ArtsAutosBooksBusinessEducationEntertainmentFamilyFashionFoodGamesGenderHealthHolidaysHomeHubPagesPersonal FinancePetsPoliticsReligionSportsTechnologyTravel

Top 10 Pieces of Crit for Writers that Really Don't Help

Updated on August 20, 2015

Related to my last article, this is a list of specific types of criticism that I've received over time. While the people who doled them out had their hearts in the right place, the wording and the implications made me feel insecure about my style and there's no doubt this kind of advice can make other writers feel bad, too.

There's nothing wrong with wanting to help an aspiring writer, it can be appreciated. But as much as I hate the "all artists are oversensitive" stereotype, creators can be very protective of their work and badly-worded criticisms can easily turn them off to any advice or critique. Here's my top ten list of such phrases.

10) "Your book won't sell if you do that!"

Now, to be fair, this one can be a valid criticism for things like poor characterization, world building, plotting, etc. Some things can sink a story no matter what.

What I'm talking about is when someone says this to a writer for following their id, their personal tastes, writing what they know, etc. You don't personally know the book won't sell. You're not psychic, and you can't read the minds of every book fan in the world. There is always a market for something, so let the public decide if the book sells or not.

9) "You should change X thing because I don't like it."

This one really needs to go, because it comes from a place of bias rather than truth. You may not like Meet Cute or pop culture references or first person, but your feelings do not equal that of the general populace. Some people can't get enough of those things, and those who agree with you simply won't buy or read the book.

The same goes for tone, genre and mood. Just because you like things dark and angsty doesn't mean they have to be, and claiming only happy, wholesome relationships belong in fiction invalidates the feelings of people who enjoy twisted things. You may not relate to a main character, but other people might. And for every person who thinks wish fulfillment is stupid, there's another who can't get enough of it. No two readers think exactly alike, so your personal biases shouldn't dictate what an author chooses to write about.

8) "You owe it to yourself..."

This one perpetuates the idea that a writer must be flawless and do everything according to The Rules in order to feel good about their work. That's actually not true! Okay, so you want your manuscript to have perfect spelling and grammar and good formatting because those are important, and you'll want everything to hang together and flow well. But the only thing a writer "owes" themselves is the confidence to put their work out there. Confidence, not perfection.

This kind of thinking also perpetuates the "only the birds that sing the best should sing" myth, which is extremely harmful to the creative space as a whole. Expecting flawless perfection from books, art, crafts, music, etc. puts undue pressure on creators, which can lead to burnout and breakdowns. And telling a writer they owe it to themselves to be perfect makes it even worse. Just don't do it. Again: confidence, not perfection.

7) "You owe it to the readers..."

This one really cheeses me off because sadly, fanbases for books, TV, games and such are some of the most entitled groups out there. We all remember the horror stories from the Harry Potter and Avatar: The Last Airbender fandoms, after all. Fans want their way, and if they don't get it they can react very poorly.

Which is all the more reason for a writer to follow their heart, not cave in to what the fans want. There's a saying: You can please some of the people all of the time or all of the people some of the time. It's impossible for all fans to be happy all the time, and a writer can't live in fear of making the fans upset.

I'm not saying they have carte blanche to be rude, of course. That's never a good thing. But it's not "rude" for an author to simply tell their own story the way they want to. As a fan myself, I can vouch for the fact that it sucks when you don't get your way, but throwing fits and screaming at a creator isn't the way to go.

So telling an author they owe the readers just fosters that sense of entitlement. It's just not a good idea.

6) "You want..."

No. You may think you know what a writer wants, but you don't. You can't make those decisions for them, it's their work. Plus, it comes off as condescending even if you don't mean for it to be. Telling a person what they want implies they don't know their own mind or heart, and this is a surefire way to either make them insecure or to piss them off.

5) "Everyone hates/loves/wants..."

Again, no. This was brought up in #10, but it deserves its own entry. You don't speak for the reader base of the world. Reviews on Goodreads and Amazon aren't the gospel truth. One reader's trash is another one's treasure. You can't decide for other people what they want and don't want to read, that's not your job. Just because 50% of the reader base hates vampire romances doesn't mean all of them do, and not everyone who read the Hunger Games series ended up loving it.

4) "You should write about X thing instead, it's more popular than Y."

To be fair, writing is a business. Marketing and ratings do play a role, and appealing to popularity is a bonus. But it's not the be-all end-all of writing. In fact, writing just to be popular is one of the worst reasons to write in the first place. I've said this before, but most writers take up the craft because they love to write. They have a story they want to tell. Even authors who churn out trashy romance after trashy romance for Harlequin are writing from a genuine place, they wouldn't have taken up writing romances if they didn't love the genre.

3) "All of the most popular authors do it this way."

Yes, another one relating to following the crowd and popularity. Without meaning to, this one implies that an author's work isn't going to be worth much if they don't go with the crowd and copy other writers. A story written with rarely-used tropes and conventions can still be as well-received as a one stuffed with the usual tropes and archetypes.

2) "You can't do that, it's copying X work."

On the other side of the coin, there's nothing wrong with taking cues from other authors. A lot of aspiring writers have their inspirations, one important component to being a writer is being a reader. And inspiration =/= plagiarism. There are next to no purely original ideas in this world, everything's been done at least once and there's nothing wrong with doing it again as long as the writer puts their own spin on it and gives it their own personal touch.

(Plagiarism, on the other hand, is a bad idea. It may seem fun to do a Holden Caufield for a first-person autobiographically-based tale, but people will recognize the line and they'll likely not be impressed.)

1) "I care about your story and I want to make it better!"

I already covered this in another entry, but it needs to be reiterated: It's their story. Theirs. They are not required to take your advice and do what you say just because you think you know what's best. Unless you're a professional editor, in which case they'll likely have asked you up front to help them make their story better.

Comments

Submit a Comment

  • Lynn Savitsky profile imageAUTHOR

    Lynn Savitzky 

    2 years ago from New Jersey

    DWDavisRSL: Thank YOU for your comment. :)

  • Larry Rankin profile image

    Larry Rankin 

    2 years ago from Oklahoma

    The things critics sometimes don't understand, with exception of catching simple missteps, like typos and the like, their ideas are just that, ideas. Nothing makes them any more infalable than anyone else.

    Great list.

  • Lynn Savitsky profile imageAUTHOR

    Lynn Savitzky 

    2 years ago from New Jersey

    Wendi: It's something we've probably all done at some point in our lives, but even if it's not done out of malice it's usually a good idea to know what helps and what does.

  • lyoness913 profile image

    Summer LeBlanc 

    2 years ago from H-Town

    Great suggestions! Sometimes people are trying to be helpful but it just doesn't seem to be helpful at all!

    -Wendi

  • Lynn Savitsky profile imageAUTHOR

    Lynn Savitzky 

    2 years ago from New Jersey

    You're welcome! I've gotten a lot of crit akin to this, and while I hold no ill will against most of those people it really, really didn't help.

  • DWDavisRSL profile image

    DW Davis 

    2 years ago from Eastern NC

    These are 10 very good suggestions for writers and those who would attempt to "help" writers do better. Number 9 struck a particular chord with me.

    Thanks for a interesting and well thought out Hub.

working

This website uses cookies

As a user in the EEA, your approval is needed on a few things. To provide a better website experience, hubpages.com uses cookies (and other similar technologies) and may collect, process, and share personal data. Please choose which areas of our service you consent to our doing so.

For more information on managing or withdrawing consents and how we handle data, visit our Privacy Policy at: https://hubpages.com/privacy-policy#gdpr

Show Details
Necessary
HubPages Device IDThis is used to identify particular browsers or devices when the access the service, and is used for security reasons.
LoginThis is necessary to sign in to the HubPages Service.
Google RecaptchaThis is used to prevent bots and spam. (Privacy Policy)
AkismetThis is used to detect comment spam. (Privacy Policy)
HubPages Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide data on traffic to our website, all personally identifyable data is anonymized. (Privacy Policy)
HubPages Traffic PixelThis is used to collect data on traffic to articles and other pages on our site. Unless you are signed in to a HubPages account, all personally identifiable information is anonymized.
Amazon Web ServicesThis is a cloud services platform that we used to host our service. (Privacy Policy)
CloudflareThis is a cloud CDN service that we use to efficiently deliver files required for our service to operate such as javascript, cascading style sheets, images, and videos. (Privacy Policy)
Google Hosted LibrariesJavascript software libraries such as jQuery are loaded at endpoints on the googleapis.com or gstatic.com domains, for performance and efficiency reasons. (Privacy Policy)
Features
Google Custom SearchThis is feature allows you to search the site. (Privacy Policy)
Google MapsSome articles have Google Maps embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
Google ChartsThis is used to display charts and graphs on articles and the author center. (Privacy Policy)
Google AdSense Host APIThis service allows you to sign up for or associate a Google AdSense account with HubPages, so that you can earn money from ads on your articles. No data is shared unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
Google YouTubeSome articles have YouTube videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
VimeoSome articles have Vimeo videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
PaypalThis is used for a registered author who enrolls in the HubPages Earnings program and requests to be paid via PayPal. No data is shared with Paypal unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
Facebook LoginYou can use this to streamline signing up for, or signing in to your Hubpages account. No data is shared with Facebook unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
MavenThis supports the Maven widget and search functionality. (Privacy Policy)
Marketing
Google AdSenseThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
Google DoubleClickGoogle provides ad serving technology and runs an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
Index ExchangeThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
SovrnThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
Facebook AdsThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
Amazon Unified Ad MarketplaceThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
AppNexusThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
OpenxThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
Rubicon ProjectThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
TripleLiftThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
Say MediaWe partner with Say Media to deliver ad campaigns on our sites. (Privacy Policy)
Remarketing PixelsWe may use remarketing pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to advertise the HubPages Service to people that have visited our sites.
Conversion Tracking PixelsWe may use conversion tracking pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to identify when an advertisement has successfully resulted in the desired action, such as signing up for the HubPages Service or publishing an article on the HubPages Service.
Statistics
Author Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide traffic data and reports to the authors of articles on the HubPages Service. (Privacy Policy)
ComscoreComScore is a media measurement and analytics company providing marketing data and analytics to enterprises, media and advertising agencies, and publishers. Non-consent will result in ComScore only processing obfuscated personal data. (Privacy Policy)
Amazon Tracking PixelSome articles display amazon products as part of the Amazon Affiliate program, this pixel provides traffic statistics for those products (Privacy Policy)