Universal Clue

Writer's MindWhen I was scrolling back through my blog drafts looking for a topic for today, this little message from the ‘verse sort of popped out.

Find the good in what they said or asked, Silver.

It’s always there, even if they didn’t mean for it to be there.

Sherlock-ly yours,
~The Universe

Clues for what you want, Silver, are hidden all around you.

I’m in the middle of judging an unpublished contest. As a judge, I’m expected to make comments both in the manuscript and on the judge form. As a judge, I need to find encouraging things to say, even when there’s not so much there.

Every writer needs to start somewhere. Every writer needs to learn their craft. Every writer needs to develop a very thick skin. These are givens. But at the same time, a person with the dream of being a writer needs encouragement. It’s up to me to find the good in what they said. I don’t want to be the person who caused that person to quit, to give up on their dream.

But at the same time, when I struggle with my own writing, these words ring true as well. Reviews. Yeah. Even the bad ones can hold clues to making me a better writer. But man, it’s hard to read them sometimes, even with a thick skin.

Don’t get me wrong. I’m not advocating that readers should only post rainbows and unicorns, especially if they had an issue with a book. I want them to be honest about my work. At the same time, the trolls who attack can take a flying leap off the nearest tall building. There’s a difference between honest opinion and gang mentality–but that’s a topic for another day.

Today, I’m working on my Sherlock-ly skills. Today, I’m looking for ways to be gentle and encouraging while still pointing out flaws. And I’m also looking for the clues flung my way about how to live this writing life.

Writers, thoughts on reviews and/or critiques? Readers, thoughts on the reviews you make?

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About Silver James

I like walks on the wild side and coffee. Lots of coffee. Warning: My Muse runs with scissors. Author of two award-winning series--Moonstruck and The Penumbra Papers, Red Dirt Royalty (Harlequin Desire) & other books! Purveyor of magic, mystery, mayhem and romance. Lots and lots of romance.
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10 Responses to Universal Clue

  1. I don’t envy you. I hate having to give criticism – even when honest feedback has been requested. And trying to temper it so it’s honest, but not too blunt? OMG, I suck at that. I either end up with not honest enough or too blunt. (Of course, it’s been a while since I read unfinished work, but I don’t expect I’ve changed all that much.)

    Good luck! If anyone can find a nice way to critique raw work, it’s you. =o)

    • Silver James says:

      I’m of the blunt school myself. I’m asking for a critique because I can no longer see the trees OR the forest. Tell me what’s wrong. Give me ideas to fix it. THAT’S how the work gets better. But I trust my critique partner. It took a long time to find her! 😆 But I’m not most people. Thanks for your faith, B.E.!

  2. Janet says:

    I agree with B.E. – you do awesome critiques, Silver 🙂

    To be critiqued is hard – whether for the unpublished or not – in any aspect of life! I think one of the most important things I learned as a teacher was to give constructive criticism (and, sometimes, I even remember to take the criticism constructively).

    As for reviews – oh, my, trolls and friends and those that offer reviews for free reads – as a reader, I just don’t trust them, therefore don’t read them.

    • Silver James says:

      Aww, thanks, Janet. I really do try. It helps when I know the person, though. I can temper my words to fit their personality. Judging contests is harder because I DON’T know the author. But at the same time, it’s a way to give back to the community.

      Interesting take on reviews, Janet. 🙂

  3. jblynn says:

    Having had the experience of having over 200 people critique one of my scripts live, while I sat on a stage with a bulls-eye painted on my forehead (okay, not literally painted, but it felt that way) and they sat in the audience taking turns tearing it apart, I can honesty say I don’t get very upset about reviews any more. (Unless they’re the ones that give it 1 or 2 stars and they don’t say WHY….those irk me.)

    I’ve actually learned a lot from less-than-stellar reviews and grown as a writer.

    I’m sure my critiques are considered by some to be overly blunt because I tend to be a blunt person. That said, there’s a difference between a blunt critique and a malicious one (and I’ve had both…the trick is knowing which advice to even consider).

    I hope your lesson serves you well, Silver.

    • Silver James says:

      OWWWW! Dang, JB. That takes guts. And yes, as long as the less than stellar reviews tell WHY the reader has an issue and what the issue is, I can learn from that. I think all of us tear out our hair when we get 1 and 2 with no explanation. Grrrrr.

      See…we all *get* it. Bluntness, I mean. I think that’s one of the first lessons a new writer needs to learn–to understand that a blunt critique is better. 😀

  4. bookwyrm217 says:

    The Spawn has run into issues with people who ask her to read their scripts and she warns them up front that she’s going to be totally honest and they say “ok, not a problem”. Until she is and then it is a problem. And she’s usually right too. I don’t envy any of you. I have enough problems writing yearly reviews for my employees.

    • Silver James says:

      Ugh! Yearly reviews are worse. Seriously! And poor Spawn. But you know? If people just blow rainbows up *your* skirts, then you’ll eventually make a complete fool of yourself. And look stupid. 😉

  5. Liza says:

    I write reviews and really try to find something good to say about a book, even if it doesn’t work for me. Honestly, I usually don’t write a review for books I DNF or don’t like. I might rate on goodreads, but won’t give full info.

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