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Author Topic: preparing for the beatings
Member # 10397

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Standing in the dark doorway with my thumb-drive in a clenched fist, a single step separating this current blissful ignorance from certain lingering castigation, I hesitate. Those doubt-demons I have exorcised have only been hiding in the recesses of my rubble strewn brain pan. They have been waiting, gaining and holding strength in check for this moment.

They're baaaack!

Seriously. How do we prepare for the critical beatings the world will unleash upon us? Over the years I have been working on this monstrosity, I have undergone some real verbal brutality from "readers".

"You are kidding? Xena has been done, done and done. Maybe try landscaping!"

In another thread one of you remarked how receiving the HM for WotF had the effect of shutting you down for a bit. So when/what if the reviewer stomps me into a mud puddle. Not really looking for a magic answer, just wondering how you folks handle such as that. I know it is coming at me. What are the chances that the first attempt be devoid of holes and shortfalls? Zero. At what point do you stop editing? Listening to input? Do you ever tell the reviewer to take a hike?

I am grateful that you folks are willing to cut to the bone when giving input, but without the insulting tone.

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Member # 9682

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I have undergone some real verbal brutality from "readers".

Not sure what point you're trying to make with this. If they're literate, and they read your work, they're readers.

How do we prepare for the critical beatings the world will unleash upon us?
I don't think there is "preparing" for it. You pull a Rocky. You take the hits, you bruise, you bleed, spittle drips from your lips, blood dribbles from your nose, but you keep going back for more because you have no choice but to keep fighting. You have nothing to lose and everything to gain.

Do you ever tell the reviewer to take a hike?
I've been told to take a hike many times. Sometimes from a snarky response, sometimes directly. I suppose that makes the writer feel good for a moment, but I'm not sure it accomplishes anything beyond momentary relief.

Just thank people and move on. This sounds like a cliche, but you genuinely never know what someone has said will resonate with you one day far down the line.

I say this often now, but always keep in mind. If you're satisfied with the results you're getting from your writing, then you don't have to listen to anyone you don't want to listen to. But if you aren't satisfied with the result you're getting, acknowledge you need help, remain receptive, and keep your ears open.

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Member # 8368

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You never stop listening to input. It may be time to stop playing with this story, but the critique may still make your next story better.

However, just because some one reader picks on something, doesn't mean you need to fix it. If two or three point out the same thing, well . . .

Also remember the maxim that a reader is often right about a problem, but rarely right about the solution. That's up to you and what you think fits your story--if you decide it needs to be fixed.

You never tell a reviewer to take a hike. Ever. Now, I'm not sure where you are in this process and whether you're actually talking about a reviewer--in which case never respond in any way to either good or bad reviews--or a critique partner. If the latter, just thank them and file the suggestion wherever you think it belongs--up to and including the round file.

If you're dealing with a critique partner who is unnecessarily negative--not just pointing out the plot holes or flaws--then just shrug it off and don't send anything to that reader again. They're not the right critique partner for you.

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One and one only comment type from readers, reviewers, critics, editors, publishers -- other than an impersonal and flat decline notice -- evidences sincerity: noted strengths. If comments are disproportioned to shortfalls at the expense of strengths, then, to me, matters of private and subjective sentiments and sensibilities prevail rather than meaningful and objective insights.

Predominately shortfall commentary expresses responder critique naivete, peevish self-involvement -- an inappropriate and untimely usurpation of private ownership; personal objections to topical matters -- usually a value system to which a responder takes exception; or artistic jealousy: the latter three typically disguised by a veneer of misdirection. Critique naivete is the more common one by far. The others are insidious.

An impersonal decline notice, as frustrating as one is, expresses volumes. Most often, the decline is due to a host of shortfalls, not the least of which is sending unsuitable work to a house which declines the type of work: science fiction to a mystery journal, erotica to a PG-13 rated publisher, political prose to an inpirations publisher, gratuitous violence and sex, etc., to most any house; ad infinitum. Shotgun submission practices are rife, not considering a house's creative slant and just sending to any or all reader, house, reviewer, critic, discussion board, etc., and, consequently, raising ire from the imposition on and waste of busy persons' time.

Many screening readers report, if glaring disruptions number more than three on a first page, they're done and issue a decline notice: grammar shortfalls is any easy decline; still-life action is an easy decline; stale, derivative, diluted plots and motifs is an easy decline. Here's a game played out in screening readers' minds: I can decline a story in ten words within five seconds or less. That's a simple matter of expediency. Submissions flood in; keeping up with lackluster and menial-tedious submissions is an onerous chore, requiring snap decisions.

All that in mind -- that's how I cope. I dissect responses as closely as I do narratives.

Doubt is a many-horned beast, too; some doubt from genuine aesthetic hunches a work really isn't ready for debut and little or no insight what to do about it, some from emotional insecurity and low resilience to negative evaluation, some from heavy emotional investment and fear of rejection, and some from real fears of success and failure. Preparation for success -- that's essential, as necessary as preparation for failure: trial and error, that's expression in all its splendor and heartache, and from which learning is most influential.

Each doubt type can be coped with by simply realizing the culture is unduly harsh, naturally and necessarily, due to fierce and numerous competition for a limited audience and discretionary spending budgets; realizing a progeny sinks or swims on its own merits; and that, in a final analysis, as profound as a narrative product may be, it is nothing; it is trash to be pored over by rag pickers across history. Keeps me humble. That's how I cope.

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Robert Nowall
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Sooner or later, if you're serious about this writing thing, then somebody else besides you will have to read it. And you'll have to bear up under whatever they say.

I can tell you I once got a rejection slip that was extremely complimentary (but well short of a possible sale)---with the end result being that I didn't write again for about three months. I've had negative comments that drove me back to writing almost immediately. I've had outright rude comments---which I either (a) ignore, or (b) in this day and age, e-mail a short caustic reply and then ignore.

But take some care and consideration when you're the one saying something. You never know how somebody will take some comment you make, positive or negative.

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Hmm, that question has been around for quite a while so you're not the only one to ask it by far.

The Rocky answer was good.

It also depends on what you expect. I knew I would be getting a few rejections so it took a hight number before they started to get to me. And going along with that, Personally a HM from WotF would't feel so bad right now. Not great but I would know that I did something right finally: Dave is one of the hardest editors. Of course if you have gotten 10 or more HMs from Dave, they would feel old hat. So as I said it also has to do with what you expect.

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Grumpy old guy
Member # 9922

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Every rejection is a hurdle to overcome. And I take heart in my defiance and acceptance of the gage thrown before my feet.

Tho' much is taken, much abides; and tho'
We are not now that strength which in old days
Moved earth and heaven, that which we are, we are;
One equal temper of heroic hearts,
Made weak by time and fate, but strong in will
To strive, to seek, to find, and not to yield.

Ulysses: Alfred, Lord Tennyson

A rejection is a challenge to do better.


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Member # 10397

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Excellent comments all. Greatly appreciated.

Denevius-I put the quotes on "reader" when I should have expanded that thought a little. I relate it to my experience as a stage/music performer. The audience holds a variety of people, but two distinct aspects emerge from the musicians POV; those who come to have fun and do the dance and those who come to see if the players are any good. Typically the second set is judging the player based upon the observer's skills with said instrument, or weighing the player against the current giants in the field. The "reader" I meant to refer to is this second set, those who nit-pick the thing to death for their own 'self-whatever needs bolstering' at the expense of all else. Nothing new there. Just human nature for a percentage of us.

A little more clarity - The book is only waiting on a couple of cover art fixes. We are self-publishing as a team. Writer-Publisher-Editor-Artist, all at the same breakfast table, literally. I/we have done our best to be responsible to not put error-strewn drivel out there. The MS has been read by several "friendly readers" who collectively helped propagate major changes. I can see the inherent problem in that; Mom likes it!

I have also, based upon your collective input, realized that the submittal/denial phase can be a great tool for not only self improvement but to help determine a writer's place in the world, so to speak.

Rocky - exactly! Great comment.

Doubt - I feel/hope that my doubts are of the healthy sort. Again to relate to what I know best. When I work up a new song and I am standing behind the mic with it for the first performance I know that until I get the first 'play-through' behind me I have not yet mastered the song. I make certain I can play/sing it without any real flaws, minor hiccups aside, but have that nagging question until it has been done. Henceforth it never occurs to me to question my ability to do the song justice. I just let-er rip. Hoping to develop my writing as such too. I feel like I am standing before the world audience about to belt out that performance. Some will like it, some won't. Welcome to planet Houston!

Rambling a bit...

I will endeavor to be more detailed in future posts. I tend to sacrifice clarity for brevity at times. So nice to be back around you folks.

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