Sunday, July 11, 2010

Business Tip No. 1 - Don't Bite the Hand That Feeds You

Currently reading - Black Magic Sanction by Kim Harrison

This isn't really a business plan thing, but considering how often it occurs, it's worth mentioning.

I've been lucky. A number of published authors have taken me under their wing and given their feedback, advice and assistance freely. These folks truly believe in "Pay it forward."

A few months ago, a new member of a writers group I belong to asked me to look at some pages, so I said, "Okay."

This isn't the first time I've been approached. It won't be the last. A few folks never came back to this organization when I didn't justify their brilliance. Others become fixated on the wrong things, like having a perfect first chapter.

And others? Well, they become defensive, like this particular person. I don't get their writing. If I read more, then I'd understand their story. I just don't understand this genre.

Any of this sound familiar? Yeah, I see a lot of similar complaints in agent and editor blog comments too. And unfortunately, this is why a lot of agents and editors won't give us writers any feedback. They've been bitten by our ilk too many times.

Here's the thing. I'm definitely not a gatekeeper. I do want to see this person succeed. But this means putting the effort into your writing, figuring out what does work, and fixing what doesn't. All I'm doing is giving an opinion of what I see working and what isn't for me. It doesn't mean I'm totally right or totally wrong. It's just an opinion.

After the new writer sat on my critique for a day, this person sent me a second e-mail saying 'Thank you.'

So here's my proverbial two cents: if you get a critique from anyone, simply say 'Thank you.' It doesn't matter if they're spot on or way off their rocker. They took the time to look at your project because you asked them to, so they deserve a little common courtesy.

Now if someone bullies you into letting them critique your writing. . .

Well, that's a whole 'nuther problem, isn't it?


  1. Oh, man, been there. :/ What I love is when someone in a writing workshop -- where one might legitimately assume that everyone present is there to be told what's not working with their writing so they can improve it, as well as what is working so they can do more of it -- pitches a fit when people actually... tell them what's not working with their writing. o_O

    I love both SF and romance, and in fact was an SF fan long before I got into romances. I'd love to see the two genres blend successfully. This has never been done from the romance side that I've seen (and when "futuristic" romances first appeared, I bought and read pretty much every one for the first ten years or so) although some of the SF writers have managed it. But one woman in an online workshop was writing one. I really wanted to see something in that area work, so I put somewhere between eight and ten hours into writing up a critique of her first couple of chapters. Most of it was problems, but I worked hard to find some good things to praise here and there as well.

    She never responded to me directly, but for the next six months or so she took not-so-subtle pot shots at me all over every other area of the bulletin board. [eyeroll] Never quite direct enough that the sysops could stomp on her -- plausible deniability all the way -- but enough references to things that'd been in my critique to make it clear whom she was jabbing.

    That was fun. :P

    I love critiquing, when I have time for it, but the people who join workshops or otherwise ask for feedback who turn out to have actually been requesting unalloyed praise, pets and e-cookies remind me of why my time is so often better spent on my own writing.


  2. I so understand where you're coming from, Angie. *snicker* I doubt if this chick has a clue about how bad she's making herself look.

    I learned a long time ago to let nasty/petty stuff slide. But my pet peeve is when someone critiquing me can't get his/her FACTS right. I had a contest judge tell me I couldn't mix Roman and Greek names in the same family because the brothers' names were Caesar and Ptolemy. She then went into a long lecture about the Greek mathematician Ptolemy.

    Yet, one of my critique partners knew right away I was refering to the sons of Cleopatra VII of Egypt, a Greek pharoah with four biological children from two different Roman generals.

    *sigh* No one teaches their kids history or manners anymore, do they?

    Oh, and if you find a good sf romance, PLEASE let me know!

  3. Heck, Cleopatra's whole family was the Ptolemies, descended from Alexander's General Ptolemy, who got Egypt in the dogpile after Alexander's death.

    Actually, I'd have squawked "Caesar," which at the time was a title rather than a name. [duck]

    For good SF romance, you have to go to the SF side of the store. Bujold's Shards of Honor is a wonderful romance, and her A Civil Campaign is a classic comedy of manners, except for being set on another planet. :) Her Sharing Knife books are great fantasy romance, at least the first one. The second one probably qualifies, technically, since the guy's family doesn't like the girl and is trying to get rid of her, and the next two books are further adventures type stories and not technically romances, but they're definitely romantIC.

    Melanie Rawn's Dragon Prince is a great fantasy romance. It's the start of a series, but I don't remember any of the others being actual romances by the genre definition.


  4. *grin* Actually Caesar started as a cognomen, or nickname. By the Republican era, it became a family name. The first use of Caesar as a title is attributed to Vespasian when he took the imperial throne in 69 CE. At least, I think it was Vespasian. It's been a while since I took Latin. LOL

    And thanks so much for the recommendations! I've got a gift card burning holes in the purse.