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Historical Fiction Critique Group

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MLE (Emily Cotton)
Bibliomaniac
Posts: 3562
Joined: August 2008
Interest in HF: started in childhood with the classics, which, IMHO are HF even if they were contemporary when written.
Favourite HF book: Prince of Foxes, by Samuel Shellabarger
Preferred HF: Currently prefer 1600 and earlier, but I'll read anything that keeps me turning the page.
Location: California Bay Area

Post by MLE (Emily Cotton) » Fri February 1st, 2013, 10:43 pm

[quote=""Helen_Davis""]I agree with you for the most part. But as a writer I do not just want to hear 'this sucks.' Please tell me what you did not like and how I can improve on my MS. My skin is a lot thicker than it was but I still prefer detailed descriptions of what my reader liked/didn't like.

THis may be a generation gap, MLE. I'm only 26, and in my generation people either seem to love something or hate it and we are very crass to each other for the most part, especially on sites like YouTube and Facebook. With the generation below me, it is even worse! I am probably the last generation that will like traditional books and not be entirely digital. This is in some ways a blessing, but the way my generation acts, is part of the dumbing down of America, IMO.That is why I prefer older people like yourself to critique my work. My peers will either gush over it or hate it and not give me any useful feedback. Am I making sense?[/quote]

I understand that it is better to get detailed feedback, but even 'This sucks!' is more useful than nothing at all. It will, at least help you keep score and 'sort' for your reader. For instance, if somebody absolutely hates something I write (my last chapter reading to my peers had one response of 'I felt like I had been hit in the face' -- and she didn't mean it in a good way) then it helps me set parameters on my readers. I actually went into that reading expecting some percentage of the listeners to be massively annoyed by a literary joke I was playing, and I kept score on the feedback. About 40% of 'This sucks!' -- more politely, of course -- and 30% 'Wow!' with the rest in between. That feedback helped me refine who I was writing for.

Any writer has to hear a certain amount of 'This sucks!' from their readers. It helps you figure out how who isn't your reader, which is vital information. Learn to cherish it.

User avatar
Margaret
Bibliomaniac
Posts: 2440
Joined: August 2008
Interest in HF: I can't answer this in 100 characters. Sorry.
Favourite HF book: Checkmate, the final novel in the Lymond series
Preferred HF: Literary novels. Late medieval and Renaissance.
Location: Catskill, New York, USA
Contact:

Post by Margaret » Tue February 12th, 2013, 9:09 pm

Excellent advice in general, MLE, but I do think it can be extremely useful to learn what specific things readers especially liked. As Helen says, detailed and specific feedback is very much more useful than an overall blanket judgment that the reader loved or hated a piece of writing in its entirety (though as you say, a writer can squeeze some usefulness even out of that). There have been times when I felt uncertain about a particular passage of writing or a particular approach I was taking with a chapter, and having readers volunteer that they liked it helped me decide to leave it in and build on it. We writers can be an uncertain and self-critical lot. We need to build thick skins and develop the right balance of faith in ourselves and comfort with having the flaws (or perceived flaws) in our writing pointed out. But praise can be surprisingly helpful to us.

I'm sorry to hear the younger generation has not been raised to develop skill at detailed analysis. I wonder if this is a result of the "self-esteem" movement that got into giving awards to all participants just for participating, etc. I don't see that as building self-esteem, actually.
Browse over 5000 historical novel listings (probably well over 5000 by now, but I haven't re-counted lately) and over 700 reviews at www.HistoricalNovels.info

User avatar
MLE (Emily Cotton)
Bibliomaniac
Posts: 3562
Joined: August 2008
Interest in HF: started in childhood with the classics, which, IMHO are HF even if they were contemporary when written.
Favourite HF book: Prince of Foxes, by Samuel Shellabarger
Preferred HF: Currently prefer 1600 and earlier, but I'll read anything that keeps me turning the page.
Location: California Bay Area

Post by MLE (Emily Cotton) » Tue February 12th, 2013, 9:28 pm

[quote=""Margaret""]
I'm sorry to hear the younger generation has not been raised to develop skill at detailed analysis. I wonder if this is a result of the "self-esteem" movement that got into giving awards to all participants just for participating, etc. I don't see that as building self-esteem, actually.[/quote]
LOL. Margaret, you're right about that. The most important part of 'self-esteem is the 'self' part -- it doesn't take an award for a person to know in their 'self' whether an action deserves esteem or not.

the theory was that people behaved badly because they didn't feel that sense of 'self esteem'. But that has since been debunked--it turns out that felons measure very high on the 'self esteem' indicators -- and whenever reality doesn't match up, they take matters into their own hands.

I bet history's worst tyrants would rate very high on self-esteem. :D

User avatar
MLE (Emily Cotton)
Bibliomaniac
Posts: 3562
Joined: August 2008
Interest in HF: started in childhood with the classics, which, IMHO are HF even if they were contemporary when written.
Favourite HF book: Prince of Foxes, by Samuel Shellabarger
Preferred HF: Currently prefer 1600 and earlier, but I'll read anything that keeps me turning the page.
Location: California Bay Area

Post by MLE (Emily Cotton) » Tue February 12th, 2013, 9:39 pm

And on the 'This Sucks' theme, here's what writer Brad Metzler did with his bad reviews: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7fubceELexE

I know I've posted it before, but it always makes me laugh.

User avatar
Margaret
Bibliomaniac
Posts: 2440
Joined: August 2008
Interest in HF: I can't answer this in 100 characters. Sorry.
Favourite HF book: Checkmate, the final novel in the Lymond series
Preferred HF: Literary novels. Late medieval and Renaissance.
Location: Catskill, New York, USA
Contact:

Post by Margaret » Wed February 13th, 2013, 1:14 am

I bet history's worst tyrants would rate very high on self-esteem.
No kidding!
Browse over 5000 historical novel listings (probably well over 5000 by now, but I haven't re-counted lately) and over 700 reviews at www.HistoricalNovels.info

Helen_Davis

Post by Helen_Davis » Wed February 13th, 2013, 3:14 am

[quote=""Margaret""]Excellent advice in general, MLE, but I do think it can be extremely useful to learn what specific things readers especially liked. As Helen says, detailed and specific feedback is very much more useful than an overall blanket judgment that the reader loved or hated a piece of writing in its entirety (though as you say, a writer can squeeze some usefulness even out of that). There have been times when I felt uncertain about a particular passage of writing or a particular approach I was taking with a chapter, and having readers volunteer that they liked it helped me decide to leave it in and build on it. We writers can be an uncertain and self-critical lot. We need to build thick skins and develop the right balance of faith in ourselves and comfort with having the flaws (or perceived flaws) in our writing pointed out. But praise can be surprisingly helpful to us.

I'm sorry to hear the younger generation has not been raised to develop skill at detailed analysis. I wonder if this is a result of the "self-esteem" movement that got into giving awards to all participants just for participating, etc. I don't see that as building self-esteem, actually.[/quote]

Thank you, Margaret. That's exactly what I was trying to say about her advice but the words didn't come to me at the time.

And about my generation-- in schools today people just get rewards for participating and showing up without any regards to their work. I think many of my peers were jealous of me for my IQ. To quote someone famous.
"Rule 8: Your school may have done away with winners and losers, but life HAS NOT. In some schools they have abolished failing grades and they'll give you as MANY TIMES as you want to get the right answer. This doesn't bear the slightest resemblance to ANYTHING in real life." I'm 26. In the generation below me it is worse.
Last edited by Helen_Davis on Wed February 13th, 2013, 3:22 am, edited 1 time in total.

Helen_Davis

Post by Helen_Davis » Wed February 13th, 2013, 3:41 am

[quote=""Margaret""]No kidding![/quote]

Maybe self-esteem was the wrong word? I'm trying to think of another word-- self confidence? Sorry, it's been a wonderful but exhausting day and I can't think.

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Justin Swanton
Reader
Posts: 173
Joined: February 2012
Location: Durban, South Africa
Contact:

Post by Justin Swanton » Wed February 13th, 2013, 5:43 am

[quote=""Helen_Davis""]Maybe self-esteem was the wrong word? I'm trying to think of another word-- self confidence? Sorry, it's been a wonderful but exhausting day and I can't think.[/quote]

I would say 'objectivity'. Try to look at your work apart from yourself. Criticism of your work does not equate to criticism of you. I think it a mistake for a writer to link book-worth to self-worth. The two are entirely separate.
Nunquam minus solus quam cum solus.

Author of Centurion's Daughter

Come visit my blog

User avatar
Margaret
Bibliomaniac
Posts: 2440
Joined: August 2008
Interest in HF: I can't answer this in 100 characters. Sorry.
Favourite HF book: Checkmate, the final novel in the Lymond series
Preferred HF: Literary novels. Late medieval and Renaissance.
Location: Catskill, New York, USA
Contact:

Post by Margaret » Wed February 13th, 2013, 7:38 am

I think it a mistake for a writer to link book-worth to self-worth.
That's for sure! Writing a really good novel is one of the most tricky and difficult things anyone can attempt. And even the best of novels can - and will - be criticized. There's a cute little book called Rotten Rejections which compiles some of the scathing criticisms editors dished out when rejecting novels that went on to be published, to sell well, and to be considered classics and taught in literature classes. One reason, perhaps, why editors nowadays tend to send mealy-mouthed form letters when rejecting manuscripts.
Browse over 5000 historical novel listings (probably well over 5000 by now, but I haven't re-counted lately) and over 700 reviews at www.HistoricalNovels.info

Helen_Davis

Post by Helen_Davis » Wed February 13th, 2013, 4:14 pm

[quote=""Justin Swanton""]I would say 'objectivity'. Try to look at your work apart from yourself. Criticism of your work does not equate to criticism of you. I think it a mistake for a writer to link book-worth to self-worth. The two are entirely separate.[/quote]

Exactly the word I was looking for! Thanks!

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