Tag Archives: critique

How to Cope with People Who Hate Your Writing

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No matter what you do in life not everyone is going to like it. Take writing for example, specifically genre writing. I’m a genre writer, meaning I write fantasy, science fiction, and the like. However, there are people who can’t stand genre writing, and so they are extremely biased against it. Sometimes to the point where they believe nothing in genre writing is original, and they look down on genre writers. (Recently, one of these biased-against-genre-writers told me that if I wanted to be taken seriously as a writer, I should give up genre writing.)

So, what do you do when you meet someone biased against your writing?

The best tactic is to ignore the naysayers. That’s easy to say, hard to do. But if you don’t effectively mute people who dislike your writing simply because it’s genre or for some other nonsensical reason (and I use nonsensical not intended to belittle anyone’s opinion, but to show that hating on a person’s writing solely because it’s not your type of writing is a tad absurd, not to mention rude), you’ll get distracted from your writing. You may even begin to doubt your abilities.

What’s important to remember is that some people aren’t going to like your writing. Period. There’s nothing you can do to change their opinion, so focus on those individuals who enjoy your writing. (Now, if someone doesn’t like your writing because there’s no plot or the voice is extremely inconsistent, then you may want to listen to their opinion, and revise accordingly.)

Have you ever had anyone dislike your writing for some generic reason? How’d you handle it?

(Photo courtesy of Jenni Konrad.)

“They” as a Singular Pronoun in Literature

5969704980_63ef52f94a_zRecently, I critiqued a few chapters of a young adult fantasy novel. The chapters were interesting, however I stumbled along what I thought to be a pronoun error. It wasn’t until I talked with the author that I realized he meant to use the plural “they” as a singular pronoun.

In traditional grammar, “they” is plural, and only plural. But “they” is also used as a gender-neutral third-person singular pronoun. The transgender community has used “they” for decades in an attempt to create non-gender biased language (the “he” or “she” pronouns).

I’ve since talked to many people about using “they” in the singular. Peoples’ reactions have been mixed, with most individuals being completely unaware of this movement (if you’re not part of the transgender community or don’t know someone who is, it’s not surprising you’d make the same mistake I did while critiquing this young man’s work).

Most people I talked to stated that it was fine to have a gender-neutral term, but that the transgender community should have come up with a new term. Using “they” is too confusing. People automatically assume that you’re talking about a group of people when you use “they” (or in the case of this young man’s story, I thought he was referring to conjoined twins – he wasn’t).

Multiple gender-neutral pronouns have been introduced throughout the years (“thon” and “ze” are a few). None have gained enough popularity to become part of everyday culture, which might explain why “they” is now being used.

However, in terms of writing, using “they” in the singular will make it more difficult to get published. In the editing world, you meet tons of people who are sticklers for traditional grammar. Also, since more people than not are unaware of “they” being using in as a non-gendered singular pronoun, it will appear that the author doesn’t know correct grammar.

“They” can still be used in the singular. But if it’s going to be done, then it must be made clear from the get-go what the author’s intentions are. Authors cannot expect readers to see what they intended. Unfortunately, people cannot read each other’s minds. If readers aren’t made aware of a plural pronoun being used in the singular, they will be confused and will likely not continuing reading.

What do you think?

(Photo courtesy of Paul Townsend.)

What Makes a Good Writer?

There are a lot of people who want to write, whether it’s a novel, fiction or non-fiction, poems, scripts, or short stories. But what separates a good writer from someone who wants to be a writer?

First off, being a good writer has nothing to do with writing literary fiction over genre fiction (despite what many writing programs and the academic world tend to believe). It has to do with the impact your writing has on its intended audience.

Did your writing connect with your audience? Did it engage them?

Three ways to get better at the technical side of writing:

  1. Education. Learn the principles of writing. Study proper grammar and know when it’s ok to break the rules. Educate yourself about pace, tone, theme, and structure. Accept that no matter how much you learn there’s always more to know.
  2. Practice. Write. Rewrite. Write often, every day. Some days you’ll produce crap. Other days you’ll hit a goldmine. Sometimes you’ll have to let your friends go out and have fun without so you can stay home and write (making writing a priority).
  3. Comments and Criticism. Feedback is very important. It gives you views you wouldn’t think of. Your friends, critique group, teachers, family, etc. will point out what you need to work on, which, though might temporarily hurt your self-esteem, will help you improve.

However, there are some aspects of a good writer that can’t be taught.

  1. Imagination. This allows you to create fictional but believable worlds. It allows you to see problems from different and fresh perspectives. Imagination gives you the ability to be sitting at your desk and create things that couldn’t possibly exist in the real world, but are tangible in your make-believe one.
  2. Empathy. This is a big one. The ability to understand and share the feelings of others, and going beyond that, the ability to put yourself in the mind of your characters. Without this fictional characters wouldn’t be believable.

Imagination and empathy can’t be taught, but they can be gained. By living fully in the real world, your life experiences will fuel your writing. Find things you’re passionate about. Seek out new and invigorating situations, no matter how strange or uncool they seem.

Not too long ago I was in Canada and one of the people I was with started singing and dancing in the middle of town. A few of the guys acted all embarrassed and said they’d pay her to stop, but I thought it was amazing and joined in. Did we get a lot of looks? Yes. Were people making fun of us? Some, but others told us they thoroughly enjoyed watching us have a great time.

It was silly and has become one of my favorite memories. I have a character in mind based on that experience, and I would never have visualized that character if I didn’t do something ridiculous.

So, indulge in your passions and your imagination. Feel empathy. What you experience in life will spill over into your writing. Writing isn’t all about skill. A lot of it is about emotion and creating a world people want be in. Make a world people care about.

What habits do you have that help you be a better writer?