1. Georgy_Vervloet
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    Georgy_Vervloet New Member

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    "Help" with writing

    Discussion in 'General Writing' started by Georgy_Vervloet, Oct 27, 2008.

    I seem to have a terrible time accepting help with writing. It's so personal and, if I can go so far, such an intimate craft that to have others voice their opinions feels dreadful. I rarely take direct advice, I simply cannot, and it may get to the point that even implied help is left alone. I've dropped whole stories over implied help, sadly, because the thought process is such that "this story is mine, I cannot continue if someone else helped."

    Though if I may add, I do suffer from OCD, which is no doubt unhelpful.

    Slowly I've managed to rationalize this, putting the focus more on the story and characters than on myself-- in theory my books will still be around when I'm not and the readers will be thankful for the story.
     
  2. misaditas
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    misaditas Member

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    I know what you mean. I have stories that have become my babies and always feel awful when I've sent a chapter off for proof-reading, even though my proof-reader is a friend and always fair.

    Unfortunately the only way to get used to these feelings is to admit pieces for critique. By doing that you learn to discern what is truly helpful pointers. And it never gets easier, because writing is such an intimate process.

    Ignoring advice is a writer's prerogative, to be honest. At the end of the day a critique is only someone else's personal opinion - beyond spelling and grammar it's no more right or wrong as your writing.

    I hope that helps a little :redface:
     
  3. Gannon
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    Gannon Contributing Member Contributor

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    Difficult. I understand your preciousness over a piece, the mixed emotions you have. It is a combination of not wanting to expose yourself, wanting a piece to be 100% your work, but of a desire to be lauded. Ultimately you should not fear a constructive critique of your work, this will almost certainly improve it. Often one is too attached to their own work to be able to spot their own shortcomings, like being too close to a painting al you see if the brushstrokes, from a distance the whole picture can be absorbed.

    I also understand the uncertainty about sharing your writing with the wider community. This depends on why you are writing. If you are writing as catharsis, then it may be unwise to share. This externalisation of emotion may be best left unshared, it depends with whom you share. However, as the maxim goes 'it's good to talk' and likewise it's probably beneficial to share. Perhaps start with a friend, a confidante.

    All this aside, unless you desire to self-publish any publisher will edit your piece - and you may not like that either, though you'd be foolish to decline their services. By extension, anyone that is willing to help you, or even read your work, should be listened to. You never have to accept their opinion but if they are willing to help, they are certainly entitled to have an opinion. be confident in your ability, be proud even, but don't be too proud to accept help. Kind regards.
     
  4. tehuti88
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    tehuti88 Contributing Member

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    I'd often like help on my writing, but it's not the kind of help that other writers on forums such as this are willing to give. I stopped looking for critiques and reviews long ago because I realized that almost everything everyone is offering me is a matter of opinion. I know how to spell. I know my grammar. I know how to write. And I wouldn't write something the way I do unless that's the way I want it written. If there is an adverb here or there, it's there because I WANTED it there. If I use a prologue, it's because I choose to. If I use a device that others consider cliche, it's because that's how I want to write it. So when somebody says, "I wouldn't phrase the sentence this way" or "I wouldn't start the scene like this," I'd always feel irritated and like saying, "Thank you, but that's the way I want to write it." So I stopped seeking critique because critique on my style and word choice, etc., is not what I'm looking for. Not to mention that my stories are VERY long and even if I did want style advice, it would apply to only that one short piece of the story, and that's not helpful to the story as a whole.

    What I love feedback on is what people thought of my characterization, plotting, theme, symbolism, etc. That is, the stuff not always directly stated--I love hearing from people who "read between the lines" because, unlike somebody who says, "I love your story!" this means they actually READ it. It's greatly encouraging to hear others' thoughts on how I pull these things off and if they work. And what I do want help on is when sometimes I'm in a tangled bit of plot and I want to ask somebody their advice on how it should go next or how to get out of it. Thing is, nobody can offer me help on such things without having read the entire length of story that has gone before (and without knowing how I write and think, as a person). And seeing as I write very long serials, nobody has read that far. At least, if they have, they aren't speaking up. I have enough trouble getting anyone to say, "Great story!"--never mind getting somebody to actually COMMUNICATE with me about what I'm writing. And I haven't really any friends into my writing to ask about such things.

    Speaking to relatives is out of the question. They don't see the point of writing if one isn't making money from it.

    The only time I could really talk to someone about my writing, and get help, was the one time I had a best friend who was actually interested in writing herself. We would help each other on our stories and collaborate and everything. That was in elementary school. I haven't met anyone else like that since. And I can't find somebody like that online because, as I said, people are either interested in only reading and not commenting (the people who do comment say things like, "I don't know anything about writing and I can't think of anything to say aside from I like this"), or in offering style critique for publication purposes, or in trying to get published themselves, and I don't fit into any of these camps.

    So I know all about wanting help on writing but not being able to ask for it since it's such a personalized thing. It's pretty difficult.
     
  5. Scarlett_156
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    Scarlett_156 Active Member

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    No one should ever feel that he/she HAS to let others review/criticise his work. If you don't feel that others are qualified to review your work, or if you are the shy/sensitive type, then why torture yourself? Let it stay the way it is, and don't show it to anybody.

    However, if you plan to submit your writing for publication, then you will of course have to let someone else--probably a lot of someone elses--pick your work apart and discuss it with you. If you self-publish and your writing is weak and full of errors, people will either ignore your work completely or, even worse, hold it up to ridicule.

    As someone else has already noted in this topic, there's only so much help a bunch of strangers on the internet can offer to an aspiring writer--HOWEVER, as unpleasant or shocking as it may be to have one's writing discussed by those strangers on the internet, if nothing else it's good practice for when you're getting the work ready to send to a publisher.

    Being able to accept the commentary of others on one's work is an art all unto itself, and personally speaking it gives me a lot of pride to be able to listen to what people say about my work without getting all upset. That wasn't always the case! When I was younger I used to freak sometimes when someone would trash my writing or my bass-playing, ya know? But I worked on it. I put a lot of effort into trying to accept what people had to say graciously and with good humor; I learned that I didn't have to take every criticism to heart.

    My efforts paid off and now I don't get upset or flustered when someone gies me criticism--ESPECIALLY if I asked for it! (lol!) Though I'm often surprised at what people will say, my surprise never turns into anger anymore.

    I consider that an accomplishment and something to be proud of, and indeed learning this skill has helped me become a better writer and a better musician, and just an all-around better person. (Although I find that I dislike referring to myself as "a better person". Forget I said that.)

    I hope these remarks are helpful to you. yours in Chaos, Scarlett
     
  6. TWErvin2
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    TWErvin2 Contributing Member Contributor

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    It depends on your goals with your writing. If it's mainly for yourself (or a small group of personally known readers), then there is no reason to take in outside input and/or alter it.

    If you hope for publication, then you'll have to move past this and expect that others will read and offer suggestions. Even if you study the craft (I don't care for that word, with respect to writing, but in this context it gets the point across most efficiently) for years and put something together that is accepted by one of the big houses, expect that an editor is going to look at it and it will be edited/changed, most likely in a coordinated fashion with some give and take. Even at a smaller publisher, even with short fiction (semi-pro/paying) some work with an editor most will likely occur.

    Terry
     
  7. architectus
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    architectus Banned

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    I am the opposite. I love criticism, can't get enough of it. It might be the only way I will ever see what I am doing wrong so that I can correct it. Perhaps this is because I don't consider myself a writer. Not until a publishing house pays me a good sum of money for my writing will I consider myself a writer, and I doubt my view of criticism will change then.

    Even if someone gives me a story idea, I feel the story is still mine, because I had to create the characters and the world to bring that story idea to life. All they did was give me a pointer.
     
  8. Dcoin
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    Dcoin Contributing Member

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    I have a feeling the acceptance or denial of criticism stems more from personality than the anything else.

    On a practical note, if you cannot accept the opinions of others then writing will be limited to a private and personal experience.
     
  9. TwinPanther13
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    TwinPanther13 Contributing Member

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    Orson Scott Card, L. Ron Hubbard, J.R.R. Tolkien, C.S. Lewis, Stephen King, and many other professional writers who are successful have accepted the advice of others and have written articles stating that they have to improve there writting.

    If the best accepts help shouldn't you?
     
  10. Little Miss Edi
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    Little Miss Edi Contributing Member

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    Your work is personal but for that reason you can't really see it's faults. Accepting criticism is kind of like a stab to the heart but taking it on board, analysing it rationally (and remember - it's just an opinion so weigh up how valid the source is) and trying to make adjustments where you think they're beneficial, will help your writing.

    If you take each piece of criticism and really analyse it in the context of your work, then you make it your own, then you choose whether to act on it or not. You're still in control, it's still yours and even better you're progressing.

    I once had someone tell me I "couldn't write dialogue for sh1t" - they were right. Upwards and onwards. With any luck - I'll improve. Don't worry about criticism, in the end what doesn't kill you will make you stronger.
     
  11. Cogito
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    Cogito Former Mod, Retired Supporter Contributor

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    You can learn to get around your own bias enough to recognize flaws you see in others' writing. It's not so easy to spoit the habits you have NOT learned to see in other work, though, so that's one good reason for seeking critiques from others.

    Another important matter you cannot see without help is the "inside knowledge". As the writer, you know what you had in mind when you wrote a passage, whether it be prose or poetry. However, some of the essential assumptions you hold within you that make it clear TO YOU what the meaning is may never have been communicated to the reader, or have been communicated too ambiguously to be useful. Knowing where a reader gets confused or lost is valuable information that you will never be able to track down without feedback from someone whos starts reading without your assumptions.

    That is also a good reason for avoiding adding explanations when you hand writing to someone to critique. If you have to explain it, either it must have been made clear in a preceding excerpt, or something is missing from your writing.
     
  12. Honeybun
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    Honeybun Active Member

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    Hello,

    All what the others above have said is quite true, if you're willing to maintain a career or a passion as a writer, then you'll probably get nowhere if you keep your work to yourself just for the sake of not accepting others' reviews and comments on it.

    I think that a writer who really wants to progress should be brave enough to accept criticism and other peoples' opinion on what is being written. I have benifited a lot from being a part of this forum, learning how to regard my works from a different angle, as well as how to review and comment on others' writings.

    I posted a short story I've written "A Day to Remember", which I actually sent as part of my MA application Portfolio to major in Creative Writing, and I got accepted, regardless of the flaws it had and the comments, which I truly agree upon that other reviewers have made about it.

    There's nothing to worry about as long as what you want to write is something that appeals to you. but sometimes, if not all the time, it's useful to have a fresh eye on something, you'll be amazed to the things you might have missed out.

    Keep it up ;)
     

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