A Brief Pause To Refresh, Recover

We are taking a “Personal Day” time-out to give some of our impacted bloggers time to recover from Hurricane Irma. (And we haven’t forgotten Harvey!) Our thoughts go out to everyone who was affected (and continues to be affected) by the weather events.



2 thoughts on “A Brief Pause To Refresh, Recover


    What follows is my opinion.
    Several days ago, I commented on a First Page critique. I liked the entry even though there were a number of grammatical errors and some rewording needed that would strengthen it. My concern is that comments on “show don’t tell”, “passive voice” and all the other commandments of writing dominated the responses. Very little was written on the overall impact of the piece, which I thought was original and compelling. I didn’t need to know the genre or time or the location in the first 400 words. Others thought that was a problem. I didn’t.
    I thought about my reaction. What I’ve concluded is that we as critiquers (is that a word?) are not doing as good a job as we should . We knowledgeable readers have been inundated with the rules of writing. I remember my first word, ‘nannas’. I’m so glad my mother didn’t tell me not to start a sentence with a direct object. Whether it is in writers groups, formal training, or internet critiques, we believe it. We pass it on.
    I’m reminded of a comment from Abraham Maslow: If the only tool you have is a hammer, you tend to see every problem as a nail. Are these clever bits of isolated wisdom all we have? Are they our hammer?
    I fear that too many of us worship these tools and forget the purpose of what we are writing. We are trying to entertain our readers. I’ve just finished a relatively well-known novel that had been made into a successful movie. I found about ten “errors” in the writing, but that didn’t diminish the value of the story for me.
    I’m not saying to ignore these rules or guidelines, they are critical if we are to be understood. But if that is all we see wrong then we’ve come up short. Remember that using passive voice or a little head-hopping are relatively minor and can be corrected in a rewrite or by an editor who has the skills to fix these problems.
    As a new writer, learn these guidelines, learn grammar, learn how to structure a story, and all the craft-parts of being an author, but don’t forget that the most important obligation we have to our readers is to entertain. Spend more time on the concept. Say something original is my personal bit of wisdom. Of course I fail at this, but one day, maybe 1,000,000 words from now, I might get it right.
    When we give feedback we should not only point out craft errors but tell the writer if the story is compelling, did the first sentence grab you as a reader, were the characters interesting, were the images created in the scenes clear and interesting, and probably a dozen others I can’t call to mind right now. You don’t have to be gentle, just truthful. That will help more than ‘don’t use -ly words’.
    We’ve heard people like Jim Bell, Larry Brooks, and the rest of the TKZ gang remind us that a well crafted story the isn’t a grabber will fail both in traditional and the self pub markets. And they are right. Write a grabber. It doesn’t have to be Hollywood high-concept but it can be. Make the story flow from one sentence to the next. Work to it a mental prison that the reader can’t escape until it is finished. And then they want to get up in the middle of the night to order the sequel from Amazon. (As soon as I figure out exactly how to do that, I’ll pass it on.)
    Finally, ask yourself why books like Fifty Shades or Twilight sold an enormous number of books. Was because their sparkling grammar which was perfect, or was it because both books told compelling stories that hit their markets just right? When we critique a book we need to give the writer feedback on both writing craft and the images created in the telling of the story.
    I want to be the first to say that I probably need an editor for this piece.
    For those of you who have read this diatribe, thank you. I hope it helps.


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