As my second blogpost, I will talk about something I have seen a lot of in the past few days. As writers, it is just about mandatory to suck it up and send our work out into the world for critiques. Feedback is gold, and helps us hone our craft. Critiques can sting, but in general, they are for the better.
But what happens if you get your work back
and there is a shit ton of red on it? What if the person critiquing your work
questions everything, slashes through your writing, then hands it back to you,
saying it just doesn’t work? What happens if the critiques were questions that
could be answered in the next chapter?
Yea, that’s where I’m going with this. There
needs to be a distinguishing quality between the two of them.
What I mean is this: if there are serious inconsistencies,
great; if not, what is the driving force to mark it as something that ‘doesn’t
Example: In chapter one, Mary gets a
scholarship. She’s excited—ecstatic, even. But Mary’s grades suck, Mary is always getting
into trouble, and Mary likes her Pendleton. She’s known to be quite the sleaze.
She hates the staff and faculty at Gwadaba University. In fact, she’s a
troublemaker and pees in the shower and is just an awful person.
That’s an inconsistency, right? I mean,
scholarships, in general, go to those who work their ass off to achieve higher
dreams and expectations. Why the heck is somebody like her getting a
scholarship in the first place? Wouldn’t the college be like, “Whoa, okay, this
kid is a train wreck. Better not waste our money.”
So the person reading this puts on the
brakes, grabs their handy-dandy red pen, and goes to town.
The writer gets the work back, then has to
explain that in Chapter two that Mary finds out she got the scholarship from a
program wanting to see troubled kids make something of themselves. And Mary has, in the past, tried to get
help, but just needed a little push. It’s the Make It or Break It Scholarship—a program that says “Hey, if you
get help and attend our X meetings, we will help pay for your college. And we
will even help you out more if you
help other kids pull their head out
of their ass.”
So Mary says yes, gets her shit straight,
gets the scholarship, and helps other kids excel who are struggling in life.
She does marvelously.
So now the writer has to explain
themselves, and if they are doing this in public—let’s say a forum or a critique
group—they now look like a complete ass who doesn’t know how to take criticism.
I’ve seen this with an author’s first paragraph; I’ve seen this with the first
five pages; I’ve seen this in query letters.
I know what some are thinking. How are they supposed to know if it is or
isn’t a flaw? Well, if you are reading a very small portion of the writer’s
work, that could be a cue. I’m not saying don’t ask questions—I’m saying if an
author goes to answer those questions, that generally does not mean they are
butt hurt. They are just setting the record straight.
I am also saying the writer probably wants
your confusion so you will read the story and find out for yourself. If all
facts aren’t laid out on the table right away, it could be for a reason: they want you to read their story and they
want you to be curious.
But saying Mary’s eyes are brown in chapter
one but not in chapter two, however, is a problem.