You Just Can’t Take Criticism

You may have heard that a time or two. And if you have, there’s more than a chance that the person saying it had a gleam of triumph in his or her eye. You asked them what they thought of your work—and oh, boy, did they tell you. Such a reader isn’t shy. Indeed, they have a talent for bringing you to tears of distress. They’re free with judgments like “ugh”, “cheesy” and “cringe”, but short on specifics.

Press such a reader for details of what they meant by “it just doesn’t work” and they’ll exclaim “Don’t ask me! You’re the writer!” Readers like this behave though they occupy some kind of moral high ground, regardless of their blunt rudeness. And up there, they clearly seem to believe, there’s no room for minced words, pulled punches,or…feelings. No, instead you must let them rain down upon you with a barrage of vague, yet devastating,truthbombs—because, they’ll point out—you asked for their opinion.

It’s hard to reply to this. Unless you caught this reader in the act of scoping your work without permission, you did ask for their opinion. So make any peep of argument, show any sign that their comments are hurtful, and you’ll find yourself in the rapidly growing shadow of the biggest bombshell of all: “You know what your problem is? You just can’t take criticism!” It’s a blockbuster. Since a professional is supposed to welcome honest opinions and have a hide as thick as armor,” can’t take criticism” seems unanswerable. Did your rude reader just destroy you?

No. Wait. I’d like you to consider the possibility that you absolutely can take criticism—but what you just experienced was no such thing. It was a volley of noise, not a legitimate critique. Critique—not mere disapproval, digs disguised as advice, shouts from a soapbox, or any of the thousand other varieties of noise—is the only kind of criticism you should be expected to “take”. Critiques are perhaps best known to art students. In their essential form, they consist of three-to six-hour sessions where students pin their latest assignments toa the wall and listen as their classmates describe what succeeds and fails in each piece, using agreed-upon terminology that their professor teaches them alongside their creative skillset. There is no place in a “crit” for jabs or snark; the students are there to defend their creative decisions, not their dignity. The fact that art students do not, as a rule, exit critiques in despair, vowing to hurl their materials into a ravine and never draw again, shows how effective it is to limit the discussion to that which can be expressed in targeted, technical vocabulary.


So back to your truth-bombing reader. If ever you find yourself under fire, don’t panic. Ask yourself: is this person, at a minimum, able to speak properly about writing? When a reader is capable of using dispassionate terminology to point out specific examples, it gives you confidence that their opinion has value—and that, in turn, makes it easier to believe they aren’t just out to annihilate you. A reader becomes far easier to listen to if, instead of pouting “this reminds me of that stupid book from high school!”, she has the ability to recast her comment as “I can’t tell whether I’m supposed to sympathize with this character or not… remember how upset I was when that happenedin[bookfrom high school]?”. A respectful, properly worded statement such as “[Trope] is overused… look at [examples]” is far less likely to frustrate you or hurt your feelings than unactionable snark like “OMG, so hokey”. And you may safely give yourself permission to ignore readers who blurt “Ugh. That’s like a bad sitcom “without being able to tell you what makes a sitcom bad, or why they made that comparison.

When you were writing, you had countless choices. Not every piece of research you uncovered made it into your final draft; you didn’t use every possible plot device; every potential combination of words could not possibly have been considered. In each and every case, your decision was guided by some analysis—conscious or not—of the value choice would bring to your work. Those choices extend to what “criticism” you take. Be choosy—not in the sense that you refuse to entertain any doubts about your work, but in that, you won’t waste energy reacting to comments that don’t meet your minimum requirement. You’re a pro, after all, with better things to do than be a target. Don’t engage with inferior forces. Just let their stinkbombs pass you by.

The Blessings of Fanfiction

Are you familiar with the term fanfiction? Fanfics, also referred to as FF, are literary works that are based on existing works. The source can be a book, a movie, a series … The fanfiction author is usually a fan of the work. A big fan. Fanfiction usually has no commercial ambitions and its main birthplace is the internet. It is damned by many as offence and destruction of the original source. This is very easy to understand. Fanfictions rarely achieve at least some quality. They are often terrible, rough, and clumsy offspring of teenagers. Yes, full of those things that usually occupy the adolescent mind. And these teenagers usually force the main character and the villain to do the mentioned activities … Huge age difference? Not a problem. Can an animal participate? Sure! Well… Yes, it is a mess. So, what’s so good about fanfiction and its authors shouldn’t burn in hell?

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Making Erotica Useful in Writing

Sex is a powerful lure be it in real life, written stories, or in video formats. It is one of the effective tools for advertising, catching a lot of the desired attention. From elegant pin-ups to the distasteful, vulgar ads, from a subtle to an open presence, this element is present all around us. Literature is no exception. Sensual context, even detailed erotic scenes are a part of literature since its dawn.

However, erotica is a double-edged weapon. Including it into your work may rise it to the new heights of quality, or bury it into the depths of trash.

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Realistic and Diverse Characters

Creating characters that look and behave in a realistic way is one of the major challenges a writer faces. The main problem is, not a surprise, the author is just one human being. There are the personal views, experience, fears, preferences … and this, sadly, very often results in generic characters that flood the author’s work without them realizing the new protagonist in the next novel is just the short-haired, taller version of the previous one. Maybe the color of the t-shirt changed as well. And yet, this does not stop the readers from realizing the striking resemblance.

The danger that lies here is obvious. Repetition is boring. The same characters bring predictability, predictability ruins the joy of reading and, ultimately, the author may lose the audience and reputation.

However, there are a few things you can do to avoid the upper mentioned. You can also download our character sheet designed for writers for a quick and easy character creation.

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