with AT&T? Do we replace our dying iPhone3s with the iPhone4? and so on…) when Apple announced the iPhone4S. Long story short – we signed back up and got the iPhone4S. Of course the first thing you do when you get an iPhone4S is ask Siri all kinds of stupid questions (ask her her favorite color – her response is cute) but then practicality takes over and you start using her for what she was designed for (so funny I already call Siri “her” as if she is human…).
One of my favorite Siri functions thus far is the ability to text while driving. Everyone I know texts and it’s frustrating to hear the ding of messages come in as I am going down the road. I am an avid supporter of no texting while driving so I wait until I get to my destination or pull over to get my messages. Not anymore – Siri reads them to me Even better – I can text while driving by dictating to Siri. Yeah, I know this is starting to sound like an iPhone/Siri commercial but it’s not, I’m getting to the point which might surprise you – it did me.
I was sending a text to Matt today while driving and was struck by an odd thought – as cool as Siri is – she, or rather it, will be obsolete in the blink of an eye. Technology moves s0 quickly these days that we will be laughing in the next year or so about how clunky Siri really is. You still need to enunciate clearly and you still need to be careful in the way you phrase your questions to her. Bottom line – Siri is not Hal (though she has some great responses if you ask her about the pod doors).
My train of thought tends to be more like Ozzy’s Crazy Train – it goes all over the place (and I bet that’s not at all uncommon with writers – can anyone confirm that for me?) and the Siri being archaic thought lead to futuristic stories I have read over the years and h0ow so much of what was written has not only happened but become “old technology”. J.K Rowling’s magical books whose pictures are “alive” are becoming a reality as the E readers evolve – while not a futuristic item, still kind of amazing when you think about it. It raises the old life influences art or art influences life debate for me – I think maybe both.
By the way – if anyone in Apple development is reading this, I have a suggestion for improving Siri a bazillion fold: Give me the option to use Alan Rickman’s voice in place of the girl.
No – I’m not leaving the intertubes! Been traveling this week (currently in West Virginia) and other than checking my email, have been pretty much offline. It’s been a little alienating I must admit, between social networking, blog hopping and gaming (not to mention work) the internet is a prominent part of my life. Nothing brought this home more than running through the packing checklist with Matt, it included: three cellphones, two laptops, an ipad and a nook. Overkill…
So, here’ a question for you all, what do you do when you aren’t online? What hobbies can you do without a computer/electronic device? My list is as follows:
Write – Yes, I can do this w/o a keyboard! Matter of fact, all my notes are hand written, they just flow better that way.
Read – I still buy a lot of dead tree books and at times prefer them to their electronic cousins.
Go to the gym – OK – it’s never an “omg, yay!” thing for me to go to the gym, but I always feel really good afterward and it honestly helps me focus on my writing when I get home.
Horseback riding – My fave outdoor activity.
Meet up with other writers – be it seminar, crit group or just coffee, it’s nice to get some face time with other writers.
Go on a day trip – I love to just take off in the car and find a new little town to explore. There are great stories out there just waiting to tell themselves to us!
Time for me to get back to “offline” and back to vacation – until Friday <3
Yeah, I know, today is supposed to be hot links feature day but it is my blog and I get to make the rules so I am changing them today. This post will be will be short and sweet, mostly because I hate typing on my laptop keyboard and it is 6am here and I am trying not to wake the entire house banging around through my luggage.
I spent a good portion of Saturday going through old photos of my mothers, something I have managed to put off in the 2 years since her death. Chalk the delay up to fear of the unknown, or maybe the known, fear of closure. As if leaving her stuff untouched kept her alive in a magical place and bringing it home with me means breaking the spell.
I had prepared myself to cry and laugh and the whole range of emotions on goes through when looking into the past of those who have left us far to soon. What took me by surprise though was the peace I found in the images. Seeing the life in my mother and the happiness she had and shared with all around her. She had an incredible life filled with happiness and people who loved her. That makes me happy.
I’m not sure why I feared that closure. I guess it was being afraid that closing the proverbial book would mark the start of her slipping from my memories, but I think the opposite happened, she became more alive to me.
<3 – until next time,
Stephenie Meyer has credited the band Muse in being one her main muses (no irony lost there) for the penning of the Twilight series. Many authors posts playlists of music that either inspired their work or of songs/bands they were listening to while working on their drafts. I did a post a few weeks ago on music and the part it plays in the world of literature, so not going to rehash that topic, but rather focusing on what you all are listening to right now that is inspiring you or helping you though those tough writing/editing days.
The biggest influence music wise on my work is the band Manchester Orchestra. I LOVE these guys! The rawness and honesty of their music grabbed hold of me with their album “Everything to Nothing” and has tightened its grasp on me with the release of “Simple Math”. The title track fit my WIP perfectly and has become a theme songs to it:
Since I cannot seem to embed the Simple Math Video, you can go here to see it. It really is an amazing video.
So, who is your muse(s)? Is their a particular song you identify with your current work in progress?
Today I am featuring three of my guilty pleasure sites I like visit to take a break from the work at hand. Read more >>
“This is your one opportunity to do something that no one has ever done before and that no one will copy throughout human existence. And if nothing else, you will be remembered as the one guy who ever did this. This one thing.” Sam from Garden State.
I watched the premiere of Terra Nova the other night (verdict is still out on if it gets a coveted spot in my DVR list), it stats out in a dystopic society in the future where population growth is being controlled and humanities only hope is to shuttle off some folk through a time rip that will take them back 85 million years to get a “do-over”. There is a scene where people are standing in line ready to step though the tear and a character stops and looks down at his sleeve where a text message is scrolling across a screen is embedded there and – WHOOOOAAAAA wait! Back the hell up! That’s an ORIGINAL THOUGHT (or OT) from my WIP! I turned to Matt wide eyed and panicked and said “OMG – I have to figure out a new form of communication device for my characters and rewrite those parts!!!” He of course laughed at this and said something to the effect of “Did you really think that was an original idea?”.
Of course he is right.
Let’s face it. Harry Potter is not the first story to be told of children with exceptional powers going to a school that further trains them, Twilight is not the first human/vampire love affair, the Hunger Games is not the first story of rising against a dystopic society. What made them stand out was not their original foundations but what the respective authors did with the characters and their surroundings. Each story type has its “rules” and markers you would find in each story type. Harry Potter has good and bad witches, Twilight’s vampires are still dead and still need blood to stay strong and Hunger Games has its poor and oppressed society in the shadow of the rich and privileged. Yet each story has the uniqueness of the authors perspective on these things that makes it stand out. Each one added something new and fresh, which made us want to read.
It can be frustrating as a writer to have ones work read and be told “Oh this is like Hunger Games” or worse that you are ripping off a book/series. The issue here lies in the fact that most people look for parallels to what they already know, what is familiar. Read the first few pages of my manuscript and there is a parallel to Hunger Games, no doubt. Read the entire first chapter and the parallel becomes less apparent. I will not lie , the Hunger Games had a huge impact on me but so did The Running Man and Rollerball - all dealing with dystopic societies where the new sport is pitting humans against one another in a real life and death match. I am a sucker for that type of story – no surprise it is what I would end up writing about.
I made the decision not to go back and rewrite the communication devices, they are what they are and as my husband said – it is where we believe technology is heading so while it is not an original thought – it is an accepted thought owned universally. I’ll take that I think my story still has a lot of originality, original enough to make Sam from Garden State (a must see movie!) proud of me.
How about you? Do you have concerns about parallels between your work and previously published work? Do you run into ideas you thought were original and wonder if you should change them?
Yup – back up on it **points at box below my feet**.
I’ve been pondering something as of late, what with Google+ opening up to the public and this mad dash for the new folks to start adding to their circles and getting added to circles, how do people choose who they follow/like/circle/add?
Let’s just put a leash on the full sized (she hates to be called big) elephant in the room and trot her on out here to address, shall we? Everyone loves to be added to the social networks of their peers. Uh-uh – don’t you sit there and shake your head and say not me. Liar! We humans love it when people add us because we love to be included. Trust me on this. I can be an incredibly anti-social creature, I mean really, I write and create art which puts me in front of a monitor long enough to get a tan from it. Such lack of face to face interaction in some definitions qualifies me as an anti-social hermit, which, OK I cop to BUT – I do like to be included.
It makes me happy that other people have taken an interest in what I have to say – it validates that I am not just typing to entertain myself. OK – well I do type to entertain myself (if you have ever seen my typing skills in action you know why it’s entertaining – like watching three drunks play Twister…) but I get the most awesome comments from you crazy folk that stop by and it makes me super happy that I get to interact with you all!
Now – I am under no delusion that the people who follow/like/circle/add me have all done so because I am charming, intelligent and and can play a mean bass rift (OK, OK – on medium playing Guitar Hero). Some have added me because of my participation in various online events, some because I game with them and they might need to get a hold of me to raid in a pinch and some are my family members and hate it when I cry when no one reads my stuff. And the there are the follow mes, those who follow me looking for me for no other reason than to see if I will follow them back…
Alright, here’s the soapbox part:
I have seen several posts and talked to people (like real life face to face – no joke it happens sometimes!) on the topic of reciprocal follow/like/circle/adds. I’ve been amazed at the number of people who, if they do not get a return on their investment (in other words within a few days of following an individual they don’t get added in return) remove a person from their network that they had initially added. This practice baffles the hell out of me.
So, maybe I am a social network snob, but the people in my social networks are people I have hand picked. They are there for a reason, they have valuable info, I like their writing, their art, they are the keepers of resources or they are just plain entertaining. No one is there by accident and no one is there because they pressed a button to follow/like/circle or add me. Of course I love it when a person that I add, adds me back. That goes back to that wanting to be included thing, but I do not remove people because they didn’t add me, that seems silly to me. If I add someone because I love their art – I don’t stop loving it because they didn’t add me. What about the person I add because they post fantastic info on the publishing industry? I am pretty sure that Nathan Bransford doesn’t know me from Adam and the man gets a metric buttload of adds a day – so why should I even consider not following him because he doesn’t follow me back? Why deny myself all the great info he posts because he didn’t click my button in return?
Stop – I know what you’re thinking. Of course Nathan Bransford didn’t add me, nor did J.K. Rowling – because they both have celeb status and it is ludicrous to think they could track all those who add them. Matter of fact, it would be humanly impossible for them to follow all those that follow them. That said – I think the people I follow are stellar and I do not differentiate them from the “celebs” out there – to me they are celebs and I am honored to know them and speak with them. The rules are the same for all on my social network lists, if I find value in what you say or do I add you and I try to stop by as often as I can.
So to those I follow/like/circle/add – I really like you guys! You are all too sexy for my cat. To those I do not follow/like/circle/add – it’s nothing personal – I just have not made that social connection with you or I have yet to find the time to go through my add lists to look at your blogs/portfolios/site that tells me about you to find the common ground. If you feel you must remove me from your list because I did not reciprocate, then that’s OK, we wouldn’t have been a good social fit for one another. Now that may seem a bold statement to make to those who, like me, are building an author platform, but give this some thought: Is the person who added me simply because I added them likely to be interested enough in me to check out my book and tell all their friends to read it? I doubt it, I am just a number to them on their way to the tens of thousands… The people who I interact with and those who interact with me are the people who will care enough to support my published book as I will with theirs.
I’d be curious to hear some other thoughts on this matter – both pro and con. Variety is, after all, the spice of life.