Saturday, June 17, 2017

Recognizing what works in fiction is most important thing a writer can do.

A critique group of unpublished writers only gives you the opinion of other people who are also unpublished, the visually impaired leading the visually impaired. 

Critiques from your family and friends are less helpful and more insidious because they all have an Extra Agenda. Your mom will love anything you write because you wrote it. (That's what makes so many people think they can sing in karaoke clubs.)

Although family members love you, they are unqualified to tell you if your writing is any good and they have a stake in not telling you the truth so you won’t be upset.

Writers in Facebook writer’s groups will often be jealous of you for being able to write and they will give you so-called constructive criticism in hopes you will screw up your work even more.
It is amazing how much misinformation exists on the Internet. Dependency on critique groups stunts your growth as a writer. It keeps you from learning to recognize what works on your own.

Recognizing what works in fiction is one
of the most important things a writer can do.

You can't write a book by committee. Every time you change something to please others, you water down your own unique voice. Somewhere along the line you simply have to gain the ability to tell bad writing from good writing without help from others.

Writers love the idea of writing groups. Writing is an isolated pursuit. You sit alone in a room struggling to get your ideas onto the page, besieged by constant attacks of doubt. Therefore, it SEEMS to make perfect sense to join other writers who can help you navigate the joys and sorrows of the creative process.

But the reality of writing groups
is far more complicated. 

Underneath the noble intentions of writers groups there are serious dangers lying in wait. As an editor, I see the severe damage writing groups can do to fledgling writers. Writing groups can cause fatal obstruction, profound self-doubt and sometimes years of wasted effort.

In most writer’s groups, on or offline, no one wants to tell the truth and no one wants to hear it. Most writing groups ignore obvious weaknesses in the writing being shared and tell lies about its quality, because they don’t want to hurt the writer’s feelings.

All the writers hear is praise or vague criticism, which does not help them improve. The writers whose work was critiqued assume their writing is solid or maybe even great and they keep on creating fundamentally flawed work because they are told lies.

Of course it feels good to hear praise but it is certainly not helpful for the writer who is trying to write a good novel for CreateSpace or Kindle publication. If you follow advice from other unpublished writers the chances are good you will remain unpublished.

Writer’s groups fail you in more than one way. Either they lie to you to make you feel good or they totally trash your work to make them feel better.

If you are going to let someone read your writing, it should be someone who can help you. An editor, a published writer in your genre or a died-in-the-wool reader who does not bullshit you.

----- (From NOVEL SECRETS available in paperback and Kindle form.)

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Lary Crews