Archive | 11:16 AM

Library Writers Group: Don’t be Afraid to Share

30 Jun

Another month, another great meeting of the writers group at my library. I really enjoy this group and the people I’ve met being a part of it. Our topic for the month was giving and receiving constructive criticism.

Many of you probably heard about the latest Goodreads blow-up between an author and a reader. Author Dylan Saccoccio was none too pleased with the 1-star review left on his book and, well, you can read about it here and here if you want. Saccoccio’s account was deleted after it was found out he bribed people for 5-star reviews so the rest of the conversation is still on Goodreads but without the author’s comments. So this becomes a good teaching point. How to we respond to negative criticism?

If you look, the reader’s comments aren’t very bad. She was objective, didn’t attack the author personally and was specific about what she didn’t like. It didn’t work for her, she’s not saying it’s a bad book no one should read. But as a writer, that’s our fear. We’re afraid people will hate our book and tear us apart for what we’ve written, destroying the small kernel of self-esteem we still have. As a result, many of us are afraid to show our work to others. Our one piece of advice on this is to wait a few months after writing something before having it critiqued. It feels less ‘fresh’ that way.

Most people benefit from group critique but having a critique partner is another good way to do this. Some people in the group had found helpful communities online, but most of us had people in our lives who were helpful. I have a few friends I’ve met through other writers groups and other had workshop groups or friends themselves. One thing we advised is that if you walk into a group and continue to talk about how you need someone to read your work, it’s not going to happen. Most people want a critique partner they trust to read their stuff and who won’t burn them by stealing ideas or not reading in return. It’s best to build a relationship before asking someone to read your work. But not too close, because then they won’t say mean things to hurt you.

Our little grammar nugget for this week was the passive voice. There are some good times to use the passive voice! Three we listed were when the subject is unknown (The church was built in 1507), there are several actions (I was arrested, released, and ticketed) or to create suspense (The door was opened). One piece of advice I can give is to turn on your Readability Statistics if you use Microsoft Word. It will run after every spell check and tells you what percent of your sentences are in passive voice. Look online for a target for your genre/reading level.

That’s it for this month! We’ll be back in August with more.

Until next time, write on.

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