Getting Reviewed by Intelligent Writers

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My recent experience at http://www.thenextbigwriter.com has been an eye-opener.

Briefly, here’s what I’ve learned…

1. When you post your story in a place where other writers will actually review it, you discover a new level of objectivity. I can’t describe it, but it’s unlike writing for a vague audience that you hope to someday obtain. The feeling brings new creative energy and you can hear your dialogue better than you’ve ever heard it before, at least initially. Maybe the effect wears off after a while, I don’t know.

2. The opportunity to read the work of numerous other writers in various stages of development is a nice learning experience, generally available to creative writing instructors and no one else. Seeing how other people write gives you a feeling for where you are as a writer. It’s not black and white, but it’s useful.

3. If you have political ideas that are conservative and you let them creep into your story, it will probably reduce the number of reviewers who will read your work, because most highly educated, highly intelligent, creative people in the US seem to be liberal, and tend to see conservatives as crazy, dumb and/or evil people of the supposedly selfish, ignorant, ill-informed, racist “far right.” It’s too bad the US is so viscerally polarized, but don’t let it reduce the amount of help you might get from the great talent and wonderful people on http://www.thenextbigwriter.com.

4. I’m no expert on friendship, but I get the feeling that it might be possible to develop true friends on this site.

5. To me, the most important thing I’ve “learned” so far is that there are three excellent writers who think that the first two chapters of my story are pretty good. One of them said, “Me thinks you’ve got a unique narrative VOICE, Talmage!” When I read this I hugged my puppy, Halo, and almost cried. Well, actually I did cry just a tiny little bit, but I’m such a manly brute I stopped almost immediately. Almost.

6. Here’s a point I wish I’d known before I joined: Although you can submit a chapter with up to 5,000 words, you should try to keep it under 1,000 if you want anyone to review it. At least that was my experience. I had my first chapter (of 5,000 words) posted for many weeks without a single review. I was so discouraged I felt like I had to face up to being a zero talent in terms of fiction. When I chopped the first chapter up and posted a first chapter with less than 1,000 words, I got several reviews within a couple of days. The reason for this has to do with the point system. You need points before you can post your work, so it’s easier to get points by reading shorter things. Incidentally, I think the quality of my writing went up a little when I divided it into smaller sections: more focus per unit, I guess.

No disclaimer: I don’t have any conflict of interest in encouraging you to try out http://www.thenextbigwriter.com.

I’ll keep you posted if you’ll just keep writing. Come on, you got to promise me you won’t give up!

M. Talmage Moorehead

My current in-progress version of Johanna’s novel is not merely character driven, it’s written by a girl from a parallel universe. If you’re interested in intelligent design, weird artifacts, genetics and psychology from the perspective of a nineteen-year-old “Hapa Girl,” it may be a fun read. The protagonist, Johanna, is a genius geneticist with a younger brother who struggles with depression, though you wouldn’t know it to meet him. Her evolving story starts here.

It’s an experiment called, Hapa Girl DNA, and is a hybrid itself – a tightrope crossing of fiction and non-fiction. “Hapa” is the Hawaiian term for “half.” Johanna is half Japanese and half Jewish. In writing her novel, she and I ignore some important fiction-writing rules, partly because we like to test dogmas, and partly because it’s fun to try new things.

But the “rules” are essential knowledge to anyone crazy enough to either break them or follow them mindlessly.

So you could download my e-book on fiction writing, the second to last chapter of which gives my current opinions on many of the dogmatic rules of fiction writing. Downloading that 10,000 word file will place you on my short list of people who will be politely notified when my traditional novel is done – possibly before the next ice age. (No spam or sharing of your info. I haven’t sent an email to my list yet. It’s been over a year.)

Next time you’re writing emails, if you think of it, please tell your best and hopefully weirdest friend about my blog (www.storiform.com). Thanks. I appreciate your thoughtfulness.

Talmage

Way off subject: That’s a picture of my puppy, Halo, at the top. We got her as a tiny pup from a top-notch breeder who shows dogs professionally. We had to sign a contract saying that we won’t show her (because we’re not pros) and we won’t breed her. Also we can’t have her spayed until she’s one year old. Halo is now a 9-month-old Labrador Retriever of the British variety (as opposed to the “Working American” type of Labrador Retriever.) Incidentally, some breeders believe that the two types of Labs should be separated into two separate breeds because they are quite different emotionally and physically. My departed Cortana, a Working / American Lab was more athletic, needed more exercise, had a bigger chest and narrower waist, was taller with longer legs, was afraid of strangers and had an emotional presence that made it seem like someone was inside her who had loved you for eternity and was always beside herself with joy because she’d finally found you again. My little Halo, a British Lab, is calmer, gives less sustained eye contact, loves everyone exuberantly and exactly the same amount (including strangers), and is easier to train. I think she came out genetically potty trained. She still won’t go to the bathroom on walks. (She only goes in our back yard). I have read that many people who buy a lab are expecting a calm indoor dog who is good with small kids and will be content to lay by the fireplace for hours… and when these people get an American Lab they are shocked to find they’ve got a different creature entirely. From my experience, I think this is likely true. Do your research before you buy your Lab. But please, get yourself a Lab. You deserve to be loved at warp 9.

4 thoughts on “Getting Reviewed by Intelligent Writers

  1. It’s tough to give and receive concrit. I think it works best when both people trust each other. I kind of go by the assumption that one’s ability to analyze writing is similar to one’s ability to write, but it’s often a bit mismatched. I generally only feel comfortable giving concrit if someone thinks I write well. Because writing is so subjective, why does my opinion matter especially if someone doesn’t like or know my writing? The answer is that it doesn’t, and I hate hurting people, so I don’t review most things unless I kind of know the person. When I say I like something it’s because I do because I don’t see the point in being dishonest. I’m a lot like a cat in that manner, lol. Friend A has a different style than me, but we both recognize what good writing is, so she helps me a lot. I tend to get carried away as well, like with that gaping hole analogy. She told me she hated it, and I thought it over and realized she was right XD She’s like my voice of reason and logic, part of why I love her so :$ Anyway, this is getting long XD

    Sure, I can e-mail you my story 🙂 I guess any advice would be helpful. Erm, I’m not sure if you want to give out your e-mail address publicly. I created a separate e-mail for my WordPress account and you can e-mail me at thepaperbutterfly@yahoo.com Thanks so much for the offer ^^

  2. Your puppy is so adorable :3 I have two cats that I love to death X3 Most of my friends are cat people, but one of my best friends is a dog person, and has her own dog that she loves to pieces.

    I’m looking for a new place to get concrit since I can’t really post my short stories on my blog anymore or on Fictionpress >_> Yeah, I’ve been in fanfiction for 5 years. Actually original fiction is nicer. Most of the people that review your stories are actual writers themselves, so they give reviews that they would like to receive. I tried one literary critique site, I’ll refer to it as Critique Site 1, but that didn’t work out so well. They were nice, I just I didn’t agree with some of them XD And the ones I didn’t agree with were the most vocal.

    A close friend of mine is also a writer, and she’s very good. I refer to her in my blog as Friend A. She agreed with me on this. I’m trying a new one, Critiquecircle.com. I’ve already found some good writers on there, so I’m hopeful I can get good feedback. Back in my fanfiction days I had a friend that was a good writer, but an even more amazing critic. Her ability to analyze literature and prose was above and beyond her writing skill. She helped me so much, but we parted ways because she was emotionally abusive and I had started starving myself again due to the drama.

    I agree with you. I think it’s good to get unbiased opinions. Although I’m conflicted sometimes. I had someone on Critique Site 1 write me an essay about how all I was doing was “TELLING” and not “SHOWING,” concerning the intro to my suicide story. They rephrased my intro and made it clunky and awkward. Also, their rephrased intro had an even higher percentage of “TELLING,” than mine did XD They got on my case because I implied certain things instead of stating it, but I don’t want to dumb down my story. If someone is sweating buckets you don’t need to say that they are hot because the reader will know that that is implied. I don’t think this person understands what “SHOWING” and “TELLING” actually mean. *sigh*

    To be fair, this person was trying to help me. I just didn’t agree with the things he was saying. I didn’t respond because I don’t like to argue with people. And he lectured me about the importance of reading fiction, which felt a bit demeaning I guess :/ He also told me that my stories were boring as hell. Alright, thanks? What am I supposed to do with that. . . I showed the intro to Friend A and she agreed with me that what this guy was saying doesn’t make much sense. It can be hard to know who to trust. I trust Friend A because she’s a good writer, and she’s pretty honest with me. I tend to trust people that write better than me as well. I think the more I improve the more I realize how little I actually know about writing, lol.

    I know how difficult it is to give concrit because I’ve been on both sides, thus the reason I didn’t respond to this guy. He was trying to help me, but his attempts were misguided IMO.

    Anyway, I think that is awesome that you had some great writers believe in you 🙂 Sometimes that makes a world of difference. I made friends with a fanfiction writer that was amazing. She still writes much better than me XD And her stories were also less popular than mine, well most of them. That goes back to that discussion we had about Cormac McCarthy. She was very sweet and helped me a lot too. When she told me she had never seen anyone else improve so much in the span of a year I felt so happy. I still keep in touch with her, but she’s not writing currently :/ She has a lot going on in her life. I’m still secretly hoping she writes again. I’ve reread her stories so many times. Her style is a mix between McCarthy and John Gardner. She recommended those two authors to me, and after reading both of them, I could clearly see it reflected in her writing XD She is more poetic than Gardner but more verbose than McCarthy. McCarthy alternates between sparse and poetic prose. Anyway, she was brilliant..

    • I would be happy to read your stories and point out what I love about them, but I’m not much good at negative criticism. I had a little of that myself in the 90’s and stopped writing for quite a while.

      Another reason I think negative criticism isn’t necessarily helpful is the fact that it’s so subjective. I would like to appeal to the average reader. A writer is not only as far from that as jumbo is from shrimp, one writer is light years from the next in reading preferences.

      You’ve discovered the joy of negative criticism yourself, it sounds like…

      “She helped me so much, but we parted ways because she was emotionally abusive and I had started starving myself again due to the drama.”

      To me, all the books I’ve read about writing have been only mildly to moderately helpful compared to reading best-sellers (which is what I’m interested in writing, a.k.a. “meaningful page-turners”). All the negative feedback I’ve gotten has only sent me back to re-write my novel again – several times. I went to http://www.thenextbigwriter.com hoping to get some positive feedback and for a while got no comments at all, misinterpreted that as negative feedback and almost gave up. (I mentioned that in a blog called, “Dangerous Adventure for the Timid.” Which I should probably delete because it’s a downer.)

      “She still writes much better than me XD And her stories were also less popular than mine, well most of them.”

      This illustrates the disconnect between good writing and good reading. I think the only way to stay on track is to keep a constant eye on the things you consider good reading and make sure that if you want to earn a living as a writer, you choose as “good reading” something that is popular enough to support you when you succeed. Which you will.

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