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View Full Version : Interesting blog post by Victoria Strauss about "netiquette"



cllorentson
05-25-2010, 09:11 PM
Someone re-tweeted this to me and I thought it was interesting...

http://accrispin.blogspot.com/2010/05/when-asking-for-help.html

Do you ever get correspondence from people asking for help in such an ungracious manner?

Ineti
05-25-2010, 09:28 PM
Heck, I'm just another writer helping out other writers and I get emails like that regularly. Also get a lot of people asking questions who don't bother to even send a simple "thank you" after responses. Simple professional courtesy is becoming a lost art.

Maryn
05-25-2010, 09:37 PM
I'm way, way below Victoria Strauss's level of success and expertise, but yes, I've had people be that ungracious, hostile, and demanding when I wasn't so mesmerized by their work that I dropped my real life to read on, or when the critique they asked for was actually critical rather than pure praise.

Often such authors are young, and always they're immature. They don't have the confidence in their work (justifiably, in every case) and lash out at anybody who doesn't love it like Mom did. Most often they're fishing for compliments and feel their work should come before my own, or any other demands I may have on my time, like a life.

I had one of these just yesterday, someone whose work I'd been critiquing, gently and cheerily, one page at a time. I called him on not applying what I'd taught him in previous critiques, noting several specifics. He blocked me, reported abuse on my post which got me an (automated) violation notice from the site, and generally behaved like an ass. It's not a lot of comfort to know that he'll probably never even finish his first draft, he's so in need of praise, and that even if he does, he'll never interest a publisher. I don't think I'll be critiquing at that site for some time.

Maryn, weary of teenagers' reactions, even though she really likes teenagers

cllorentson
05-25-2010, 09:48 PM
I think it's so strange to take constructive criticism that way. I've heard of a few horror stories where someone was completely and mercilessly trashed by their critique group, but that has to be a tiny minority.

Every writing journal I've ever read has said, "don't love your words so much that you can't bear a critique of them." Especially if we ask someone for an objective review of our work, it seems like the intelligent thing to do would be to thank them for their time.

Old Hack
05-25-2010, 10:00 PM
I have a blog about publishing and even though I'm no longer working for any publishers, and I've never been an agent in my life, I get submissions every now and then--I got one yesterday, as it happens.

I used to give free crits quite often but I don't any more because of the reactions of a few unpleasant writers (I blogged about a couple of them, here (http://howpublishingreallyworks.com/?p=1577) and here (http://howpublishingreallyworks.com/?p=1222)). It's just not worth the nastiness, I'm afraid.

Medievalist
05-25-2010, 10:00 PM
Someone re-tweeted this to me and I thought it was interesting...

http://accrispin.blogspot.com/2010/05/when-asking-for-help.html

Do you ever get correspondence from people asking for help in such an ungracious manner?

I get entire mss. sent to me as attachments.

I get told it's my duty to provide free translation and research.

cllorentson
05-25-2010, 11:01 PM
I used to give free crits quite often but I don't any more because of the reactions of a few unpleasant writers (I blogged about a couple of them, here (http://howpublishingreallyworks.com/?p=1577) and here (http://howpublishingreallyworks.com/?p=1222)). It's just not worth the nastiness, I'm afraid.

Old Hack,

Read your blog posts...OMG!

And on a side note, my sympathies about your dial-up connection. My parents live in a very small rural area in the South, and only have dial-up. A few years ago, there was a family emergency, and I had to spend a couple of months there...and I had to meet a deadline for several articles I was ghostwriting. I managed to do it, even with dial-up...but dial-up literally makes me want to cry...

Jersey Chick
05-25-2010, 11:13 PM
Echoing the OMG on Old Hack's blog posts. Talk about people needing a whap with the clue by four.

I've gotten a few requests and each time I agreed to answer any questions I could, but made it clear that I would neither read nor critique anything. Only one person ever said thank you (and joined here, I believe - but I don't know if she's active.) Only one. The rest? Nothing.

Maybe it's selfish, but I'll probably refuse to do it again if anyone should ask. I hate thinking that way, but, like everyone else, my time's at a premium. I won't waste on someone who doesn't have the common decency to say "Thank you."

NeuroFizz
05-25-2010, 11:26 PM
I stopped critting in SYW because too many posters didn't like the "tone" of my crits, which in each case (upon further correspondence), meant I had the balls to find something in their golden words that actually needed some work, and how dare I only point out areas for improvement without ringing in with glowing words for parts that were stellar (even if I couldn't find or understand them).

I found, very quickly, that all of my efforts to help people avoid the mistakes I made when I was starting out were just pissing into a stiff wind--in their hands, those mistakes weren't mistakes at all, but rather an expression of their vision as an artist and indicative of their unique brand of creativity (how dare I suggest they stifle it).

Fulk
05-25-2010, 11:32 PM
Absolutely insane but unfortunately predictable that this sort of behavior happens. Can you imagine what their reaction to the whole query/submission/revision process would be? A week is nothing in the world of publishing, and an ungrateful attitude like that sounds like a fast track to the end of a writing career before it begins.

Having no foot in the publishing or writing world myself yet, I don't get nasty or friendly mail asking for tips, but I've been on the other end. I posted a draft of a short story to SYW once which got no responses, and so I asked some kind folks in the AW IRC to take a peek and give me some critique. One person told me bluntly that they didn't bother reading further than the first paragraph. Rough? Sure, but exactly what I needed to hear, and I thanked them for it.

EDIT: I remember reading Old Hack's blog about ingrates before, and thinking of it still makes me cringe. Some people.

Gretad08
05-25-2010, 11:53 PM
I'm going through this now, for the first time. The people at work know that I write and they always ask me to edit/compose/critique anything they need from e-mails to advertising. In this case, a co-worker wrote an article about the process she went through to learn of her daughter's Cerebral Palsy diagnosis and asked me to take a look at it.

It's...okay. Well, she's in LOVE with it and has decided quote: "I think this is awesome. I'm getting it published."

(So that's how this whole publishing thing works! *facepalm* Anything I've written I can just "Get it published!" Um...yeah.)

So I responded that I really liked the tone of her article blah blah blah, and I'd be happy to help her clean it up a bit.

Haven't heard from her since.

Kitty27
05-26-2010, 12:18 AM
This is a serious lack of home training.

I have a thousand questions about everything. If someone is patient and kind enough to offer me advice,I thank them. They didn't have to do it.


I've been in a crit group from hell and the experience was trying. But I found people who are ruthless but in a good way. Nothing beats a thorough critique. If you cannot stand a critique from fellow writers,how in the world are you going to stand getting published?

Then when someone gives you a fair and balanced critique,you STILL get a stank attitude? To put it rudely,bitch,please.


Either these people have a very fragile ego or they are completely insane.

Phaeal
05-26-2010, 06:25 PM
Heh, I like to hold off giving crits on SYW and in other situations until I see how the writer reacts to legitimate concerns. Any sign of entitlement issues or defensiveness, and I don't waste time on that writer.

Anyone out there looking for free help? The correct thing to say to any response (a crit however incisive or lame, a delay, a sorry-no-time) is THANK YOU. Preferably on the expensive stationery.

cwfgal
05-26-2010, 07:04 PM
I have so been there and done that. It's why I no longer beta, no longer read mss for people, and rarely critique. I've found that too many of the people who ask for that sort of feedback don't really want it, they want praise and accolades and nothing more. And they can be quite vicious and scary when they don't get it.

Beth

shaldna
05-26-2010, 07:55 PM
Heh, I like to hold off giving crits on SYW and in other situations until I see how the writer reacts to legitimate concerns. Any sign of entitlement issues or defensiveness, and I don't waste time on that writer.


And this is why I generally don't give crits.

Southern Girl
05-26-2010, 10:21 PM
I seriously don't get this.

Why would you ask for help and then refuse it? It's just...ignorant.

I went the beta route with a few people and there were some who I gave a sample of my critiqueing style to. They were gracious but then basically told me I didn't know what I was talking about and they weren't changing anything. If I said a word, they either turned nasty, hateful and rude or stone cold silent.

Ok.

Fine by me. But don't ask if you don't want to know, seriously. I've run into other betas who really appreciated the feedback and didn't tell me whether or not they planned to change anything, which I preferred. Writers have been right on occasion, and I respect that. I'm all for trusting your gut instinct. Yet sitting there and arguing is just freaktarded. And annoying. And why I don't beta anymore unless I know the person.

Maybe I'm insufferable, but I ask someone a question wanting an answer in return. I give a damn about their tone and their delivery - people are people. Unless they are outright nasty for no discernible reason, I don't care how the answer is given.

But my skin has toughened up quite a bit since I started taking my writing career seriously. I don't have time now to whine and wonder why someone was rude, or to hold someone's hand when they're doing it. I don't give a flip anymore, to be honest. I'm professional to others and if they aren't the same to me, I move on. No big loss.

Tirjasdyn
05-27-2010, 12:06 AM
It took me a long time to find a good critique group. I love my group...but it was hard to find.

Every couple of months some one has showed up who will not share their work because they are scared we'll steal it. Or has an opus they want praise for and runs crying foul at the critique. A simple thanks seems to be beyond most people.

In my search for a group I joined one group which thought it was obscene to want anything published and only praise was allowed instead of actual critique. It was a little silly.

My last job I ran afoul of the "oh your a writer" problem. I suddenly became responsible for proofing and editing all copy that passed my desk...I was not a staff writer or editor, but a web designer. Rewriting and editing copy cut deeply into my other work (what I was actually hired to do) and caused a bit strife between me and the editors whose job I was doing. When I complained I was told that I was a writer as well and should be able to do this in my sleep as well as get my regular work done on time. Made me want to pull my hair out.

scarletpeaches
05-27-2010, 01:21 AM
I stopped critting in SYW because too many posters didn't like the "tone" of my crits, which in each case (upon further correspondence), meant I had the balls to find something in their golden words that actually needed some work, and how dare I only point out areas for improvement without ringing in with glowing words for parts that were stellar (even if I couldn't find or understand them).

I found, very quickly, that all of my efforts to help people avoid the mistakes I made when I was starting out were just pissing into a stiff wind--in their hands, those mistakes weren't mistakes at all, but rather an expression of their vision as an artist and indicative of their unique brand of creativity (how dare I suggest they stifle it).I think I love you.

Just...don't tell anyone. They'll think I've gone soft.

MaryMumsy
05-27-2010, 01:52 AM
I went the beta route with a few people and there were some who I gave a sample of my critiqueing style to. They were gracious but then basically told me I didn't know what I was talking about and they weren't changing anything. If I said a word, they either turned nasty, hateful and rude or stone cold silent.

I don't write but I've read widely, in a variety of genres. I beta for a small group of writers. I warn them up front that I pull no punches, but try not to be deliberately mean. On one a couple of years ago (when I was still editing on hard copy) I drew big purple Xs on several pages in a row and wrote NO in block capitals. It didn't advance the story, it didn't make sense, and it served no purpose. She didn't fight me, and took out all that stuff. And the person who was actually critting for her rather than betaing agreed with me. In the unlikely event any of these writers develop golden word syndrome, I won't beta for them any more.

MM

KathleenD
05-27-2010, 05:26 AM
I figured out how to solve the problem.

I call myself a freelance editor and charge thirty bucks an hour. Fifty if it's unspeakably bad.

I'm not even kidding. When I gave feedback for free, I got a load of sturm und bitchin. When I charged for it, I got respect. There's something about knowing there will be an invoice that makes people want to shut up long enough to learn something.

Also, the people willing to pay are already aware that there is something about their writing that is keeping them from being published. The ones looking for freebies (from me - I can't and won't speak for people in SYW, having never looked there) think they need a light sanding with a very fine grit paper to be Perfect.

juniper
05-27-2010, 07:36 AM
This is the second time I've read here recently about people not wanting to crit in SYW because the writers just want to hear good things and get angry and nasty if not told how great they are.

I dunno, I posted part of a short story there in March and received some good feedback. Made me go back through the MS and really look at it. I sent PMs to a couple of people expressing my thanks. I want weaknesses pointed out.

I realize not everyone in SYW does, though. My first lame attempt at critting there was, unfortunately, in a thread which was closed due to the OP being wacko. He was of the "I showed this to my friends and they loved it and you guys are all really stupid here" variety. :crazy:

Yeah, that turned me off some, but I'd hate for SYW to be a ghost town. There was a suggestion in one of the threads that people be required to have a certain # of posts before able to post there - perhaps that would be helpful in dissuading the non-serious folks.

Polenth
05-27-2010, 10:35 AM
People used to ask me when I was more involved in roleplaying (and I wasn't a writer). There were a lot of aspiring writers in the roleplay community. My best guess is they saw me as a non-writing reader, who'd offer gushing praise because I didn't know about writing.

They got a full critique. No one sent me a story twice...

...with one exception, who is my critique partner today. It can work out sometimes.


This is the second time I've read here recently about people not wanting to crit in SYW because the writers just want to hear good things and get angry and nasty if not told how great they are

I was actually discouraged by something else. I tend to pick out a few main points and comment on those, rather than doing a full critique. There was a certain amount of complaint about people 'not bothering' to do a full line-by-line and how mean it was not to put the effort in for the author.

I suspect this is another form of 'how could you not like it?!', because it implies the shorter critique means the person commenting didn't really read it and couldn't possibly know what they were talking about.

ishtar'sgate
05-28-2010, 12:14 AM
I seriously don't get this.

Why would you ask for help and then refuse it? It's just...ignorant.

I went the beta route with a few people and there were some who I gave a sample of my critiqueing style to. They were gracious but then basically told me I didn't know what I was talking about and they weren't changing anything. If I said a word, they either turned nasty, hateful and rude or stone cold silent.

I think the problem is they're expecting you to gush and tell them how great they are and there isn't a single thing wrong with their manuscript. Occassionally I have a weak moment and agree to a lengthy critique. I'm always always sorry I did because they're ticked off or don't respond at all. Now my husband even gets after me. If he finds anyone's pages lying around he says, "I thought you weren't doing those any more. You know what they're like." I get all sheepish and say, "I know. I know. This is the last one."

nighttimer
05-31-2010, 06:33 AM
Most people don't want honesty. They want an echo. They want to be told they're the greatest writer living and once their genius is recognized they will make King, Grisham and Rowling look like lucky hacks.

We recently had a person drop out of our writer's group because they said we were "hostile" and we were not "nourishing" of her New Age advice book about how to live your true inner self instead of your untrue outer self. She said her training was in psychology, not writing, but she wrote how she felt. Oh, brother.

I'm not trying to crush anyone's dreams, but don't ask me to critique your work and then jump on my butt because I'm not recognizing your genius. I'm doing you the favor, sport. Not the other wasy around.

Some people are stoked for only unqualified praise. Anything else and they bare their fangs. Later for that. Let your mama read it if the only vieewpoint you can handle is one that strokes your ego.

Alitriona
05-31-2010, 11:34 PM
I don't like bad news, no one does, but at the same time I'm grateful for honesty. I'm also grateful if anyone takes the time to read anything I've written.

No one owes me anything, but I have encountered people who believe everyone should jump up and down to help them out and then they don't like what they hear.

And as said already writing is such a long process, a week is nothing at all.

scarletpeaches
05-31-2010, 11:37 PM
Most people don't want honesty. They want an echo. They want to be told they're the greatest writer living and once their genius is recognized they will make King, Grisham and Rowling look like lucky hacks.

We recently had a person drop out of our writer's group because they said we were "hostile" and we were not "nourishing" of her New Age advice book about how to live your true inner self instead of your untrue outer self. She said her training was in psychology, not writing, but she wrote how she felt. Oh, brother.

I'm not trying to crush anyone's dreams, but don't ask me to critique your work and then jump on my butt because I'm not recognizing your genius. I'm doing you the favor, sport. Not the other wasy around.

Some people are stoked for only unqualified praise. Anything else and they bare their fangs. Later for that. Let your mama read it if the only vieewpoint you can handle is one that strokes your ego.You make my cold, black heart sing.