The New Yorker this week is publishing a story by F. Scott Fitzgerald, “Thank You for the Light,” that it rejected three-quarters of a century ago.
This is a strange thing, but I’ve noticed it many times: a bad day’s work is a lot better than no day’s work at all.
The question authors get asked more than any other is “Where do you get your ideas from?” And we all find a way of answering which we hope isn’t arrogant or discouraging. What I usually say is “I don’t know where they come from, but I know where they come to: they come to my desk, and if I’m not there, they go away again.
everylilthing asked you:
Thank you for your post on taking critique. I submitted something to be critiqued recently and it upset me when I didn’t get the feedback I was hoping for. Your post helped me open my mind to the advice that was given so for that, I thank you. :)
I think I know exactly what feedback you’re talking about, and this goes for anyone who received unnecessarily harsh, insulting, or patronizing critique that minimizes you as a writer, reduces or mocks your writing ability in any form, or tells you how you should write your own story.
Harsh writing advice DOES NOT MEAN good writing advice. Sometimes those who speak eloquently insist that they can only be correct in what they tell you. They also tend to think that there is only one RIGHT or CORRECT way to write, and this is a thousand percent wrong.
Also, if someone tells you there was no point to your story, if someone says “I guess you can write about less complex stuff while you’re still learning how to write” and that your subject is “too serious for you to handle”, that’s purely an opinion, not advice, even if it claims to be advice. Any time you receive advice that tells you you’re writing about things you’re not ready to write about, that’s not advice. If, however, you receive feedback that tells you to do more research because you could represent your subject matter more strongly, that’s harsh advice that’s good.
Advice should challenge you to do better, not make you seem like you’re perched on dad’s big leather chair, swinging your feet as your index fingers stab away at random keys to his neat typewriter. And your critique giver might claim that they are, in fact, challenging writers to do better, but this isn’t always necessarily true. Negative reinforcement is just that: it reinforces negative thoughts. It’s not even a cleverly disguised way to be a jerk.
Good critique is constructive, not destructive. Bad critique will hurt you. If you like to use parenthetical statements, that’s fine, but perhaps your problem is that you’re using them too frequently or not as effectively as you could. If your critique partner tells you to take them out entirely, that’s not for them to decide. This is a question of personal style, and your critique partner can advise you to be more selective about using them if you choose to keep them, or offer you advice on how to use them more effectively, but commanding you to change your style entirely is destructive critique.
Also, if your critique partner is talking you down, using words that you’d expect to hear if you were caught keying their car or pushing their mother into a trash can, insulting you by telling you “you’re not good enough” instead of “you can get better”, this is destructive critique. Don’t ever go to them again.
Good critique partners are just as open to critique about the way they give critique. If a critique partner is open to giving an opinion in a public setting, they should also be open to be publicly challenged. If I, as a critique partner, disagree with someone else who’s giving critique, I have the power to say so and we can discuss our opinions and perhaps come to some sort of mutual agreement. Critiques should always be challenged by other critique partners. This is part of being a responsible critique partner: you’re ready to be wrong.
However, if someone gives their critique and shuts off anyone who tries to challenge them, they’re just as bad as writers who tell every critique partner that the feedback they give is wrong. If I post something on the blog and someone disagrees with it, they can politely message me, and I’ll respond to them. I’ve learned how to give better writing advice this way, and that’s the point. I want to be able to give the best advice I can, which means I have to be open to feedback. If I’m not, I end up in this dangerous place where I think my word is law. It’s not. Your critique giver’s isn’t either.
So, in the end, yes, your critique giver has some good points (even if given with needless inflammatory presentation), but they also have some really bad points. Get additional feedback before you settle on anything, and make sure you read What to Do With Bad Writing Advice. This is precisely why I wrote it.
Thank you for coming to me with this. I’m so glad you did. Good luck!
Please read this yeah writers!
I love it when “flavored” things come with little blurbs of advertising on the side exclusive to each one; like it’s not just vanilla but it’s Tahitian vanilla or handpicked such and such from here and there and the lemons are grown in the south of this region while the lavender is harvested in batches, etc etc.
And I always wonder whether the copy writer enjoys his or her job.
- Virginia Woolf on James Joyce: [Ulysses is] the work of a queasy undergraduate scratching his pimples.
- Harold Bloom on J.K. Rowling: How to read ‘Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone’? Why, very quickly, to begin with, and perhaps also to make an end. Why read it? Presumably, if you cannot be persuaded to read anything better, Rowling will have to do.
- H. G. Wells on George Bernard Shaw: An idiot child screaming in a hospital.
- Ralph Waldo Emerson on Jane Austen: Miss Austen’s novels . . . seem to me vulgar in tone, sterile in artistic invention, imprisoned in the wretched conventions of English society, without genius, wit, or knowledge of the world.
- William Faulkner on Ernest Hemingway: He has never been known to use a word that might send a reader to the dictionary.
- Ernest Hemingway on William Faulkner: Poor Faulkner. Does he really think big emotions come from big words?
- W. H. Auden on Robert Browning: I don’t think Robert Browning was very good in bed. His wife probably didn’t care for him very much. He snored and had fantasies about twelve-year-old girls.
- Mark Twain on Jane Austen: Every time I read ‘Pride and Prejudice,’ I want to dig her up and hit her over the skull with her own shin-bone.
- Truman Capote on Jack Kerouac: That's not writing, it's typing.
The Exclamation Comma. “Just because you’re excited about something doesn’t mean you have to end the sentence.”
Brain scans are revealing what happens in our heads when we read a detailed description, an evocative metaphor or an emotional exchange between characters. Stories, this research is showing, stimulate the brain and even change how we act in life.
Researchers have long known that the “classical” language regions, like Broca’s area and Wernicke’s area, are involved in how the brain interprets written words. What scientists have come to realize in the last few years is that narratives activate many other parts of our brains as well, suggesting why the experience of reading can feel so alive.
The brain, it seems, does not make much of a distinction between reading about an experience and encountering it in real life; in each case, the same neurological regions are stimulated.
The novel, of course, is an unequaled medium for the exploration of human social and emotional life. And there is evidence that just as the brain responds to depictions of smells and textures and movements as if they were the real thing, so it treats the interactions among fictional characters as something like real-life social encounters.
We no longer have to just take iconic writers’ words on the power of fiction. The New York Times’ Annie Murphy Paul explores the neuroscience of your brain on fiction and how narratives offer a way to engage the brain’s capacity to map other people’s intentions, known in psychology as “theory of mind.”
You Brain, On Fiction.
Fountain is brought us by these great minds and developers like; John August, NimaYousefi and Stu Maschwitz. What is fountain? Fountain is a syntax that can be written on any computer Linux, PC, and MAC. Also, this syntax will allow you to write your screenplay anywhere on any web based apps that can edit text files!
With fountain you can write and collaborate in real time with your writing team through Google Docs and export it as a text file and import it to Final Draft, Screenwriter, Celtx, and Scrivener.
I like when authors try to create characters they think are smarter than them. I think it should be done often, and it should be done well. The advantage the author now has is that he or she created this world too, and that really should give the author the upper hand in this journey.
However, very often I will read about a character who is “smart,” but because the author hadn’t taken advantage of the world, the character made poor choices. “Why didn’t he just do X?”* the readers will ask. And, for me at least, this character is no longer and will never be “smart.” He’s lost all credibility and it’s unlikely I will read what the author ever has to say again.
*This is different when, by showing that the character got too full of himself and failed the author uses this as an opportunity for character growth. However, these aren’t the kind of characters I’d label “smart by intention.” These are just characters, and can just as likely be good or bad characters. Characters who are supposed to be unstoppable geniuses run into other sort of troubles, whether it be via interpersonal relationships, external phobias, or otherwise.