Tuesday, May 5, 2009

What are the worst things someone has said about your writing?

Carrying on the theme of much debate, I figured I would share some of the toughest things I've heard about my writing over the years.

  1. reading your work is like wading uphill through molasses
  2. just take out the dialogue and it's basically porn
  3. you're an editor's nightmare
  4. I don't think this story is working in first person
  5. There's nothing likable about this character
  6. your metaphors are over the top and absurd

# 1 & # 2 were from writing classes in college. After closer inspection, I realized that #1 was dead on - was abusing adjectives like crazy.

As for #2, I was really pissed, and the person was someone who always made nothing but snotty comments. The teacher actually had a talk with him after this particular class about being polite. Despite being angry for about a week, a talk with professor helped me to remember that everyone has different taste and opinions, and not to let one negative remark get me down. Then the same dude shared a short story with the group about masturbation. Go figure. Clearly, he and I were writing for different audiences. ;)

#3 was from a writing group I'm still a part of - and was 100% correct. I pouted for a day, and sulked a little. It was really quite depressing to hear, and then to look at a ten page line edit as proof. Then I hired an editor to help me get over this hump and get ready to query.

#4 was from a writing group I did over the summer about a short story. I disagreed, and did not change it. This was about my story EIDOS. While I still haven't found a home for it, I have received excellent feedback via rejection letters - none of which suggest changing out of first person.

#5 happened recently on the Quick Quill. I was disappointed that someone found nothing redeeming about my character. They also gave me a number of other pointers, however, and I plan to look at everything a second time when I'm ready to work on EIDOS again.

#6 was from an editor in a rejection letter from before I started keeping this blog. He gave a few examples, which I looked over in context. Most of them, I realized, were terrible. One of them I liked and kept in.

What about you guys? What's the toughest thing you've had to hear about your writing? How did you deal with?


M. Dunham said...

Hmm, I don't remember everything that was ever said about my writing being bad, but here are a few:

1) Your main character is a stone cold bitch for not showing emotion over a dead body.

2) The emotions shown are forced and stilted.

3) Your short story has too many changes in tone.

4) Your writing is like shit on a stick.

I'm really bad at this - hah. I disagreed with the first one, but agree with the other two. For #1, my character dealt with death on a daily/weekly basis - she's a crime investigator. #2 I agree with, but am having problems figuring out a response that's clear and not over the top. #3 I don't know if there's any fix for and the story may have to be abandoned. #4 was completely useless so ii was annoying, but I figured out what I needed to fix eventually.

Really, critiques don't bother me. The only one that got under my skin was that last comment. I look at them and see if they work within my scope. Many do, some definitely don't, and then there are the gray area judgment call ones that I hate.

I will tell you what peeves me about critiques - people who "review" your work, only to skip over the explanation of something and say "I don't understand what "this" is", and it's clear they barely skimmed your writing. Ugh. Peeves me to no end.

Tess said...

OOOh, fun game! I want to play!
My favorite recently came from a beta reader I got on a website (bad idea, btw). She said:

Why would anyone read this tripe when they can be reading Twilight?

Oh my holy moses! My word verification is 'tesswin' as in Tess win's.....that's too cool!

Lady Glamis said...

I don't remember specifics, but a most recent one was that my writing was a shattered vase, broken and irreparable. No sense in even trying to put it back together.

I know that person reads this blog, and I want her to know that I am not bitter or angry (in fact, her critique was amazing). That person was right in many respects. In other respects, I'm not hopelessly walking away from that vase. No way.

lotusgirl said...

Tess, I don't believe I'd be offended at that one. Isn't that a compliment?

Some things that I didn't like to hear:

1. I don't like your narrator.
2. Your villain is like one on a saturday morning cartoon.
3. You're all over the place here--focus.

They were all right, but it still didn't make them easy to hear.

Davin Malasarn said...

The worst thing someone said to me was, "this whole story doesn't do it for me at all. The things happening seem so bland."

I appreciated his honesty at the time. I felt his opinion was a bit biased, but I was still able to get something out of critique because it forced me to invest more in the story. Also, when this same reviewer liked my book, his praise was all the sweeter because I knew that he would tell me honestly if he hated it.

Litgirl01 said...

This is an awesome post. It helps to see what others have gone through. I don't have anything to share yet, but I'm sure I will eventually. I'll check back then!

So,you pouted for a whole day??
:-) Did you eat cheesecake?

M. Dunham - shit on a stick? Sheesh...what an inapporpriate comment! I believe in karma! LOL

scott g.f. bailey said...

"Too many words!"

"I'll finish reading this, but only against my will."

"I don't like a single word you've written."

"English is you second language, right? It shows."

The Screaming Guppy said...

Thanks to everyone for sharing!

I think it helps to see that you aren't the only who has recieved some hard feedback.


Shit on a stick? I agree with Traci (litgrl01). That's pretty, well, shitty on a stick. ;)


I think you're dead on. Honesty is required to build trust, even if the process chaffs.

And yes, cheesecake does wonders for dealing with bad feedback.

Jenna said...

I don't share my work with a lot of people, and the people I share with won't give me mean critiques (like the "shit on a stick" thing) even if my writing is horrible. I always get positive suggestions from my reader-people.

That being said, I did get a really hurtful comment about my writing from somebody who didn't know any better.

See, I like the Twilight series. It's not amazing and it's not my favorite, but I've read it and thought it was worth reading. I was discussing things with my friends (who are avid readers and, while they aren't writers, know when something's off), talking about the minor things I noticed that irked me. Plotlines, detail things, etc.

Well. Some jerk came along and butted into the conversation, screaming at me for saying a single word against Twilight and Stephenie Meyer (I was NOT trashing, BY THE WAY) and said that anything that I wrote would be absolute shit compared to anything Stephenie could write.

Yes, she said that. And it hurt. A lot. Especially since I had just gotten a very...thorough...crit for an article I'd written.

I mean, she didn't KNOW that I'm a writer, but still...

Windsong said...

Wow! You guys are awesome. I think I would have crumbled if I'd gotten some of those responses. I don't share my work often, but when I have, I've gotten constructive criticism. Criticism that shows me how I can make it better rather than just killing my piece.

Joyce Wolfley said...

I'm with Windsong. It takes thick skin to make it in this business we love. I haven't gotten any feedback that's made me weep yet. I'm sure that will come.

Tara Maya said...

On the Secret Agent contest, I recieved a thumbs down from Kristin Nelson, who also had a partial on her desk that same week. Ouch.

On the other hand, at least I recieved more feedback than I could on a form rejection. It was well worth the prickly feeling.

From regular beta readers... well, the hardest crits to hear are always those which tell me what I already knew but deliberately refused to see. Those are the crits I can't ignore or dismiss.

Darn you, beta readers! Darn you all to heck!

scott g.f. bailey said...

Tara Maya said: "the hardest crits to hear are always those which tell me what I already knew but deliberately refused to see."

Oh, ain't that the truth? Sometimes I know that passages are weak but I don't want to fix them, and tell myself that they're good enough. Then someone comes along and says, "This bit? Not your best work. You're going to change it, aren't you?" I huff and puff for a while and then, darn it, go back to work and make the writing better.

Dominique said...

A friend once told me that the fact that I'd read Twilight showed in my grammar. Ouch.

On a different project, someone told me that what I was writing had already been written. By everyone.

beth said...

Hmmm...most comments I agree with, and have been blessed to have good, logical critiquers.

But the worst?

One man told me that it was the worst book he'd ever read and I should burn it and quit writing.