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.
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.
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.
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.
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!
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!
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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.