I’m at the point in my writing experience where I’ve gotten used to dealing with other published authors, professional artists, graphics people, editors and people grounded in the reality of book publishing and promotion. I’ve also become acquainted with talented people in other mediums- beside writing. I’m not the best of the best, but I am a player in all of that.
The result is that my standards for all of that have become quite high. Producing a minimum level of quality is necessary is be a player. Anything less is amateur territory. There is a divide between amateurs and people who are are serious about producing quality entertainment for the public.
The Internet has been great in giving opertunities for talented people to show their work, that they wouldn’t have had otherwise. But the Internet isn’t particularly discerning. Anyone can show their work- even people who aren’t that talented. People who have not reached the minimum level of quality.
So what is one to to do when one sees such lack of quality? How does one, who knows the difference, respond to amateur level work- or even work that shows no talent at all?
As a person who used to be on one side of the amateur/professional divide and am now on the other side, allow me to tell you about the differences between the two sides.
An amateur may writing something or draw something, then show it to their mother. They’ll have little or no experience before this. But hey! Look what I did! Isn’t it great? That mother says the writing or drawing is great work. So that amateur goes on to have their friends take a look. And those friends all rave that the writing or drawing is great work. But the thing that most amateurs overlook is that those people in their circle would say it was good if it was good or not. Why? They don’t want to hurt your feels. On the amateur side, there is never a bad review. Blanket statement. As a result, there is no unbiased judgment as to how good or bad it really is.
This happened to me a few decades ago when I went through by poetry-writing phase. (Not a particularly proud time in my writing life.) Some friends read my stuff and they all raved about it. Not a bad review in the bunch. Now, when I look at that stuff and see how truly wretched it was, it makes me gag. It was just god-awful writing. In retrospect, where they sparing my feelings or did they really think it was good stuff? Hard to tell. But now, having the writing experience of those decades behind me, I can report that what I wrote back then- daring to call it poetry -was just self-indulgent crap. Emos didn’t yet exist back then. But if they did, I was one of them. Maybe that’s why I now write Vampire fiction, stuff that’s dark with an edge. That, and stuff that has a sense of humor, that doesn’t become stupified by languishing in the over-emotional.
On the professional side, you have to have an amount of experience to be able to produce work that’s good enough to be taken seriously. They’re not interested in your personal journey in exploring on how to become a good writer. They just expect you to be a good writer. Minimum level of quality is expected before you walk in the door. And they really don’t care if they hurt your feelings. Your manuscript is okay, but this needs to be reworked. This part is stupid, take it out, remove those ten pages entirely. The beginning is weak. Rewrite it. I’m firmly convinced that any writer who has gone through the editing process, no longer has anything in the way of an ego. It’s a humbling experience. Way beyond hurt feelings. The result, however, is good, professional-quality work that is worthy to be released to the public. Quality entertainment that people will enjoy.
I have to admit, there are times when I see things posted on Facebook- writing, drawings, paintings and such -that are simply not that good. Minimum quality not achieved. My initial, knee-jerk reaction is to get on and make note of the lack of talent and tell them that we’re not their mom and their friends. I ignore that knee-jerk reaction and take a more tactful approach. If you can’t say anything nice, don’t say anything at all. And on those posts, people- obviously their friends and possibly their mom, chime in on how great the writing or drawing or painting it. There is a noticeable lack criticism. I wasn’t the only who didn’t say anything at all instead of saying some thing that wasn’t-so-nice. That writer/artist wanna-be would get their reality check some place else, some time else.
There was one time, a few months back, however, when I saw something on Facebook where the reaction was downright cruel. And more so, because it happened in the very public place of Facebook. A guy wrote on Facebook that he writes short stories and inquired how to get published. The problem was, his grammar and spelling were awful. Quite obviously so. People took delightful glee in bullying this person for that. And they were were absolutely merciless in mocking the lack of writing talent. I didn’t recognize any of the names of those mockers. None of them where on my friends list. There’s no way to confirm, but I’m guessing that none of them were writers. People, who’s ego has been reigned in because they went through the editing process. People, who remember when they first started out and weren’t quite up-to-speed on their craft. No one who’s gone through that, mocks a newbie writer just starting out. None of the writers I’m acquainted with are that cruel.
I saw the same post the next day. The snarkiness continued. There were additional and equally nasty posts from when I viewed this a few hours before. I truly felt bad for the guy. No. He didn’t have the writing chops to get published. But maybe he would. Someday. Would this- all this negative feedback -hinder his approach to writing? Would he quit in the face of such hostility? What great stories written in the future by this guy, will never be enjoyed by readers, because he walked away from it all after such mean-spirited feed-back?
Yes. I felt bad for the guy. So I added to that post. I told him that he’s not there yet. I told him to take a year or two and really work at improving his writing skills. Find a mentor. I told him that he would embarrass himself if he approached a publisher now. Take the time. Don’t try to publish now. You’re not ready. I told him that five years from now, he’s going to writing something truly amazing. But not now. Now, you work on getting better at it. I hope I did something in the way of damage control to mitigate the scoffers. I hope I encouraged him. I hope I was at lease one person who didn’t make him want to quit.
Later that day, I saw that post again. What I wrote was still there. With the exception of one other, all the posts there that were snarky and critical, were removed. Gone. Did the original poster remove them? Did the people who put him down, see my post, come to the realization of how needlessly mean they were, and deleted their own? Again, there’s no way to tell. It is interesting, however, to see that only the encouraging posts remained.
There are those who post stuff on Facebook, obviously in the mode of: look what I did. Tell me I’m great. They’re looking for an ego massage. A quick-fix of instant gratification. That, from their mother and their friends wasn’t enough. They go to Facebook for more of it. The quality of their writing or drawing or painting is not up to a minimum standard. Hopefully, someone they trust will take them aside and tactfully tell them that.
But there are also those who post on Facebook who aren’t there yet. Their skills need work. And they post of Facebook, not for an ego massage, but to find out how to get better.
So what is one to to do when one sees such lack of quality? How does one, who knows the difference, respond to amateur level work- or even work that shows no talent?
If you can’t be encouraging, don’t say anything at all.
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