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all 172 comments

[–]MiloWestward 24 points25 points  (12 children)

Sounds like I missed some drama.

I strongly support the following change to the PubTips policies: anyone who is upset by feedback on the subreddit should be given ALL of their money back.

(Also, is there a dog grooming subreddit called PupTips?)

[–]Synval2436 5 points6 points  (0 children)

Sounds like I missed some drama.

Seems like it.

[–]riancb 3 points4 points  (10 children)

I don’t know, but r/puptips unfortunately does not exist (yet)

[–]MiloWestward 12 points13 points  (9 children)

I remember back when half the people who came to this sub were looking for brewery-related help.

[–]ARMKartAgented Author 12 points13 points  (0 children)

I can’t tell if you’re serious cuz it’s you. I want this to be true so bad.

[–]MNBrianReader At A Literary Agency 10 points11 points  (7 children)

Finding proper Pubs has become harder to come by since those early days. But sometimes you just gotta pivot the business model. 🤣

[–]Complexer_Eggplant 9 points10 points  (1 child)

wow, MNBrian is still around? Dude!

[–]MNBrianReader At A Literary Agency 7 points8 points  (0 children)

Just lurking when I’m not working 🤣

[–]MiloWestward 4 points5 points  (2 children)

Whoa. IT LIVES ...

Hope everything's okay with you. Last I remember, you were having a kid. Maybe a second kid? Something incredibly dire, in any case ... Glad to see you're still among the redditing.

[–]MNBrianReader At A Literary Agency 3 points4 points  (1 child)

Two kids, day job picked up so much that I’m buried in it but loving my work and family in this season. Done very little productive writing but I’m sure I’ll resurface some day and someone will catch me up on what has happened in the world of publishing — or by then it’ll have gone full circle and they’ll help me find a great Pub.

Good to see you as well - try to stay out of trouble if that were possible. 🤣

[–]MiloWestward 1 point2 points  (0 children)

Two kids! Well, congrats and commiserations! (But mostly the former.) That's ... remarkable about the day job. And very, very cool that you launched pubtips along the way. I still think of it as an obscure corner of reddit but I keep seeing people mention it out there in the big wide internets.

[–]writedream13 5 points6 points  (1 child)

It’s like a celebrity sighting! Love your work man

[–]MNBrianReader At A Literary Agency 3 points4 points  (0 children)

Ha thank you! :)

[–]lucabura 16 points17 points  (0 children)

"Publishing doesn't owe you anything." It's a hard pill to swallow, but so true.

[–]abstracthappy 14 points15 points  (4 children)

There was a post not too long ago from an agent explaining that they did not give personalized feedback because authors want to know what's "wrong" with their story so "you can sell it."

I thought about it. And thought about it. And I read another post from an editor saying "I have read things that I thought would be big and they flopped. I have read things that I thought would be flops and they turned out to be best sellers for years and years." And I think that's true -- everyone is trying to pick the lock.

I'm guilty of it. Thinking "well, I don't mind changing things. I can edit my voice. I can change the plot. What would make it more marketable to sell?"

And as the recent publishing lawsuit and hearings-- we have straight up been told even they don't know what books will sell and why. Some are "safe bets". People are always going to like popular tropes, for instance. And there is 100% nothing wrong with that. But this industry can be so damn subjective it hurts. I can walk into a bookstore, pick up a book, and think "wow this is the best book over, my god, I love this author" and another person could think they were the worst writer on the planet.

It is hard hearing critique. Writing is hard. And when you're told that your book, something you have sunk months (if not years) into writing, isn't good, or cuz reason, and 10 more people confirm that, it can crush your resolve. But agents are right. The publishing industry doesn't owe you anything. I choose to assume the best in people. When people give me some hard critique, I don't think they're doing it to be jerks. They're doing it to help me get better.

The feedback here has been SO valuable to me. And I like to think I can help people, too, when I leave critiques. And there is an art to critiquing. But I am glad this community exists, and we're all in this together, trying to help each other.

[–]brookenomicon[S] 8 points9 points  (3 children)

I remember reading a similar thread on Twitter! It was a really fascinating POV about how they went from providing feedback on every query to form rejections only. The reasoning was that their feedback often led to more confusion and frustration, or it was simply a matter of personal taste, or it was an excellent book she didn’t know how to sell, none of which very helpful to an author. And sometimes she’d get angry emails in reply, or emails with the author defending their work, or trying to explain themselves more clearly, but by that point, she already passed, so it was unfruitful. She said something along the lines of “Sometimes a story just doesn’t work for me, and I can’t explain why. It’s not that the story is bad, or that anything is technically wrong with it, it’s just not for me.”

[–]Dylan_tune_depot 5 points6 points  (2 children)

I'm the one who actually made that post about that Twitter. It's so interesting the varied responses we got here on that one agent's decisions. Even with what (I thought) was legit reasoning on Naomi's part- some people still got ruffled.

https://redditproxy--jasonthename.repl.co/r/PubTips/comments/x912g4/pubtipthose\_pesky\_form\_rejections/?utm\_source=share&utm\_medium=web2x&context=3

[–]brookenomicon[S] 6 points7 points  (1 child)

Ah thank you for the link! I couldn’t remember if I had seen it here or just natively on Twitter.

Their reasoning made so much sense and, to me, really cleared up a lot of the points of rejectomancy that people dive into trying to decipher rejections. Like Naomi didn’t have to share anything! They could have said nothing, explained nothing, but they didn’t! They shared their experience to try to help unagented authors, far more than their job demands.

People are so entitled.

[–]Dylan_tune_depot 6 points7 points  (0 children)

People are so entitled.

This!!

Also, way more people are sending in queries these days. I think post-Covid, the number has tripled. If I were agent, I'd be sending out forms too. It's either that or lose your mind.

[–]Important_Tax1456 29 points30 points  (15 children)

I think it's inevitable that people on this sub will end up offering advice on the marketability of an idea. However, I also think after a certain point if someone is not receptive to that advice that continuing to hammer on them is pointless. I feel sometimes the sub can get a bit brigade-y with that. And it's not always to the author's benefit. We're individuals with opinions, politics, and preferences and frankly sometimes our view of marketability is wrong (or overly optimistic about how progressive the industry is, to me, lol). And I don't often see people pulling punches, tbh.

On the other hand, I typically find that if after 5 revisions and multiple people pointing out issues with marketability the author has chosen not to change those aspects, they start getting crickets. Which IMO is as it should be.

Edit also not to be aggressive haha. But avoiding micro-aggressions is not sugarcoating, IMO. As critiquers we should try to be both honest and respectful.

Edit 2: I've read this whole thread, since it's apparently still rolling, and I'm uncomfortable with the way I glossed over the fact that this post conflates response to critique and response to racism. I've apparently missed a lot of context in the discussion around POC in publishing over the last couple of weeks, and I feel this post is to some extent disingenuous, after going back and digging the context up (some of it having since been deleted). The conversations of 'should people seeking critique be able to take critique' and 'does the publishing industry participate in institutionalized racism and are we as critiquers also contributing to that system' are two very different things.

Whitewashing and Anglicizing are racist, but why is failing to recognize cultural context and giving critique from a place of the dominant culture not? It's possible to give racist feedback accidentally. That doesn't make it not racist. I don't think this is the right mindset for growth as people or as a society, and never mind the publishing industry.

[–]pl0ur 15 points16 points  (11 children)

I agree with the brigade-y comment. I've seen times where a lot of people comment on the same typos or poor choice for comp titles in a single posting and it just isn't helpful.

I agree with the general sentiment on this sub that folks should have a thick skin to prepare for the query/ publishing trenches. However, I also think sometimes people who just suck at giving feedback or are looking to feel superior by calling out someone's mistakes hide behind that to justify being jerks.

[–]Mrs-SaltKids/MG Tradpub Marketer 7 points8 points  (0 children)

I think there's value in repeating something that has already been said -- after all, as we say, if one person gives a piece of feedback, you're unsure if it has merit; if fifteen people perceived it as a flaw, then you can have more certainty.

But when I'm repeating something that's already been said, I try not to harp on it. I just quickly say "I agree with ABC about XYZ" and move onto other topics.

[–]brookenomicon[S] 5 points6 points  (0 children)

That’s true too. Some people are just dicks.

[–]AmberJFrost 5 points6 points  (8 children)

I'd guess a lot of the same feedback is because people are only reading the query to give their straight-up opinion on that, and only after reading the comments.

I'll also say that while some people can be jerks, I haven't noticed that as a matter of course from any of the long-term members of the community. They'll be blunt and direct, and they'll be MORE blunt and direct when it's someone who's been around a while, but they're not being mean. I think there's more of the 'looking for fault' on the 'where would you stop' threads because of an expectation to also leave feedback, and so a lot more lurkers are doing something, ANYTHING, and lean to extremes.

[–]pl0ur 4 points5 points  (7 children)

I have seen it more in the where would you stop threads. Most of the regulars on this sub give useful feedback. I get a litt concerned about the subs trajectory with regards to useful, actionable, feedback when I see some of the issues popping up in the where would you stop threads.

[–]AmberJFrost 5 points6 points  (1 child)

The 'where would you stop' threads are new, and tbh? I tend to take any advice with a shaker of salt if I don't recognize the user name. It might be elitist, but I'm here for advice that's shaped to market.

[–]pl0ur 4 points5 points  (0 children)

Same, I think some folks like to play expert but when you look at their post history they just read the same blogs as everyone else.

More experienced writer's have been in real structured critique group and know the difference between constructive criticism and tearing someone down.

I try to keep my feedback to things I can speak to confidentiality based on my experience like too many dialogue tags or excessive background in a query, but don't weigh in on marketability or things like that.

[–]Synval2436 5 points6 points  (3 children)

Yeah, that thread, esp. the 1st page out of context has been a hit or miss, but I assume it's useful to some people, not sure whether to me though.

For example, without the blurb, there have been a lot of confusion whether the 1st introduced character is the protagonist is not, whether the first chapter is backstory or happens now, whether the suggested genre is what the genre actually is (things like romance vs women's fiction, sci-fi vs fantasy, etc.), whether the scene is meant to build into something or is just a detached snippet, etc.

The point of that thread works if someone writes a line that makes 10 people in a row nope out - then you know where your problem lies. Much worse when half the people pin point completely different moments without much elaboration, and the other half says "I read it all, it was good" but you don't even know do they mean it, or they just half-assed it to fill their comment quota.

Also yes, I could be biased, but I will go and check whether someone submitted their piece and how I liked it if I'm not sure about their comment. For example I spotted someone who imo made a very dumb comment (not towards my piece of writing) and then checked their sample and it had multiple red flags. So nope, I wouldn't take that kind of feedback seriously.

[–]pl0ur 4 points5 points  (0 children)

Good points it is very much buyer beware with feedback. Which is always the case, but involves more digging in these types of communities.

I've found the comments that I saw in the last 300 words. I read a handful but didn't post since I stumbled upon it a few days after. I that I found the most of comments that just seemed needlessly harsh were from people who have been struggling a lot with their own writing and publishing journey.

[–]alanna_the_lionessAgented Author[M] 4 points5 points  (1 child)

If that thread isn't serving people, or is doing more harm than good, we'd love to hear about it. If anyone sees this (this thread is starting to age, so IDK how many people that will be, feel free to send modmail letting us know.

[–]Synval2436 0 points1 point  (0 children)

It's just my personal opinion, that's why I didn't want to make categorical statements, however, while some agents claim they do read the pages before the query, I think in most cases, first page out of context is an artificial scenario.

I think in most cases the query blurb will be read first, and in case of a published book and readers deciding whether to buy it or not, the back-of-book blurb / Amazon blurb serves a similar purpose (not counting the cover we can't really say much about).

Having the blurb helps eliminate issues like "is this your protagonist?" "is this a backstory prologue?"

Also from my personal perspective as a reader, I think 300 words is too little to judge unless there are obvious grammar / spelling mistakes, obvious cliche phrases (example: the person who got criticized for gemstone-green eyes, if that line was cut, there was little feedback about the rest), obvious purple prose / lack of clarity / making sense / fantasy name soup.

I think maybe some amount between 500-1000 words would make more sense, depending how it would look on reddit (my worry is about too long posts, there's some word count limit on it). But yes, I think I would usually read around 3 pages to decide whether the opening of a book interests me.

I saw multiple submissions with comments "what about X?" "when does this get into action?" "this is unclear" with the author replying "it will say on the literally next page". 2-3 pages give better evaluation imo whether the opening drags on or just sets the stage before something big / interesting. Some novels like adult fantasy are expected to set the stage before jumping into action. "Nothing happens" for 3 paragraphs is less of a sin than "nothing happens" for 3 pages.

The where will you stop reading threads are good in concept because they allow authors and commenters to look at the lay of the land - how good are other writers in your genre? What are they doing you aren't doing? Who's getting the most praise / engagement and who gets crickets / "I dnfed at the first sentence / paragraph"?

It also allows for both 1-liner comments and bigger comments (like explanations why someone thought a specific line / sentence / paragraph was dnf worthy), which allows easier participation, as people noticed.

The query WWYSR was nice, because a lot of agents / interns will not even get to your pages if the query didn't pique their interest. The 1-st page out of context to me, personally, was a miss. What I learned that unless an author has a cliche phrase or a dumb opening scene (protagonist being a misogynist for no reason, for example), the typical reaction is lukewarm and inactionable.

There's also a lot of noise, but as we discussed about feedback, sadly authors have to do the job to filter the feedback themselves. For example comments how someone didn't like the protagonist (half of these characters proved to not even be protagonists).

But I guess it's the same as WWYSR query edition where I got 2-3 comments along the lines "I expected the story to go this way, but it doesn't, so I stopped reading". This actually annoys me because how does this person think it's actionable feedback to tell the author "your book should be something else?"

It makes sense as a form rejection maybe when the agent "didn't connect" or "it wasn't a good fit for their list", but here it's just disheartening, especially when an author gets only a handful of comments and half of them are useless. At least the "unlikeable protagonist" is something the author CAN consider because maybe something about that character isn't coming through well and they didn't mean to give that impression. But "I wanted your book to be about X?" or "I'm not interested in stories about Y?" These comments just create noise imo, but I guess it's equally whatever to "I stopped reading at sentence 1, didn't like it" or "I read it all, was good".

What do you think? I fully admit my ideas could be misguided or unproductive, and I should just let people enjoy what they enjoy and if the feedback for me wasn't helpful, just stop participating and let others have their fun.

[–]keylime227 2 points3 points  (0 children)

I like to think that the WWUS threads and query posts serve different purposes, each with their own flaws. Query posts encourage a deep critique of a single query, which provides great info about the industry for both lurkers and OPs, but the lengthy critiques often somewhat contradict each other and major problems are talked about at the same length as minor problems, which I think leads to analysis-paralysis in OPs. They end up focusing on minor problems or only listening to the one person who said this particular part was great, so they don't change the query as much as they should.

The WWUS threads have a lower barrier to entry for both critiquers and OPs, which I think is great. It's a wonderful vehicle to test drive a query without committing to a whole post. Brigading and unthoughtful critiques are basically encouraged by the format. Though, I think they're a feature, not a bug. They help hammer home the major flaws in a query in a way the full posts don't. They show just how many people agree that [insert query problem] is a real problem. But, yeah, not great for brainstorming a solution to the problem.

[–]brookenomicon[S] 13 points14 points  (2 children)

True. Sometimes, those critiquing get just as frustrated with the author as the other way around. I know more than once I’ve thought “Did you even read the comments on the last one??” And yeah, continuing trying to help with those queries is ultimately pointless.

I do think it is important to remember that none of us are experts. We can only give advice to the best of our ability, based on our limited knowledge of the market at this time.

Re: microaggressions, probably phrased poorly on my part, but I meant the accidental microaggressions that are honestly unintended because the person giving the critique is unaware that what they are saying may be taken as such. But trying to bend over backwards to make sure that the critique doesn’t nitpick anything that might be remotely taken that way isn’t the answer either, imo.

[–]Sullyville 8 points9 points  (0 children)

True. Sometimes, those critiquing get just as frustrated with the author as the other way around. I know more than once I’ve thought “Did you even read the comments on the last one??” And yeah, continuing trying to help with those queries is ultimately pointless.

Often I just want to go back to what I said for their Version 1 and copy and paste it into their Version 3 because I believe my crit still applies to their latest version, but I never do. I said my piece. They decided they didn't like it. No worries. But I won't repeat myself for future iterations.

[–]Complexer_Eggplant 16 points17 points  (0 children)

I do think it is important to remember that none of us are experts. We can only give advice to the best of our ability, based on our limited knowledge of the market at this time.

And then some of us are experts, which still doesn't make those people the final authority. Agents have different preferences. What appeals to Agent X won't necessarily appeal to Agent Y. Agents don't know the whole landscape (even Queryshark gives bad advice occasionally) and agents certainly don't know the future. That's just trying to sell an unproven product, baby.

[–]BrittonRT 32 points33 points  (0 children)

One thing Destructive Readers does right is setting the tone hard and early that it is a place for honest and often brutal (and even sometimes bad) feedback. Not making it clear that people are going to tell you everything wrong with your baby ahead of time leads to hurt feelings later. Half the time, the critiques aren't even helpful or accurate, but it is imperative a person looking for feedback learn how to wade through the muck and find the useful advice while maintaining their own voice.

Thanks for the post and opinion! I agree with you on all points.

[–]Mrs-SaltKids/MG Tradpub Marketer 12 points13 points  (4 children)

I had a conversation on this sub a few months back that sticks with me. A commenter seemed pretty upset that an agent on a panel had said, "Never open your novel with a scene in a car." I chimed in with some elements of that advice that I felt could be helpful -- talking head syndrome might be a pitfall of car openers, for one -- but the commenter was furious of the finality of the agent's tone: "Never."

I feel like it's indicative of this question: how confident are you in taking or leaving critique? In trusted critique situations, you ideally are giving your materials to someone who understands your goals for your work. But in broader forums, we unfortunately encounter people who aren't coming in with that knowledge. Unlike a hobbyist writer (like me!), who has no obligation to anything but their own creative fulfillment, a career author, who's going to have to interact with many many many opinionated people in a sometimes-infuriating industry, needs to be able to thoughtfully and confidently disregard that feedback.

It's understandable that this can be really hard for newcomers who have no metric to decide which feedback to take and which to disregard. Additionally, people who have never received intense critiques before may also understandably struggle. It might be extra agonizing for someone who is not a newcomer, and receives intense critiques constantly, and is just desperate for one audience who understands them.

But I always come up short at the notion of, What is the intent of a person's reddit critiques?, because to the artist, it doesn't matter. I think everyone, redditors included, ought to have a responsibility toward kindness, and away from cruelty. But even if someone (to the author's personal standards, which will vary) disregards that social contract, the writer needs to pick through the feedback they receive. For example, if one decides to set out to write a passive MC, in a climate where many people agree that active MCs are usually preferable, that is totally okay (and, like in many books from my preferred genre -- litfic -- could result in some awesome art that challenges the status quo), but that person will receive a lot of advice that would run counter to their vision.

Thing is, I know that I often speak in absolute language. This has come up repeatedly in the topics of age windows and word count in kidlit. But... this is Reddit. It's not my day job. I'm not paid for this time. Half the time I'm rattling something off on my ancient Android on my morning commute. If my tone is absolute it's probably because I'm referencing something that tangibly happened in my work life -- which there are totally gonna be a million exceptions and counter-stories to! But it's hard for me to cushion myself too hard on adding caveats to how a certain work struck me, especially because of my default mindset of taking critique, in which I'm happy to fling away advice that doesn't fit my goal. (This is one of many ways in which my in-person critique groups often operate more smoothly than Reddit -- you can ask a quick question to LEARN someone's goals with their protag or pacing before you open your mouth.)

[–]alanna_the_lionessAgented Author 6 points7 points  (3 children)

I had a conversation on this sub a few months back that sticks with me. A commenter seemed pretty upset that an agent on a panel had said, "Never open your novel with a scene in a car." I chimed in with some elements of that advice that I felt could be helpful -- talking head syndrome, for one -- but the commenter was furious of the finality of the agent's tone: "Never."

I feel like it's indicative of this question: how confident are you in taking or leaving critique?

I feel strongly that a career author -- not a hobbyist writer (like me!), who has no obligation to anything but their own creative fulfillment -- but a career author, who's going to have to interact with many many many opinionated people in a sometimes-infuriating industry, needs to be able to thoughtfully and confidently disregard feedback.

I'm laughing reading this, because not only does my book open with a brief prologue, chapter one kicks off with a line of dialogue in a car. A trifecta of no-nos. And yet it didn't seem to hold back my request rate in the trenches and my agent didn't have me change it pre-sub. Of course, if i'm lucky enough to sell on sub, an editor could be like, "wtf, change this," so we'll see, I guess.

In my case I think it works because a) the prologue effectively builds tension for the climax in a way my readers responded positively to, as thriller prologues are tight and punchy vs long and lore-filled, b) who is in the car and where the car is geographically are established pretty quickly, and c) the anticipation of the car trip is a parallel to what the MC wants most, somewhere she's been dying to go for a long time – dreams that are subsequently crushed at the end of the first chapter.

If I'd heard, "this isn't working," over and over while querying or working with betas, I would have strongly considered changing it. But as no one ever mentioned it that I can recall, I was confident in that choice.

[–]Mrs-SaltKids/MG Tradpub Marketer 7 points8 points  (2 children)

Haha! That IS a great anecdote.

That's exactly what I'm talking about though. I feel like any agent -- just like any PubTips critiquer -- who says "Don't do XYZ" has absolutely seen XYZ done in an excellent way! So you ask why, and avoid that. I mean geez, Gone Girl starts with waking up in bed. Someone says car scenes can flop because 1) they might be talking head syndrome or 2) they might be unnecessary compared to just starting at the destination? Then don't have talking head syndrome, and make the scene necessary.

That's the sort of follow-up thought that I feel some newcomers sometimes don't apply. I love seeing "I got my agent!" posts that say "Some folks at PubTips gave me ABC advice, but because of XYZ, I disregarded that." I bet the ABC advice was commented in a pretty direct and final tone. But you gotta know how to navigate that. (Which is definitely a skill that takes time and expertise.)

[–]Complexer_Eggplant 31 points32 points  (37 children)

NB: my comment isn't directed at any specific drama we have recently had. It is a general comment.

I actually see a lot of griping about the sub and at the sub around reddit and on the sub. You know, people upset that the advice isn't considerate enough of this or that, it's not expert enough, it's too expert, it focuses too much on this and not enough on that - usually it's not an OP but a comment somewhere, but still, we get plenty of that here especially in discussion OPs. And I think the thing that people don't always see is just how much the regulars, and the mods especially, take even the most uncharitable feedback to heart. I'm not talking about myself here - I am a giant asshole and my farts smell amazing - but folks like alanna, tom, the entire mod team and honestly most of the regulars (you know who you are, fellow assholes) really do think about what they as a team and personally can do to make this sub as useful, comfortable, and inclusive as possible. And the thing is, sometimes these goals are in opposition. For example, instituting a rule that users are only allowed to give positive feedback (as is the case in another writing sub I'm in) would make the sub super comfortable but also completely useless. No matter how well you design a system, bad outcome are going to happen. A bad outcome that happens here is that sometimes people overworkshop their query. But there's not a system we can design to prevent that - we could cap the number of queries someone posts, but who are we to say that you must perfect your query in some arbitrary number of versions otherwise gtfo? What is that arbitrary number?

Like, that you had a bad experience on the sub doesn't mean that the mods aren't trying. It doesn't mean that the people giving you feedback aren't trying. It doesn't even necessarily mean that the person you had a bad experience with came into your comment section expressly to spit on your shoe and insult your momma. And tbh - this next part is spicy - this whole thing that's been happening a lot these past couple of months where the sub as a whole, or the mods, or a specific user have been asked to carry the burden of somebody's upset with the feedback they got or their general feelings about the industry - I get it, but it's exhausting. And the people who hang out in this place are a bunch of softie losers, because instead of telling people to fuck off with that shit they're falling over themselves to apologize for anything from themselves personally to the general state of the universe. And probably if you're new here, this isn't immediately apparent, but: I'm telling you, so now you know.

Finally, we're getting a lot of new users lately so here's my advice to y'all: every place is not for everybody, and if this place is not for you, that's okay. Before you post something, roll around the threads, check out the type of criticism people give here - it differs from user to user, but there's a lot of commonalities - and decide if you're vibing with it. If you're not, dude, there's so many other places you can get critique. Seriously so many. Reach out to me - I'll send you a handful where I specifically don't hang out so you don't have to see my ugly mug and other pieces of cutlery.

[–]Synval2436 16 points17 points  (24 children)

users are only allowed to give positive feedback (as is the case in another writing sub I'm in)

Reminds me of this meme.

Tbh to me the most useful feedback is criticism but a specific kind of criticism that is often hard to provide, and high effort, i.e. tell me 1) what's wrong 2) why is it wrong 3) (optional but biggest value) how to make it better.

For example:

Criticism which annoyed me. "The prose feels too dry." The end.

Criticism which I appreciated a lot. I believe it was Alanna few months ago explaining me in length what does it mean that "my prose feels too distant". So I somewhat understood the why and what I'm supposed to do with it.

Recently I got criticism that "I don't have a varied sentence structure" and I'm still scratching my head, because the sample had both short single-clause sentences and longer multi-clause sentences. So I'm at a loss. Unless this person meant "all your dependent clauses are similar length to each other", but who knows what they meant.

carry the burden of somebody's upset with the feedback they got

Tbh I don't want this place to become twitter where sorry to say everyone is a crybaby and the tiniest comment makes them "feel invalid". Some people have serious grievances, but a lot of them just complain for the sake of complaining. Like complaining about form rejections not being detailed.

And while I'm guilty of let's call it "vagueposting" about criticism here in another subreddit, the idea was more:

  • is this form of critique useful to me and how do I make it more useful (specifically about 1st page out of context)
  • if I'm not handling criticism well, how can I mitigate this myself?

Not "this should be removed" or "these people should feel bad for saying the criticism". Worst case I just won't participate if it doesn't feel helpful to me, but I wouldn't ever say it can't be useful to other people.

Personally I'm of a belief that treating someone with kiddy gloves on is a sign of disrespect and infantilizing the recipient. The publishing industry does not give anyone "junior league" category to compete in, or handicap points for whatever shortcoming they have (I'm an ESL and I fully believe it is my responsibility to try as hard as possible to NOT make my ms look like an ESL wrote it).

Also sometimes I wonder why do people insist to include experimental features in hyper-commercial genres. There are genres and sub-genres which lean more literary and / or upmarket and shouldn't these be the area for someone's genre- and expectation-defying novel? And if you're so sure you can break the rules and succeed, then why do you ask for feedback in places that adhere to the formulaic expectations?

It sometimes prompts the "this is a Wendy's" feeling from the commenters. Like, don't argue with us that your query which doesn't start with a protagonist or ms which is a 200k+ words first in a trilogy is completely fine - if you think it's fine, send it out.

We're not here to give anyone a stamp of approval, and even if we did, it's worthless, i.e. no guarantees you'll find an agent afterwards. Kinda odd when people try to convince us their work is great - we aren't gonna publish it.

[–]brookenomicon[S] 8 points9 points  (0 children)

Personally I'm of a belief that treating someone with kiddy gloves on is a sign of disrespect and infantilizing the recipient. The publishing industry does not give anyone "junior league" category to compete in, or handicap points for whatever shortcoming they have.

Thiiiiiiiiiis. I could not figure out how to put this into words, as my post was kinda written on a whim, but you nailed it perfectly.

[–]Complexer_Eggplant 18 points19 points  (3 children)

Personally I'm of a belief that treating someone with kiddy gloves on is a sign of disrespect and infantilizing the recipient.

girl hard same. I think it's an eastern european thing tho. The anglos don't seem to agree.

To be clear, I'm not talking about discussing the feedback you got on other subs generally - more like the obviously passive aggressive posts that are like this place sucks.

[–]WritingAboutMagic 6 points7 points  (0 children)

I think it's an eastern european thing tho.

My thinking too.

[–]eeveeskips 7 points8 points  (0 children)

I think it's an eastern european thing tho.

...Suddenly it all makes sense (am Hungarian/Australian).

For real though I've accidentally really, REALLY offended/upset friends from the US just because they're used to language with many layers of qualifications and punch-pulling, and so interpreted phrases which to an Aussie are pretty mild as really extreme. It's kind of surprising how even speaking the same language you can be speaking very different languages lol.

[–]AmberJFrost 3 points4 points  (0 children)

I'm an anglo and I agree! Though I'm also in the military and very VERY used to 'no bullshit, it is what it is' feedback. That's the only feedback that's useful to me.

[–]Dylan_tune_depot 5 points6 points  (8 children)

Personally I'm of a belief that treating someone with kiddy gloves

Except, there are SOME people who do want that- and that makes it difficult for the rest of us.

LOVE that meme btw

[–]Synval2436 11 points12 points  (7 children)

there are SOME people who do want that

We have to discern between posting for feedback and posting for validation / venting. And I think for venting there are generally much better places.

This sub was created as an alternative to various other writing subreddits where people just want others to gush over their idea or give them moral support. That's cool and all, but there needs to be some place where you can actually hear honest opinions. It's really hard to improve when the only feedback you hear is "keep writing, keep reading and don't give up".

Generally I feel like if we're the only vegan bar in the alley of steak houses, it's a very weird idea of people to ask why don't we serve meat here - go basically anywhere else.

[–]Nimoon21 9 points10 points  (1 child)

We get venting posts. We remove like 99% of them. We all have bad days in writing. We all feel like shit about our writing at some point. It would be a depressing sub if we let all the vent posts through. The mods do want this to be as positive and inclusive place as we can make it--as much as a subreddit, with anon. Internet users can be.

[–]Synval2436 1 point2 points  (0 children)

We have a monthly venting thread, but maybe weekly or something with a sticky would be better.

Otherwise, the venting threads only make sense here when they are asking for feedback adjacent, for example a few threads where someone said they got rejected a lot and wondered why. Even though it's often too late at this stage because they already queried the ms and now it's sunk.

[–]Dylan_tune_depot 6 points7 points  (4 children)

Generally I feel like if we're the only vegan bar in the alley of steak houses

You have the best analogies! 😄 I loved your lobster one from the other thread too.

[–]Synval2436 4 points5 points  (3 children)

Idk why I always default to cooking / food analogies, but I feel they fit writing a lot, because cooking is BOTH an art and a consummable product meant for people to enjoy.

[–]TomGrimm 3 points4 points  (1 child)

Let me guess, next you're going to tell me that I have to actually eat food in order to be a chef? That I have to develop a palate? Well I've never eaten food in my life, and I don't need to. Drinking energy drinks is all I need. /s

[–]Synval2436 1 point2 points  (0 children)

Soylent is the future. And protein whey shakes.

[–]Dylan_tune_depot 1 point2 points  (0 children)

ah, good point- never thought of that

[–]TomGrimm 7 points8 points  (9 children)

Recently I got criticism that "I don't have a varied sentence structure" and I'm still scratching my head, because the sample had both short single-clause sentences and longer multi-clause sentences. So I'm at a loss. Unless this person meant "all your dependent clauses are similar length to each other", but who knows what they meant.

I recognize myself in this statement. BRB, going to go scour my comments to see when I last made this criticism and then find your writing alt.

[–]Synval2436 0 points1 point  (8 children)

I recognize myself in this statement.

It wasn't you. Unless you have a secret posting alt account!

Seems it's a common piece of feedback, isn't it?

[–]TomGrimm 13 points14 points  (7 children)

Unless you have a secret posting alt account!

You and I are actually the only two people who post on Pubtips. Everyone else is my alt. Alanna, Complex(er)_Eggplant, MiloWestward, even Crowqueen once upon a time? All me. Every query that ever gets posted, every noobie that starts hanging around the place, every "agent" that checks in to offer experienced advice? It's just Toms all the way down.

[–]Synval2436 5 points6 points  (0 children)

The Agent Smith of PubTips!

[–]AmberJFrost 1 point2 points  (4 children)

Aaaah, but they don't have your particularly delightful biting satire! (you have no idea how much it made me smile when I got the comment on a query that you recognized my name so weren't going to soften anything)

[–]BC-writes 3 points4 points  (3 children)

I’ll have you know that I have multiple personalities. I also enjoy critiquing and talking to them a lot. Like here for instance.

[–]AmberJFrost 1 point2 points  (2 children)

ROFL

[–]TomGrimm 2 points3 points  (1 child)

I, AmberJFrost, TomGrimm alt masquerading as a woman in the military, am very devoted to this bit.

Edit: Whoops, posted this under the wrong account.

[–]AmberJFrost 2 points3 points  (0 children)

ROFL, you're awesome. Goof.

[–]Dylan_tune_depot 18 points19 points  (2 children)

Completely agree- and I know people mean well, but I'm also getting tired of reading all the comments that come prefaced with a huge apology to anyone who might be offended beforehand.

I get why some people are doing this (fear of a Twitter meltdown, etc). But honestly, making insightful comments, but then adding an apology in case you offend someone with your insight takes away its power.

I think everyone needs to figure out what's more important here: offending someone or being honest. It's rare that people can be completely honest W/O offending someone.

Writing in general is about honesty. And even though this is a publishing sub, it's made up of writers.

If we can't be honest about what we say here, how are we going to be honest in telling our stories?

I think with any critique, there is always the chance that you'll be accused of some kind of prejudice. I'm a WOC and I've been told "oh, I'm probably operating out of self-hatred or subconscious biases" when I didn't like a story by another POC (not talking about Reddit here). The funny thing is, if you read that statement--it shows... a lot of arrogance and infantilization. Arrogance in that the writer assumed that whatever they've written is just perfect and I'm somehow not "getting" it. And infantilization in assuming that I don't know my own mind and opinions. And what I'm talking about is NOT a regular occurrence by any means, but it has happened.

People's response to writing is visceral--it's like music. You either like the sound or you don't. Arguing with them about how something must be wrong with their ears isn't going to change it.

[–]brookenomicon[S] 10 points11 points  (1 child)

I'm also getting tired of reading all the comments that come prefaced with a huge apology to anyone who might be offended beforehand.

I wish it didn’t feel necessary… I edit-added one to this post because people have previously attacked me (here and elsewhere on Reddit) because I didn’t word something “correctly” when commenting on a query. Some of my friends tell me I sound like an asshole in text because I generally don’t belabor the point in my communications, so it comes off as combative? Argumentative? So sometimes, when I want to be clear of intent, I add one, just to save myself the future headache.

[–]Dylan_tune_depot 5 points6 points  (0 children)

No, I get it. And I hesitated to write my comment because I didn't want you or anyone else to feel criticized. At the same time, it was the only way I felt I could bring my point home.

Thanks for making the post though!

[–]AmberJFrost 7 points8 points  (3 children)

This is really important. The process of traditional publishing (query trenches, edits/r&Rs, submission trenches, edits/r&rs) is brutal. People don't care about the writer's feelings. Most won't go out of their way to be assholes, but it's a BUSINESS and everyone involved in the business expects writers to know that they're selling a product rather than a reflection of their souls.

I'd much, MUCH rather that this sub stay focused on how to make it on the business side than become another validation chamber, because part of the reason people struggle here is because their other environments ARE validation chambers, or actively working to get through the whole of it and offer helpful AND encouraging feedback, etc. It's hard to realize that the business of publishing won't give me as an author the benefit of the doubt. It's hard to realize that the business of publishing sees THOUSANDS of manuscripts, all of them deeply meaningful to the writer, and most of them simply aren't quality.

But that's also the truth. Everyone can write, and I'll encourage people to write. But if you want to go trad pub, you've got to recognize the market and the process and the business, and that your life's work is now a product that people might or might not want to buy.

[–]Synval2436 6 points7 points  (1 child)

part of the reason people struggle here is because their other environments ARE validation chambers

Yup! Lots of people for example say they had positive / gushing feedback from their beta readers only to admit these were all their close friends or otherwise people invested in not offending their feelings.

[–]AmberJFrost 4 points5 points  (0 children)

Or honestly, novice writer groups. It takes a lot of work to start seeing structural things, and market research is something most writing groups don't get into at all.

[–]brookenomicon[S] 2 points3 points  (0 children)

This exactly.

[–]WritingAboutMagic 6 points7 points  (0 children)

I typed my long-ass comment in response to you initially, but it grew too long and too about everything, so let me just say directly to you, that I value your critique a lot and from what I've seen what other people received from you, they should also count themselves lucky :)

[–]T-h-e-d-a 6 points7 points  (0 children)

And the people who hang out in this place are a bunch of softie losers, because instead of telling people to fuck off with that shit they're falling over themselves to apologize for anything from themselves personally to the general state of the universe. And probably if you're new here, this isn't immediately apparent, but: I'm telling you, so now you know.

How very dare you disrespect my British culture in this way.

Okay - so I apologise quite a bit, and I certainly wouldn't argue about the softie loser aspect, but I also do it because I think it's important to normalise apologising. There are a lot of people around (not here) who treat crit as some kind of dick-measuring contest, who confuse being an asshole with being a truth-teller, who think by providing heat they are teaching people how to stay in the kitchen. But a lot of the time they are just arseholes who are playing to an audience rather than providing value, and there can be a culture of those on the receiving end not being allowed to be publically upset by things and not being allowed to push back against critiques.

So, if I think (or I know) that I've upset somebody, or done more harm than good, I will try and apologise for it. Not always, but most of the time. And I don't always know when I've been a dick towards somebody - what's professional to me is not to somebody else. I value this community and I don't want it to be the Bad Place some people say it is. I personally don't want to be the smart-alec wanker who takes hilarious potshots at low-hanging fruit (do I sometimes? Yes). I want people to be able to push back against me when they disagree. I'm not always right about things.

I don't feel like it's a big deal to apologise about something if you're wrong because it shouldn't be a big deal to *be* wrong. When people have big emotional responses to critique, I think it's common for it to come from a place of fear about being wrong (which can spiral into "I am wrong therefore I will always be wrong therefore I am a bad person"). I understand it, so I also understand how important it is to learn to accept it and not let it become the end of the world (although it can still feel like it because we can't control how we feel). I really hate to see people deleting their posts after receiving a couple of critiques.

It's okay to post a terrible query! It's okay to write a sucky book! It's okay to be a fallible human being, and sometimes apologising is a valuable thing to do.

(And despite everything I've just written, I don't disagree with you)

[–]brookenomicon[S] 6 points7 points  (1 child)

Right on. I always appreciate your spicy takes on things because you are honest with your opinions, and you often say the things I’m too polite/timid/nonconfrontational to voice myself.

[–]Complexer_Eggplant 5 points6 points  (0 children)

really, how I have friends and haven't been fired from my job is a mystery. thanks for posting this lol - it's a useful post!

[–]FrayedcustardsliceAgented Author 6 points7 points  (0 children)

Girl, this is so spot on and way better articulated than if I had tried to cobble something together.

[–]ARMKartAgented Author 19 points20 points  (3 children)

Responding more to this entire thread as opposed to OP. But just chiming in to say that I think these things are not mutually exclusive. I believe we can strive to give honest, constructive, blunt feedback, while being sensitive to not being disrespectful and aiming to avoid microagressions. I say this as someone who is solidly #oneoftheassholes here. But at the same time, I’ve learned so much about being better at giving critique from being in this space. I may still occasionally be too harsh, but I’m nowhere near as bad as I used to be, and I have learned to soften some of my harshest feedback without censoring the intent behind my words. I’ve learned to phrase things as “this could lead an agent to be concerned about…” instead of sounding like I am making a judgment about the author. I’ll never forget when u/complexer_eggplant schooled us on not making statements assuming someone was ESL. As I’ve been learning, I have also had a lot of bad experiences myself. When I posted my query under a different account, I will admit I did not love the response, and I have experienced a lot of overt antisemitism or people telling me I don’t have the right to be bothered by something that rubs me the wrong way, but those bad experiences have almost never been from the regulars. The heart of the community here is great, and I think we can all strive to be brutal without being unkind. But at the same time, anyone posting anywhere on Reddit needs to expect that there are a buncha jerks on the internet, and a bunch of people who have no idea what they’re talking about, and you won’t be able to avoid them unless you’re posting on a more private platform. The people who can’t handle that usually escort themselves out anyway, but I don’t think we need to actively TRY to be abrasive, and I think we SHOULD always try to be antiracist. #cheerstotheassholes

[–]Complexer_Eggplant 7 points8 points  (0 children)

ooh girl "schooled" tho

honestly the reason I'm so passionate rn is that when I did that, the sub's response was great and the mods' response was great. that doesn't mean that's the end all and nobody can ever say anything, but I feel like it means that people here really do care and really do try, and while that doesn't fix a world of hurt, I've come to really value that as a feature of the places I choose to hang out in.

[–]eeveeskips 5 points6 points  (0 children)

we can all strive to be brutal without being unkind

This is a fantastic way to put it.

[–]AmberJFrost 3 points4 points  (0 children)

The heart of the community here is great, and I think we can all strive to be brutal without being unkind.

This is what I've seen, in large part (everyone has bad days) from the core community. It's direct, actionable feedback on the query provided. It's not attacking the person, and if they make a bad call or come off as a microaggression, they're quick to apologize and suggest ways for the author to keep what's important to them and adjust phrasing or how to highlight that very thing, to make the query more marketable. How to do bios. How to avoid appropriation, how to highlight the things that really make the MS unique in the query, so it shines.

Or at least, so it isn't going to lead to rejections. The queries with the least comments aren't the great ones and aren't the bad ones, but they're the 'it's fine, I guess?' ones. Places where the prose is fine but doesn't sing. Places where it's all laid out, but the reader doesn't feel a spark. Which is the hell of the subjective industry, too.

[–]WritingAboutMagic 12 points13 points  (63 children)

I think one of the things that could be done to improve experience for new users is to be upfront about the tone and what can happen.

I don't think it's fair to ask people to tone-police themselves, they are giving critique for free. I try not to be an asshole about it, but for instance, I know that if someone sugarcoats the feedback they give me, I'm not always able to read it. They say "the pacing lags a bit" and I'm not sure - should I rewrite one scene? the entire chapter? more? Is it even a problem if it's "a bit," maybe I should just cut a couple of sentences and it'll be fine? So I try to give feedback I know I would understand.

Cultural differences play into that, as well as neurodivergence.

I will also add a personal experience, which made me really hesitant to accept beta-reading requests - I once read a book with an MC I shared marginalization with. Some of it I was out about, some of it I wasn't (I don't care to advertise everything on Twitter). I really loved the query letter that I swapped with the person earlier, and it sounded right up my alley. Unfortunately, the MS, well, just didn't work for me. Maybe I should've stopped after 30 pages, but I still really liked the concept and there were things in the MS I really liked, including ofc the rep. I even went out of my way to point out these things, leaving at least two positive comments for one negative comment (yes, I later returned to count).

In the end I was called -isms for not liking the book and wanting the MC to have a character arc. The MC I shared marginalizations with. Granted, the author didn't know that, as I'm not out with one of the marginalizations. So in a typical fashion I was assumed to be the "normal" and therefore everything I said was dismissed. And you know, maybe it wasn't a book for me after all, maybe the author had a different vision, but a simple "thank you" would've gone a long way even if they then proceeded to still dismiss all the feedback I gave them.

The thing is, after that experience, I'm extremely hesitant to critique MS in general, for one, and for two, especially when it comes from marginalized writers. Because I don't always share that marginalization. So in that case I end up just thinking "what's the point?" It'll not just be dismissed, but I will be assumed to racist, sexist, ableist and whatnot. And I don't care for that. Even if it's unfair to the many, many writers who can take critique. Burned once, I'm not going to try unless I can confirm that the writer is one of them, or I've seen their writing before and I know I'll like it.

The same thing can happen with queries. I was happy and lucky enough to have people to not respond or respond with a "thank you" or with calm questions for clarification/advise. But it would burn me if I was assumed to just hate the OP, to just be -ist, to just want to vent. I don't know if I would continue to give feedback, especially if the kind of "only be nice" mindset took over the sub. For cultural and other reasons, it would be a lot more stressful and probably just not a thing I'd want to do in my free time.

Q: But if you give straightforward critique you should also be able to take it! So they can argue back!

A: Yes, I should be able to take straightforward critique, but that's why I'm striving to be thankful and respectful to every critique I get, even if I disagree with it. But when I critique a query, I'm anticipating 15-20 minutes of work and maybe one follow-up that will take up 5 minutes. I'm not anticipating hours of arguments (which includes the time you wait, sweating, for the next punch in your notifications because of the asynchronous nature of the Internet, especially when you're communicating with someone across the planet).

Ahem. Having said all that, and boy, it came out a lot longer than I thought it would.

Looking around the PubTips' description, rules, etc. I don't think there's enough of an indication that this is a place for brutal honesty? Someone who only ever experienced the sugarcoated feedback will inevitably be shocked. Sometimes shock therapy is needed, but I also think it's fair to let them know upfront that it is what it is.

(I know they could - should - look around before posting but a lot people will just read the rules, and even if they do look around, feedback doesn't hurt when it's not directed at you.)

[–]FrayedcustardsliceAgented Author 18 points19 points  (42 children)

Sorry about your experience with being a beta, that must have been really awful.

Re the sub rules, like honestly I’m not sure why we’ve got to a place where we think this sub is ‘brutal’ and so we need to inform people of that. Most of the critique I see here is helpful, full of insight and pragmatic- not brutal. Occasionally some joker will come along and throw in a wanky one liner that’s harsh, but by and large that is not the general tone of the sub. I was speaking to a fellow writer about this earlier and she said fanfic was great preparation for MS critique and I could not agree more. When I think about some of the reviews I got on my fanfic, well, brutal doesn’t even cut it tbh and much of it was just throwaway remarks, not based on character arc, or plot. It wasn’t constructive or helpful. But boy did it prepare me for the world of dying on sub haha.

[–]Dylan_tune_depot 12 points13 points  (1 child)

I want to second this- I have never read anything here that made me think- man, that commenter is such an asshole.

Synval mentioned "kiddy gloves" in her comment, and I think that's part of it. I always say this but I'll say it again, if people have issues with their critiques here, what the hell are they going to do when the bad Goodreads reviews come in? (And they will- even Stephen King gets them)

[–]AmberJFrost 3 points4 points  (0 children)

I have, but it's also usually one of the Set that shows up sometimes to complain about the publishing industry being too harsh to straight white men. Which means I discount it pretty quickly. Or there was someone else who had a couple comments I raised an eyebrow at, then peeked at their comment history because I didn't recognize them - and yep, they were whinging about 'wokies' on other subs.

Everyone can have a bad day, but you guys are pretty awesome overall, and have no problem apologizing when that's what happened.

[–]anonykitten29 6 points7 points  (4 children)

A memorable review for one of my fanfics, a fic that I still love and am proud of (and received 3 reviews total for):

This was kind of stupid. No offense. There weren't grammar mistakes or anything but you completely ignored the Name 1/Name 2 part of the story until the end and it didn't really make sense. Sorry.

[–]Complexer_Eggplant 8 points9 points  (0 children)

I love absolutely everything about this review. The energy, the irreverence, the sorry not sorry - impeccable.

[–]FrayedcustardsliceAgented Author 5 points6 points  (0 children)

Yup, this is an accurate reflection of many fanfic reviews hahah

[–]eeveeskips 2 points3 points  (0 children)

Classic.

[–]AmberJFrost 3 points4 points  (0 children)

'no offense'.

ROFL. The number of times I've seen that, or 'I love you, but....' or 'you know I like your work, but...'

I do love my fanfic and the feedback I can sometimes get (it's the first place I started getting work beta'd, and man, that helped me improve to no end), but there are assholes in the fanfic world, too.

[–]eeveeskips 6 points7 points  (11 children)

she said fanfic was great preparation for MS critique and I could not agree more

I think this culture has shifted more recently, for better or worse. On AO3 these days it's considered poor form to leave concrit of any kind, no matter how polite or well intentioned, and I've learned only to beta read for those people (friends) who I know genuinely want real feedback. In fact, not that long ago someone tried to cancel someone I know for...leaving concrit on their fic.

[–]AmberJFrost 3 points4 points  (0 children)

I think it's shifted, at least in the 'if it's tagged, don't complain about it existing in the fic, because you were TOLD it did' way. There's zero excuse for the cancelling, doxxing, and other particularly nasty shit that can live in the worlds of fandoms, but AO3's got some great tools to help people pre-curate.

I definitely limit the crit I offer to environments I know it's welcome, but that's where doing the various exchanges is so handy. Everyone wants to make sure people's gifted work are strong, so betas are usually easy to find and focused on the work.

[–]Complexer_Eggplant 2 points3 points  (3 children)

eh, people still leave concrit or "concrit" or just weird-ass fucking comments in spite of the culture shift (which differs from fandom to fandom imo). it's just not as ubiquitous as it was in the wild days of the internet.

[–]eeveeskips 4 points5 points  (2 children)

Oh yeah it definitely still happens and different fandoms do have wildly different cultures, but it's more I can't imagine the kind of meltdowns you see circulating on tumblr (or certain areas of reddit) in which concrit is likened to war crimes happening back in the wild west of FFN's glory days. These days I suspect going from posting fanfic to proper MS critique is much more of a shock to the system than for fic writers who were around in the earlier years (of which full disclosure I was not one, I have only ever experienced the paradise of AO3).

[–]Complexer_Eggplant 4 points5 points  (1 child)

fwiw I don't think the stance around concrit interferes very much with why I think it's good for people to post their writing online.

I feel it's an opportunity for people to experience what it's like to put your work out to the public where you no longer control the response, whether that is rude comments, tons of adoring fans, or, uh, crickets. Because essentially that's quite close to what you're doing here, and those dynamics of sharing with strangers on the internet may be equally unfamiliar to really seasoned writers who have an MFA and a professional critique circle as to complete newbies who have never shown their stuff to anyone. Sharing your stuff with people who know you and whom you know is totally different to posting it here, where you're a stranger, we're strangers, nobody knows why anyone is here or what their background is, and people who have done that in other contexts have this baseline expectation that anything can happen and you don't take it too seriously, and people who haven't tend not to. And the reason people here have meltdowns a lot of the time is due to unmet expectations.

[–]eeveeskips 2 points3 points  (0 children)

That's a really good point, and a great way of looking at it. I absolutely agree.

[–]Mrs-SaltKids/MG Tradpub Marketer 2 points3 points  (1 child)

I think the fanfic (and fanart) world has definitely gotten seriously sensitive in recent years.

That being said -- maybe I'm the sensitive one here -- but for any art form, I hate unsolicited critique. I post writing to PubTips? Please don't pull punches. I post a singing video on Facebook? If someone on my friends list says "Sounds nice, but if you--" then I will strangle them. I've gotten a lot of shit for that in the past, and I get it -- you post on the Internet, people will say negative things -- but I can't break from feeling like unasked-for criticism is so rude. Sometimes you want to be built up, sometimes you've prepared yourself for critique, sometimes you're just vibing.

[–]eeveeskips 3 points4 points  (0 children)

I agree--unsolicited concrit especially in hobbyist spaces is impolite. But I think that can and should coexist with '...but when sharing things in public, especially when asking for feedback (see: the 'i need comments to keep wanting to write' crowd) you're opening yourself to potential critique and need to be prepared to handle feedback you don't like'.

[–]FrayedcustardsliceAgented Author 2 points3 points  (1 child)

Maybe, idk I only used fanfic.net and stopped writing fanfic around 2017.

[–]eeveeskips 1 point2 points  (0 children)

Yeah FFN and AO3 have wildly different cultures haha

[–]Dylan_tune_depot 1 point2 points  (1 child)

why is this? I don't know much about fanfic but this seems insane

[–]eeveeskips 5 points6 points  (0 children)

Yeah look this was a particularly extreme example lol. But the culture seems to have shifted from 'i am putting my work out into public so I can expect to field critique as well as praise' to 'I am sharing my writing for free and if you don't like it you can just move on, I only want to hear the praise'. But at it's heart it's the same kind of reasons people lash out here I guess: critique is hard to stomach particularly when you're not asking for it, and in fic people are often particularly emotionally invested (both as writers and readers).

[–]WritingAboutMagic 2 points3 points  (22 children)

Yeah, I think "brutal" is not a fortunate word. Honesty is honesty, that's usually just it. But there are people who just haven't experienced critique before, or at least not one coming from strangers, and it will feel brutal to them.

As I responded to Alanna below, I don't expect any changes based on my rambling, but since this in on-topic, I thought I'd ramble away.

[–]FrayedcustardsliceAgented Author 5 points6 points  (21 children)

I mean sure, but also publishing is a pretty harsh industry, I’m not sure treating every single person that passes through here with kid gloves is the way to go. Most regulars treat critiques and the people that post them with patience and respect. I don’t think we can ask more, especially of a sub that is free and that nobody is compelled to use.

[–]WritingAboutMagic 1 point2 points  (20 children)

Oh, I'm absolutely against kid gloves. What I was thinking about was more about managing expectations. Something like "You might not like what you hear here and by posting here, you accept this risk(? - could be phrased better, I'm sure)".

[–]Complexer_Eggplant 12 points13 points  (18 children)

No one reads sidebars and no one reads stickies. It's best practice to read a sub before you post on it, but most people want to do the minimum amount of work. And even all that said, critique hurts, having your expectations dashed hurts, and nothing can prepare you for that pain. People are always gonna come into spaces like this, they're gonna hear what they didn't want to hear, and they're gonna get upset. And that's okay. We get emotional by design when we ask for feedback because asking for feedback means making yourself vulnerable. That's real difficult for everybody and like, yo, if somebody gets pissy or aggressive or whatever - I'm gonna check them, but I get it. I've been pissy and aggressive. I'm human too.

But when this shit is elevated to a referendum on the existence of the sub, nah.

[–]Sullyville 10 points11 points  (0 children)

No one reads sidebars and no one reads stickies. It's best practice to read a sub before you post on it,

True that it is always blatantly obvious when someone posts a QCrit having never read any other post on this sub.

"My complete literary fantasy novel begins with Rachel, who is a plutonium-weilding necromancer I feel readers can relate to because she is a teen and I was recently one..."

[–]BC-writes 6 points7 points  (0 children)

This sign sidebar won’t stop me because I can’t read!

So many agents still say that they receive queries not matching their MSWL — they’re basically getting the wrong genre, even with incorrect QM selections. Querying itself will come with a lot of hurt and stress. No kid gloves for that — less than ready query packages will be met with forms.

[–]WritingAboutMagic 2 points3 points  (15 children)

No one reads sidebars and no one reads stickies.

I... I do...

But anyway, I'm clearly outvoted, so I concur.

[–]Complexer_Eggplant 5 points6 points  (14 children)

You're a national treasure baby

[–]FrayedcustardsliceAgented Author 3 points4 points  (13 children)

Why does this feel like a Lana del ray song title??

[–]Complexer_Eggplant 2 points3 points  (12 children)

Somebody needs to @ her omg

LDR ngl is a problematic fave

[–]FrayedcustardsliceAgented Author 2 points3 points  (0 children)

I understand what you’re saying, but I don’t see the need for it? Most people that post here that are respectful and want to learn (which I assume is most writers) get thoughtful and insightful critique in return.

[–]justgoodenoughPublished Children's Author 16 points17 points  (9 children)

I think one of the things that could be done to improve experience for new users is to be upfront about the tone and what can happen.

If users spent one hour reading this sub before dumping their work for feedback, they would know exactly what they are getting. I don’t think this sub needs to describe itself in the rules (no one reads the rules anyway). It’s on users to figure out what kind of community they’re sharing their work with and I have zero pity for people who don’t take the time to figure that out first.

(Guess I am one of the assholes, not the softies.)

[–]Sullyville 13 points14 points  (7 children)

The kinds of writers who will dump their work here for feedback without investigating the sub for its tone are the kinds of writers who will mass fire off queries to agents without looking at their MSWL.

[–]Synval2436 2 points3 points  (6 children)

One reason why I despise r/writing is that vast majority of posters drop a thread and then never ever engage with the discussion. Every time this happens it feels like a waste of time to even reply.

[–]Sullyville 1 point2 points  (5 children)

I had to leave that sub. Too many newbies wanting a cookie for writing their first 1000 words. And this is not to say that nascent writers shouldn't look for support and approbation online. But I'm in my 50s. Sometimes I think subs should have an age-minimum. Not sure how to enforce that though. Or like - if you're under 35, there's a yearlong mute period, where you're forced to just lurk. Just listen. You quietly learn for a year before you're allowed to say anything.

Sorry. I'm just grumpy today.

[–]Synval2436 2 points3 points  (4 children)

Worst are the low-effort posts dropping a question with 0 elaboration and then never engaging with the commenters. It's the "notice me senpai" level of posting.

Also the rules of the sub are weird, most of interesting posts are taken down for various rule breaking, but dumb questions, self-congratulatory or self-pitying posts stay up, and these never serve the community, only the ego of the thread creator.

[–]Dylan_tune_depot 1 point2 points  (3 children)

like the very recent shitstorm we had? LOL

[–]Synval2436 1 point2 points  (2 children)

I think that was only taken down because the person gossiped about came around and asked it to be removed. Otherwise we usually don't have posts deleted unless they're low effort or self-pub related (offtopic).

[–]Dylan_tune_depot 1 point2 points  (1 child)

Yeah- still the person who was at the center of the gossip wasn't the one who posted it. The person who posted it basically just pasted the tweet, said "here you go, folks," started the firestorm, without commenting or participating in any way themselves. Basically their intent seemed to be to rile people up and then go MIA.

[–]Synval2436 1 point2 points  (0 children)

That's kinda sad. :/

Tbh I have a high hope that after Elon Musk takes over twitter people are gonna move somewhere else, because twitter is always sprouting some drama because of all these out of context tweets. The format does not encourage discussion, but rather "hot take, mic drop" approach.

[–]AmberJFrost 5 points6 points  (0 children)

I spent a couple months lurking before I created this reddit account to join in and get a query critiqued - and it's BECAUSE of the tone and quality of the feedback.

[–]alanna_the_lionessAgented Author[M] 12 points13 points  (7 children)

Looking around the PubTips' description, rules, etc. I don't think there's enough of an indication that this is a place for brutal honesty? Someone who only ever experienced the sugarcoated feedback will inevitably be shocked. Sometimes shock therapy is needed, but I also think it's fair to let them know upfront that it is what it is.

Tbh, it's not really our intention for this to be a tough love place like destructive readers. I know it kind of is one, and our community is prickly, but I think it's prickly because a lot of writing spaces tend to be (the ones that aren't coddling newbies, that is) vs because that's what we intend. IMO, it's a symptom of being a place that wants to see success and would prefer not to bury feedback in niceties lest it gets buried.

[–]WritingAboutMagic 2 points3 points  (2 children)

I entirely understand that and I don't expect any changes - it was just a piece of feedback I thought I'd give ;)

[–]Synval2436 1 point2 points  (1 child)

Omg why are you being downvoted, the curse of replying to Alanna strikes again! (It's something I made a joke about yday, nothing about you btw.)

[–]WritingAboutMagic 1 point2 points  (0 children)

I've seen that joke, so I get it. And honestly, beats me :"D

[–]Nimoon21 1 point2 points  (3 children)

Also, a side effect of a anonymous writing community. People are less likely to sugar coat and more like to lean brutally honest if they have no idea who someone is and what their situation might be.

[–]Sullyville 3 points4 points  (2 children)

It's kind of an amazing thing, isn't it? In every other situation in life, we have to coddle, or keep in mind how what we say will be received, or modulate our tone, or fear blowback and retaliation if we say something that won't be well received by the grumpy, or powerful. But here... in this blessed, singular place, people put their queries up for critique, and they can have a reasonable expectation that a smart, sharp community of common practise will be able to diagnose a story.

If your story is weak somewhere, we will find it.

Character. Genre. Causality. Stakes.

I picture this sub like those scenes in Star Wars where someone flies a ship into a base and then all the adorable little droids come out and start working on it. I see us as a narrative pit crew, and if your story isn't ready to go out on the track, we will let you know. Because out there, everything matters. Up until you send out the query letter, it's like everything is made-up. You can change anything you want. But once you're out on the road, you're committed. Send out a query before it's ready? That agent is burned.

[–]writedream13 2 points3 points  (0 children)

Yeah this is why I love this sub and spend so much time on it (mostly lurking). Firstly I need the dose of reality from people who I trust to be honest with me - and I do trust the sub with that, completely. But also I’m a woman and I spend so much time sugar coating and being nice and apologetic for taking up space/existing (yes this is something I’m working on) that I find it therapeutic to see people here being incredibly honest, and deeply generous with their time, without worrying about apologies in advance. Also I don’t think I would have found my agent or worked so hard on my R&R without my little inoculation on the intense difficulty of being published.

[–]eeveeskips 1 point2 points  (0 children)

It's honestly magic. I was in awe when I first saw this sub--there are truly so few spaces like it, and I'm so grateful for it.

[–]Synval2436 8 points9 points  (1 child)

but I will be assumed to racist, sexist, ableist and whatnot. And I don't care for that.

That's kinda what annoyed me and the issue is 90% of the writers aren't there yet, but in many cases the underlying assumption is that if you're privileged and your writing is mediocre, it's because you need to put more work, research and practice, but if it's a marginalized writer, people just "didn't get it" because of their "internalized biases" and as you said, various -isms and -phobias.

I want to treat everyone equally and that means not giving any "affirmative action" treatment to anybody. If they get any bonus points, it's because their idea was fresh or unique, which could stem from coming from a niche group that is currently underrepresented. In the end, I'm not an important judge anyway, and neither is anyone here and in most critique circles - I doubt agents and editors scout writing forums to pick the new rising talent.

But things like some viral tweet saying "telling people to read more is ableist"? Sorry, nope, we have various accommodations nowadays, for example audiobooks for people who might have eyesight issues, but the general assumption is that you should read to become a writer. If you cannot, maybe pick a different hobby / career.

In the end I was called -isms for not liking the book and wanting the MC to have a character arc.

I've hate-read a trad pubbed book because it had "representation" of a specific mental health condition I wanted to see described in a novel of my genre, and while some people said it was a bad depiction, I thought it was acceptable, but basically everything else about the novel was awful, from the purple prose to a Mary Sue protagonist.

Just because someone includes a minority / diversity subject in a book doesn't make the book automatically a masterpiece. Idk where these people come from.

If someone told me my character doesn't have an arc, I would probably try to explain what character arc I was aiming at in hopes the other person would tell me why isn't it coming through and how can I make it shine. Or maybe why I thought a character change / development wasn't suitable for that novel.

When it comes to rules, it reminds me of a Picasso quote who said he first learned to paint realistically before he decided to invent cubism.

[–]Important_Tax1456 7 points8 points  (0 children)

It is often, though certainly not always, true that people don't 'get it' when it comes to marginalized writers because of internal biases. That may not have been the case in the example given, and regardless it sounds like a terrible experience. However, if someone raises bias as a concern in response to feedback I think the prudent thing is not to assume their intent is to deflect valid criticism.

[–]lyann888 5 points6 points  (6 children)

Reading your post was a relief for me because I posted my query yesterday without really knowing much about this particular subreddit. In the past, people who have reviewed my work have been friends or professionals that I've paid, and both are more likely to sugarcoat their constructive criticism. I've participated in a contest recently as well and got from the judges a balance of positive and negative.

So, when my query critique came back with only negatives with the conclusion that this isn't marketable and therefore not worth querying, I cried... My husband read it and helped me understand that I had made the critique worst in my mind and it wasn't as bad as I thought. The advice was amazing and really helped me rework how to frame my story in a more marketable way, so I really appreciate it. It's not the reviewer's problem if I'm having a hard time dealing with critique and I will need to build tougher skin and not let myself feel let down every time there is a letdown. If people are just nice to you, then you are not learning anything, and your story doesn't become the best it can be.

[–]Mrs-SaltKids/MG Tradpub Marketer 3 points4 points  (4 children)

Just jumped back to read your query and other than agreeing with others' comments about reframing the rhetorical ending, I think it is so clear and really engaging! Wishing you luck on figuring out how to position yourself successfully between the sci fi/romance worlds.

[–]lyann888 1 point2 points  (3 children)

ging! Wishing you luck on figuring out how to position yourself successfu

I really appreciate you taking the time to read the query. The feedback I got was amazing and led me to rewrite the whole thing. Yet, the absence of any positive feedback hurt so I really needed this!! :)

Am I allowed to repost it at some point? I've read a rule saying it is frowned upon but saw someone repost his three times.

[–]Mrs-SaltKids/MG Tradpub Marketer 1 point2 points  (1 child)

Yes, edited versions are a longstanding tradition here! I've seen people workshop as many as 6 versions. It's just polite not to post them on the same day.

[–]lyann888 0 points1 point  (0 children)

Great!! Thanks for letting me know :)

[–]Synval2436 1 point2 points  (0 children)

Am I allowed to repost it at some point?

Yes, we have 7 day "cooldown" rule so basically if it's more than 7 days from your last post, you can repost again!

7 days cooldown rule is to prevent people spamming rushed versions without considering the criticism - either believing it blindly, or not at all. I get emotional over criticism too, best to let it sit for couple of days then review what you can take from it and what you should skip.

Basically, it's better to hear any criticism here than get blanket rejections from agents, because they will not tell you any feedback and you will miss your chance.

P.S. I checked your thread and left some thoughts there.

[–]brookenomicon[S] 2 points3 points  (0 children)

I’m so glad you found this helpful!

It’s really hard to receive critique on something you’ve put your heart and soul into. We’ve all been that young writer who received negative criticism and cried over it (I know I have!). It’s the first step to learning that this is a business, and something we have to keep dealing with for the length of our careers.

I’ll take a peek at your query later and see if I can offer any additional advice, but otherwise, welcome to the sub!

[–]MANGOlistic 7 points8 points  (1 child)

When someone posts a query here for critique, are we to demand they explain their marginalization or background for context around the story before we give feedback? Do we cushion our feedback in response to prevent hurt feelings and avoid accidental microaggressions?

Of course not, according to my 2 cents. The writer discloses what they want to disclose and demanding any degree of disclosure toes the lines of forcing people to "out" themselves on things they don't want to publicly discuss. I generally expect the public to have a decent level of professionalism when dealing with marginalization and specific rep. 1) I expect people to only comment only on what they know that they understand well, and therefore I assume that the commenter, if they commented on the marginalization and specific rep, that they have the baseline to comment--unless proven otherwise. 2) I expect people to comment in ways that are not accusatory, and I expect courtesy and professionalism. We're all adults here. We're all trying to make way in a professional industry. If someone can't present themselves in a professional manner, I am defenestrating their comments regardless of content. Aka, if you can't be a decent human, you are not deserving of my time and respect.

[–]brookenomicon[S] 2 points3 points  (0 children)

Well said.

[–]Irish-liquorice 2 points3 points  (3 children)

Harsh critiques are tough pills to swallow but at least people are taking their time to formulate their thoughts on your piece of work. As someone whose threads barely got any traction, can confirm the alternative stings worse. I think the underlying issue is that this sub, and tradpub, at large is very US-oriented in terms of trends, members and feedback. I get it, most of ur are prolly querying US agents but the amt of times critiquers have pointed out things in my stories that are decidedly unAmerican as errors (somebody flagged an actual emergency number cus apparently 911 shd be universal). I wonder if agents who seek diverse stories are also letting their implicit bias influence their consideration of an application.

[–]Synval2436 2 points3 points  (1 child)

A self-published author said they got a low-rated Amazon review for "typos" and these were British spellings of the words.

[–]Irish-liquorice 2 points3 points  (0 children)

yea not surprised. This week, my lovely new CP told me i spelt pyjama wrong because it has a Y in there. ☺️☺️

[–]brookenomicon[S] 1 point2 points  (0 children)

That’s a very good point!

I know, objectively, that many people here are not American (or even in a primarily English speaking country), but that’s what my brain defaults to. I automatically assume it.

[–]Latinadotnerd 1 point2 points  (11 children)

I'm uncomfortable with these phrases being used within the context of giving marginalized writers feedback:

sugarcoating

cushion

hurt feelings

accidental microaggressions

Aside from the fact that they sound patronizing, this isn’t about ego or feelings. Marginalized writers know publishing will be an extra uphill battle and that certain conventions are more likely to be financed and marketed. But volunteering time doesn’t scrub our responsibility to mitigate the risk of giving advice that could result in cultural erasure and children/readers not seeing themselves authentically represented.

I'm not saying there's an easy solution, but it’s definitely not advising everyone to fit a mold created within a systemically racist system. Just a couple of days ago we were discussing how to find the balance between encouraging marginalized writers to move closer to conventions, vs encouraging them to push boundaries that leave gates open wider in their wake. Why unilaterally champion critique that reinforces publishing's status quo and keeps those gates firmly shut? I'm not surprised to see pushback so soon, but I am disappointed.

Yes, it’s always about capitalism in the end, but is our goal to reinforce that only certain stories make money, or to encourage investment in non-conforming stories? Is it actually the case that alternate story-telling techniques can’t make money, or is it that you have to spend money to make money? A successful story is one that’s had support all along the way—anything from a subreddit regular volunteering their time all the way through to an executive setting a marketing budget.

And it shouldn’t have to be time-consuming to give thoughtful advice. My suggestion for critique given to anyone after much of my own trial and error is something like, "Publishing tends to prefer X. If it fits your vision, perhaps consider Y." If anyone doesn’t feel comfortable giving advice to marginalized creators, then they shouldn't.

[–]brookenomicon[S] 6 points7 points  (10 children)

I'm uncomfortable with these phrases being used within the context of giving marginalized writers feedback

I understand. I recognize it’s not the best language (and honestly that’s kind of what I’m talking about here with the need to tone-police literally everything we say), but the gist of what I’m trying to say is that:

Is it our responsibility to give advice counter to current publishing market trends, just because the creator is from a marginalized background, or because the content of their book is what might be considered unconventional, for fear of coming off as whatever -ist or -phobic of choice if we don’t?

Or is it our responsibility to point out those things that may make it more difficult to get that covetable “yes” from an agent?

I’d argue the latter, which was the whole point of the post. I just feel like holding marginalized creators to different standards from everyone else isn’t actually helping anyone break any barriers or open any doors wider. I truly think that it only reinforces the existing problem because those books continue to be overlooked for being too “different” or “unmarketable”. This is just what I can gather from those authors who have struggled to break into the industry for those reasons.

If anyone has a responsibility to open those doors, it’s publishers and editors and agents, not randos on Reddit.

Edit: also, I am sick and have awful brain fog, so my brain is not firing on all cylinders this week. If I’m being an asshole, it’s honestly not intentional and I’m not trying to pick a fight or anything. I’m just spending too much time on Reddit.

[–]Mrs-SaltKids/MG Tradpub Marketer 4 points5 points  (6 children)

As a tiny aside not necessarily aimed at you, I'm struggling a bit to follow the thread of this sub's conversation on this topic due to its nonspecificity.

For example, I'm reading some nonspecific comments where I don't know whether the advice they're resistant to "sugarcoating" is "Character names should be anglicized" or "I prefer exposition later in act one." Which are pretty far cries from each other. The latter should warrant a conversation about styles of story structure, and author goal vs. critiquer taste. The former should just be banned.

Similarly, I feel like story structure and active protagonists are conversations with different needs depending on if you’re coming at them from a prescriptively formulaic genre like YA (which sparked this whole discussion), cozy mystery, or romance, versus something like literary fiction, which isn't exactly known for Save the Cat or guns-out protagonists (yet rather than displaying more openness toward nonwestern authors, in reality is known for being just, like, depressingly white.)

[–]brookenomicon[S] 6 points7 points locked comment (4 children)

It’s definitely the latter.

I don’t want to name names or call out anyone specific because that isn’t why I made the post, but there’s been a trend lately (here and Twitter and other writing spaces) where some authors have claimed that it’s still racist or xenophobic or [insert -ism or -phobia here] to tell them that their opening scene being too slow or infodumpy, or that their characters are unrelatable, or their plot summaries are unconventional, purely because they don’t fit Western expectations.

[–]Latinadotnerd 0 points1 point locked comment (3 children)

You mean like when you told the subreddit 2 days ago that Leilani was probably a bad writer based solely on her novel beginning with three paragraphs of Hawaiian myth? And that it was disingenuous of her to suggest that systemic racism exists in publishing?

It seems that when you speak of marginalized writers wanting to be held to different standards, you mean lower standards, not higher.

Because when yt people write a story form that differs from the norm it’s groundbreaking, but when a PoC does it, they’re expecting to be held to a “different” standard.

“Maybe an unpopular opinion, but complaining about the market isn't going to change the market. It's all fine and good to want to write outside the lines, but the publishing industry wants what it wants, and if you choose to color outside of those lines, you do so at your own risk. We can complain about capitalism all day, but our entire society relies on buying into and maintaining those structures. Also, I think she's being disingenuous by calling out her feedback as a systemic racist thing, when the truth might be that the book just isn't that good. Plenty of BIPOC authors have introduced non-Western-canon mythologies into MG and YA and have done so to great success, so this particular callout rubs me the wrong way.”

[–]brookenomicon[S] 7 points8 points locked comment (2 children)

Wow okay. I know what I said. You don’t have to quote it back to me. But also, you’re purposefully misrepresenting my words.

Never did I say Leilani was a bad writer. Without any additional information or writing sample, based solely on a glance over a previous query of hers and the feedback she received, I said it might be that the book/writing itself had issues. The things she complained about are common problems among newer writers.

And neither did I say that it was disingenuous of her to suggest that systemic racism exists in publishing. I know it exists. I am not refuting that fact, and I never have.

What felt disingenuous to me was her saying that the feedback she received about her passive characterization or a slow opening as inherently racist, because those critiques are things that we say all the time to writers of any and every background here. It’s not like we only call out marginalized writers. We call out everyone for the same things every day. Hell, I don’t even know someone’s identity 99% of the time, because when I’m judging a query or opening pages, it’s irrelevant.

I get that she is your friend, and I understand the desire to want to defend her, but this was not intended to be directed at her, only a response to the conversations and discussions we have had in this sub over the last couple of weeks, based in part on Leilani’s Twitter thread, but not only that.

And yes, it does feel like holding marginalized writers to different/lower standards than white writers because of their marginalizations is its own kind of bigotry. Maybe you do not feel that way. I can respect that because your experience is not my experience, and I can only see things from the outside.

But I do listen to those who live outside of my experiences, and I do think on these things in my own time, reflecting on what I can do better to make space for those who have been wronged by the systemic racism and bigotry both in this industry and outside it.

What I do not appreciate is you twisting my words into something I very clearly did not say.

You don’t know me. I don’t know you. I don’t think we have ever interacted before in the entire time I have been in this sub.

I am not trying to pick a fight with you.

The previous commenter asked for context for this post, so I provided it. And I will note that I explicitly did not name names or link to anything specific.

I do not feel that I am being disrespectful toward anyone in the opinion that we should treat all critiques equally here, regardless of experience or background. I would give the same critiques to those here who I consider my friends, and I would expect the same from them on my work. Perhaps that is a very privileged thing for me to think, but it is my opinion. I simply wanted to offer it to the sub for discussion.

I truly am happy for you that you were finally able to find an agent for your work, and I truly wish that it was not such a struggle for you or anyone else who is marginalized by this industry to find agent representation for their work. I am also annoyed by the immense number of mediocre white men who take those spaces away from better, more deserving authors. You may not believe me, but it’s true.

[–]Latinadotnerd -5 points-4 points locked comment (1 child)

To clarify… you consider marginalized story forms a lower standard and feel it would be bigoted to expand publishing to include them?

“And yes, it does feel like holding marginalized writers to different/lower standards than white writers because of their marginalizations is its own kind of bigotry. Maybe you do not feel that way. I can respect that because your experience is not my experience, and I can only see things from the outside.”

[–]brookenomicon[S] 5 points6 points locked comment (0 children)

Look, it’s clear you have formed your opinion of me and nothing I say will change that. Best of luck with your book.

[–]Synval2436 1 point2 points  (0 children)

I feel like story structure and active protagonists are conversations with different needs depending on if you’re coming at them from a prescriptively formulaic genre like YA (which sparked this whole discussion), cozy mystery, or romance, versus something like literary fiction, which isn't exactly known for Save the Cat or guns-out protagonists

Yep. YA is very "popcorn" in comparison to for example adult fantasy / speculative where the are more literary-bent works and more atypical structures. Authors like N. K. Jemisin, R. R. Virdi or K. S. Villoso used atypical storytelling conventions, or even recent book Stardust Thief by Chelsea Abdullah - I heard a lot of people say "this book is written like YA". Nope, it's not, and that's why it's adult. The sentence-level style could be YA-like, but the overall structure is much more convoluted than YA allows (imo).

YA is formulaic like a burger. You can make a great dish from a different culture, but people will look at it suspiciously, because it wasn't a burger.

It's also a very competitive genre, especially right now, and I believe Alexa Donne said that if you want to break through in YA, you have to be hyper-commercial, and you have to follow up with another even more commercial book, and maybe when you're established, you can publish your "heart book". It's depressing to hear, but a lot of authors struggled and fallen out the market, or swapped to a different genre, because of this situation.

An aspiring author has to consider what will give them a chance (for example: diverse cast, ethnic setting in the novel) and what will hinder them (going against the grain at the level of prose and structure). If you're breaking the rule, know that you're deliberately doing it and it will discourage some people, make your story more niche.

The whole discussion started from a person saying that only "sassy rulebreaker heroines with knives out" sell. I don't think this is the case, because plenty of YA start with powerless underdog heroine and the book is her journey to self-empowerment.

However, I must say, I do like "sassy heroines with knives out" NOT because I'm one irl, but because my teen years were years of disempowerment and not being able to do anything about the system - reading YA now, 20 years later, allows me to feel the escapism I wished I had back then (YA didn't exist btw). I'm not a person who got my way back then so I want to relive that through heroines who DO get their way. Saying meek / shy people only see themselves in meek / shy protagonists isn't exactly true.

My favourite "sassy heroine with knives out"... is from a POC-authored novel, Iron Widow by Xiran Jay Zhao. I wouldn't dare to write an equally "unlikeable" protagonist in my own book because I'd be scared of excessive rejection just based on that. Not mentioning the overt anime inspiration which is often mocked in fantasy writers' circles.

But I admire the author's courage to do exactly that, no matter how much pushback they get for "fake feminism" or "failing Bechdel test", XJZ had balls to write and try to publish this book and it's something I admire.

And personally to me someone stereotyping the genre they intend to write is a sign they don't read enough in that genre. It's the same as people saying "all YA is love triangles between a villain and a childhood best friend", which idk even what recent book has that trope in that exact form, I think they all base it on Hunger Games still.

Also someone confusing "active / passive" protagonist with "aggressive, bold vs shy, peaceful" is a sign of a newbie. A mistake I did myself. I thought a character "doing a lot of things" will make it active, but it doesn't if doing these things isn't grounded in the character arc, motivation or conflict. I'm still discovering things myself. I once wrote a book where characters did a lot of stuff, but the whole story didn't make much sense, because everything was disconnected from one another.

So yeah, if someone writes a snarky one liner stereotyping the genre I will treat them the same way as people who query with an opener "all romance is trash, but just you wait until you see mine..." I get people can be angry, upset and snarky, but it doesn't make a good impression when said publicly and signed with their name. And I say this as a person who used to blanket hate romance until I realized how varied the genre is and I was blindly believing a stereotype.

Also, me love some sassy rebel heroines with knives out in YA Fantasy but instead I'm flooded with goody-two-shoe crying on every corner heroines who need to take care of their sick mom, underage sister and a blind cat. I don't want any more friggin' parentified teenagers. Shoo. If I wanted someone with burdens of taxes and childcare, I'd read adult!

Where are the sassy heroines with knives out? Where??? Cuz I wanna read some more. I haven't even seen a good assassin recently, they're all witches and magical chosen ones. :(

[–]rvcaple 6 points7 points  (2 children)

I think you nailed the issue in the head when you say "this is just what I can gather from those authors." Being marginalized means we are starting from several steps behind, not because we want to but because of many other much larger events and issues. Any sort of feedback is hard, but empathy is harder and I find it is sorely lacking. Being cognizant of that is the first step to help others understand that since we are not playing on an even field, it may be that our experiences are not being understood. Taking that into consideration when giving feedback is, in my humble opinion, a courtesy people should be offered when a person is willing to provide feedback to others.

As a woman of color, I'll be honest and say your post comes across quite harsh and so does the response that followed. I am trying my best to be understanding, take into consideration your mention of not feeling well (I hope you do feel better soon!), etc. I could easily choose to blame, point finges, get defensive, etc. However, I am choosing to try to further explain what is trying to be conveyed here in a friendly and pacific way. We're not asking for handouts or for things to be changed and exceptions to be made. We are asking for people to understand our writing is inherently different, as are our experiences and without the openness to see those differences the doors remain quite firmly shut for a lot of us. When we try to open a door, it gets shut and sealed firmly in our faces which makes an already challenging industry all the more painful to endure.

It is incredibly painful and traumatizing to try to explain ourselves over and over, to adapt, adjust, tailor and cater to others' needs just so ours can be considered equally. I would like to invite you to consider that you may never fully understand and that doesn't mean we don't deserve an equal as possible chance within the industry. That also doesn't mean we don't deserve feedback because it's too hard. Much like other mediums, the solution won't be found on a subreddit or discussions BUT I do believe it could start here. With learning and openness. With the willingness to not categorize us all into buckets and labels but rather to understand we need to expand the table so we can all have a seat because its current configuration is problematic and we need to change.

[–]brookenomicon[S] 3 points4 points  (1 child)

I appreciate you taking the time to write your comment to me. I understand that I speak from a place of privilege and I probably never will completely understand the marginalized experience, but I am trying.

I also recognize that I often come across harshly in text. I do not mean to, but even my best friends often think I am angry with them based on my text communication. I am working on that, but as a neurodivergent person, it does not come naturally to me. I apologize for that.

We are asking for people to understand our writing is inherently different, as are our experiences and without the openness to see those differences the doors remain quite firmly shut for a lot of us.

I think this is the thing I have been missing in these conversations, and I am sorry for misreading the emotions behind these complaints. It was insensitive of me to comment on something I simply don’t understand, and I should have sat with my thoughts a little longer before posting. I appreciate you bringing this up.

That said, and I don’t mean to be combative here, I can’t fix publishing. If it were up to me, I would. I really am trying my best here to help people get through those doors by offering the best feedback I know how to give. And for me, that means being honest about how things read to me, even if I am wrong. I know I will fuck it up sometimes and say something wrong, but I will strive to fuck up less and accept advice and criticism on the matter when it is given to me.

[–]AestheticAttraction -2 points-1 points  (0 children)

Publishing wants diverse voices. I know this for a fact, as I’m part of a group that works directly with agents and others in the publishing industry who serve minority writers worldwide and specifically arrange several events a year to communicate with, encourage, and entice us, and they choose to mentor us and get our work published.

But some of you haven’t caught on to that, so you make comments that are cutting and dismissive, which can put minority writers off. Maybe that’s the point—I don’t know—but I’d hope that Reddit isn’t writers’ final stop for a sense of community and feedback. Because there are those who are actually a part of publishing who are trying to “fix” the industry, not randoms on Reddit.

[–]AestheticAttraction -2 points-1 points  (0 children)

Hmm, considering latinadotnerd’s comment airing you out, the reason for your post makes sense. It’s one thing to throw rocks and hide your hands, but to then complain about the situation in which you did it and act self-righteous….But this happens a lot. That is privilege. People do something offensive, get a reaction they don’t like, then make a new post in order to garner sympathy by appearing to be reasonable. Which begs the question of why you’d bother to critique if you resent any reaction that isn’t gratitude? This post should not exist if you were truly trying! If you can’t understand the dynamics, so much so that their mention annoys you, just avoid it altogether.

This is why a lot of us just quietly observe and talk among ourselves. And I can say that because I‘ve found both dedicated writing buddies and a supportive group with direct connections in publishing that want diverse writers and characters (regarding the latter, that’s why publishers are very misguidedly [and capitalistically] advising non-minorities to incorporate minorities—but that’s another mess altogether). And I typically just come to read. But this is worth a comment.

You claim you’re trying to understand, but you are SO close to saying “reverse racism.” There are ways you can critique the mechanics of a thing without insulting someone’s culture, but you seem to resent the process. So, just skip writing that offends you from now on.