Yesterday I was surfing the Escapist instead of doing more important things and came across something interesting. Over the period of an hour I read four different threads containing the “first chapter” of a story. One of them wasn’t bad. Two of them were absolutely horrid. One was a badly worded “idea” for a book and a cry for someone else to write it for him. I tried to “help” them with their works and received a lot of hostility from everyone except the story that was decent, oddly.
Let me preface this by saying the following: As much as I hate to admit it, I am not a writer, I am a blogger. There is a distinct difference. I might write a short story or poem on occassion, but these mind dumps on Archive Crawl make up the largest majority of my stuff by far, which makes me a blogger.Yes, I would like to think that I am a good blogger in that my posts are somewhat interesting and well-written, but I only assume that because no one has corrected me on that fact. That’s key.
It seems that the criticism:praise ratio changes depending on your situation. If you made a YouTube video, for example, the comments would probably be nothing but hate. However, it seems that “writers” who post their pieces expect some kind of sanctuary from criticism. It’s crazy. Of course, being a critic by nature I usually take it upon myself to point out why their stuff sucks and how it could be improved, but that’s the thing. I’m usually one of the few people who have anything other than glowing praise. It’s like there’s a secret order of internet White Knights that ride about defending badly written pieces.
And when I say “badly written”, I mean it in every sense of the word. Pronoun misuse of the highest degree, repeated and overly-simple sentence structures, using the wrong word when they sound the same (a la through/threw), blatant punctuation errors that could never be chalked up to “style”, it’s all there. I’ve read stories where half the sentences didn’t start with capital letters! Who’s putting out this stuff?
Oh, and 1500 words does not constitute a chapter no matter how many lines you make it into. That’s a paragraph with formatting problems.
I don’t claim to be a master of the English language, far from it, in fact. I know that my pieces are wrought with formatting and punctuation errors. But at least I recognize that fact! I think that the largest shock in moving from high school to university was that I was moved out of the AP English classes and put back in with the… *ahem* “less skilled” of the bunch. Doing peer reviews of the papers that they were attempting to turn in was an experience that quickly went between maddening, humorous, and depressing. They were just SO bad. And yet, the people never realized their errors, despite the reviews of other people (not me) and doing multiple copies with proofreading. That’s the worst part of it all. Reading some of the so-called “great” material on the web puts me back in the same mindset.
So, to all of your amateur writers out there, hear my plea. It’s great that you found something intellectually stimulating to work on, it’s a wonderful hobby. However, if you are planning to actually publish your pieces anywhere outside your blog then please, PLEASE check your work. Get some critical reviews. Writing is a very difficult process, something that takes a lot of time and multiple drafts. A rule of thumb: A written piece of work is like a painting. If you’re ever completely, 100% happy with what you have then you have simply blinded yourself to its faults.