Writing Wednesday: Readers and Critiques

Last Week’s Goals

Two of my blog posts went up on time last week, but I held back on Meandering Monday. (To be honest, I did write a piece, then decided that I wanted to have time to cool down and revisit it – it may still get posted.)

All available stories remain out to market. Since neither of my candidates for indie publication have returned yet, I’m still behind on my new release schedule.

I wrote on seven days, and made my daily quota on five of them. I made my weekly quota (3,500) for the first time in a while with 5,958 words of fiction on Swordsmaster #2 revisions (now at 112,099 words.)

How To Handle Criticism

For the first three or four years after I decided to be a writer, I read lots of books and blog posts to learn how to write. I also joined a writing community online. I paid my dues – as in volunteering to be a reader and critique others’ work. In exchange, I was also submitting my work for critiques. Unfortunately, it seemed more of a one way street – I gave out far more critiques than I got. Eventually I decided I could make more productive use of my time writing and stopped participating in the community.

On the rare occasions that I received a criticism, I would take it to heart and make the suggested changes at first. I finally stopped doing this when I realized that I was getting conflicting advice from subsequent readers. One would say “take this out”, and the next would say “put this in.” It was like my own version of Dr. Seuss’ The Sneeches – star on, star off. You can’t rely on a single critique to know whether the advice is good for your story – you need multiple critiques so you can focus on common observations.

For years I had a couple of friends who volunteered to read my stories. They were helpful with line edits and proof-reading, but neither one was really into speculative fiction, so even though their critiques were appreciated, the stories just weren’t their thing, and their comments often reflected that. You need readers who are part of the audience you’re writing for if you want pertinent criticism.

When you can get readers, accept their suggestions politely, and if you don’t agree, don’t try to convince them they’re wrong. You’re the one who volunteered to be criticized – not them. It’s your story, and you have the final say, but it’s best to make those decisions privately.

My experience with the online writing community made me hesitant to join another group, but I finally did (after much prodding), and I’ve been with them for a year and a half. When I’ve submitted short stories for criticism, I’ve had multiple readers and been able to identify the advice in common from more than one reader. Sometimes it can be hard to tell if a reader thought of a particular criticism themselves, or they’re just echoing what another person said. If at all possible, try to have your readers put their critiques down before the group meets – that way you know each is giving you an original reaction.

I’m submitting chapters from Swordsmaster: Deception. I had to have the chapter “good enough” for others to read before I let others read it. That may sound silly, like cleaning the house before the maid gets there so she won’t think you’re a slob. But I need to have MY STORY pretty well set down before I show it to others – it keeps me from making wholesale changes and losing the voice.

My latest session there were a couple of criticisms in common that are worth applying. I tend to write very long sentences with multiple clauses (I don’t think I was doing this in my short fiction), so I need to break things up and vary my sentence length. There are also too many named characters (a funny thing, because I felt I didn’t have enough. That’s what I get for reading A Song of Ice and Fire and The Wheel of Time while I’m trying to write.) Swordsmaster is not intended to be that deep.

Just saying…

Current Book Promotions

In a Flash Detective Jimmy Delaney eBook CoverPurrMission-MainTall_025For info on how to preorder my latest release (“Two Buttons to Eternity”), or even get it for FREE, as well as  information and links for my other current promotions (including the FREE starter eBooks for my Herc Tom, Champion of the Empire series and my Detective Jimmy Delaney series), look HERE on my CURRENT BOOK PROMOTIONS page.


Reaching Out

William Mangieri’s writing has been published on Daily Science Fiction and The Arcanist. His ninety or so short stories and related collections can be found at several online retailers, including, but not limited to:

Want to help me make a go of this writing gig WITHOUT IT COSTING YOU A PENNY? I’m in the Amazon Affiliates program, so any time you click one of the links I provide here to my books on Amazon, and then make a purchase of something like, say, a TV, I get a small percentage of Amazon’s profit. So PLEASE consider using one of my links to get to Amazon before you make that next purchase. Thanx!


or on twitter: @WilliaMangieri

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