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kayleamay
09-19-2009, 08:34 AM
So, I just got off the phone with a friend who is a published author. I was talking to him about my brief experience here and the SYW threads, etc. He laughed at me and told me to stop visiting these sites. Period.

I asked him why and he told me, "I've been there and done that, and I can tell you that only about one in every hundred comments about your work on a writer's website is actually worth anything. Trust your your betas and trust your editors and DO NOT listen to anyone else. Your writing was better when you stayed in your cave."

He's read my novel and liked it (for a girlie book). I forced him to read my query and he agreed that it was shite. I'm just curious, how much stock do the rest of you put in SYW comments?

Please, oh wise OP posters, share your wisdom. The inquiring cave dweller wants to know.

slcboston
09-19-2009, 08:41 AM
As much stock as I put in the betas or other sources - which is to say, I take all of it with a grain of salt. No one critter or beta or anything else is necessarily going to sway me on something. If I get lots of people saying the same thing, then it's time to consider it, or if the comments are in line with thoughts I was having, then too.

But I would take issue with the idea that a community like this is less useful. (I would also point out we have a number of published authors here, who visit and comment in SYW) I think a lot of times the SYW areas get a bad rap bcs people post and then get harsher comments than they were expecting, and so it turns them off.

And while sometimes I have found some of the critters off-base, whether bcs it was the wrong story for them, the wrong kind of story, or just something they didn't like, in the main that's *not* been the case. They also have the advantage over a beta in that you can post something and get comments back quickly, from a number of people.

Like any other resource, this one is all in how you use it.

kaitie
09-19-2009, 08:44 AM
I've only recently started coming here, but I do know that I've seen some good suggestions that have helped me with things I wouldn't have thought of before. I wouldn't follow every suggestion I was given, but there are some good ones out there.

I think for me the best help has come in being around people more experienced than me. It's given me insight and taken away the nervousness I had about the whole process. Well...most of the nervousness. I'm not longer afraid of getting rejections, and I have a better idea of what agents are looking for.

scarletpeaches
09-19-2009, 08:47 AM
And exactly who is your friend published with, might I ask? How many copies has he sold? Sounds to me like someone got a bad crit on one of these sites.

Truth be told, a lot of writing sites are circle-jerks for people who want praise, not criticism. This one? Good god no.

How much stock do I put in SYW? Well to be honest most of my crits and synopses are done privately. I only swap work with people whose honesty I can count on, and whose work is at the same level (or slightly higher than) mine. I just don't accept crits from people who don't know their semi-colons from their hyphens, or who say things like, "Okay, do it this way." Uh, no. It's my book. Not yours. I'm looking for issues of clarity and communication, not where you'd put the ninjas and sparkly vampires.

If you never put your work out there, though, how do you know you're improving? How else can you compare it to the standards of the industry?

Places like this are for open discussion of things like adverbs, flashbacks and show-don't-tell. One might be able to apply all the rules to one's novel but sometimes it takes a fresh pair of eyes - either in SYW or privately - to give it the once over and say "Yes, you've got it," or "Needs work."

I want crits that tell me where I'm going wrong, and where the issues are cloudy, not how the crittier (ha!) would write it.

Sage
09-19-2009, 08:57 AM
At a small writers convention I went to a few weeks ago, the copyeditors had a panel and they said not to trust any crits you get. Why? Because either the people giving the comments don't want to hurt your feelings (like your friends and family) so they find everything wonderful, or the people giving crits want you to fail so they give you bad advice or overcriticize you. And I sat there thinking of AW and the crits I've received here and crits I've given and decided that was a bunch of bull. Sure, some crits are going to be bad, some overanalyze everything, and maybe once in a great while you might get someone who wants you to fail, but overall the critters here are doing so to be helpful.

However, you should definitely take all crits and think carefully before applying them. In a group setting like this, even multiple people saying one thing, does not necessarily make it true. I know there are times where once someone says a certain thing is wrong, a bunch of people will suddenly jump on that specific thing. Now this might mean it *is* really wrong, but it might be something that is minor, but got picked up after the first mention of it. So personally, I like betas better than SYW crits (my betas are from AW too) because I know that the readers who agree with each other, did so not being influenced by each other. But that's just my personal preference

JoNightshade
09-19-2009, 09:03 AM
SYW is casual and it's fairly anonymous. I think it's a good testing ground for your work, and also for learning how to accept and incorporate feedback. I've used it only a couple of times, I think mainly for opening pages and particular scenes that I wasn't sure were working the way they were supposed to.

As others have said, it's all in how you incorporate the advice you get. For me, SYW helped me to grow thick skin. Now that I have that, in-depth crits I get (from betas - found here on AW and IRL) are much more valuable. If I'd not had the blunt and yes, sometimes totally off-the-wall crits I got in SYW, I would still be sitting in a corner crying every time someone suggested my writing wasn't perfect.

Just remember that you're the boss, so you can either take crits or leave them. If you don't let them hurt you, then they can only be helpful - you leave what you don't like and take the valuable stuff. So why stay away?

bettielee
09-19-2009, 09:07 AM
I've seen snarky crits and crits done with one hand waving in the air with the attitude, "Of well, if you want to do it this stupid way, at least..." blah blah blah. But the majority of crits I've seen are done with the hope of helping people. I think it's obvious when someone is truly fixing a mistake or a fuzzy element. I mean, come on. If you can't tell what helps and what doesn't, then yeah, the crit is crap, and disregard. But so often I have seen a crit'er dust the wheat from the chaff and clear it up.

And what about the benefit you get from doing crits for other people? I thought I would suck horribly at it, but I've enjoyed the few I've done, and learned so much. It's funny how you can other's mistakes, then look at your own work and go... that's what's wrong!

There is also a lot to gain from reading the crits done for others. If I didn't have such dry eyes, I would spend a lot more time in SYW...

alleycat
09-19-2009, 09:11 AM
I only rarely post anything in SYW. I think I've only posed a couple of things there since I've been here (except for some 100-word horror stories a group of us were doing just for fun).

Generally, I'd much rather work with one or two beta readers than get comments from a group of ten different people. There's a more natural back-and-forth flow that way and we can get to know each other and understand a critical comment without having to go into a lot of detail.

However, last year I posted a children's PB story in SYW because I thought it "kind of sucked" but I wasn't exactly sure why. Two or three people kindly agreed with me . . . that it sucked. They also offered some comments that were helpful and I think helped me to improve the story. Also, posting something in SYW and getting a little feedback can help to get you started on a revision if you've been putting it off.

No matter what critique I receive in SYW, good or bad, I always send the person who has taken the time to read my stuff and comment a rep thanking them. As far as I know I have never failed to do this; if I have, it was a mere oversight.

kayleamay
09-19-2009, 09:21 AM
A lot of good insight here. I'm not really an expert in SYW because I've posted very little there. The results have been mixed. I've found some of the input incredibly helpful and some...not so much. My betas are not from AW, but I trust them because they will openly tell me if something sucks and suggest how to improve it. (But even they sometimes disagree.)

As for my friend, he's pubbed two books with Penguin and one with Tor, all sold well. I've known him for twenty years and he's not the bitter type, but he is a loner in every sense of the word. I value his advice. Unfortunately, I'm not as skilled or talented as he is so I NEED resources.

I guess it's just like everything else in life. Look at all the options, then use the ones that work. Right? Right?

(I do miss my cave sometimes though.) :)

scarletpeaches
09-19-2009, 09:23 AM
I have an idea for a discussion regarding caves. But I've been off my tits on a) a migraine b) medication for A and c) no non-chemical sleep in two days so best not just yet, I think.

alleycat
09-19-2009, 09:30 AM
I think a lot would depend too on the person posting in SYW. For some, the feedback would be very helpful; for others it might shake their confidence in their own voice so much that they become indecisive about what to do (especially if they're new writers and think their writing is great, only to hear for the first time that others aren't quite so impressed).

I think it is good for new writers to get some comments from people outside their circle of friends and family, whether in a forum like SYW or with some beta readers.

kayleamay
09-19-2009, 09:31 AM
I have an idea for a discussion regarding caves. But I've been off my tits on a) a migraine b) medication for A and c) no non-chemical sleep in two days so best not just yet, I think.

You can sleep it off in my cave. It's cool, dark and silent. Perfect place to deal with a migraine and I know how to keep a person medicated. :D

bettielee
09-19-2009, 10:52 AM
If nothing else, SYW is a great excercise in thickening the skin.

As I repped Kayleamay. And as I told her, I thought my comment was so goshdarn insightful I should inflict it on you all.

Consider yourself inflicted.

Priene
09-19-2009, 12:06 PM
No matter what critique I receive in SYW, good or bad, I always send the person who has taken the time to read my stuff and comment a rep thanking them.

My reps:critiques ratio is running at about one in five. Reading some of the aggrived PMs I've received, I sometimes wonder if critiquing is there to thicken the skin of the critiquer.

Mumut
09-19-2009, 12:17 PM
I've received crits in AW and they've been spot on. I haven't accepted everything but I've learnt a lot. So I'd say, don't necessarily accept generalities. If the majority of crits tell you something, take notice.

Mr Flibble
09-19-2009, 12:57 PM
1: 100?

No. Really. My writing has improved tremendously since I came here, via SYW and betas ( two of whom are in this thread. Thanks guys!)

BUT

Of course there's a but - look at what the crits say. I've had comments that make no sense at all. I ignore them. I've had comments that, if I followed them, would radically alter my voice to that of the poster. I ignore them. I've had comments that were outright bizzare or patently bad advice. Guess what I do with them? ( note these comments weren't here). And I've had comments that might have worked, or might not, because after all it's subjective.

Sift the comments, see what makes sense, what is working with your style not against it, find comments on basic structure etc. ( maybe filter through the posters and pay more attention to those whose opinion you respect. But it's still not gospel) Keep those. Maybe incorporate them, but at least consider them, and how they fit with how and what you write. Use the ones that make you go 'Of course! How did I not see that!' or 'Actually that would work really well.' Ignore the rest - but thank everyone

If you take everyone's crit - you'll only end up with 'book by committee' and that's not good. You can't please everyone and you shouldn't try.

Tha doesn't mean you can't learn from a crit. Just remember nothing is set in stone, no one person will have the 'golden comment' that will magically make your work shine.

Wayne K
09-19-2009, 02:23 PM
Tell your friend to check out AW before dropping a generalization like that. SYW has improved my writing tremendously. I already have thick skin, prison and the streets did that. What i needed was guidance. I have no idea what other writer sites are like, but this one is great. Most sites charge money for what you get here free.

AW rocks.

Ken
09-19-2009, 03:02 PM
... I wouldn't pay much attention to what he has to say if he's refering to your ms as a 'girlie book.' If he is biased in this way he probably is biased in many other ways as well. So even if he is knowlegable, his opinion is not to be trusted. As to SYW, the feedback I got when I posted a story was invaluable. I didn't agree with it all, but then that's not the point of SYW. The purpose of the forum is to get one thinking about what 'might' be done, rather than what 'should' be done. Writers have to ultimately make the choice about what is best for their work, and feedback from others can aid that process.

Dawnstorm
09-19-2009, 04:04 PM
I guess it's just like everything else in life. Look at all the options, then use the ones that work. Right? Right?

Right.

It's this line that struck me about your original post:


Your writing was better when you stayed in your cave.

What's that about? Passive-voice-and-adverb aversion? Theory consciousness while writing? Anit-loner prejudice on your friend's side?

When I came to online writing fora in 2003 (not AW), I started on a mission to rescue texts from author-revisions based on template-critiques. I disagreed a lot with critiquers, and defended the text, showing what the edited-out pieces were supposed to accomplish, and how editing out these pieces impoverish the text, etc. I rarely did critiques of my own; mostly I did "rescue missions". I usually only jumped in with my own advice if there were concrete questions: "Something about the way X affects Y doesn't work, but I can't figure out what. Help?" These are easier, and I'm more likely to be helpful.

I was - and am, I suppose - a bit of a git, that way. Always rambling about "no rules" - as if everything was a cause that way. Bah!

The point? Take that line seriously. It's just his opinion, but he has the benefit of a before/after comparison, which we all lack. His personal experience, though, is an experience of being himself, not an experience of being you. Easy to forget that. We all have to make our own mistakes, and then, later in life, we have to fefrain from told-you-sos when others don't take the advice we inevitably dish out (I call it "making social noises"). And that's it, really.

I still think that sounding more and more like a creative writing template is the opposite of improvement, and that texts in danger of that deserve rescuing. Not from me, though. I get too ranty, which is rarely productive, and - worse - too repetitive to be entertaining.

regdog
09-19-2009, 04:28 PM
In my opinion, if SYW wasn't any good why are there so many published writers here at AW?

Yes, it is impossible to take every single comment from every single crit and make them all work in one query. But gathering the information and learning from those who have been successful and helped others be successful is invaluable.

There are also differing degrees of success. Some people desire nothing more than a publishing contract. Others are happy with acceptances to small magazines, websites etc. To dismiss it as all or nothing all is silly

kayleamay
09-19-2009, 09:54 PM
More great advice and I appreciate it. As for the bit about my cave, I have always written for personal reasons and in the past have required nudges (okay, elbows to the ribs) to share what I've written. My friend is the type of person who could live happily without any human contact for years. I am not.

I realize that AW is the most practical tool a writer could ask for. I just wanted to find out what the rest of you think.

Ambrosia
09-19-2009, 10:25 PM
Your friend is operating in a vacuum. I used to do that. I have found since joining AW that my creativity has skyrocketed. He is missing out on the wonder of being in a group of creative people.

I am personally glad you are here, Kaylea. I would suggest you invite your friend here. He might change his mind. The benefit of SYW is not the main benefit of AW.

brainstorm77
09-20-2009, 01:57 AM
I've had great advice on SYW and advice that I thought was way off. Yet I'd post again because the great advice has helped my writing.

P.S. He called your novel a girlie book? WTF IS THAT about?

kayleamay
09-20-2009, 02:14 AM
I've had great advice on SYW and advice that I thought was way off. Yet I'd post again because the great advice has helped my writing.

P.S. He called your novel a girlie book? WTF IS THAT about?

LOL. I know he sounds like a complete a-hole and the truth is...he's a complete a-hole. He is the most pigheaded and brutish person I have ever met and after knowing him for over half my life I am CERTAIN he will not change. Ever. He will die alone in a room full of cats. He knows this and is perfectly happy with it. I suspect no one will find his rotting corpse until the neighbors start to complain about the smell.

However, he does have a redeeming side. He's the wittiest person I've ever met and has such an oddball outlook on life that one convo with him will leave you thinking for a week.

As for me, I'm okay with being here. I don't mind the criticism and feel that it has been useful and forced me to rethink some of my methods (in a good way). AND, I don't plan on dying alone in a room full of cats. ;)

Dawnstorm
09-20-2009, 03:15 AM
alone in a room full of cats

I take issue with that phrase. You're not alone in a room full of cats. You are with lots of cats.

brainstorm77
09-20-2009, 03:17 AM
LOL. I know he sounds like a complete a-hole and the truth is...he's a complete a-hole. He is the most pigheaded and brutish person I have ever met and after knowing him for over half my life I am CERTAIN he will not change. Ever. He will die alone in a room full of cats. He knows this and is perfectly happy with it. I suspect no one will find his rotting corpse until the neighbors start to complain about the smell.

However, he does have a redeeming side. He's the wittiest person I've ever met and has such an oddball outlook on life that one convo with him will leave you thinking for a week.

As for me, I'm okay with being here. I don't mind the criticism and feel that it has been useful and forced me to rethink some of my methods (in a good way). AND, I don't plan on dying alone in a room full of cats. ;)

He really does sound like a winner....;)

bettielee
09-20-2009, 03:20 AM
LOL. I know he sounds like a complete a-hole and the truth is...he's a complete a-hole. He is the most pigheaded and brutish person I have ever met and after knowing him for over half my life I am CERTAIN he will not change. Ever. He will die alone in a room full of cats. He knows this and is perfectly happy with it. I suspect no one will find his rotting corpse until the neighbors start to complain about the smell.

However, he does have a redeeming side. He's the wittiest person I've ever met and has such an oddball outlook on life that one convo with him will leave you thinking for a week.


uhmm.... are you talking about me?

brainstorm77
09-20-2009, 03:22 AM
I have one cat :)

astonwest
09-20-2009, 04:45 AM
As with any crits you receive, from any source, it's best to take it all into consideration against what you feel is best for the story. Specifics are always better than general praise/complaints.

I haven't posted to SYW in quite a while, just because I haven't had anything that needed that level of critique in that time...to discount possible feedback on the say-so of anyone is a mistake.

Ol' Fashioned Girl
09-20-2009, 06:15 AM
I have three cats and no doubt whatsoever that if I die and Ol' Boy is already gone before me or is out of town, they'll eat me. I won't have a chance to stink.

brainstorm77
09-20-2009, 06:17 AM
I love cats and dogs.. I'd have a dog in a heartbeat but working 12 hrs at a time and having him couped up would not be fair :(

kayleamay
09-20-2009, 07:19 AM
I love cats and dogs.. I'd have a dog in a heartbeat but working 12 hrs at a time and having him couped up would not be fair :(

I can relate.

(BTW, I am still here. ;) )

KellyAssauer
09-20-2009, 09:35 AM
I'd given up on writing when a friend told me about this site and I came over and got excited and inspired and went to work on my poetry. I posted some on the poetry side of SYW and eventually got frustrated and sat it back down. But one unfinished novel called me back. In the literary SYW I found a home and in all this time I have found but one Beta reader, and that of course came about when he asked me to read something (so he owes me) =) Fortunately I understood his work and agreed. I still post there, perhaps too much, but the feedback is so varied that I've learned that the SYW is like a chest of tools. Some of the crits and opinions I can pick up and use, some of them I just can't, but I believe that my writing has improved in bounds, and I can see those early mistakes now before I make them. I'm not ready to go without it yet, or at least I don't think so. Of course I'd love to hear from anyone here in the OP as to what they think... even if it's just in a PM... I'm sticking around, I think I have a little ways to go before I'm comfortable in prose!

Matera the Mad
09-20-2009, 09:55 AM
All comments are useful -- even the most dumbassed ones. It is good to get as much variety in readers as possible. The sloppy readers give you an idea of how easily your words can be misinterpreted. The attentive ones poop gold nuggets. Betas are the best thing in the world, but they can be hard to find, and there are certainly some excellent critters here.

Of course, when the dust settles I am in my comfy cave making my own decisions -- and killing my own darlings.

Smish
09-20-2009, 10:34 AM
I find SYW to be a great resource. There's always at least one comment that's useful and inspiring. Also, through the SYW forum, I've found critique partners and beta readers. So, for me at least, joining AW was probably the wisest decision I've ever made as a writer.

:)Smish

kayleamay
09-20-2009, 11:38 AM
All comments are useful -- even the most dumbassed ones. It is good to get as much variety in readers as possible. The sloppy readers give you an idea of how easily your words can be misinterpreted. The attentive ones poop gold nuggets. Betas are the best thing in the world, but they can be hard to find, and there are certainly some excellent critters here.

Of course, when the dust settles I am in my comfy cave making my own decisions -- and killing my own darlings.

1) I want to laminate ^that^ and post it on my office wall.
2) I'm comfy in my cave too, but I still need to come out every once in awhile or else I'll mutate and my eyes will disappear...like those transparent lizards they show on The Discovery Channel.
3) I just received some of the greatest criticism yet via PM. This is input I would never have received anywhere but AW and has set the wheels in my mind in motion again.
4) I need to shut up now. I have to research, rewrite, re-post. I WILL write a query letter worthy of more than toilet paper eventually. I will, I say!

brokenfingers
09-20-2009, 03:32 PM
Hmmm, like all things, this depends on the writer. For those who are farther along on their writing journey, I’d say these numbers aren’t far off.

SYW, and sites like these, have a very mixed bag of members offering criticisms and advice. Some of it’s good and some if it isn’t. Some applies to the writer in question, and some doesn’t. Not all feedback is created equal.

As you go along and write more, and better develop your voice, style and storytelling tools, you need a more focused type of feedback. Someone closer to your target reader. Some beta readers. The ideal, to me, would be two writers, of equal or greater skill than you, and two readers who know nothing about writing, but love reading the genre you’re writing in.

The thing is, for a lot of writers, once you reach a certain point of ability, the problems become murkier and are harder to correct through short crits. And a lot of those problems will be perceptual. Some critters like detailed passages, some like sparse prose, some like characters like A, some like characters like B, some like this style, some like that style, etc.

Some will find fault in this, some will find fault in that. No piece of writing ever written has not had some detractors somewhere. So, after a certain point in your writing arc, you need to find people whose opinions you respect and, again, closely match your target audience, and then listen to them.