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View Full Version : When a professional author tells you that you stink.



BlueLucario
04-19-2009, 02:52 AM
There's a writer out there who loves to pick out the authors who he thinks has a lot of talent and potential. At first I thought that a professional author can tell if aspiring authors have potential as authors and who is wasting their time.

Do you think it's possible to find authors like that? If so, if a professional told you or someone else that you have potential, would you believe him?

scarletpeaches
04-19-2009, 02:54 AM
I'd listen if they were an agent.

An author? Not so much.

KosseMix
04-19-2009, 02:56 AM
I think writing is too subjective to believe the advice of any one person as always correct. Go for a majority census among worthy individuals.

Matera the Mad
04-19-2009, 02:59 AM
I'd get a second opinion.

Michiru
04-19-2009, 03:00 AM
There's a writer out there who loves to pick out the authors who he thinks has a lot of talent and potential. At first I thought that a professional author can tell if aspiring authors have potential as authors and who is wasting their time.

Do you think it's possible to find authors like that? If so, if a professional told you or someone else that you have potential, would you believe him?

However good a writer is, he's as vulnerable to his own opinions as anyone else. If something you wrote offended him, he might put it down to bad writing on your part. If a section that would interest other people didn't interest him, he might decide he wasn't interested because you can't write. If really, deep down, he's jealous because he thinks you might be more successful than him someday, he might consciously decide your work irritates him because it's no good.

So no, I wouldn't listen too hard. Of course, if he had specific examples of how to improve I'd look over my work and see if I agreed. But if he was just saying I sucked, then nah. I'd at least want plenty of other opinions from writers in different fields with different interests before deciding for sure my career as an author was over!

Cyia
04-19-2009, 03:00 AM
Was is Stephen King?

Krisela
04-19-2009, 03:03 AM
I would listen to an author's opinion, of course, but I wouldn't necessarily think it was a more valuable opinion than that of any other reader. I'm sure lots of professional authors hate books that others would consider to be fantastic - personal taste is a universal phenomena, even amongst writers!

firedrake
04-19-2009, 03:05 AM
I'm with SP on this one. I'd be more inclined to listen to an Agent.

BlueLucario
04-19-2009, 03:07 AM
Was is Stephen King?
I wish. -___-

I'd love to hear his opinion on my writing.

The Lady
04-19-2009, 03:09 AM
What's with the suspicion about the praise? Take the praise. Smile. Be happy. Ask them will they recommend you to their agent. :D

HelloKiddo
04-19-2009, 03:11 AM
There's a writer out there who loves to pick out the authors who he thinks has a lot of talent and potential.

Is this writer Stephen King? A lot of writers do that. And critics, agents, editors, readers...a lot of people like to discuss which authors they think are the best and have the most potential. That's very common.


If so, if a professional told you or someone else that you have potential, would you believe him?

I'd believe that it was that person's opinion. And if that person had a lot of experience in the industry I'd give their opinion more weight than I would give to the opinion of somebody who knew little about the industry.

But nobody anywhere can be certain who will be the next big thing. Ever.

Cyia
04-19-2009, 03:13 AM
I wish. -___-

I'd love to hear his opinion on my writing.


Sorry, Blue. Just a poorly constructed attempt at humor given Mr. King's recent comments ;)

NeuroFizz
04-19-2009, 03:16 AM
If the author was a good genre match, and if he/she had significant writing experience, I'd certainly listen to what he/she had to say.

Anyone who is too suspicious of the opinions of other authors should be a little more cautious because jacketflaps certainly do include quotes from authors as well as critics from newspapers and other media outlets. Reject the opinions of authors now, then be consistent and don't let their words on your jacketflaps later. Don't listen to them now, then don't listen to them later.

benbradley
04-19-2009, 03:18 AM
I recall Heinlein saying a thing or two about writing. One thing I recall is "Editors [and agents] don't reject writers. They reject pieces of paper with writing on them." This may (I'm not sure) help depersonalize the process.

Linda Adams
04-19-2009, 03:25 AM
However good a writer is, he's as vulnerable to his own opinions as anyone else. If something you wrote offended him, he might put it down to bad writing on your part.

I have had this experience. The writer was a professional published romance novelist. A writer friend was eager to network with an author in the hopes of bypassing the query system. The book was a thriller set during the Civil War. The writer hit page 70, stopped reading, and wrote four pages of scathing comments. I looked at the comments and instantly knew she'd hated it. Worse, she apparently didn't understand why she'd hated it, so she nitpicked at it, trying to find fault over the tiniest thing. A few months later we discovered she was vehemently anti-gun. Guess what was on page 70? A character pulling a gun in a war novel.

But taking it a step further, just because people are published doesn't mean they necessarily know what's right for your book. My friend couldn't make that distinction. All he saw was that professional authors were making this comment and that comment, and he figured they must know better because they were published. The last thing I saw, he was talking about taking the guns out of the book, claiming they were used too much because the romance writer reacted badly to the first instance of it.


Do you think it's possible to find authors like that? If so, if a professional told you or someone else that you have potential, would you believe him?

Only if it comes with a referral to an agent. Otherwise, it's just a nice comment.

BlueLucario
04-19-2009, 03:26 AM
I'd believe that it was that person's opinion. And if that person had a lot of experience in the industry I'd give their opinion more weight than I would give to the opinion of somebody who knew little about the industry.
There was a time when I first started writing, that I WANTED a professional to tell me that I was a good writer.

Don't worry Cyia, I kind of like the kind of humor. XD

Bubastes
04-19-2009, 03:29 AM
There was a time when I first started writing, that I WANTED a professional to tell me that I was a good writer.


Why?

ETA: a professional opinion on someone's writing potential is just that -- an opinion. It might have more weight than an opinion from someone who's not in the writing field, but it's certainly not gospel.

BlueLucario
04-19-2009, 03:30 AM
A few months later we discovered she was vehemently anti-gun. Guess what was on page 70? A character pulling a gun in a war novel.

The last thing I saw, he was talking about taking the guns out of the book, claiming they were used too much because the romance writer reacted badly to the first instance of it.

It's not really a thriller without guns right?

HelloKiddo
04-19-2009, 03:36 AM
I have had this experience. The writer was a professional published romance novelist. My former cowriter was eager to network with an author in the hopes of bypassing the query system. Our book was a thriller set during the Civil War. The writer hit page 70, stopped reading, and wrote four pages of scathing comments. I looked at the comments and instantly knew she'd hated it. Worse, she apparently didn't understand why she'd hated it, so she nitpicked at it, trying to find fault over the tiniest thing. A few months later we discovered she was vehemently anti-gun. Guess what was on page 70? A character pulling a gun in a war novel.

I've had that experience too, but I was on the other side. It was when I had little critiquing experience. I read a story and disliked it immensely but couldn't tell why, so I nitpicked every little flaw in the manuscript in an attempt to figure out why I hated it so much. Now I know why: I was offended and I just simply didn't like the story.

The bottom line: One person's opinion is just one opinion, no matter who the person is.

stormie
04-19-2009, 03:47 AM
Agents hold more clout than published writers, definitely. BUT even agents have their own opinions.

Write and write well.

Adam
04-19-2009, 03:49 AM
If it's praise, thank 'em.

If it's criticism, find a second, third and fourth opinion. :D

Linda Adams
04-19-2009, 03:52 AM
It's not really a thriller without guns right?

Sad, but true.

blueobsidian
04-19-2009, 04:25 AM
The bottom line: One person's opinion is just one opinion, no matter who the person is.

QFT.

Fiction is so subjective that one opinion just doesn't mean that much to me, regardless of whether it comes from a published author or not. Just write your novel.

scarletpeaches
04-19-2009, 04:27 AM
The bottom line: One person's opinion is just one opinion, no matter who the person is.

And if that person has the ability to further your writing career...?

HelloKiddo
04-19-2009, 04:32 AM
And if that person has the ability to further your writing career...?

Then it's more useful to you. It's still only one person's opinion. Even if they can help you, that doesn't necessarily make them more right than anybody else. And if they can't help you, there may be somebody else out there who can.

Delhomeboy
04-19-2009, 04:58 AM
Okay, so the real question is, how many people have to tell you it sucks before you know it sucks?

rugcat
04-19-2009, 05:03 AM
I think i'd have to disagree with the idea that everyone's opinion is equal. Everyone has an equal right to hold an opinion, but not all opinions carry the same weight.

If a writer i admire has specific criticisms about my book, i do tend to listen. If a fellow writer whose work I think is mediocre, esp if they can't even see the flaws in their own writing, has a criticism, I tend to take it with a grain of salt.

If an aspiring writer who's work is dreadful but who thinks they're great has a criticism, I'll ignore it.

Being a professional writer is no guarantee of an accurate critical eye, but it does imply a certain degree of competence and understanding of the craft. As a musician, i seek out and listen carefully to the advice and critique of musicians more accomplished than myself.

None of that means you have to accept what they say as truth. But I think you're missing some valuable input if you consider what they have to say no different or valuable than any random person off the street.

Personally, I tend to trust editors over agents. Editors work with novels every day, learning how to make them better. Agents learn more about how to precognize what's salable. Of course, some editors aren't great, and some agents are brilliant.

Chasing the Horizon
04-19-2009, 05:53 AM
If someone tells a writer their work "sucks" they should always be ignored. Telling someone their work sucks is not helpful. It's hurtful, mean-spirited, and in no way constructive. Only petty people with serious issues of their own behave that way.

If a published author complimented my work I would thank them, but I wouldn't necessarily take that to mean my story was awesome. Maybe if they referred me to their agent. :tongue

As for how seriously I would take advice from a published author, it would depend on whether their work showed that they had a similar style and vision to my own. I love Stephen King's work, but would take anything he said with a whole shaker of salt, because my style, voice, and vision are nothing like his.

ChaosTitan
04-19-2009, 06:02 AM
None of that means you have to accept what they say as truth. But I think you're missing some valuable input if you consider what they have to say no different or valuable than any random person off the street.


Ditto.

And Blue's original post referenced potential--a published author saying your writing had potential. I'm honestly surprised at how many folks have implied that a pro-author's opinion won't influence them in the least.

Prior to writing the book that helped me sign with an agent, I'd had two professional writers tell me that I had potential. One is a screenwriter; one is a best-selling author in my genre. If you think those compliments didn't blip my radar... Well, it was a huge ego-boost. And it was enough fuel to keep me trucking forward, despite a long trail of failures behind me.

Of course, on the flip side, if you're going to accept praise, be prepared to accept criticism. The former can keep you moving forward; the latter will make you a better writer.

EFCollins
04-19-2009, 07:28 AM
Well, I've actually been there, and recently too. A published author told me he saw talent in my writing. To be honest? I felt about like I have others who've read my work, but not exactly. He offered advice and showed me where some things did and didn't work and explained. Just like everyone here does. It wasn't much different, but it did have that validity, I guess. Like he's been on my end and succeeded, so it holds merit, yes. Does it make me think I've written something great? Hell, no. People are just people, no matter who they are. It's an opinion, but one I respect, I suppose is what I'm saying. So yeah, it holds a little more merit... But not much more. You have to interest more than ONE reader, after all.

HelloKiddo
04-19-2009, 07:50 AM
I think i'd have to disagree with the idea that everyone's opinion is equal. Everyone has an equal right to hold an opinion, but not all opinions carry the same weight.


I'm honestly surprised at how many folks have implied that a pro-author's opinion won't influence them in the least.

If my post is one of the ones you're referring to, I think you misunderstood. I didn't say that it wouldn't influence me in the least, I said one person's opinion is one person's opinion. The fact that that person is published doesn't necessarily mean much. If that is a person whose work you admire, or who has a great deal of experience in the industry, then it might mean more to you, but it's not the final word on anything.

You write books for readers, not other writers.

CACTUSWENDY
04-19-2009, 08:05 AM
If you publish and pay me lots of money for my book....you can say what ever you want about it. lol If it is just to make me have warm fuzzys....I can find folks by the tons that will say that kind of stuff. The old phrase....'show me the money' is a good one for this type of thing. Like others have said, what one thinks is good another might not like as well.

fringle
04-19-2009, 12:32 PM
if a professional told you or someone else that you have potential, would you believe him?

Yes, if that person could tell me why he felt I had potential.

JJ Cooper
04-19-2009, 01:53 PM
Before I'd finished my first book, a profeesional author read my first three chapters and offered to recommend me to his NYC agent. Looking back, those chapters at that stage were fairly average, but I guess he saw some potential. The thing is, this started me thinking that maybe I could go futher than just finishing a novel (which is all I initially intended doing).

Six months later I had a finished novel, agent (not the NYC one) and publishing deal. I'm sure I would have pushed ahead without that 'nudge' to the confidence, but it sure-as-shit helped.

In the last couple of weeks I've had three international bestselling authors who write the same genre provide comments for my book. I'd certainly take these professional opinions over most.

JJ

Darzian
04-19-2009, 03:00 PM
When it comes to writing, you need to carry out a survey of at least a hundred people to get an accurate idea. And it may still not be very accurate. Talent in writing can be hard to define. It's certainly hard to separate writing talent from various other factors that would biase a reviewer.

ETA: I would probably give a published author's opinion more weight than most. I say 'probably' because there are quite a number of bad books out there. Even when accepting reader reviews, it is important to consider how much that reader actually reads.

thethinker42
04-19-2009, 03:10 PM
There's a writer out there who loves to pick out the authors who he thinks has a lot of talent and potential. At first I thought that a professional author can tell if aspiring authors have potential as authors and who is wasting their time.

Do you think it's possible to find authors like that? If so, if a professional told you or someone else that you have potential, would you believe him?

It would depend on what followed the "because" in "you stink because..."

I'm less concerned with who is telling me something and more concerned with what they're saying.

If someone says, "Your writing sucks because you write trashy, graphic sex," then I'm going to let it go in one ear and out the other.

If someone says, "Your plot relies far too heavily on coincidence and is therefore not believable, so sort it, shithead"...I'm going to listen.

Momento Mori
04-19-2009, 03:23 PM
BlueLucario:
There's a writer out there who loves to pick out the authors who he thinks has a lot of talent and potential.

That's great. Can s/he get you a book deal? Is s/he willing to recommend you to their agent?

If not, then this isn't something worth giving a second's more thought to. Get back to writing and work on your novel.

You keep looking for shortcuts and validation, Blue. There are no shortcuts and validation is meaningless unless it's in the form of an offer of representation and a book deal. All you have to do is keep writing and stop worrying about the other crap.


ChaosTitan:
And Blue's original post referenced potential--a published author saying your writing had potential. I'm honestly surprised at how many folks have implied that a pro-author's opinion won't influence them in the least.

I've had two professional, best-selling authors (one of them a multi-award winner) tell me that I have a lot of talent and that my novel was funny and original and that if and when I get a book deal, to call on them for a blurb. That good feeling it gave me lasted 2 seconds because then I realised that I still had to finish the manuscript, still had to get an agent and still had to get a book deal.

Warm fuzzies are great - I'm not knocking them. But it doesn't make a jot of difference to the work you have to put in.

MM

euclid
04-19-2009, 03:37 PM
I wish. -___-

I'd love to hear his opinion on my writing.

Be careful what you wish for...

If a (famous) (published) author (in your genre) praises your work:

GET IT IN WRITING

Wayne K
04-19-2009, 04:31 PM
If a published author told me that I stink, it woldn't let it bother me.

If a published author told me I was a great writer I would celebrate.


I'm selective about information that will keep me going and keep the faith. I think I'm a good writer, isn't that enough?

WendyNYC
04-19-2009, 05:06 PM
I once had an author I admire tell me that a piece I read aloud was "really, very good writing" and let me tell you, it was such a boost. I remembered what she said every time a rejection came in.

If she would have told me it was terrible, I think I would have taken more time to read and work on my craft before submitting to agents. I'd seek the opinions of others, either through SYW or trusted (and blunt) beta readers. But I wouldn't have given up.

DeleyanLee
04-19-2009, 08:53 PM
True story that happened to a friend of mine.

Friend was in a writing group with a pro author. She'd just finished her first book and gave it to the group for critique. Pro read it since she was part of the group. In talking to a mutual friend (mine and Friend's), Pro said that Friend had a tremendous amount of talent and could wipe the floor with anyone else in the group, including Pro. Mutual Friend agreed, also having read Friend's work in progress.

When the group got together for critique, Pro ripped the book to shreds and told Friend that she sucked, that she'd never make it and pretty much demoralized Friend to the point she threw out that book.

Several months later, Mutual Friend visited Friend and asked about the book, since MFriend never got to read the finished draft. Friend spilled everything Pro had said at the critique meeting and her decision never to write again. MFriend repeated the convo she'd had with Pro and encouraged Friend to take another look at things.

To make a long story a little shorter, Friend went back to writing, and sold the third book she'd ever written. She went on to win the John Campbell and Compton Crook awards and to be published in hard cover. Pro's career sizzled out and is no longer writing.

Everyone who critiques or comments on a book has an agenda. Usually it's an honest attempt to help the author. Sometimes it's fear-based, self-aggrandizing, or otherwise highly destructive reason that the person themselves might not be consciously aware of. Published authors are still people. They still have agendas. Just because they're published doesn't mean that changes. All it means is that the enthusiastic new author is more likely to take what they say to heart and stamp those words into granite, never to be questioned.

I've had published authors tell me I'm good. I've had published author tell me that I had no business trying to write, that everything I've done is wrong, and that I should just "go home, make dinner and have babies" (yes, that's pretty much a quote). Published authors are just people.

I've made the mistake of giving published authors more credence than their opinion deserves and have come to the conclusion that the only opinion I really care about is that of the person with the checkbook who's willing to pay for the work. And even then, I might still tell them to stuff off and walk away if I don't like what they're saying.

scarletpeaches
04-20-2009, 03:30 AM
...If someone says, "Your plot relies far too heavily on coincidence and is therefore not believable, so sort it, shithead"...I'm going to listen.

Who would say something like that?

:D

Adam
04-20-2009, 04:06 AM
Who would say something like that?

:D


Ooh, I get this joke!

*Snoopy dance*

Love being in the loop... ;)