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What is Your Responsibility as a Writer?

Today I want to talk about your responsibility as a writer.  Hint: it’s NOT just about writing books.

I recently witnessed a young writer, in a Facebook group, ask for critique on her first chapter.  

I and several other writers offered to read it.  I made copious notes and sent it back, however she couldn’t access my notes due to a “version” issue of the software we were using.

However, other writers had better luck.  After receiving her critique, she got angry, left a rather snarky message on the group and left.

It showed little for the writer’s maturity, when they lashed out and even less for their ability to accept criticism.

In truth, the work was too rough to even be ready for constructive criticism.  It appeared she had not even given it a few passes herself.  Everything from the structure, character development, dialogue and world-building were severely lacking.

This was not the first time I had witnessed something like this.

Nowadays there seems to be a rush for people to ask for “critique” less for receiving actual critique and more in a hope of validating their skill.  When that doesn’t happen, these writers lose their temper.

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Do The Work

As writers we have to accept some responsibility.  This includes completing our manuscript, editing it and asking for and accepting constructive criticism.

Having critiqued works for a number of writers, I did get backlash from one after I pointed out some structural flaws and heavily disjointed writing, as well as a lack of understanding about the world they had created or even the character.

It felt like a first draft when really, by the time it came to a beta reader or critique partner, it should have been through numerous edits by the author themselves.

I’ve been asked to beta read stories that were so heavily in need of a basic edit, it would have taken a lot of my time and felt like I was doing most of the work.  In these situations, I usually bow out.

There are editors paid to do this kind of work, so expecting other writers to give you a massive free edit early on in your writing is pretty cheeky.

I have even heard a published writer complain about a bad review where the reader didn’t finish the book because it was dull.  Their frustration came that the reader should have “pushed through” as it got better in the end.

A book should not be dull to read with all the excitement and character development at the very end.  No one wants to read that.  No one should HAVE to push through.

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Beta Readers and Critique Partners

People who agree to be Beta Readers and Critique Partners, are giving up their time to help you grow as a writer.  Not everything they suggest will be good for your story and as the author, you can accept or reject it.

However, one thing you should NOT do is waste their time.  You, the author need to take responsibility for your writing.  That means editing your story yourself (several times) before you give it someone else to read.

I don’t care if editing isn’t your strong suit, it’s not up to someone else to do this work for you.  Especially not people who are giving up their time for free to assist.

Also, finish it.  Most betas and cps don’t want to go through part of your manuscript then wait months until you write the next part.  We need to keep the flow and so may even have to reread the earlier part again.

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Know Your Audience

It’s the writer’s responsibility to make sure their book is marketed for the right audience.  Don’t blanket bomb everyone you know asking them to read your book.

Are they your target audience?

If you have joined a popular group on Facebook, say for Sci-Fi writers then don’t drop in post after post promoting your historical romance.

I was asked to read and review an ARC of a book purported to be sci-fi.  That was all I was given.  In truth, it was a sci-fi, but it read like a children’s book.  I was definitely not their target audience so couldn’t even get through the entire book.

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Firstly, I don’t think it was particularly written well (despite being published) and secondly, I couldn’t enjoy any of it because I wasn’t the right fit.

You have to be clear on who your audience is and choose your betas, CPs and reader-target accordingly.

The book I mentioned, when I checked later, the author considered it “book for all ages”.  This is too similar to “it’s for everyone” and no…no it’s not.  NO book is for everyone and if you market to “everyone” then you’re really marketing to no-one.  So cut that shit out!

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Don’t Blame The Reader

Never blame the reader for not enjoying your book and for not pushing through to the “good bit” at the end or for struggling to be captured by your story.

It’s your responsibility as the writer to write a story that pulls a reader in.  You won’t catch them all and some will hate your work because of personal preference.  That’s part of the writing life.

Suck it up, Buttercup and move on!

Write a good story, edit it until it’s brilliant then let a few choice people read it for their feedback.  Then edit it again.  And again.  Repeat.

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Take pride in your work.  No one has to read your stories, so you need to make them the best they can be.  But that is up to you.  Betas and CPs will help, as will a professional editor but you, the author has to do the bulk of the work.

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Happy writing

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17 comments

  1. No one likes criticisms, even when we’ve asked for it. But in reality it’s the only way we grow, as people and as writers. If we think about the feedback given, provided it’s constructive and not cruel, we can usually see the reason why. It’s a learning curve. Great post Ari. 💙

    1. Thanks Lorraine, I appreciate your comment. Yes, no matter how thick skinned we are, criticism still cuts.

      I personally find, that due to struggling to be understood (I have what I call “brain blanks”) where I actually become unable to speak… it makes me very stressed to be critiqued because in person, just talking, I struggle to make myself be understood – so trying to be clearer while writing fiction…. lol that’s like crazy

  2. This is a really useful article. Some great points for newbie/budding writers here, as well as those who’ve been “in the game” for a little longer. Thank you.

    1. Thank you my friend, I appreciate you taking the time to read it and glad it is useful.

      (sorry for the delay… I have gotten into a nasty habit of checking my comments when I have no time to respond then they get pushed down).

      1. No apologies needed, Ari. Comments can be overwhelming… for you to reply as/when/if you are able to!

      1. You’re welcome. I agree that writers need to respect beta readers and not waste their time, and they can’t blame readers either, since one can’t please everybody.

      2. True. There are beta reading groups on Facebook with clear rules such as your manuscript must be finished, must be edited before it’s given to a beta and yet I see post after post of “I’ve just written my first chapter, I need a beta to read it”

        Very frustrating! I think more writers need to remember to be professional.

  3. I agree with this a lot. I’ve faced a bit of critisim for my book, many saying I published too early. At first, I was hurt–it was my first book and I felt it was a really good story. But, little things were pointed out to me and over the last few weeks I have toyed with the idea of going back and sitting down with my book and noting changes I didn’t catch the first 500 times I edited the story.

    Minor incidents happen, but I understand that major ones are a no-no. I think an author who is willing to accept to critic and consider making the changes for their readers, shows growth and professionalism. Writers who refuse and lash out publicly, yeah–NO. I’ve seen both. GREAT post!

    1. Thanks for reading. Glad you liked it.

      It is always hard accepting criticism. As someone who bristles the moment criticism is winged my way, I can totally appreciate how hard it is when someone says something negative about something you worked hard on.

      We all miss things and it takes a strong person to listen to the criticism and work with it, to make something better.

      You are totally right, it’s about growth and professionalism 😀

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