On criticising writers

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Critique is a hard pill for any writer to swallow. We love our darlings, we sweat, worry, fret, fuss and promote them – so then is it any surprise that we take it badly when someone criticises them or the methods we use to write as imperfect. Like a parent preening at the achievements or wonder of their child, we think of our writing as genius laden and this in turn allows us a sly egotistical pat on the back for creating such a wonder. This is common among writers, however there is another breed of writer that thinks themselves above even our ego-laden sensitivities.

We all collectively roll our eyes every time we hear from that proud parent about little Johnny who is the wonder of the modern world, set to break the Mensa record for IQ, Olympic records for sporting prowess and the social records for breaking fair hearts and making friends and influencing people. So too do we roll our eyes when another round of hyperbolic, ego laden authors lay their work or their view on writing before you as the next piece of literary wonder that will astound and bring innovation to the world with its insightful view, its poetic prose and thematic genius. Actually, it leaves me in wonder that so many fall under the spell of these literary bigots who are so far up their own asses they proclaim their work to be above the credence of needing a readership, after all the populous mass know nothing of literature and literary fiction in their view. It leaves me in wonder that other authors tolerate this arrogance towards the reading public.

But hey this is the internet and apparently a lot of the more gullible authors seem to feel the need to be ‘led’ and ‘taught’ by internet ‘experts’, rather than relying on their own ability to seek out varying sources, critically analyse approaches and seek methods to improve their craft. They need the discussion board guru to tell them what to think, and will follow it verbatim rather than seeing both the strengths and weaknesses in that approach and all others . People like to hear simple answers – It’s easier to hear, ‘Do this and you will be a better writer’, than it is is hear ‘ This may work but….’ Perhaps it is simply that they are mesmerised by the guru’s continued repetition of their mantra of ‘achievements’ (normally mid to low level achievements that sound much more impressive than they are) and overly simplified non compromising responses to questions of how to hone the craft of writing.

So often we hear these same ego blown authors proclaiming how great their works are that it is not surprising that they take it badly when another writer or collection of individual writers challenges the validity of their view. Because in challenging their approach we are piercing at the ego of the author themselves and for some that is unbearable. Be careful when you challenge such authors, their only retort will be to try to represent you as untalented, unproven and unknowing of anything about the craft. For it is simpler to try and denigrate the opposition than to admit that your view is not without shortcomings.

About V C Willow

V C Willow has always loved to write and read for pleasure. During her teenage years she wrote a lot of poetry but graduated to writing Science Fiction, Fantasy, Epic Fiction, Urban Fantasy and Suspense as she reached her twenties. She is a geek and comic nerd. A very keen reader, an enthusiastic cook and gardener and loves to craft. She's even been known to get down and dirty and do some DIY. V.C live in Manchester, England with her ball of cat fluff, Willow. She is currently writing her début fantasy novel. You can follow her authors page on Facebook at: www.facebook.com/vcwillow Connect with her on Linked in at: uk.linkedin.com/pub/vc-willow/4b/b90/521 Follow her on Twitter: https://twitter.com/inquisitivevic Follow her on Goodreads: http://www.goodreads.com/user/show/5563938-v-c-willow )O(
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4 Responses to On criticising writers

  1. An eloquent portrayal of the literary elite. We should follow our hearts in writing as with anything. At least if we fail it won’t be because we were deceived.

  2. coastalmom says:

    Good points! It is funny… the circle I hang out with here or tend to have gravitated to me are sweet followers and supporters. I have witnessed exchanges on other sites where they rip each other new ones but you are right… it is surprising here to those of us not used to it when someone challenges us by not alway agreeing. I ran into that the other day. I can’t even remember what the topic was but I can tell I ruffled some feathers. When I replied I didn’t mean to offend, the response back was a curt no offense was taken just basically the right to disagree which is what I thought I’d done by gently making another point.
    I guess we could get too soft here with all the enthusiasm given to us every post we publish and I know when I ask for honest feedback to expect it and receive it graciously. I have done that for my book and one “friend” who’d been faithfully reading all my blogs ripped my work to shreds and then strangely, came back around as he read further and seemed to understand why I kind of went in the back door. I KNOW that there are certain things I need to break… I tend to insert “had” in a lot of places where it isn’t needed. A friend i made on line here pointed that out nicely and I’m working on it as I go back and edit the heck out of my poor book…
    But you make a good point… I think we get lazy here and look for the simple answers rather than seeking honest critiquing. Which I know I will have a rude awakenging when I finally do just that.
    Though I have to share a quick story…
    I learned early on… never argue with a rejection letter. But I have to say that I came close to sending a copy of this one to the boss of the one who wrote this one….
    I’d self published a Children’s book.. had 2500 copies printed and I’ve sold several hundred over the years and given more away. I sent a few out with cover letters to test the waters. I received a few positive responses back but one in particular threw me… It was a rejection letter that I will never forget…I still wonder if it was young summer intern that may have been given a stack of mail to go through. It had about 3 spelling errors in it and though he said he liked it, he said that the font was too hard to read. I have to agree with him now… Harrington Press was not the right choice for a children’s book… maybe a greeting card which was what it was meant to be originally though due to people telling me I should submit it, I took a stab at it.
    The thing that irked me was he didn’t dislike the content. He raved about that. He just didn’t like the font. Sooooo change the font. YOU are the publisher!!!! Right?
    So I say critique me but don’t look like an idot while doing it.
    Right?
    😉

    • V C Willow says:

      Hi Costal mom

      In this instance it was the argument by another on a writing thread that only the traditionally published need bother have an opinion, that anyone else need not bother commenting because only the traditionally published counted as ‘experienced’ writers. I’m absolutely happy to have my views challenged but there comes a point where trying to debate with someone with an absolute view becomes not only an illogical waste of your time but a pointless exercise, especially once they fall foul of logical fallacies such as making ad hominem arguments. I don’t mind people challenging views on writing and writing technique, but to attack another writer publicly is unprofessional and strikes me as a comment on the inferiority complex of the other writer.

      I don’t personally think that critique can suffer as a result of diplomacy. I think it allows an honest critique and one that the writer will hear as constructive rather than a brutal critique which simply gets the authors hackles up. For a lot of writers the message gets lost when the critique is given in a ‘brutal’ manner. So I think that there is room for diplomacy, but it is exactly the vanguard of the old elite that decry diplomatic critique that over react with such sensitivity to constructive deconstruction of their view.

      Perhaps this background helps to put my view into perspective of the comments I made.

      I guess my point is that the world is brutal out there and we do not need to destroy writers with our critiques of their writing. On the other hand there is a brand of ‘experts’ on writing threads and such who think their view on writing is above being criticised and they should not be allowed to bully and hijack writing boards so all alternative views are silenced because they are tired of having their views shouted down with straw man arguments, circular reasoning, ad hominem comments, distractions and cum hoc ergo propter hoc (correlation equals causation).

      Funnily enough everyone here has been extraordinarily nice and supportive to me. It is only in certain circles that the nastier elements of anonymous interaction has been allowed to flourish and result in less than productive debate. It so happens these are such ‘up their own asses’ writers that I have described in my post.

      Kindest regards

      VC

      xx

      • coastalmom says:

        I know huh? This place is so supportive! I love it here. But I am willing to take a blow if it is constructive and helpful. I KNOW I am punctuation challenged etc… I know I will have to pay for that to be fixed. But I do get your point and agree whole heartedly…. whoops there we go being supportive again! lol.

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