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Message Board Topic For 5/28


Topaz

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I talked about trying to find ways to inspire feedback a few weeks ago, and how important that feedback is to an online author and his inspiration. And it's true, the more feedback, the better. It's the only way to really 'grade' yourself on how much of an impact your work is having on the people who read it. But what if, in that glorious rush of thankful and inspiring email...you begin getting those often dreaded criticisms in your inbox? And I'm not taking about suggestions for improvement here. I mean a true FLAME of the story that you just poured your heart and soul into.

 

There's no way around it, no way to avoid it. Trying to please everybody with any type of creative or artistic talents is simply an impossible pursuit. And when I say 'impossible'...I mean *IMPOSSIBLE*!!! So when you do get those nasty little emails, ripping you apart from the first sentence to the last, how should an author respond? Ignore it and toss it in the trash without looking back? Read through it, take the emotional 'punch in the face', and then try to make the next one better? Answer back with as much rudeness and sarcasm as they sent your way? Try to answer politely and tell them you respect their opinion? Hunt them down with a high powered sniper rifle? I mean, how should somebody really react to something like that, and continue to write something fresh and new afterwards?

 

Also, how do you differentiate a 'harsh criticism' from 'constructive criticism'? You've gotta be able to go on more than just your current level of sensitivity at the time. Let us know your thoughts! Those flames can leave some awfully bad burns on your typing fingers sometimes, let's try to clear some of that up.

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In my experience, the people that are the harshest critics don't have any of their own work posted.

 

Criticism and feedback often don't have a whole lot to do with each other. Killing off a character people like or having something bad happen to them often generates noisy complaints.

 

I see criticism over a typo or mispelling as bitching rather than feedback. Pay $20 for the novel and I'll clean that right up.

 

I got a lot of criticism for drugs and violence in some of my writing- specifically glorifying drugs & violence. I was mystified by this as my stuff was way tamer than network TV. Is the author of a murder mystery advocating murder?

 

Readers talk about what they like or dislike which isn't really feedback. It can be useful but usually it is something like Doug should dump Mikie and see Brian... Reader criticism is rooted more in context than craft.

 

Feedback from writers can be invaluable. They are the ones that can give you real insights into the craft.

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Also, how do you differentiate a 'harsh criticism' from 'constructive criticism'? You've gotta be able to go on more than just your current level of sensitivity at the time. Let us know your thoughts! Those flames can leave some awfully bad burns on your typing fingers sometimes, let's try to clear some of that up.

The difference is, I think, on whether the criticism includes an explanation of what they didn't like. Something like, "This is the third f***ing fatal car accident in six chapters! How about trying some new way of killing off characters?" is constructive criticism, even if it isn't particularly polite. It's pointing out what is wrong with the writing and indicates something the author can do to improve things. "Your writing is so weak and thin I find it boring." is borderline. It indicates a weakness in the writing, but doesn't say what. "I hated it. I just couldn't believe that you would do that to poor old Ken." is another borderline constructive criticism. It's indicating what they didn't like, though without any real detail.

 

I'm not sure if the real question you were asking was how to differentiate a "flame" from "criticism". I believe the distinction is in the target. If the person is attacking the author, that's a flame and should be deleted. If the person is attacking the story, then it's criticism. It may or may not be justified (after all, the reader doesn't know what is happening behind the scenes). Even unjustified criticism should be looked at. If a reader says that something is unbelieveable/stupid/silly/out-of-character, and the author knows that it isn't, then this doesn't make the criticism wrong. What it means is that the author needs to tell the reader WHY it isn't, or at least indicate there are reasons, even if those reasons are not yet revealed.

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