Monday, August 07, 2006

Using Comments

Evil Editor has been most pleased with the New Beginnings. The continuations have been brilliant in that they maintain the original author's tone while taking the story in an unexpected direction (in some cases, a direction I wish the actual story took). Of course choosing one instead of five makes it easier to maintain the quality, though it means some good continuations miss the cut.

If you submit your first 150 words to Evil Editor, your input will come from commenters. EE occasionally prevents a comment from getting through, if it seems mean-spirited, but not if he disagrees with the comment. You can't be sure whether a particular comment is coming from a third-grader or an editor, so individual comments should not bother you. But when many commenters have the same reaction, a red flag should go up. Will an editor or agent have the same reaction?

Besides quantity of comments, consider quality. It's hard to do so with comments about your own work, but read the other New Beginnings. Which commenters seem to know what they're talking about? Which make valid points and which don't? Which do you agree with? Eventually you may come to trust certain minions as much as you would Evil Editor.

People are reading your beginning and reacting to it. Use what's helpful, ignore the rest. And don't take anything here too seriously.

If you've supplied a continuation that was used, and would like to be credited, email me.

Thanks to all who've provided Guess the Plot summaries for earlier queries. Most of the first 20 now have them, and while they aren't necessarily challenging (especially if you've already read the piece), many of them are amusing.


Anonymous said...

For instance: I have no idea what I'm talking about and should be totally ignored -and I usually am. -JTC

Anonymous said...

I have to say, I'm amazed at some of the writers here who are having trouble with criticism. If you can't take these comments, you might have trouble giving your book to an editor. I've worked in a literary agency, and we would spent a lot of time re-working manuscripts before we sent them to editors, where, if it was picked up, it would go through even more re-writes. There were also book ideas that we often liked but ultimately DIDN'T represent because the authors refused to be flexible and make changes. They would demand that they knew what was best and refuse to see their book from a reader's perspective.

Writers should take all comments with a grain of salt. Sometimes readers don't "see" what you want them too, sometimes they do. Don't take the comments personally, but realize that we are all just trying to help.

Kanani said...

No one is a "sure thing" and everyone is subject to criticism.

But this is precisely why there are things to soothe yourself with like high calorie foods, shopping sprees, fast cars, flirtation, gyms and movies with dumb sex and car chases.

Anonymous said...

I think it would do most people well to read through the critiques / reviews and put them aside for a day before coming back to read them with an open mind.

I just got (another) rejection in the mail today and, despite this being probably #20 or #25 for the same ms, it still stings.

But that was this morning. Now that I've polished off the 12-pack, I'm working on my next piece with a completely new attitude.

[The thoughts expressed here do not necessarily represent those of this blog owner, nor any of his minions. Except this one, of course.]

Bernita said...

Excuse me, but since you worked in a literary agency and saw this obdurate attitude first hand, Anonymous, why then are you surprised to see it here?

Anonymous said...

Sorry, EE. Once again, you do not sound very evil. More like a NICE editor, that I dare not dream to seduce, into publishing my half-baked books... Oh, and I think my ogre has a crush on you.

Stacia said...

Geez, EE, have the Play Nice Nazis attacked you, too? They almost forced Crabby Cows to quit.

Anonymous said...

I got an idea for a new book. "The Darkest Secrets" is an EE autobiography. There, he confesses his darkest secret of all... That he is actually a nice guy!

No, no, I don't want any percentages for idea, just your autograph.

Anonymous said...


I prefer movies with dumb chases and car sex, but that's just me.

And for godsakes, nut, put the damn books back in the oven. There's nothing worse than a novel that's all gooshy and undercooked.

Anonymous said...

Kis: I'm on it. I'm just glad that I only made two submissions, before I realized that my first work needed more cooking time. It is thanks to the 'saintly' EE, and heroic self-sacrificing writers that post their stuff on the site, that I've realized the error of my ways.

You know, my books might still be 'gooshy', but they do have a pleasant nutty flavour to them. If you like that sort of stuff.

Oh, and movies... I like Misery. It's the movie for the insane, like moi.

Anonymous said...

Well, that's it for me folks. I thought, I could publish my books, save up for a surgery... Then, I saw the doctor. You know what she said? She said, that it's all in my head.

Of course I blew her head off. Call me crazy, huh!

Anonymous said...


I see your point, and maybe I should be used to wome writer's attitudes by now, but even though I saw such attitudes at the literary agency, it still baffles me just how many people say they want to be published, but who still know very little about publishing. So many authors want to think it's about the art, preserving the message of what they have to say, when actually, it's more about what sells.

If working for the agency did anything for me, it took "being published" off that pedestal I had put it on and made me look at it like any other business: Money talks.

Kanani said...

That's it anonymous literary worker. We're done.
Everyone here is going to go have car sex right now.

Anonymous said...

If I read these signs aright, EE has just told Braun to STFU.

Master, I am your devoted minion.

(If I read the signs awrong, I will cheerfully submit to the tortures of brutal eunuchs, ruthless vigilante sorcerors, and zombie deathfish.) (And JTC and the squirrel, too.) (Just keep the Pooka of Leinster off me. Those things have a sense of humour.)

Ann (bunnygirl) said...

Anonymous #3 has it right.

Publishing is a business, not ars gratia aris. If the author has to explain their work to the reader and do the whole "misunderstood artist" thing, the work is almost certainly not marketable. That doesn't necessarily mean it has no value as art, only that it probably isn't saleable.

Consider POD or make liberal use of the Save As function and keep a "me" version and a "public" version. Because if you want to sell books, you have to give the market what it wants. You don't have to become a hack, but you do have to bow to certain realities.

Anonymous said...

I'm not sure where this piece is going. It started out with an intriguing premise - New Beginnings - but the author seems to have had difficulty staying on point, digressing off to largely irrelevant Guess the Plot summaries. Also the switching between first and second person point of views dragged me out of the story.

With the issues of trust and evil being explored, I would probably read on a few pages to find out what happens, but I would certainly look for the prose to tighten up. I'm sure the same thing can be said with fewer words, without losing the impact.

Good luck and thanks for hurling this out here.

McKoala said...

LOL He Who Dared Critique Evil Editor. I hope that there are no consequences for you...

EE we are most pleased that you are most pleased. This is fun, and informative too.

Anonymous said...

Unfortunately, nut, I'm allergic to, well, to nuts. If I read them, I'll break out in hives and my lips will swell up like Steve Tyler. Kid ya not.

Anonymous said...

OMG, Anon at 12:33, LOL, ROFLMAO and all that. Most perfect!

What bothers me is not how sensitive authors can be (and are) when receiving criticism. What I hate is others (friends of the authors?) telling me how to phrase my critiques! Or what I should be responding to. Or how I'm not nice. (And of course saying these things to everybody else, too.) What's up?

This isn't a "learn to critique" session. If it were, we'd all be using the sandwich method (start with something positive, then address the most egregious problems, then end with something positive). We'd spend more time crafting our critiques. We'd be more thorough and possibly more thoughtful.

But instead, we're here giving initial feedback-what strikes us upfront. What we can and can't understand. Whether we'd keep reading. All of this is valuable, even if not perfect critiqueing.

So for those who are frequently admonishing the style and content of our feedback--please stop. The purpose, as I understand it, is to get that feedback. So take it or leave it.

(And yes, I put out my opening for critique. It got just 7 comments. So if you want to get back at me or anybody whose given honest feedback that wasn't totally positive, go look back and add more comments if you like, please--say anything! I will not wither under your evil words.)

Anonymous said...

There was an opening that I really disliked. I had such a strong reaction to it that I shot off a comment without thinking and thankfully it didn't get published, which I am very grateful to EE for. In hindsight, it was meanspirited and I was in a crappy mood when I wrote it. I went back when I was in a better mood and reread the opening and I still didn't like it, but how I would comment on it would have been much different.

You never know how the critique is coming at you. But that reminded me that there is always a right way and a wrong way to critique and perhaps it would do everyone good to read their comment one more time before sending it.

I think getting people's comments here is akin to people in a bookstore picking up your book, reading the first couple of paragraphs and buying it or putting it down again. We all want to know why they didn't buy the book. The flip side of this is that people have such different tastes in books and writing styles that I firmly believe that there is always a reader who will like a person's book out there. So I think comments are good to find out why a person would or would not continue reading (see that as buying your book) but to also keep in mind that not every reader is right for your book so take negative comments with a grain of salt.

Anonymous said...

kis: that's too bad. My main ingredients are nuts. And bananas, but not as much of them. I guess I've lost a reader, before I even published. Off to sob into a leaf. Worsed of all, THERE IS NO SOUL BANDAGE!

Anonymous said...

Seriously, EE. The 'new beginnings' are missing something important. YOUR commentary.

Kanani said...

Publishing/editing/representation isn't the only thing that is a business.

If you want to be a good writer you must approach it with the same discipline as you would running a successful business.

When I took my very first writing class, I had to re-learn everything. I thought I was well read. But then I was handed a huge list of books to read, and I hadn't read any of them. So I began reading at a different, higher level. Each class I took offered a different, unexpected challenge. But because I wanted the dream, I took each on and made it through.

I waded through the typical writers' habits and eventually shed them. I went through multiple fires, revising, failing, rewriting again. You have to be willing to listen, research, and observe.

The "art" is only possible after you've learned to stow your ego on the shelf and humble yourself to the power of words, roll up your sleeves and rewrite.

braun said...

667: I doubt very much that EE is picking sides here. Anyways, I agree with him, especially this part:

You can't be sure whether a particular comment is coming from a third-grader or an editor, so individual comments should not bother you.

Not all criticisms are created equal. It's the hubris of people who are sure their advice is golden that gets to me.

I found the critique of my submission to be helpful in a couple of ways. Not necessarily in ways several of the commentors seemed to want (you've done it completely wrong! you can't do that! rewrite it!) but helpful nonetheless.

This all begs the question: if I'm to be the villain on Evil Editor's site, doesn't that make me Super Evil?

magz said...

I'm with Braun, and ello.
These are opinions Folks.. and actively solicited by our willingness to submit here.

Consider the sources, and keep in mind that most of us writing minions are motivated by any combination of these 3 things;
A need for recognition,
A desire for approval,
and a dream of lucre.

Just saying.. regards, Maggie

Anonymous said...

It's inescapable, and a bit of it is necessary to develop if you're going to tough it out in any creative field.
Fortunately, you're only getting it online.
Just wait til you sit in person through your first critique, your second, third, and hundreth.

You'll have to learn how to handle it.
Braun, no one is saying you're evil. But you do behave like a baby and really aren't worth anyone's time.

braun said...

Thanks anonymous, you're definitely Captain Courageous next to me.

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