There is clearly a lot of support for writers within the writing community on the web, but if all we give each other is support, without real help, then not only are we not helping, we could also be hindering them as well.
I’m not saying we shouldn’t be encouraging and supportive, no, no, no. These things are the very basis of our helping each other. What I’m saying is that support isn’t enough and that without real feedback on our work it could lead a writer to think that they are ready to publish when they’re not.
I have been to blogsites where a writer has something up for you to look at. I read it and find flaws, but I don’t feel I can say so because all the other comments are glowing. I want to support the writer. I can see some good ideas there, but… in its present state it needs work, so I don’t comment. I don’t bookmark the site either. I’m guilty of not really helping.
But if I was honest, how would it be read by others? If I was the only one to point out the spelling mistakes, the wrong punctuation, the cumbersome sentence, the excessive description, the overuse of adverbs and so on, how would the writer and other readers take it? Would they be able to handle it? Are they ready to see it? Might they blacklist me as nasty? (not as strange as it may sound – read on) I may not be a published writer yet, but as a reader and someone who knows a little bit about writing, I can see obvious flaws. I’m not one of those who reads looking for them either. If I see them, then they’ve leapt out at me. That means they would be bashing a publisher over the head already.
I really appreciate it when my commentors are brutally honest. The most help I’ve had is from those who point out specific flaws and tell me what the solution would be – that is real help. Not those who just say something generic like, it needs work. That’s the truth, fine, but tell me how and where it needs work, otherwise it’s not a helpful comment at all. What kind of work? How can I fix it? A little hint? Anything?
That sort of feedback is a big ask though. It’s asking for time and consideration. So anyone who does that and comes back again to see how you’re going and to follow you through, they’re showing the greatest support, help, and yes, in a way, love. They really care and that’s a rare and beautiful thing. At least that’s how I see it.
Now, I have to tell you how I discovered that not everyone thinks the same way.
I had a book to review. Self published. I’d offered to review it because I was interested in the story but there weren’t any reviews anywhere, so I wasn’t going to buy it. I never buy a book without reading a few reviews first. Thinking I could help the author, I offered to review it and she gave me a free pdf. The idea was that I could write a nice review and help her sell the book. Unfortunately for both of us, I couldn’t, because the book badly needed editing. Some of the problems were very basic punctuation errors.
So… still trying to be helpful. I annotated the errors and sent her an email, pointing out the problems and suggesting that she employ an editor. One of the beauties of ebooks is that you can re-edit and republish quite easily. I was polite – I swear it. And I did say what I liked about it, but she was seriously pissed off at me. I knew it was a risk, but I cared enough to take that risk, and I took the time to communicate what the problems were and made a suggestion as to how to proceed. I even ran the problems past my publisher friends to see if she agreed. She did, vehemently. I did my best to help. In return, I was accused of running a scam, of being ignorant and so on. She also told me that ‘there are no writing rules’. Mmm; that attitude showed in her writing.
Of course, I haven’t, nor will I publish a review of this book, or even give you its name, not because the author threatened to tell everyone what a terrible person I am at each place where I placed a review, but because it wouldn’t help her career.
The really disturbing thing though was that she had been part of two online critique groups who had evidently raved about her work. I took it as a sad indictment of critique groups. She’d obviously had plenty of support from these groups, but no real help. They’d allowed her to publish a book in a state that would do her career as a writer no good at all. That is not helpful. Not only that, but she is so sure that her work is good that she can’t see the help that’s offered to make it better. So, not helpful. I doubt that this book will sell well. In it’s present state it doesn’t deserve to, but the frustrating thing is that after editing, it could be really good.
If all we give each other is support, without real help, then we could be contributing to ending a beautiful career before it’s even begun.
Do you agree?
Would you rather lots of accolades, or some real honest, bone crunching, even heart breaking feedback?