So, I have been sitting for a few days on the critiques I received on early chapters of my SF novel.
One of the confounding issues here is that, it turns out, even in purportedly professional-aspiring writer's circles, you get fandom-style wank and drama. For example, I subsequently learned (by means I won't go into, but it's not just my supposition, there were actually site moderators involved) that several of the really negative critiques I received were in response to a harsh critique I left of someone else's chapter.
Now, I have mentioned before that when I first got into fan fiction, I went cruising through fan fiction sites, was appalled and shocked at how badly written most of it was, and left some pretty... unkind reviews. So you may be thinking, "Oh, Inverarity was an asshole to other writers and got the same thing served back to him."
Well, no, because when I do online critiquing, I'm not just saying "This sucks." (In fact, I've never said "this sucks" to a writer, not even when reviewing fan fiction.) And I try to be genuinely helpful in the critiques I leave, even when I do think what I am critiquing does, in fact, suck. I moderate my tone. I am polite. I try to leaven the brutal deconstruction with some positive comments, even if it's just "I think your main character will really appeal to many readers" or something equally faffing meaningless.
(This is alternately referred to as the "Oreo approach" or the "shit sandwich" in critiquing circles: basically, you try to wrap the hard criticism in more palatable layers to cushion the blow.)
But yeah, sometimes I can be pretty harsh and I may make some wry observations about, for example, misused words or a character saying something that directly contradicts what she said three paragraphs earlier in a way that comes off as snarky. I am working on it, because a lot of writers have paper-thin egos and don't appreciate even a comment as direct as "This does not make sense, and you're using the wrong word." I am working on the language of gentle criticism softened with frequent uses of "In my opinion" and "I think" and "I feel that" (which goes against my direct nature because I assume it to be a given that everything I say is just my opinion unless I'm, like, stating something that is a provable objective truth with Wikipedia links and everything*).
* That's a joke. Sheesh.
So ANYWAY... I had been getting pretty positive critiques on my own story, and then I left a lengthy, detailed critique of someone else's chapter which was... not very positive, and next thing I know I am getting all these critiques that are telling me my writing is way sub-par, the story is boring, the characters are unbelievable and inhuman and the dialog is stiff, and lectures about showing not telling and how to construct scenes as if this is the first fiction I've ever written, etc.
And. The thing is, there were a lot of really valid observations in those critiques. Including places where I was doing way too much telling, and places where the dialog was stiff, etc. It's not like I just suddenly got a bunch of "You suck you big fat meanie!" crits in retaliation. (Actually, I did get one that was pretty much like that, expressed more elegantly.) So even after I found out that, yes, I was getting slammed in part for pissing off a Special Snowflake who had friends, I couldn't just dismiss their comments as retaliatory bullshit. The problem is, separating the specifics that were actually true and helpful, even if motivated in part by spite, from the more general condemnation is a lot harder. Would they have said the same things if not in a spirit of "giving me a taste of my own medicine"? I dunno. I can compare some of what they are saying to what more objective critiquers are saying, and when I see them saying similar things, that's a pretty good clue.
But anyway, at this point I am stuck on the question of whether I really need to rewrite the first part of the book (if not the entire book) or just revise it a bit.
Meanwhile, my original plan was to wait until I was more or less finished revising the SF novel and then start writing Alexandra Quick Book Five. But I keep flipping back and forth from my SF novel and trying to figure out how to rewrite the beginning, to my mostly empty outline of AQATWA, and thinking maybe I need to let the SF novel sit a bit and write something else.
So while I dither and distract myself and procrastinate (like by writing kvetching blog posts) here's a poll purely for entertainment purposes. (I am not actually going to decide what to do based on a poll. :P)
What should I write right now?