Monday, July 23, 2012

Practicing What I Preach

There are two breeds of writers; those who are so uncertain of their talent they expect and want criticism and those who view their stories and characters as one of their children. Those who view their stories and characters as one of their children often have a difficult time taking any form of criticism. I suppose it would be fair to say there’s a third breed of writer; the writer who welcomes constructive criticism but is rebuffed by the ridiculous or hurtful.

I’ll be honest. My favorite feedback on my work is the kind that goes something along the lines of ‘you’re the greatest writer ever’ and ‘I love your work’.  As I’ve said before, I don’t always trust these comments. Not because I doubt my talent. I think I’m a pretty good writer, if I do say so myself. I doubt these comments when considering the source. Its friends and family I’m leery of. Sure, some of them no doubt really do love my work and think I’m the greatest ever, but some are being over the top because they don’t want to hurt my feelings or crush my dreams. For that reason, it’s the feedback of total strangers I usually find more reliable.

For the most part, I’ve gotten rave reviews from my on line postings. I’ve reached my target audience and they clamor for my updates. Still, there are some who don’t like my work. The religious implications don’t sit well with some, and I always wonder why they bothered to read. The tagline made it pretty clear the content was mature and could cause hurt feelings. I wonder, but I don’t respond. Most of the time I don’t need to respond. Legions of fans are there to jump to my defense.

The criticism I find most amusing is suggestions to clean up minor punctuation or spelling errors while suggested to me in writing that’s rife with identical errors. In other words, don’t tell me to make sure I haven’t misplaced any commas when you add an extra S in the word misplace and write the word comas in place of the word commas while you omit the apostrophe in haven’t. Regardless of who points it out or how it’s done, a writer posting or publishing in public forums should have a clean copy. However, writers will take exception to self proclaimed grammar Nazis not practicing what they preach. If you want perfection from me, you better offer it when pointing out my flaws.

There’s also a brand of criticism I can’t quite decide how to classify so I call it ‘taking things too seriously’. I was recently confronted with this and had to sit on my fingers that were itching to give a scathing response. In this instance, the reader took exception to my portrayal of her city of residence. She didn’t appreciate that it implied the city was filled with poor minorities and wanted to be sure I and anyone else reading understood it was a melting pot of all cultures. Hence my ‘don’t take this too seriously’ moniker.  The story in question is a work of fiction centered on a vampire prince falling in love with a human girl. In the chapter she took exception to, the human girl went to visit her best friend who is a poor minority. As such, all of the fringe characters our heroine encountered in this chapter were poor minorities and the area was depicted as dangerous, not because the characters were minorities but because the area was known for its high crime rate. Rather than pick up on that, she wanted to focus on what she believed was my inaccurate description of the city as a whole. By her logic, I shouldn’t be writing about vampires and humans falling in love when no evidence of vampires exists. How can I write something so untruthful?

Much as I wanted to write a lengthy response defending my work and my own character, I refrained. I’ve long said that when writers allow others to read their work they have to be prepared to take the bad with the good. No writer will object to glowing reviews of their work, but some will get defensive over the bad ones. Some writers get so defensive they pen responses with nasty tones that can alienate not just the offender but potential readers who take exception. 

I confess that I sometimes have the urge to do so as well, but I abstain. To do so would go against that motto of taking the bad with the good. If I’m going to start belittling the bad reviews then logic would dictate I should do the same for the good ones. Otherwise I’m not being equitable in my response to the critics. Given how ludicrous that sounds, I think I’ll just practice what I preach. Take the bad with the good. Of course, that doesn’t mean I won’t be venting to like minded colleagues!

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