Thursday, September 30, 2010

Just how much weight *should* we give a critique?

I got knocked on my ass again just a few moments ago.  Seems to be a regular occurrence lately, and I have the ass-scars to prove it.

While involved in a heavy discussion for the last few days--wait, more like a knock-down-drag-out-here, hold my beer conversation--the guy who was gladly engaging me began taking things to a personal level and attacking my character.  Mind you, the conversation began as a discussion about what to say to a writer who gets his feelings hurt with a less-than-glowing critique.  Bitterly, I say, "how appropos."

But follow along.  It wasn't until after I dragged this person back on topic to writing, that he suddenly threw in a critique of The Gaslight Journal.  Now, understand, he obviously couldn't be bothered to actually make his suggested edits in the comments section beneath the book.  Nope.  He had to drag them out into the open in a thread that was already 23 pages long, and then do it in such a way as to make me look like the idiot I probably am, but deny ever being, as I'm fully human. 

The image came to mind of that of an Alpha male chimpanzee.  Part of his job as the Alpha, is to literally smack down the females in a bid to make them become submissive.  And while I am endeared to both apes and chimpanzees, I don't really like the being smacked-down part, especially by a guy who freely admits he's been unable to land a publishing deal with a DTB publisher, and so he's resorted to selling eBooks on Amazon.  While my accomplishments have been small, compared to many of my author friends, I at least can claim publication in both DTB and DTP.

But, back to my story.  As this critique progressed, it was evident that he was digging for things; things that hadn't been pointed out in the 89 other previous comments the book had received.  My first impulse, was to say that the only reason he introduced the comments in the manner in which he did, was so he, being the good Alpha male chimp, could feel the strong urge to smack me down and make me submissive.  It was the only conclusion I could draw, because things he was saying were things like:

You say in this line that she hit the ground, and yet in the next sentence you've got her brushing snow from her skirts.  Which is it, DIRT or SNOW?

Now, I would've thought that anyone in their right mind would've been able to read the line, "Her bustle hit the ground hard, knocking the wind out of her," as nothing but a woman's butt hitting the ground.  I didn't say anything about dirt.  I thought it was a widely-accepted colloquial part of our vernacular to say ground when you mean you're outdoors.  Is that not right??  And yet, he seemed to think this was such a passion-killer, that, how did he phrase it?  " in and of itself is a rejection-worthy problem."

Oh, but kiddies, wait--the fun doesn't stop there.  He then proceeds to continue the Carla-bashing by adding such noteworthy gems as, if I had submitted this chapter for editing at a professional editing service, not only would my cheque have been returned, but I would also never see publication. The man said that not only could I not write, but that I clearly sucked. He actually used the term sucked, that no amount of editing or changing would be able to save it, "because the plot is contrived, the character’s behavior is pop psychology, not human behavior. People emote for the watching audience rather than behaving as people living the event."

I gotta say, this was all news to me.

But here is my question:  I'm thinking that had he presented this to me, first, in the proper comments section where it belong, and second, in a rational, less-angry state-of-mind, perhaps I might've entertained his notion a little more seriously.  But, since he chose to use this critique, and that of another one of my manuscripts, as a clear way to humiliate me and beat me down, am I expected to listen to it?  Are any of us?

Please give me your thoughts on this.


  1. Carla hahahah I can't stop laughing!! omg you are the greatest!! lol
    All the best :-)

  2. Enjoying your blog. This man certainly seems to have hit a nerve. Maybe put the book aside for a bit and come back to it with fresh eyes. Sometimes it's the comments that hurt the most that are the most insightful, after we've calmed down.

  3. Hey Anonymous,

    I'd like to say his intent was completely altruistic, but alas, he has now moved on to bashing other people's writing in much the same way, and after seeing his critique style with others, I realise he had absolutely nothing of value or worth to add to my writing.

    So, I let it go, and am the happier for it.

    But thanks for the viewpoint.

  4. Hey Darlene! Glad you're still here.