Who's opinion - first time writer

I’ve taken a long time to throw myself into writing my first book after a lifetime of enjoying casual writing, and a reputation for good writing in many different situations. I am half way through it now.

I have read a LOT of stories about people asking friends or people in the business to read a sample of their writing to see what they think. At first I though yeah that’s a good idea. Then I asked an inlaw who was a published writer and poet. He came back and told me I use sentences that are far too long.

The thing is. I couldn’t see what he meant. I couldn’t see how it was the case. That put me off the whole thing for more than ten years.

Since then I have reread these and more stories about what some people do and become more and more jaundiced about the whole principle of the idea. I see people publishing excerpts online to get opinions. I see people going to writing classes and reading out excerpts for opinions.

Ad yet I cannot get away from believing that it is a deeply misguided thing to do. We have absolutely no idea what tastes in reading these people have. What misconceptions they have. We have no idea what ‘good’ means to them, or how it related to what ‘good’ means to us, or to someone else.

I am left in a quandary therefore. I have decided to compile about a quarter of my book and give it to my oldest friend, whom I don’t see that much any more but am still close to. I will ask him to simply tell me if there are any fractures in how I write. Anything that he feels is a ‘problem’. Is my quoting ok, are my characters not credible. I don’t want to know if he likes it or if he thinks it is ‘good’.

Anyone want to put me straight ? :laughing: or agree ? 8)

I thought I was the one that coined the phrase :unamused: : TTFRBOTW, but it has become increasingly obvious…
annerallen.blogspot.co.uk/2012/1 … hy-to.html
… that it’s a case of great minds thinking alike. :unamused: I come across the same sentiment being expressed all the time. However, I usually add the caveat, ‘It’s handy to know just where the rule book landed… just in case :frowning:

My feelings are, that if you follow all the rules, all the time, you will write the same novel as every other rule follower… or words to that effect… if y’ know wot I’m sayin’.

With me, the preceding word determines the subsequent one… so to speak. Mostly, it’s a case of, whatever comes into my head, goes down onto the page. I’m pretty clued up on where to put the full stops/periods [size=85](I think)[/size] I let Kory Stamper guide me, mind you, I’d let Kory do anything she wants. :blush: youtube.com/watch?v=wFyY2mK8 … am-webster

Check out th the 15&16th paragraphs: articles.philly.com/2012-08-24/n … am-webster
[i]Stamper turned out to love the job, from her first Style and Defining course, where a veteran editor stressed the importance of mastering the rules, requirements, and idioms of the language, then chucking them all if called for.

A dictionary, she explained, is a record of language as it is actually used. “The longer you do this, the more you realize that a lot of the usage rules we live by are not really rules. They’re suggestions, the favorite rule of a long-dead grammarian that has no basis in usage.”[/i]

Write it the way you feel it should be written. That way it’s your book. :wink:
Take care

Not only do I agree with vic-k above (who I’ve been quietly enjoying the comments of for the few years I’ve been lurking around on these forums :smiley: ), I think you picked the wrong person to have a look at what you’re writing.

The first step do destroying whatever self-esteem you have in your writing is to give it to someone who doesn’t like the category/genre of what you’ve written. Of course you’re going to get at best a side look and polite they didn’t like it comment, or at worst a heavy-handed berating for being the worst writer on the planet and have no business wielding a pen/pencil/typewriter/computer and trying to come up with passable fiction. If you hand a sic-fi fan a young adult coming of age story, they’re not going to like it. If you want to show someone what you’ve done and get some useful feedback from them, pick someone you know and trust that likes the kind of stuff you’ve written. If you’ve written a thriller, pick someone who likes thrillers. If you’ve written fantasy, find a fantasy person. If you’ve crossed-genres your story, say a fantasy mixed with cozy mystery, find a cozy mystery fan and pitch them the idea that it’s a cozy mystery just in a fantasy setting and you’d like them to maybe look at it to see if you botched it up. Worked for me, and I’ve gotten a few folks who don’t even like to read the genre my current book is in reading it, and liking it. It’ll work for you, too.

But above all, develop thick skin, otherwise people like us (I also put the dream of writing on the back burner for more than a decade because of what I thought others would think/thought about my work) will never get published.

Oh, and when it comes to the “rules” of writing, I like these wise words from a famous actor:
“… they’re more like guidelines.” – Geoffrey Rush in Pirates of the Caribbean

Great comments. Good to know I am not off my rocker … vic-k my favourite ‘rule’ that does my head in is writers that say write every day and then cut cut cut … F***k I find when I go back and revise earlier scenes that more often than not, though I sometimes cut little bits, I actually fill in a LOT more than I cut. Thanks for the comments - I will check out the links you include.

MrDithers I certainly picked the wrong person. I am hoping this one works better and as I said I am telling him NOT to read it as whether he likes it at all. I’ll decide that. I just want to know if it’s got flaws so bad I would be embarrassed to self publish :unamused:

I do agree that there are a completely insane number of “rules”. Also a nonsensical number of grammar rules and writing rules out there too. Don’t get me wrong I like decent grammar and punctuation. But when I read the punctuation rules (page and pages of them) I find, as someone pretty well educated, that I wouldn’t know if 80% of them were broken in a book I am reading. Even some grammatical errors, if consistent, can give colour to a character.

Oye I’m so glad to find others that cannot abide this ‘share and compare’ obsession.

I think Stephen King explained it best when he talked about how some people naturally take stuff out, while others naturally put stuff in. Neither is right or wrong, the only problem is when you don’t know which one you are. Me, I’m definitely when of those taker-outers. I’m cutting down voraciously on excess wordage and minor plot points that would do well to go into the sequel to the book I’m writing now. Good luck, but remember to, above all, have fun.

Hi Guys, Strange outcome …

I sent a third of my book (I am half way through) to that old friend of mine I mentioned above. He is a senior exec and reads a lot of fantasy, and likes thrillers he said. (though I don’t think mine is a thriller, myself).
I sent him a list of instructions that included instructions NOT to look at it from the point of view of liking it … and a few others :laughing:
I also sent it as an un decorated ePub, late one night, for him to import into his iBooks on his iPad in his office the next day.

I got a message from him at 9.30am the next morning saying he had started reading it over breakfast on his iPhone, and wanted to read more. Then he spent the early morning in the office reading all of the rest and tells me he thinks it’s great. I sent him another few scenes and now he is asking me (in a good natured way) when he can read the rest !

Jeez. I am completely unsettled and nervous about sitting down to write. It won’t stop me … but I never expected such a reaction.

Y’ve not sent him a synopsis of 50 Shades of Grey, by mistake, ‘ave y’ :open_mouth:

You’d better sling the first chapter up here. If it’s a crock o’ shite, we’ll tell y, and y’ can start on another novel, instead. By the way, y’ mate doesn’t smoke the Holy Herb, does he?

:smiley: I’m probably the wrong one to reply since I posted my prologue on the other forum and have had 63 views and no replies, but…

I gave my novel to a friend at the very beginning. She didn’t “pick” at it but got stuck on the question of genre - you need to pick a genre to market to, you need to pick a genre to market to, etc.

What happened was I second guessed myself and started changing things and wished I hadn’t. Luckily, I had kept copies of everything (this was before Scrivener and its snapshot feature) and I changed many things back.

Now I take comments with a grain of salt. Sometimes it’s just nice to unload a chapter or two on someone. Motivates me to finish.

Write how and what you want to write. You’re not writing to please others. So there!

On the contrary, it seems that he is an extremely acute and discerning judge of writing quality. :mrgreen:

Well … actually I am. I am writing to pay my bills. No other major reason, like many writers. Your other comments I agree with :laughing:

I posted a reply, the other day, but took it down as soon as I’d finished it. I’m not altogether sure why I did. Could’ve been the mood I was in, I don’t know. One minute it seemed like legit, constructive crit, then it seemed nit-picky.

I think it’s important to consider why you are asking others for feedback. It seems, for example, that you had a clear purpose for the feedback you looking for the second time, and hence were more likely to get feedback you found helpful.

Personally, I hate feedback on my writing; loathe it. I usually find it distressing and irritating and have been known to get terribly emotional.

And yet I actively seek it.

Despite what vic-k may think, I am not into self-flagellation. I do it to improve my writing. I also never, never, respond to it the first read, nor reply to the person who provided it. I read it and will likely get all upset and angry at the criticisms and then go and do something productive unrelated to the feedback. If I really can’t leave it alone, I might make some comments/annotations on the manuscript in response to my reviewers comments - then I’ll go do something else that’s productive. A couple of days later, I read it again and can then (usually) see what they were getting at. Sometimes I agree with them, sometimes I don’t. Sometimes, even though I don’t agree with an issue raised, the fact that it was raised indicates that something wasn’t working the way I wanted, so I try to work out what that might be. I also try to get feedback from different people. Some are excellent at picking grammar errors and style inconsistencies, others focus on the big picture and how everything is linked. They will each see things that I didn’t.

Here’s the three key things I have learned:

  1. Know what type of feedback you are asking for, or at least what type is provided (not always the same thing).
  2. Read the feedback twice, with time in between, and only act on it the second time so that judgement isn’t clouded by emotion.
  3. Make your own decisions. If people say something doesn’t work, pay especially close attention to what they say and then choose what you will do in response. Sometimes that involves not making any change at all. Regardless of the response you make (minor, major or none at all), have a reason why you made that choice and document it. Then you understand what you are doing and are making choices rather than just reacting to either other people’s vision of your work or your own emotional response.

Used the above rules for my doctoral thesis which then put me in good stead when I received “official” feedback from my examiners. One of my examiners said I used an “interesting approach” with “mixed consequences” (not in a good way) and that my research questions were vague and contradictory - but all in all, a good start and give this boy a doctorate once he fixes the bits I don’t like (I’m paraphrasing liberally now). Imgaine receiving that without having had any prior feedback!! :open_mouth:
The other examiner loved it, and wrote glowingly about how well written it was: the logical arguments based on theoretically derived hypotheses which, in turn, were grounded in clear research questions (I want to frame that examiner’s comments!). The quality of the writing was only as good as it was because it had been so carefully critiqued along the way. The writing, the “voice”, was still mine and the all the choices were mine to make. But in the face of those critiques, I had to make choices and had to choose what mattered and why. That made me a better writer.

I am aware that the above was for a doctoral thesis, not a novel, and that there are obvious differences. Even so, when I eventually get my current work in progress (a novel) sufficiently developed, I will be sure to seek feedback. I know I won’t like the critical bits, and that’s why I need it: then I can make my choices.

I endorse all the wise things nom has written above. The fact is, if a majority of your chosen readers don’t understand/don’t rate what you’ve written, there’s something wrong - and not with them. (Of course, if you really want to experience excoriating criticism of your pearls, enough to make you question whether writing your shopping list is really a good idea, I suggest you try team journalism…)

I believe your credibility is now gone.

Long ago, long ago. :unamused:

Speaking from the editorial side, I’m still wondering just who is opinion?

Cousin of Minion. Born a Virginian. Lives in Dominion.

:laughing: :laughing: :laughing:
Careful, mate! Ahab’s a backwoodsman from Main, they’re worse than the hillbillies. :open_mouth:

I don’t think you’ve spent enough time with hillbillies…

Y’re kiddin’… ain’t y’!? :open_mouth: Been married into a family of West Coast Celtic hillbillies for over forty years. :frowning: