I popped into a writers’ group on Facebook this morning and saw something so awful, so muse-crushing, so career-killing that I had to write to you and beg you not to make the same mistake.
That’s because I feel so strongly that you shouldn’t do what these two writers did. I’ve seen it stop writers in their tracks for years, if not forever.
What was this horrendous thing?
In two separate posts, this morning, I saw writers post their tender first efforts at writing (in their words “the opening of my novel”) in a forum full of strangers and ask for feedback.
Here are some of the responses they got:
Can you imagine how the original poster feels, reading this? !
Can you imagine writing anything else, after this?
And the thing is, some of the writing was quite beautiful!
But Julie, Some of That Advice Is OK…
Some of the advice in the thread was not what I would call ‘bad’ advice (except for the guy telling the writer to DM him. Ew).
I might say something like some of these things to certain writers who ask me for feedback.
Even the advice here that I might give, is wrong for this person, for a particular reason:
Each of the writers who responded is so focused on their own goal of publishing a novel that they are not giving an answer appropriate to the stage the original writer is in.
The Right Question
The real question—the one the original poster didn’t know to ask—was not, “Is this a good opening to a novel?”. The real question was, “Should I continue?”
And the answer to that is always “yes!”
That “yes” is not a promise that they will finish.
It’s not a promise that their piece will ever be a novel.
It’s not a promise that it will be a best-seller.
But everyone deserves the opportunity to express themselves in the art form that they love. And they deserve the chance to write badly, to experiment, to learn and improve, and to love what they do.
Accept No Imitations
Most writers lack a vision of the multitude of paths to fulfillment open to them.
Most of us have been conditioned to see only one avenue to ‘success’: publication.
And most of us accept the ‘common knowledge’ that this single definition of ‘success’ is the only way to be fulfilled as a writer.
And so, when we ask “is this good?” we get terrible, horrible, no-good feedback.
But that doesn’t mean you’re a bad writer, or that you shouldn’t be writing.
If you take one thing away from this article let it be this: Please, don’t ask for writing feedback from strangers on the Internet.
- Work to understand the stage you’re in, as a writer
- Find trusted friends who will give you feedback appropriate to your stage and goals
- Never ask for writing feedback from strangers on the Internet
- Guard your heart
- Decide on your definition of success: for you, for this project, for now.
- Believe you have a right to write
Do me, and the rest of the community a favor, would you? Post below about your definition of success today, for you, for your current project, and for now. Leave a comment:
Need a push to write this week? Listen to this podcast episode, then use the Short Story Framework to help you generate a new story this week.