Apr 07 2009

How to take criticism professionally

1.  Don’t get defensive. The worst case scenario is that someone thinks your writing is awful.  So what?  Several reviewers have accused me of being the worst writer in the world.  No matter how bad it gets, there’s no reason to get huffy.  If you think you can learn something from what they’re saying, then read it carefully and make any necessary improvements.  If it’s just a generic “you suck” kind of review, then you should move on.  Either way, there’s no need for you to defend yourself.

2.  If you feel the need to compare your work to what the reviewer has written, you’re probably too defensive. “You don’t like my characters, but it’s not like your characters are any better!”  This is irrelevant and whiny.  You don’t have to be a professional chef to know that McDonald’s is bad.  So please be open to the possibility that your reviewer has discovered a flaw with your work even though he couldn’t do better himself.  Keep your eye on the prize:  has the reviewer actually discovered a flaw with your writing?  If he has, then it doesn’t matter how bad his writing is.  Also, your editors probably won’t be master writers themselves.  If you’ve convinced yourself that the only people that are qualified to critique you are other writers, it will be very hard for you to get along with your bosses. 

3.  Don’t take it personally. If you’re the sort of person that goes to pieces because a few reviewers dislike your work, what will happen when you have an editor?  The sooner you develop a thick skin, the better.

4.  Please don’t say something like “that’s just your opinion” or “your opinion is just as good as mine.” It may trap you into a mindset that might scare away publishers.  For example, let’s say that John has written a book where his POV character describes his appearance by gazing in a mirror.  I’d tell him that publishers really hate it when POV characters do that, because it’s awkward and screams “amateur.”  John responds, “but my friends all like it! Their opinions are just as valid as the opinions of the publishers.”  Except that the publishers have a lot of economic clout.  Unless you’re planning on self-publishing, you have to get some publisher on-board.  That might not be fair (I’ll leave that to philosophers), but it’s reality.  Deal with it.

5.  Keep an open mind.

6. When a reader misunderstands something, the writer is usually more to blame than the reader. Don’t get annoyed if someone isn’t reading it “right.”  If someone isn’t reading it the way you want to, why do you think that a publisher will?  Why will your readers get it?  (For example, it might be best to disregard advice if the reader isn’t representative of your target audience).  

What else would you recommend?

76 responses so far

76 Responses to “How to take criticism professionally”

  1. Tomon 07 Apr 2009 at 1:33 pm

    How about:
    You don’t have to act on the advice given by people, but they’re usually only trying to help so it’s usually a good idea to go with them. Unless they’re saying something totally ridiculous like ‘lol joo shud maek him invinsibl cuz its teh cool!!1’

  2. B. Macon 07 Apr 2009 at 1:43 pm

    That’s a good idea; I agree that almost all advice is offered in good-faith by people trying to help. I’d recommend paying especially close attention to criticisms that come up more than once. You don’t need to actually use them, but if several readers think there’s a problem, there might be something there that will worry a publisher.

    I think another important skill is that you have to know when to disagree with your reviewers. Someone that isn’t a fan of horror, for example, might not be the best source of advice for a horror author. If the reviewer doesn’t know the field that well, he might not know what readers or publishers are looking for. Also, from time to time you’ll come across reviewers that just do not get what you’re trying to write. “It’d be really cool if your hero could shoot fireballs and fly.” Umm, not if you’re trying to write an Arthurian romance. In particular, I’d recommend being really careful with suggestions that you move your story more towards another genre.

  3. Tomon 07 Apr 2009 at 2:06 pm

    That could be a whole other point, ‘know whose criticism to ignore’. Obviously, guys saying ‘you suck!!1’ should instantly be ignored, but there’s more subtle stuff. I remember once a Physics teacher of mine gave us a great example by advising us on how to make it in fashion. He talked complete nonsense, but the point he was making was we shouldn’t listen to his advice on that subject, since he knows nothing about it. Similarly, a horror writer can’t really give advice on comedy, unless that guy is Simon Pegg. 😛

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sean_Of_The_Dead

  4. B. Macon 07 Apr 2009 at 2:25 pm

    Personally, I feel that the single most important trait is publishing experience, particularly publishing experience related to your field. However, it’s not that easy to get feedback from people with publishing experience. If they aren’t available, I’d be most inclined to listen to people who are…

    1) Intelligent and/or articulate.

    2) Inside of my target audience, particularly if I’m not. I’d really like to know how my target audience responds to what I’m writing. For example, does the lead character come across as relatable and likable to the target audience? That’s critical.

    3) Authors that have been published, preferably in my field. They might not be that familiar with how to write this particular kind of story, but they will have good instincts.

    4) Familiar with some unusual skill, job, or cultural background that is pertinent to what I’m writing. For example, if you’re a civilian writing a military action story, it will really help you to have a few reviewers that are either veterans or active servicemen. That will help you make the details and characters believable.

  5. The ReTARDISed Whovianon 07 Apr 2009 at 6:03 pm

    Ooh, I hate reviewers who just say “you suck”. I’ve read a few good things on fanfiction.net and fictionpress.com, but the reviews say “YOU SUK HAHAHA! YOU CNAT WRIT FOR NUFINK!” Absolutely useless.

  6. Dforceon 07 Apr 2009 at 6:54 pm

    How open a mind should one have? I think B. Mac’s second post could expand that a little better. Are all opinions good or are editors’ the only ones that count? Ad infinitum.

  7. B. Macon 07 Apr 2009 at 7:08 pm

    I anticipated a lot of trouble with “you suck” reviewers, but generally our reviewers have been very polite and helpful. I wrote a list of resolutions to help prepare myself for this website, and one of them was “I will cheerfully ban 50% or even 75% of our reviewers if they are total morons and/or trolls.”

  8. B. Macon 07 Apr 2009 at 7:27 pm

    “How open a mind should one have? Are all opinions good or are editors’ the only ones that count?”

    Hmm. I’d prefer to avoid giving a blanket response like “all reviews are valid” or “only reviews from editors are valid.” As a rule, I’d give more weight to the opinion of a professional, particularly when the professional provides an assessment about what editors and publishers tend to prefer.

    But the opinions of laymen can also be valid. Just make sure that you take them with an appropriate grain of salt. The layman might not be that familiar with what a publisher expects. I tend to trust lay opinions the most when they are appropriately limited. For example, a lay reader can give great advice about which parts of a story work and which don’t. However, I’d get very skeptical if he started making claims about what a publisher would or wouldn’t like to see. How would he know?

  9. Ragged Boyon 07 Apr 2009 at 7:31 pm

    I still have trouble with #3, but it’s all good. I actually would like to get my script reviewed on a larger basis. I’ve only gotten about four-five reviews here, usually they were thorough reviews, but I still need more reviews. I need to know what’s bad.

  10. Dforceon 07 Apr 2009 at 7:51 pm

    I see.

  11. Dforceon 07 Apr 2009 at 8:19 pm

    B. Mac, I trust we have no quarrel. 😉

  12. B. Macon 08 Apr 2009 at 7:34 am

    I don’t even know what we would be quarreling about.

  13. Davidon 08 Apr 2009 at 4:40 pm

    I take my criticism well and do my best to work with it, so my story’s going well.

    But we don’t have to use every recommendation from people, dowe? We are allowed to use things that are cliched and such, aren’t we?

  14. Ragged Boyon 08 Apr 2009 at 5:11 pm

    You can do whatever you please, David. It’s your story. No one else can force you to do something you don’t want to. You can use cliches, but they have that name for a reason. They’re usually uninteresting and predictable, which may water down your story.

  15. B. Macon 08 Apr 2009 at 5:34 pm

    I don’t think that anyone has ever used more than half of my advice, and most people use only about a third. And I’m a fairly competent reviewer.

    In general, I’d just recommend evaluating what the reviewers say. Try to figure out whether there really is a problem. For example, let’s imagine a reviewer says my protagonist is poorly-developed. I’d ask myself which traits I was trying to give that character and why those traits didn’t come across to that reader (or readers). Could I make it clearer? What have other reviewers said about the characters in this story? Etc.

    My rule of thumb is that if my reviewers are split ~50-50 about whether something is working or not, there’s probably room for improvement.

  16. The ReTARDISed Whovianon 08 Apr 2009 at 6:24 pm

    I generally take criticism gracefully, because even if someone really does P me O, I take time to think about my reply and try not to be rude.

    Sometimes if someone is stood right in front of me and ROYALLY angers me, I can be extremely mean. That then triggers a lot of “oh sorry, I didn’t mean that, you just made me so mad” from me, because I hate hurting people’s feelings.

  17. The ReTARDISed Whovianon 08 Apr 2009 at 9:38 pm

    “A horror writer can’t really give advice on comedy, unless that guy is Simon Pegg.”

    He rocks. I loved Hot Fuzz and Shaun of the Dead. I can’t wait for The World’s End.

  18. Tomon 09 Apr 2009 at 3:10 am

    ^That last comment times infinity.

  19. C.R.on 09 Apr 2009 at 7:22 am

    Regarding #3, amen, it’s essential to develop a thick skin. If you’re serious about getting published. Like John Scalzi said you’re just another goober in the peanut gallery. And he’s a fellow writer, for God’s sake! That’s the take most editors have these days.

    I don’t know from experience, but I read it’s even worse for those trying to break into comics. I read somewhere that this guy sent in a script to a major publisher and the reply back began with ‘Dear Loser:’

  20. The ReTARDISed Whovianon 09 Apr 2009 at 7:34 am

    They called him a loser? Like I said above, people like that are rude and unhelpful. I’d really want to send a reply saying “Dear Jackar*e…” but I probably wouldn’t, seeing as I try to remain polite. There’s no point in dropping to their standards.

  21. B. Macon 09 Apr 2009 at 7:40 am

    “Dear Loser.” Ouch, that’s rough.

    I think it’s even worse for comic book writers than novelists because every issue of a comic book requires thousands of dollars of artistic costs. The costs of taking on a new writer is so great that some small publishers (like Abacus) only have four series. No editor will risk tens of thousands of dollars (and his own career) on a story that looks half-baked.

    Having reviewed a few scripts now, I think I’ve seen a few that look credible and it seems plausible that most could (maybe) get published after a grueling ordeal of submission, rejection and rewrite. Only a few are so far from publishable that I wonder whether it would be professionally courteous to urge the writers to seek another line of work.

    It’s a very stressful, cutthroat business. That said, if if an editor is so stressed out that he feels the need to respond to a query with “dear loser,” maybe he needs to seek another line of work.

  22. C.R.on 09 Apr 2009 at 8:31 am

    The guy that quoted that “dear loser” didn’t say it, but I imagine he must have had a little back-and-forth prior to that reply. At least I’m guessing. But when you think about it, that’s the way it is in the entire artistic market everywhere. My brother lives in NYC and tried acting, stand-up comedy, blah, blah. The stories he would tell me, wow. Artistic differences is all it is, but what you think is art someone else thinks is trash and if that someone else has some clout (like an editor or an agent) and a chip on his shoulder, watch out. And it’s a vicious cycle, I think. Someone unloaded on him/her and they return the favor to you.

    Having gone is this little rant, I’ve been to a few places, and if it helps at all, 1.What goes around comes around and 2. I can tell you its that way in just about any endeavor in an economy that’s based on Darwinian competition. A writer in my crit group says the abuse he’s taken writing is nothing compared to when he was a big-shot salesman in New York. Those that let it slide off are those who are successful. Like teflon, eh?

  23. B. Macon 09 Apr 2009 at 8:44 am

    “Those that let it slide off are those who are successful.” Absolutely. I wouldn’t consider publishing someone that didn’t have a thick skin. It suggests that they aren’t emotionally strong enough to keep working when the job gets hard. Nor will they be particularly pleasant to work with.

  24. C.R.on 09 Apr 2009 at 9:28 am

    “I wouldn’t consider publishing someone that didn’t have a thick skin.” Very sound reasoning, B.Mac. I think a lot of publishers out there agree to something like “there’s a lot of talent out there–we’ll sign those with talent AND the hide of a rhino. The others–well they’re too much of a pain to deal with. Refill my Martini, dammit!”

    For those here who are maybe a little thin of skin, maybe it would help if you took that reply and did with it like they do on wikipedia. “Assume good faith, assume good faith, assume good &!*$#%?@! faith…”

  25. B. Macon 09 Apr 2009 at 10:17 am

    I don’t recommend being temperamental, but if you’re going to be a prima donna, please do it after racking up solid sales. Publishers will give you more leeway if you’ve earned it. If you haven’t earned it, but are acting like you own the place anyway, publishers will wonder “why the hell are we working with you?”

  26. Wingson 09 Apr 2009 at 12:58 pm

    Oh, don’t get me started on rude reviewers!

    I was set to kill someone by email once.

    Then I wrote a so-sugary-sweet-it-will-give-you-cavities reply, trying to be as mature as I could.

    Then, they had to start insulting me again because I stuck up for someone, and I gave them (in very polite language of course) a review saying: “If you’re not going to be civil at least, shut your face and leave me alone”.

    And I can’t forget the time when I first joined and didn’t know how to edit my posts, and she shouted at me for being a spammer. Cue the sugary-sweetness again.

    I’ve tried to avoid her ever since, but the reviewer insults everyone and everything. She’s supposedly a Mary Sue Killer on Fanfiction. The nicest thing I can say is that she means well but doesn’t know how to be polite.

    -Wings

  27. The ReTARDISed Whovianon 09 Apr 2009 at 4:18 pm

    The Mary Sue Killers are really unhelpful. I’m aware that they have added a thread where you can request removal of a story from a C2 containing alleged Mary Sues, but as I found, no one has to conform to their standards. Rallying up some writers and sending hundreds of emails to admin will work just as well. 😉 It works.

  28. B. Macon 09 Apr 2009 at 8:18 pm

    “Then, they had to start insulting me again because I stuck up for someone, and I gave them (in very polite language of course) a review saying: ‘If you’re not going to be civil at least, shut your face and leave me alone’.”

    Ack, I’m sorry to hear that. That site needs better moderating; as soon as someone starts insulting someone, a moderator really needs to step in. The point of reviewing someone should be to help someone get better, not how to make yourself feel better by ripping into someone else’s work. That sort of cattiness is entirely unhelpful and, if I thought that the nasty reviewer couldn’t do any better, I’d just ban him altogether.

    However, I feel that most fan-fiction sites are extremely unprofessional. The writing tends to be hilariously awful, the reviewing is almost as bad, and neither the writers nor the editors/reviewers are remotely likely to go pro. It’s like watching fifth-graders play tackle football, but with an unhealthy dose of nightmare fuel thrown in. “Hi this is my new Superhero Nation Lash/Agent Orange slash fic wat you think.” Eww.

    That’s obviously an overgeneralization– there are many competent writers and reviewers out there– but if you are really competent, you have no business on a fan-fiction site. Go pro! Or, at least, start writing something that you can potentially sell someday.

  29. Wingson 09 Apr 2009 at 9:20 pm

    She was the moderator. And she’s very tricky….She words everything extremely well. This was in the forums, but we were discussing writing.

    Still, there are a few bright spots. I write on Fanfiction myself, and I hope I’m not that bad….

    *thinks of the Onyx Incident*

    *shudders*

    -Wings

  30. The ReTARDISed Whovianon 09 Apr 2009 at 9:54 pm

    I think I know who you’re talking about. I won’t name her username, but she’s just annoying and rude. I’d call her worse things, but that would mean this comment would go into moderation and bring me down to her level.

  31. Wingson 09 Apr 2009 at 9:59 pm

    She has a fluffy white seal avatar. Sound familiar to you?

    She’s cruel and unusual. She will insult you and slowly rip your eyeballs out via comments. Then, she will dance on our twitching bodies.

    (I sound very evil, don’t I?)

    I SPEAK THE TRUTH!

    – Wings

  32. The ReTARDISed Whovianon 09 Apr 2009 at 10:32 pm

    No, the girl I’m talking about doesn’t have an avatar, but she runs a C2. She’s a- NO! I must not insult her, for I am better than that!

  33. B. Macon 10 Apr 2009 at 12:52 am

    “She was the moderator.” Ick. I’ve heard some horror stories about moderators ruining otherwise decent websites. If the website matters to you, I’d recommend finding out whether she has breached the terms of service and/or contacting one of the administrators. Personally, I’d be angry if one of my moderators was so unfriendly that it was scaring my guests/customers.

    It amuses me that she’s so concerned about maintaining a high standard of quality for fan-fiction. That’s missing the point, I think. The vast majority of fan-fiction authors are not remotely close to publishable, and that’s fine. Holding them to professional standards is inane because anyone that was good enough to write professionally would do so. If you could conceivably get paid for your work, why would you spend your time writing unsellable fan-fiction?

    Hopefully, I haven’t come off as unduly nasty to fanfiction writers. As long as it’s just a hobby, it doesn’t harm anyone. A hobby should be fun. In contrast, an inept writer that tries to self-publish will probably waste thousands of dollars. A writer that tries to pitch a hopelessly bad novel or comic book will probably spend hundreds of hours and will receive nothing but form rejection letters (if that). There is really no good reason to hold a hobbyist to the same standard as an aspiring professional; after all, the professional has so much more to lose if he sucks.

  34. Tomon 10 Apr 2009 at 3:21 am

    Generally I steer clear of fanfiction. If it’s not canon I’m not interested. However I do make one exception. Someone on Deviantart has made a huge fic detailing the life of her favourite minor villain character in Avatar: The Last Airbender after he is ‘killed off’ and removed from the show. Naturally in her version this person does not die, but goes on to have amazing adventures. It’s really good, and the best part is, it’s a comic. She’s done over 300 pages of story, in fact, she’s on her fourth ‘chapter’, each one having enough plot to fill a film. Here’s an example of a page:

    http://noselfcontrol.deviantart.com/art/Water-Tribe-390-118165543

    She says the reason she does it is because she’s practicing her skills at inking, drawing and formatting, as well as controlling a large plot, for the day when she makes her own original characters. That, and she loves the character.

  35. Anonymouson 10 Apr 2009 at 5:15 am

    Speaking of professions vs. hobbies. Would you happen to know if this moderator has any professional experience? My guess is no. If she’s so interested in editing, why isn’t she editing professionally? Probably because she isn’t any good. 😉

    Circular reasoning for the win!

  36. Ragged Boyon 10 Apr 2009 at 5:17 am

    I never really got into fan-fiction. I’ve always wanted to write for pleasure, but I don’t feel that fan-fiction is the best domain for that. I was thinking a blog, but I’m so lazy that my blog would die of content starvation. Helium looks pretty professional and you can sell your work there. I’ll look into it.

  37. B. Macon 10 Apr 2009 at 7:21 am

    Ack, I’d recommend being careful with sites like Helium. If you sell your work, the buyer takes the rights and it’s pretty much impossible to reprint that work later.

  38. Ragged Boyon 10 Apr 2009 at 8:12 am

    True. I hadn’t planned on selling anything. I just wanted some of my writing to get reviewed if I did write it.

  39. Wingson 10 Apr 2009 at 9:19 am

    I only write fanfiction for practice. But it’s fun to do and rather interesting. I mean, I can take an old concept and re-invent it.

    Whovian, the girl I know is *trying to think of an insult that will still slip under the radar but yet describes her* the Devil Incarnate in the form of a fluffy white seal. It is a trick! Beware the devil in seal’s clothing!

    She is pure evil. I would cast her as a supervillain.

    – Wings the Angry One

  40. The ReTARDISed Whovianon 11 Apr 2009 at 7:02 am

    Ick. Mary Sue Killers think they are doing people a favour, but their logic is awful.

    “If we insult and flame people, they’re bound to get better!” Uh, no. They’re bound to get emotionally crushed or get a rather severe case of unstoppable rage.

  41. Holliequon 11 Apr 2009 at 7:26 am

    Wow. And I thought I could give harsh advice sometimes. o.O

    Also, RW, I’m going to steal the line “get a severe case of unstoppable rage” and use it somewhere. That’s great. 🙂

  42. The ReTARDISed Whovianon 11 Apr 2009 at 7:43 am

    Haha, feel free to use it. 🙂

  43. Wingson 13 Apr 2009 at 7:56 pm

    I was emotionally crushed like that once. But it was, in some sick and twisted way, probably good for me because it made me see the Onyx fiasco for what it was.

    *shudders*

    WHY DID MY CREATION TURN ON MEEEEE?????

    *cries*

    -Wings of the Many Mood-swings

  44. The ReTARDISed Whovianon 13 Apr 2009 at 7:58 pm

    Aw, there there. It couldn’t have been that bad. Look on the bright side, you didn’t write My Immortal.

  45. The ReTARDISed Whovianon 13 Apr 2009 at 7:59 pm

    I personally believe My Immortal was a troll.

  46. Wingson 13 Apr 2009 at 8:27 pm

    The plot had its moments. It was a fanfiction, but it was my beloved one!

  47. Wingson 13 Apr 2009 at 8:30 pm

    Hey, what is My Immortal?

    -Wings

  48. Holliequon 13 Apr 2009 at 8:41 pm

    My Immortal is a really bad Harry Potter fanfic. Really bad.

  49. Wingson 13 Apr 2009 at 8:42 pm

    Note to self: find it.

    -Wings

  50. Wingson 08 May 2009 at 9:56 pm

    Mine wasn’t that bad, but it was still pretty horrible. When I reread it I winced on every other line. I mean, I felt EMBARRASSED by it. It was truly awful.

    The ironic part was that that Mary Sue Killer is actually a pretty good writer (Or so I’ve heard). I would tell you her username, but she would find me and kill me.

    – Wings

  51. The ReTARDISed Whovianon 07 Sep 2009 at 5:06 pm

    “Note to self: find [My Immortal]”

    If you haven’t already found it, here you go! Be warned, there is a lot of swearing and at least two scenes I can think of that are intended to be explicit, but she spells so badly that it hardly even counts. Haha.

    http://myimmortalrehost.webs.com/

  52. Wingson 16 Mar 2011 at 12:06 pm

    I know a girl like this who’s steadily becoming unbearable.

    This girl sees any form of constructive criticism as us (Myself and Jedi Penguin, among others) being “mean” or “too serious”. Jedi herself is a self-proclaimed Grammar Nazi, so she’s quick to point out errors in that field (Granted, she’s usually right and is generally nice about it). Meanwhile, extensive TVTropes browsing and a wide range of memorized books have given me extreme genre savviness and Mary Sue radar, both of which start going off like crazy upon repeated exposure to this girl’s work.

    She sees everything other than the final draft as not needing to be great, let alone perfect (I myself write everything seeing it as the final draft and the one that people are going to see, but that’s just me). She compares herself to freaking Tolkien (To be specific, when we critique something, she says that since it worked for him than it’ll work for her), and likes unsubtle author tracts on Christianity in her stories far too much. Lately, she’s been complaining of people accusing her characters of being Mary Sues (Which the majority are. Between the mages, the elves,the vampires, and the elven vampires, she’s got a veritable legion of the things).

    In short, she shows us her work, explicitly to learn what we think of it, and then gets mad when we don’t love it. I’d love to get her on this site, as it’s probably the most friendly environment for her (Like I said, she really doesn’t like blunt criticism) and she might listen to you guys over us.

    – Wings

  53. Nicholas Caseon 16 Mar 2011 at 12:54 pm

    I’m willing to deal with that. Besides, they don’t call me Nicholas Case for nothing-I can get right down to the case of a situation.

    Also, it sounds like this ‘girl’ is over confident in her work, so when someone corrects her, she gets offended. She may be smart, so when she makes and error and someone else points it out, she takes it like an assault on her intelligence (that’s IF she’s smart. It’s hard to tell if people are intelligent or impaired online) and overreacts. Women are generally more angry and/or moody compared to men, and they think they know everything-which is why female to female fights can last for years (not just arguing, but maliciously sitting on the opposite side of the bench as them, rolling their eyes, ect) while male to female fights only last for about a month-at the most. Men don’t really give a shiz about if the toilet seat was let up or down, but women do for some reason (I don’t even think the greatest scientists can figure that one out. I went over to a friends house one time, left the toilet seat up and she was mad at me for a MONTH!). Well, I don’t want to ramble about how irrational women can be sometimes, but maybe you should politely (yet professionally) address to her that you all can’t help her if she doesn’t want to be helped.

  54. Wingson 16 Mar 2011 at 3:51 pm

    Worst part is, we can’t even avoid the topic for the sake of dodging a fight…she either accuses us of never listening to her/letting her talk, or drags her work into the conversation anyway to change the topic. Or both.

    If I could get her on here…Well, she probably wouldn’t stop talking to us entirely – I’m not sure if she has any other friends. Granted, to me it’s not that great of a loss, but since she’s already attempted to get me on “her” side against my other friends, she’d assuredly start making people “choose” between her and us.

    …You might have guessed that she’s the argumentative sort.

    – Wings

  55. Nicholas Caseon 16 Mar 2011 at 4:49 pm

    You can’t help someone if they refuse to be helped. Just saying.

  56. The Jedi Penguinon 16 Mar 2011 at 5:41 pm

    …Rather argumentive. It ges to be very frustrating at times as I am always careful to point out what I liked about the piece and confirm that I understood it before I attempt to state my opinion on what could be changed to make it better or point out corrections that could be made in grammar/spelling (I am very much a Grammar Nazi as Wings has stated, though I do try and control it to some degree.) Making it even more frustrating is the way she is hypocritical in some of her critisism and critisism practices. And the fact that I’m pretty sure I’m being nice and just pointing out what I’ve seen before and what will honestly make it better because of my extensive reading/troping.
    Possiblymaking it worse ids the factthat her art is truly amazing, and people tell her that, which physcologially speaking might make her think that all of her stuff is just as good.

  57. Danion 16 Mar 2011 at 7:58 pm

    @Retardised Whovian (nice name by the way way), that was hilarious! I had never read that before and it actually made me laugh out loud, a very rare thing. Thanks for the wonderful link.

  58. Nicholas Caseon 16 Mar 2011 at 9:23 pm

    Well, rather than gossiping and griping over how invariable she is, can you just send her here already? ‘I’m ready to tackle this challenger who dares to oppose my supearior intellect and masivie vocabulary along with undefeateble speling!’ That’s what my character Dunimas texts his boss when he gets a new co-worker at his boss’s woodshop. It’s kind of ironic because he’s a horrible speller and…just forget it.

  59. The Jedi Penguinon 16 Mar 2011 at 9:38 pm

    I put a link up to the webcomic on a facebook group that she and I are both part of, so hopefully she’ll get the hint and come here. If not, I’m gonna post on another place with a bit more straight-forwardness. Then, I might just keep bugging her about it. hopefully she comes for a visit, even if she doesn’t post

  60. The ReTARDISed Whovianon 17 Mar 2011 at 3:28 am

    Dani: Thanks. 😀 That fic is really terrible, but it’s great for a laugh. XD

    Jedi Penguin: That girl seems very difficult to deal with. If I were you, I’d encourage her to submit her work to Fictionpress or something, maybe the reviews will wake her up. XD If she doesn’t want to listen, it’s only really her loss. If she really doesn’t see the flaws, there’s no way it’ll get published.

  61. B. Macon 17 Mar 2011 at 4:46 am

    “I’d love to get her on this site, as it’s probably the most friendly environment for her (Like I said, she really doesn’t like blunt criticism) and she might listen to you guys over us.” I don’t know… She doesn’t sound like an aspiring professional. (Or, if she is one, she probably won’t make it–a prospective professional that gets angry about polite grammatical advice is doomed in several ways). If she’s just writing for fun, I’d sort of feel bad holding her to professional standards. If she’s writing professionally, I doubt I would be substantially more polite than you would be. You’re good at that.



    “She compares herself to freaking Tolkien (To be specific, when we critique something, she says that since it worked for him than it’ll work for her)…” That can be bothersome. If I was familiar with a few authors using a particular concept effectively, I’d be confident that the concept COULD work, but there’s a big difference between “could work” and “will work.”

    If you’re talking about religious allegory, I think one bit of advice the author might regard as useful would be something like “I think it may help to handle the religious allegory more subtly–one aspect of Lord of the Rings and the Chronicles of Narnia that struck me as smoother was that the religious allegory wasn’t as explicit [in ways X and Y].”



    “She sees everything other than the final draft as not needing to be great, let alone perfect (I myself write everything seeing it as the final draft and the one that people are going to see, but that’s just me).” I respect both approaches there. Personally, I fear perfectionism because it reduces my productivity, so my beta drafts do frequently have placeholder lines that are rather boring and some plot holes and the like. (I get mildly annoyed when people ask me to review rough drafts that obviously haven’t been proofread, though).

    “In short, she shows us her work, explicitly to learn what we think of it, and then gets mad when we don’t love it.” If I felt an author wanted help that I was not willing to provide (like insincere flattery), I’d wish them the best and move on to the next person in my queue. (The only advantage of offering your services for free is that you’ll never be short on customers– 🙂 ). If the author-reviewer relationship isn’t mutually enjoyable, I would consider discontinuing it as soon as possible.

    Do you enjoy your interactions with the author?

  62. Wingson 17 Mar 2011 at 12:06 pm

    Frankly, no. This girl is someone whom I would much rather avoid. However, it’s a rather convoluted friend-of-a-friend situation coupled with a really messed up love triangle, which has made an otherwise normal group of friends a trifle awkward to be around.

    – Wings

  63. B. Macon 17 Mar 2011 at 1:37 pm

    “Frankly, no. This girl is someone whom I would much rather avoid. However, it’s a rather convoluted friend-of-a-friend situation coupled with a really messed up love triangle…” Hmm, my relationships never got that interesting.

    In that case, I’d probably handle it with a writing-themed take on “It’s not you, it’s me.” For example: “I’m sorry, but I’m not really familiar with that genre” or “I’m sorry, but I don’t really enjoy that genre” or “I’m sorry, but my reviewing schedule is packed for the foreseeable future.” (I try to make 5-10 hours available for volunteer work each week and I get 15-20 requests a week, so my schedule is actually tight).

    *If waiting is an issue, I can provide immediate assistance through my very affordable professional editing services, starting at one cent ($.01 USD) per word for proofreading.

  64. Wingson 17 Mar 2011 at 2:55 pm

    *Deadpan* This…Is….High school. And it’s not quite as interesting when you’re caught in it. Sure, when we’re older and look back, we’ll probably see our past selves as self-absorbed morons. But it’s rather difficult to do that now, as drama practically leaks out of our ears when we move.

    She mainly sticks to Tolkienesque high fantasy, while I prefer my superheroes and sci-fi. Still, I used to write fantasy, and while it got pretty terrible (Mary Sues, cliches, thinly veiled ripoffs, a horribly juvenile tone throughout the whole thing…I was seven at the time), I’m still capable of seeing fantasy cliches everywhere I look.

    We have drastically different opinions on a lot of fronts other than writing, but I’ve miraculously developed self control, so there hasn’t been anything huge yet. But things are getting kinda strained, and if she goes crazy on us then she is most certainly going to try to make the rest of the group take sides. Which is why all of us have been trying to get around the topic, as a lack of drama is something to be enjoyed, not avoided.

    – Wings

  65. Nicholas Caseon 17 Mar 2011 at 3:28 pm

    Well, since everyone’s talking about reviewing- I’ve begun my training sequence! I’m asking for someone to review this here simply because I can’t seem to get my excerpts reviewed so I’m putting it in a popular place (Don’t worry, I take criticism well).

    “Ahem, ahem! Something tells me, ahem, she wasn’t kidding ahem.” Dunimas coughed.

    “Well then, now that that obnoxious brat-I mean, ‘potential juvenile delinquent’ has parted with us, I believe training can finally begin.” Master Yin said with a warm smile on his face, but Dunimas could see there was something else in the old man’s eyes. Then again, his eyes were so squinted it was hard to tell. Dunimas checked his watch. It was only 12:05 PM, By the time he got there it was noon and Dunimas knew it would at least be 12:30.

    “Hm…I think you’re right, time does seem a bit slower. But if I’m here, then why is my watch slower?” Dunimas thought aloud.

    “I don’t know. For some reason when you bring a clock from Earth to here it moves at the same pace until you reset it.” Yin said with rubbing his chin.

    “Oh, well I’d best reset it.” Dunimas said reaching for his watch.

    “Wait!” Master Yin shouted. Dunimas jumped ten inches.

    “Sheesh, gimme some warning next time gramps!” Dunimas said.

    “Keep it on Earth time, we need to be back by 2:00 so you’d best keep it that way.” Master Yin urged.

    “Dude, do you know how confusing that is? The next time you wanna know the time I’m gonna be like, ‘Oh I dunno, my watch is slow by five days.’” Dunimas said, “By the way, what is this planet called anyways?”

    “Coreous, that’s its name-at least that’s what Kyu calls it.” Master Yin said. Dunimas could tell what he said slipped out, he was hiding something. Rather than letting him know that he knew there was something up he decided it would be best to lay low-at least, until he could defend himself.
    “Okay, so when are we starting?”

    “What do you want to learn first?” Yin said intently.

    “Um, super strength I guess.”

    “Actually…you technically have reached you limit at this point.” Master Yin said slowly.

    “What do you mean by that?! What’s the point of asking me that question, to make fun of how not-epic I am right now?!” Dunimas wailed.

    “Well, you have the strength of three men which technically qualifies as ‘super strength’, but you’re body isn’t designed for that. It’s designed for speed; I guess I should’ve been a bit more specific.” Master Yin admitted.

    “So what do you think I should learn?”

    “Let’s hone you’re speed-since we only have two months it’s wiser to hone you strengths and work on the weaknesses later-if time permits.” Yin planned, “Now, for your first lesson, I will throw my staff as far as I can and I want you to go find it as fast as you can.” Master Yin then leaned back, took his staff and slung it out of eyesight.

    “You’ve gotta be kidding me!” Dunimas said alarmed by the distance.

    “Either that or you can loose some of that baby fat off your stomach and do 1,000 sit-ups.” Master Yin smirked.

    “One, I’m not fat-I have the abs to prove it. Two, you can’t spot burn fat by doing sit-ups.” Dunimas pointed out.

  66. Jedi Penguinon 17 Mar 2011 at 11:09 pm

    “That girl seems very difficult to deal with. If I were you, I’d encourage her to submit her work to Fictionpress or something, maybe the reviews will wake her up. XD If she doesn’t want to listen, it’s only really her loss. If she really doesn’t see the flaws, there’s no way it’ll get published.”

    She’s rather difficult, but I don’t think there is a high chance of getting her anywhere near fiction-press as she’s very very careful with websites and such. So there isn’t much of a win.

    For the moment I’ll jus have to try and restrain myself as I watch her stories and offer my input. And do my best to keep my characters from going on suicidal rampages against hers in rp’s….

    “I respect both approaches there. Personally, I fear perfectionism because it reduces my productivity, so my beta drafts do frequently have placeholder lines that are rather boring and some plot holes and the like. (I get mildly annoyed when people ask me to review rough drafts that obviously haven’t been proofread, though).”

    The funniest (most ironic?) thing is how incredibly much she plans out before even setting pen to paper. Pages and pages of details and drawings and backstories and stuff for any given ‘verse of hers.
    I appreciate and understand that everyone writes differently, and personally try to review works as rough drafts, which for me means pointing out rough or confusing syntax and various other grammar and speling errors

    “Do you enjoy your interactions with the author?”
    Personally, on a non-professional just casual talk level, most of the time. When taken to a more professional level, however, it gets a bit tedious and unpleasant for me. And I don’t wish to just abandon her to the cold world of friendlessness… I’m much to nice for that. Plus, she’s in two of my classes which would makes things… awkward.

    “Hmm, my relationships never got that interesting.”
    Must be changing times… I’m caught up in something that could have been pulled out of a shoujo manga… It’s pretty good for inspiration, but Wings is right, it does tend to suck alot when you’re going through it.

    “But things are getting kinda strained, and if she goes crazy on us then she is most certainly going to try to make the rest of the group take sides.”
    …If she takes it to that level, then I’m done. I refuse to take sides, and I refuse to madiae an argument that really has *no* impact on my life 5 years from now. Especially when it’ll nly make things worse.

  67. Wingson 18 Mar 2011 at 9:05 am

    “The funniest (most ironic?) thing is how incredibly much she plans out before even setting pen to paper.”

    This girl’s one of the finest artists I’ve ever seen. It’s kinda dissonant when one compares the breathtaking concept art of her characters with the utter convoluted banality of her plots.

    – Wings

  68. The Jedi Penguinon 17 Jun 2011 at 9:20 pm

    Hmm, after re-reading this article and getting into a bit of a snafu with a review the other day (thankfully resolved with much apology and a promise of a short story on my part), I was wondering if you had any advice on /giving/ criticism professionally and diplomatically. If someone is going to be rude in response to me, I’d feel better knowing I did my best to be nice and helpful by everyone’s standards

  69. B. Macon 17 Jun 2011 at 11:50 pm

    Ah, I like that idea, Jedi. Here are some suggestions about how to give advice:

    –Be generous with personal qualifiers like “I feel” or “I think.” It helps remind the author that these are just your suggestions and ideas rather than commands. (People bristle at orders).

    –Whenever you identify a flaw, try to suggest at least one potential solution. It’s okay if the author doesn’t end up using it*–either way, it’ll help the author think, “Oh, he’s trying to help” rather than “Good God, she’s really trying to make me feel awful about this.”

    *I don’t think anybody uses even half of my suggestions. That’s okay–it’s just brainstorming.

    –I think it’s absolutely critical to avoid insults. For example, instead of something like “Your writing is shockingly bad” or “Your story is bad,” I think it’d be a lot more helpful to phrase it positively in terms of what could have been improved. For example, “I’d like to see more character-development and I think the dialogue could be more concise.”

    –I try to head off potential problems by being open about what sort of reviewer I am. For example, if I were reviewing a romance, I’d offer a lot of caveats like “I’m not sure if this line will be believable to romance readers–please check it with the rest of your reviewers.” If the story is far outside of my preferred genres, I might politely decline to review it because my interests and tastes are so much different than the target audience’s.

    –I try to clear up potential misunderstandings and conflicting expectations as soon as possible. For example, writers sometimes push me for faster and more positive reviews. I’m willing to alter my tone (i.e. phrase it more gently), but I’m usually not willing to change the substance of my review to make the author feel better. If my volunteer schedule is not fast enough for an author, I’d offer to get it done right away for $10/hour (around $.01/word). (UPDATE: This is a losing game. Just charge at your hourly rate for your day job). So far, very few people have taken me up on that–they’re a lot less demanding when it’s their money/time on the line.

    –“If someone is going to be rude in response to me…” Regardless of what you said, I don’t think there’s any room for a rude response. If somebody responded rudely to me, I’d lay out my expectations for being treated professionally. If the author was rude again after I had laid out my expectations, I would politely wish him/her the best with his/her project and move on to the next review in my queue. One of the best things about offering a service for free is that you get to pick your customers. I’d much rather spend time on my reviewing projects that are mutually satisfactory rather than the ones that aren’t. PS: If anyone is ever rude to you, don’t be rude in response. It doesn’t get you anywhere and creates an entirely avoidable possibility that your reputation would be damaged if the episode becomes public. CARDINAL RULE OF PROFESSIONAL BEHAVIOR: Don’t do ANYTHING in private that would embarrass you if it became public. (Many writing careers have imploded over things as an unseemly response to a negative review, using a fake name (sockpuppet) to hype your work, doing fake Amazon reviews without mentioning that bit about being the author, plagiarism, etc.

  70. Wingson 18 Jun 2011 at 12:00 pm

    On the bright side, this author finally got a wake up call (Thank you, Ham, for being brave enough to say what the rest of us couldn’t), and with luck she’ll get better.

    …Then again, she’s still trying to write a fantasy version of the Bible, complete with Jesus expy*. We’re going to need a lot of luck.

    – Wings

    *And elven-vampire-mages. Did I ever mention that?

  71. The Jedi Penguinon 18 Jun 2011 at 11:40 pm

    @B. Mac
    Thank you! This is just what I needed, and if you don’t mind I might copy and paste it to a MS Word document so I can reference it when I lack internet.

    “If anyone is ever rude to you, don’t be rude in response.” Good to know I’ve been doing something right. I’ll also say profuse apology if someone responds negatively to a review is good, particularly if you wish to remain close to them. Knowing when to shut up is good too.

    “doing fake Amazon reviews without mentioning that bit about being the author” Fake Amazon reviews? Psh, I’d be the author who writes anonymous fanfic of my own works, just to see how the fans might respond to certain ideas.

  72. B. Macon 19 Jun 2011 at 12:05 am

    “This is just what I needed, and if you don’t mind I might copy and paste it to a MS Word document so I can reference it when I lack internet.” Sure thing! Also, I expanded my points on professionalism in an article I’m publishing Tuesday morning.



    “Psh, I’d be the author who writes anonymous fanfic of my own works, just to see how the fans might respond to certain ideas.” I couldn’t see anyone getting upset if it somehow became public knowledge that you were the anonymous author. In contrast, I think a lot of readers and publishers find it shady when authors are caught trying to rig their Amazon ratings by doing fake reviews. (Fake reviews rarely hold up for long).

  73. The Jedi Penguinon 19 Jun 2011 at 2:56 pm

    “Also, I expanded my points on professionalism in an article I’m publishing Tuesday morning.” I’ll be sure to look for that!

    “In contrast, I think a lot of readers and publishers find it shady when authors are caught trying to rig their Amazon ratings by doing fake reviews.” Not only is it shady, it stinks of ego and childishness. Very negative overall. No matter how good you think your work is, that’s just bad form.

  74. Grenacon 21 Jul 2011 at 10:45 pm

    It’s really sad when I someone flips out over an honest critique that isn’t just a compliment. Honestly I love getting honest feedback instead of just “it’s good”. Comments like those make me feel uneasy. When someone breaks apart my stories and points out the flaws I feel calm, giddy even.

  75. FaceOffon 13 Jul 2013 at 2:15 pm

    Ok , i know this is old, but i thought i should mention that i had a troll keep writing anonomyly to my blog, telling me how much my art sucked and i wasnt funny and i should kill myself.
    I published the letters, and said i was naming the troll “Odisse”, latin: ‘to hate’. When they wrote back again, I suggested (publicly again), that they were really clever and I found them sexy. The third time, I posted a picture of me winking suggestively at the troll. Not only did Odisse vanish, I got tons of positive comments for my attitude XD

    Oh, and from the other side of things, I once wrote a crushingly negatie review of someones work, calling it all cliche and offensive (I was in a bad mood. In my defense, it did suck) and suggesting they scrap it all. They wrote back a really really polite letter that said they saw my point, and would I be interested in helping them fix it? I was really impressed and I ended up beta-ing the whole story, and I was really proud that they not only listented to me, by the end of the story they were actually improving their writing overall, even without my input. Now thats proffesionalism!

  76. B. McKenzieon 13 Jul 2013 at 7:15 pm

    It’s great that you got something useful (like audience interaction) out of trolling. That said, if I told all of my trolls I found them sexy, I think that would raise some major red flags over at Child & Welfare Services. The average age of my trolls is probably around 12.

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