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All Things Writing & Publishing > Do you have a friend, who writes books?

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message 1: by Nik (new)

Nik Krasno | 13798 comments I bet many do, what with so many (avid) readers and authors here on the group.
Imagine s/he's all excited about finishing writing a book, asking you to read the manuscript and voice your opinion.
You start reading and, god damn, it's how to say it: not exactly a masterpiece and you start even to suspect it's the most infantile piece of writing that ever crossed your sight. What course of action would you take and why?
a) Avoid eternally answering whether you've finished reading the book
b) Tell him/her: 'Mate, writing is not for you, don't waste your time'
c) Try to wrap up critique with words of praise and compliments for accomplishment, effort, diligence, idea and so on, to sweeten and make the feedback equivocal
d) Praise ecstatically the courage, idea, ______ and predict anything from Pulitzer to Nobel

The answer doesn't have to be entirely serious, just a little bit...

message 2: by Ian (new)

Ian Miller | 9779 comments If you attend a writer's group, you get to learn to be diplomatic rather quickly. Admittedly, you only discuss a small section. My approach has been to comment favourably on any good bits and for others, make alternative suggestions. If there are no good parts, I shut up.

message 3: by Leonie (new)

Leonie (leonierogers) | 1579 comments I also attend a writer's group.

It's certainly a tightrope. I also try and focus on the good bits, critique gently on the issues (concrete things like tense, homonyms, spelling, etc) and then finish off with any other positives.

Plot holes and other things also require addressing, but sometimes you have to do that at a later date.

One of the biggest things to address is for a writer to write understandably, and that really only comes with attention to the basics - like spelling and grammar.

I know some would argue that language is fluid - and it is - but the reason we have spelling and grammar standards is to make sure that every time a sentence is read, we all read basically the same thing. Clearly there is nuance and context, and looking at the greater story, but writing anything is intentional, and about communicating, so in that sense, getting the basics right really does matter.

message 4: by Nik (new)

Nik Krasno | 13798 comments So, Ian, you are with C and A in extreme case, and Leonie, you are with C, right? Preferring not to discourage rather than deliver candidly?
Anyone favors a more blunt approach?

message 5: by Nat (last edited Jun 06, 2017 12:54PM) (new)

Nat Kennedy | 29 comments I'm in a writers group and we've been buddies for a long time. I tell 'em like it is. What I liked, what I didn't like, where I thought they were smoking crack. They know me and know I'm not attacking them as people and in fact love them as friends. Not a place for thin skins.

BUT if I'm editing for people I don't know (or I know they are sensitive), I tone it down, word things to be more suggestive versus 'this is crap, fix it'... If they come to me for honest critique, I let them know I'll give them exactly that. If they just want me to read and review, I'm a bit more soft on them.

As for me, I want to hear the truth. Sometimes it hurts, but I have to know it's not about me, it's about the writing and having other eyes on it is invaluable. Knowing what doesn't work for others, what is down right bad, is priceless. Even if I don't take all the suggestions, hearing them helps me look at the work more objectively.

message 6: by Leonie (new)

Leonie (leonierogers) | 1579 comments Yes - for me also: I'd prefer to hear the truth about my own writing.

message 7: by Ian (new)

Ian Miller | 9779 comments Yes, Nik, a bit of C and A. But I won't lie. There is no point in praising something that is really pretty ordinary, or even worse.

message 8: by Marie Silk (new)

Marie Silk | 1020 comments I haven't been to writers groups and I don't know of anyone in my immediate circle who writes books. Your question is cringeworthy, Nik, because it makes us consider what others might have thought about our own books. It's probably why I'm too chicken to tell my friends that I've written books in the first place :D. To answer your hypothetical, I would probably congratulate them on their accomplishment and wish them the best of luck with it lol.

message 9: by Leonie (new)

Leonie (leonierogers) | 1579 comments And yes, Nik, basically C - at least at my writers group. When I write reviews, I'm sometimes a bit more blunt, because the writer has already published the story, and sent it out into the world. (Publishing implies it's a polished product.)

Over the last few years, I've become more and more skeptical about books that have only high ratings - mainly because I've then picked them up after reading the blurb, and ended up with a story full of telling not showing, poor spelling, tense changes and dodgy writing.

Realistically, every writer will get some poor reviews. We don't all like the same thing. Having only positive reviews suggests family/friends bumping the ratings to my now skeptical mind.

As writers, we all have to develop thick skins, and be willing to learn from critiques. Writers groups are good for this, because they allow us to learn, and improve our skills in a safe environment. Beta readers who will speak their minds are also invaluable. Good editors and proofreaders even more so.

message 10: by Nik (new)

Nik Krasno | 13798 comments Marie Silk wrote: "Your question is cringeworthy, Nik, because it makes us consider what others might have thought ..."

Yeah, I might have this irritating habit of asking a little disturbing questions -:)

message 11: by Denise (new)

Denise Baer I don't have any real life writer friends. Most of my friends don't even read, except for gossip magazines and books like 50 Shades of Grey. I only know online writers. :(

message 12: by Nik (new)

Nik Krasno | 13798 comments Denise wrote: "I don't have any real life writer friends. Most of my friends don't even read, except for gossip magazines and books like 50 Shades of Grey. I only know online writers. :("

Who knows, maybe some of them have written a book or two under a pseudonym, but are timid to come out and announce it -:)

message 13: by Denise (new)

Denise Baer Nik wrote: "Who knows, maybe some of them have written a book or two under a pseudonym, but are timid to come out and announce it -:) "

Who know..."
I don't think so, Nik. They're more movie people. My own family isn't big on reading. I can't tell you how many friends and family haven't read my book(s). At first it bothered me, but now I'm like, whatever. Reading isn't their thing.

message 14: by P.K. (last edited Jun 08, 2017 07:16AM) (new)

P.K. Davies | 358 comments I don't know why I missed this thread; it is rather important. I have made comments under the Writer's Group theme and also suggested somewhere a basic guide to reviewing to improve or try to standardies the silly star system. In writers groups a member has to feel the tenor of the group and is probably helped by knowing the writer and having commented on other portions of their work. Then there is the individual critique, from a friend or a family member. For professional reasons they are probably and mostly unhelpful because they are not going to tell why they hate something. I understand too what Denise is saying; because many of my ex associates are either dead or not available, there is no one I know who would WANT to read my books so I would not ask them to. The only alternative, Denise, is to pay for unbiased criticism. But if one is asked to review a book, and especially, as Leonie points out, one that is already published, it is essential to me to try to be as truthful and useful as possible without driving the author to suicide. It is about respect; respect for the art of writing with its great history and respect for one's own integrity. I have recently been berated by an author here for giving him a bad review. But it could have been much worse had I catalogued the reasons why I didn't like it rather than an overall impression as to why I didn't like it.
I'm with Leonie about the approach to reviewing. I am also getting restless about the whole business of POD writing. There is so much dross there that should never have been put out and in future I will check everything I read by Amazon's taster app before buying. At least, even in two pages, I will know whether or not it has been written by someone who understands English and the practice of writing.

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