Monday, September 24, 2012

It's Worth Repeating

I was planning to discuss something else today. I'd been thinking about it for the past few days, but plans have changed.  An opportunity presented itself today, and given the visceral reaction it evoked, I can't pass up the chance to discuss it.

I'm sure I've mentioned before, I spend a lot of time in an online writer's group. The idea is to develop my target audience and improve my writing. The biggest problem I sometimes run into is that the site is open for writers from the age of thirteen up to post their work and request feedback. There are pros and cons to this as both an author and a reader.

As an author, I love the ability to reach my target audience to find out if they like my work and find it believable. It also helps me to stay connected to the genre and allows me to sound authentic. As an adult writing from the perspective of teens, this is invaluable. As a reader, I not only enjoy reading the work of up and coming writers, but I love discovering new stories and getting lost in them.

The downside as an author seeking feedback is that it's sometimes difficult to get mature feedback from teens. Their grammar, punctuation and spelling isn't always up to par, nor is their ability to understand character and plot development. That's not to say all of them are this way, but many of them are. As a reader, I have a difficult time getting into a story that's written by a thirteen year old who writes in what I call text ease and uses extra punctuation and all capital letters to emphasize their passages.

On this site, I'm often sought out by young writers and asked to read their work and offer my input. Whenever I read a story, I always look for the positive as well as the negative. My goal is not to crush dreams but to foster improvement. The things I've learned have come through trial and error and a string of painful rejections. Had I known them sooner, I might be further along in my career.

Today, I received such a request, which I happily complied with. Well, color me surprised when the author sent me a private message to tell me there was more to her story than I realized and she was "just saying". Normally, I'll let such things go, but today I responded with a rather curt reply. I let the author know that not only did she ask for my feedback specifically but she needed to be prepared that posting in a public forum means she's granting readers the right to assess her work as they see fit.

This is something I've discussed here in the past but bears repeating. Don't ask for my opinion and then tell me it's wrong. Don't seek my advice and then disregard it as rubbish. If you want someone to tell you how great your work is just the way it is, don't post it publicly. Maybe ask your best friend, significant other, or parent to weigh in. Do that and you're more likely to get the warm fuzzies you need, but don't bring it to me and expect I'm going to be anything but honest. And I assure you I want the same in return. We can help each other improve without tearing each down and egos need to be checked at the door, especially in this business.

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