1. Flying Geese
    Offline

    Flying Geese Contributing Member

    Joined:
    Aug 12, 2013
    Messages:
    275
    Likes Received:
    66

    Inspiration: The Correctness of Critics

    Discussion in 'Insights & Inspiration' started by Flying Geese, Oct 4, 2013.

    Some of my all-time favorite stories are actually video games. Now before I get kicked in the nuts I would like to say that most of these stories were older games before they added voice acting to games. So I was still reading and imagining voices to the characters. Although I could see the characters, to me, it felt similar to reading a book, parts that are supposed to be strong are not done with description, but visuals. (Just as good as description, but different)

    As you may know, there are almost as many game critics as there are movie critics. And all the critics talk in ways that don't exactly sound like opinions. Just as with any critics, they can seem totally right, and then other times, they'll have you saying "WHAT?! THAT WAS A GREAT STORY!"

    I was an avid fan of Final Fantasy as a teenager. (a series that features new stories and new characters that are completely related to the installment before and the one after, e.g. FF7 has nothing to do with FF8, and FF8 has nothing to do with FF9).

    My favorite Final Fantasy was number 8. It's a 50-hour game, and I played through it and the side quests about 5 entire times. On one playthrough, the clock that logs the total amount of hours turned red, and reset, because it didn't go beyond 100 hours. That gives you an idea of how much I loved that game.

    If you are familiar with Final Fantasy, you know that the one that the world loves more than them all is
    Final Fantasy 7. I played both FF7 and FF8 and I thought that 8 was significantly better in terms of story and real-feeling characters. The world disagrees. And that's okay.

    I know you are surprised to hear this but the critics' opinions all happened to flow with the majority of the world's opinions. In fact, to this day I am still the only person I know who thinks that the best Final Fantasy was NOT 7!

    There was another video game that I absolutely loved as a child. It was a tale of "Dragon-warriors" told in a way that I haven't seen anyone else even come close to. And it's not bad that they haven't come close to that what that story brought, it's just that to me, that game had a pretty original idea and story. I played the game as a kid, and there is a particular scene where a good guy dies and I, as young Flying Geese, could not help but cry for the loss of this awesome character.

    If you were to search for that scene on Youtube, you would find many comments from players who also felt the heartbreak of watching that character die. (I always wondered if I was the only one who had cried over a game)

    The game was never that popular back when it was out. So I looked it up recently to see what ratings the big-game houses had given it.

    I was shocked. My jaw dropped at some of the reviews.

    So many negative reviews about that game that it almost seemed like trolling.

    On Metacritic, they separate reviews by critics and reviews by users.

    And the community speaks.

    So many people who played the game wanted a sequel. People all over the world shared the same experience I had with that story. Despite what the big-names said, the players themselves (whom the game was made for, mind you) absolutely loved that game just like I did.

    What I found to be interesting is that one big critic said that the game was just a ripoff of Final Fantasy 7. Of all the people I have met who has played both games I have never heard anyone even mention FF7 in a discussion. I think those stories have zero in common with each other, yet the critic says that one is a ripoff of the other.

    The reason I talk about critics is because since I have been a part of this forum, I have heard so much talk of a work trying to pass an agent or editor's desk. When I say "critic" in this post, I use the term synonymously with editor and agent.

    Your work is your work. Your book is not designed to reach out to editors and agents all over the world is it? I hope not! I haven't written a single entire book yet, but I have caught myself thinking of editors and agents as I write and even now I can tell what a dangerous trap it is.

    Let us as writers, who are artists of literature and story, remember that the majority of critics are just that. Critics. Let's not speak of these editors as if our work, our art, is a sacrifice to be offered upon their altar. It is funny that so many people think that they are the person to ask if a movie or book is good, but you wouldn't ever catch them trying to write their own story. Some people have set up their own Youtube channels and blogs where all they do is rate, instead of create.

    What I like about this forum is that we all are aspiring writers. We all are actual artists (I assume). Yes, getting published is important, and cool. But if we would be honest with ourselves, we would remind each other that getting published is secondary.

    The game (whose title I have yet to mention) pleased so very few critics. But the audience, myself included, thought it was a thrill ride!

    My books may never resonate with the soft and tender hearts of critics, editors and agents. As long as it reaches the readers I am trying to reach, I will be happy. I dare say that if you care about agents more than audiences you are in the wrong business.

    No more writing for agents. Write for your audience by writing the story you love --the story you want to write!
     
  2. Burlbird
    Offline

    Burlbird Contributing Member Contributor

    Joined:
    Dec 29, 2011
    Messages:
    978
    Likes Received:
    295
    Location:
    Somewhere Else
    Mistake No. 1 - Do not assume. There are actually people out there who think that publishing a book will make them money...

    Seriously, editors are a neccesary evil. I once edited a literary/art magazine, with a very limited scope and small auditorium (but, I think, significant on a local level) - I can't explain the share number of illiterat and self-important people who didn't let me change one single word, or even a punctuation mark in their texts. I can't forget a girl who wrote a terrible text about certain classic painter, and insisted that we need to have a full-page full-color reproduction of the work, because "my text needs it" - when I told her that, frankly, her text sucks, she insisted even more that "it's the editor's opinion based on him not knowing anything about art" and that "without the reproduction, nobody will understand the text". No point of explaining to her that the magazine didn't have funds for a full-color version...

    HOWEVER - if you want your story published, unfortunately (or fortunately, for some authors and books) you need to pass an editor's opinion. An editor may, as well, be an illiterate and self-important person - but (s)he may also be the next best thing that happened to your book-to-be-published. Think about it: if your book really sucks, you are going to spend more time on it, preparing it, re-re-reading it, asking help from more beta-readers, etc. ultimately making the book better. On the other hand, that particular editor might simply not be your type of reader, and/or his publishing house might not be the right one for your book in the first place.

    ...and the word "art" ... I found it very extremely rarely used for literature, especially in English (and especially on the internet)... Some people, I think, completely ignore the idea of an "art of letters": in best case they use it, very rarely, for a certain type of avantgarde poetry, but almost never for prose writing... Which is too bad, because of all those prose writers who did consider themselves, and who were considered by their auditorium, as artists...
     
  3. Flying Geese
    Offline

    Flying Geese Contributing Member

    Joined:
    Aug 12, 2013
    Messages:
    275
    Likes Received:
    66
    I respect your opinion and I know that editors are editors but I am sticking with what I said that they are given too much. So much that it takes away from authors.

    I see you found the word art very extremely rarely used for literature. ..................I'm still using it.
     
  4. Burlbird
    Offline

    Burlbird Contributing Member Contributor

    Joined:
    Dec 29, 2011
    Messages:
    978
    Likes Received:
    295
    Location:
    Somewhere Else
    Oh, me too! But I still find myself in a minority - when you say art, people instantly think : visual art (of any kind) ...music to some degree -but I suspect that younger audience makes a connection between pop music and music videos, which are visual, so they somehow fail to draw a clear line between the two...
    Take for example "serious" music: I found myself listening a lot to Debussy's "Preludes" and thinking how fun and easy-listening some of the pieces are - not exactly Strauss-easy, and not easy to actually play, but easy enough that I play them when making dinner or work on my bonsai... However, talking to some people I came to understand most of them, even some who are actually musicians, find Strauss (Junior) to be serious music, which needs concetration, dedication and academic knowledge to appreciate...

    I'm not sure where the un-understanding of literature as an art-form comes from... Maybe reading Henry James' "Art of Fiction", a great essay on the subject, might help some people... Then again, recommending a 130y/o essay and calling it significant might get you a lot of "it's dated" comments... :)
     
    Last edited: Oct 4, 2013
    Flying Geese likes this.
  5. EdFromNY
    Offline

    EdFromNY Hope to improve with age Supporter Contributor

    Joined:
    Jun 13, 2010
    Messages:
    4,681
    Likes Received:
    2,533
    Location:
    Queens, NY
    This is mistake #1 in your post. Am editor is not an agent and neither is a critic. An editor's job is to select and prepare a manuscript for publication. Her livelihood depends on understanding what will sell and then providing it. An agent's job is to represent the interests of the writer, in part by seeking out the editors most likely to be interested in the work. A critic's job is to present a judgment on the final product as a guide to consumers, who may or may not agree.

    Mistake #2. I don't know anyone who "writes for agents". However, most writers I know are cognizant of avoiding aspects of writing - mostly in terms of formatting and SPaG - what would brand their writing as inferior.
     
    Burlbird likes this.
  6. Burlbird
    Offline

    Burlbird Contributing Member Contributor

    Joined:
    Dec 29, 2011
    Messages:
    978
    Likes Received:
    295
    Location:
    Somewhere Else
    @EdFromNY I agree with your two points :)
    But one thing I've seen so much on this forum and still can't understand is that thing about formatting and inferior writing. While SPAG errors are something the writer has to work on, and they are part of actual literacy and writing capabilities - and need serious proofreading and additional work on the side of the author - text formatting is something resolved by a few quick clicks of a mouse button these days: you can modify the same text any number of times to fit the guidelines given by your agent/potential publisher/editor (if you reach editing stage), and they don't actually reflect your abilities as a writer (only your intelligence, if you send a, say, cyrillic manuscript to a Portugese publisher)...
     
  7. Flying Geese
    Offline

    Flying Geese Contributing Member

    Joined:
    Aug 12, 2013
    Messages:
    275
    Likes Received:
    66
    Ed, I know what you are saying. And the predictions of an editor have their place, and so does the agent. Im just saying it's not the place we have given them as authors. Think about 2 things:

    1) All the books that were majorly rejected that turned out to be books that everyone loved and adored
    2) Books with the label "Bestseller" that make you wonder if that is an actual honor or just something that used to mean more. Like a college degree in America

    The point I am trying to make here is this:

    Who is to say what is good and what isn't? That would be the audience.
     
  8. EdFromNY
    Offline

    EdFromNY Hope to improve with age Supporter Contributor

    Joined:
    Jun 13, 2010
    Messages:
    4,681
    Likes Received:
    2,533
    Location:
    Queens, NY
    Ah, but in order for "the audience" to make that determination, the work has to be out there to begin with. And until someone comes up with a way to make large scale distribution a reality for self-pubbed writers, that will remain with some variation of the traditional publishing establishment, which means agents and editors.

    As to your first point above, no one is infallible, so mistakes happen. Lots of stories out there about people who were told they had no talent (Fred Astaire, Dustin Hoffman) and went on to stellar careers. But in the field of writing, I can't think of any books that I "love and adore" that were widely rejected. I would be fairly certain that the number is smaller than you think.

    As for point #2, the term "Bestseller" was only ever meant to convey commercial success. It is an old adage that what is good is not necessarily popular and what is popular is not necessarily good (it has to be old; I first heard it in high school, back in the 1560s). That does not mean that what is not popular must then be good. Unfortunately, many young writers (some of whom post on this forum) believe that there is a choice to be made - write something of value or write to attain commercial success. In my time here I have seen several posts of the "screw it, I'll just write junk and make a bundle" variety. It doesn't work that way.

    Write what you feel compelled to write, and if you have commercial success in doing so, then so much the better.

    @Burlbird - I agree, there is sometimes an obsessive focus on format, probably well out of proportion. OTOH, there is that slush pile to get through. I remember reading, maybe 20 years ago, that only 3 out of 1,000 unsolicited manuscripts were selected for publication. I don't think the numbers are anywhere near that promising now. The advent of word processing programs, some of which are specifically geared for writers, along with a "how to" cottage industry, has greatly increased the number of writer-wannabees. The first wave of baby-boom retirees is adding to that, I'm sure. Competition for professional attention is more intense than ever, and even getting the attention of an agent is a major challenge. So, my own attitude is whatever negatives that may be in my manuscript, whatever might trigger an "into the dumper" reflex, I want to remove in order to give myself the best chance.

    I also think that a lot of novice writers don't understand the difference between formatting the manuscript they submit as opposed to what the final published work will look like.

    The good news here is that as self-pubbed e-books grow as an option for writers, the slush piles of traditional publishers may well shrink back to their former levels. Stay tuned.
     
  9. Burlbird
    Offline

    Burlbird Contributing Member Contributor

    Joined:
    Dec 29, 2011
    Messages:
    978
    Likes Received:
    295
    Location:
    Somewhere Else
    @EdFromNY just off the top of my head: "Lord of the Flies", "Catch-22", "Lolita", "Left Hand of Darkness", Kerouac's "On the Road", "The Animal Farm", several Faulkner's novels, "Seagull Jonathan Livinston", "Moby Dick", mother-freakin' "Dubliners"...
     
  10. Burlbird
    Offline

    Burlbird Contributing Member Contributor

    Joined:
    Dec 29, 2011
    Messages:
    978
    Likes Received:
    295
    Location:
    Somewhere Else
    Double post ... Anyways, I still don't get it: why do you think text formating shows a bad writer? What do you base your correlation on? I just took 300 pages of text, changed fonts from Verdana to Arial, italicized all personal names in it and underlined all words starting with "W" within 30 seconds...
     
    Last edited: Oct 4, 2013
  11. jazzabel
    Offline

    jazzabel Contributing Member Contributor

    Joined:
    Jan 5, 2012
    Messages:
    4,273
    Likes Received:
    1,666
    The way I look at it is, if my manuscript doesn't satisfy one editor, that's ok, but 20 or 30? I won't be bitching about the editors standing between me and my audience, I'll take it as a hint that I need to work harder to bring it up to scratch.
     
    Okon likes this.
  12. Wreybies
    Offline

    Wreybies The Ops Pops Operations Manager Staff Contest Administrator Supporter Contributor

    Joined:
    May 1, 2008
    Messages:
    18,837
    Likes Received:
    10,014
    Location:
    Puerto Rico
    I think Ed means the following: (and feel free to tell me to shut my gob, Ed)

    The person assigned to the slush-pile has an enormous pile staring at him/her. S/he starts digging through, mug of cooling coffee in one hand, feeling daunted by the day's work, never mind the two alarm hangover from last night's office party. There are some in the pile that haven't followed convention as regards submission formatting. S/he thinks to him/herself, "Well, if they didn't bother to research the accepted format for submission, what are the chances that they researched anything else? File 13. Next."
     
  13. EdFromNY
    Offline

    EdFromNY Hope to improve with age Supporter Contributor

    Joined:
    Jun 13, 2010
    Messages:
    4,681
    Likes Received:
    2,533
    Location:
    Queens, NY
    @Burlbird - weren't all the works you cite published by established publishing houses? I take it as axiomatic that finding the right fit between publisher and writer is always going to be problematic. A lot of works get rejected by publishing houses, not because an editor thinks the work is bad, but because it doesn't fit with the market that they are looking to serve. That's why any decent "how to" on getting traditionally published urges the novice to learn as much as possible about the agent or the editor to whom they are pitching before they pitch.

    I never said that formatting shows bad writing. But thanks for making your changes. One less ms for me to compete against. :D

    @Wreybies - exactly.
     
  14. Burlbird
    Offline

    Burlbird Contributing Member Contributor

    Joined:
    Dec 29, 2011
    Messages:
    978
    Likes Received:
    295
    Location:
    Somewhere Else
    @EdFromNY eventually they were, but all were rejects (some for over 20 times)... And no, for Nabokov, Faulkner and Joyce at least, it was not about the "wrong agent/publisher", but beacuse their books were "dull" , "inapropriate" or just "illiterate"... Orwell's "Farm" was rejected by a US publisher because "we don't read animal stories here!", meaning he didn't even read it...

    Of course, I think we should talk about serious writing and writing problems... If someone is clever enough to print his manuscript in 13.5pt Courier, I don't see the relevance of constantly mentioning him :)
     
    Last edited: Oct 4, 2013
  15. thirdwind
    Offline

    thirdwind Contributing Member Contest Administrator Reviewer Contributor

    Joined:
    Jul 17, 2008
    Messages:
    7,351
    Likes Received:
    2,891
    Location:
    Boston
    I disagree. I don't think your average reader can appreciate some of the great works of literature. There are some great books that have never really been popular (and never will be) because of their esoteric nature but that are considered great nonetheless. Personally, I would take the opinion of a well-read critic over that of your average reader any day of the week.

    To be fair, what makes a book good or bad or great is a complicated issue. All I'm saying here is that the average reader is incapable of making this distinction. That might be a bit elitist, but we're all veteran readers here, right? :D
     
  16. EdFromNY
    Offline

    EdFromNY Hope to improve with age Supporter Contributor

    Joined:
    Jun 13, 2010
    Messages:
    4,681
    Likes Received:
    2,533
    Location:
    Queens, NY
    I think we're splitting hairs, here. The point is that most novels have to be shopped to multiple agents and publishers before they find a good fit. And I would also submit that the works listed above have more than their fair share of detractors even today. I myself, have never cared for Faulkner, and while I did like Dubliners, I found Ulysses to be like reading hardened cement.

    In James A. Michener's The Novel, one of the characters is a young student writer who's first book, called Kaleidoscope, features pages out of order, text running in different directions, etc. and is acclaimed as brilliant, both by academics and an editor. Of course, Michener was trying to tell us something.
     
  17. Wreybies
    Offline

    Wreybies The Ops Pops Operations Manager Staff Contest Administrator Supporter Contributor

    Joined:
    May 1, 2008
    Messages:
    18,837
    Likes Received:
    10,014
    Location:
    Puerto Rico
    Yup. :) And to address the original issue as posed by the OP, sometimes our personal preference and taste needs to be separated from that of the masses. Sometimes what we love, others detest and vice versa. There are numerous films that I find intriguing that other people would voluntarily pull out their own fingernails to get out of watching. , The Pillow Book, Lady in the Water, The Fountain... None of these was a blockbuster by any stretch of the imagination. Most of them were unsympathetically panned by critics. I love them because they offer something different than the usual masturbatory pap from Hollywood. This doesn't mean write for the masses. It doesn't mean not to, either. It's simply a dynamic that exists.
     
  18. Burlbird
    Offline

    Burlbird Contributing Member Contributor

    Joined:
    Dec 29, 2011
    Messages:
    978
    Likes Received:
    295
    Location:
    Somewhere Else
    Exactly - there are things like the editor's reading preferences, political views and sexual frustrations, which are more likely to give you problems ... A very nasty business, if you ask me, being a writer and all that :)
     
  19. shadowwalker
    Offline

    shadowwalker Contributing Member Contributor

    Joined:
    Jul 27, 2011
    Messages:
    3,299
    Likes Received:
    851
    I think something else to keep in mind is that books that were rejected may (and probably were) revised/edited by the author before being sent out again - so who knows if the publishers who initially rejected them would have accepted had they gotten that revised ms? The rejection/acceptance cycle is much more complicated than "They sent out their ms and got tons of rejections but eventually became a bestseller!".
     
    jazzabel likes this.
  20. shadowwalker
    Offline

    shadowwalker Contributing Member Contributor

    Joined:
    Jul 27, 2011
    Messages:
    3,299
    Likes Received:
    851
    Over-riding those, of course, is the fact that if the editor rejects too many good sellers or accepts too many failures, they will be out of a job...
     
    Wreybies likes this.
  21. Wreybies
    Offline

    Wreybies The Ops Pops Operations Manager Staff Contest Administrator Supporter Contributor

    Joined:
    May 1, 2008
    Messages:
    18,837
    Likes Received:
    10,014
    Location:
    Puerto Rico
    Agreed. I think there's a quietly accepted, though unspoken, misconception that it's about that magic moment when someone sees your genius and accepts your manuscript.... as is.
     
  22. Burlbird
    Offline

    Burlbird Contributing Member Contributor

    Joined:
    Dec 29, 2011
    Messages:
    978
    Likes Received:
    295
    Location:
    Somewhere Else
    ditto :)

    However, I do think that the good ol' days when an editor would read through a manuscript with a red pen, pointing out what he likes or dislikes, thus helping an author of an ultimately rejected work to improve on it for his next subimission - those days never happened :)
    If the only thing standing between an otherwise perfect manuscript and editor's "Yes" are a few typos and page numbers in the upper corner instead of the lower left corner of the page, then screw that editor (and it's not gonna happen)... If however the manuscript is a piece of barely readable trash, but the editor decides to give it a thumbs up because "at least the guy used the right formatting"... naah, that ain't gonna happen either...

    A rejection by one agent/publisher/editor should, in my opinion, be a positive thing for a writer-wannabe : (s)he is given more time to re-re-read the manuscript and work on it. Nothing's wrong with that. But you are not, as OP puts it, doing it for the editor - you are doing it for yourself, your text, and your future readers... In most cases, as I said, you won't even know the full reasons behind the rejection: you have to work them out yourself.
    Sometimes your work just needs more work; sometimes you have the wrong publisher in mind; and sometimes, and that's the reason I pointed out all those rejected classics (beside answering Ed's claim) - sometimes the editor is simply a moron. :)
     
  23. EdFromNY
    Offline

    EdFromNY Hope to improve with age Supporter Contributor

    Joined:
    Jun 13, 2010
    Messages:
    4,681
    Likes Received:
    2,533
    Location:
    Queens, NY
    Did anyone ever suggest anything to the contrary?
     
  24. Wreybies
    Offline

    Wreybies The Ops Pops Operations Manager Staff Contest Administrator Supporter Contributor

    Joined:
    May 1, 2008
    Messages:
    18,837
    Likes Received:
    10,014
    Location:
    Puerto Rico
    Ed isn't saying this. Ed is saying that the things you mention in the above quoted portion are so easy to get correct with a little attention to detail, that getting them wrong looks all the greater blunder. He's also implying that if his manuscript is to be rejected, let it be because of content, not because of some technicality. No editor is going to give a thumbs up to correctly formatted trash, and no one is implying this.
     
  25. EdFromNY
    Offline

    EdFromNY Hope to improve with age Supporter Contributor

    Joined:
    Jun 13, 2010
    Messages:
    4,681
    Likes Received:
    2,533
    Location:
    Queens, NY
    @Wreybies - thank you for translating.
     

Share This Page