Dumb People and What To Do About Them

In the wise words of a stranger/friend that I met two hours ago: sit your ass down, bitches, because I’m about to learn you some shit.

So, you think you can write…I’m trying to contain my derisive snort. You can’t fucking write, and let me tell you why.

First, there are a lot of people in the world; as a writer, your job is to somehow entertain them. Unfortunately, people aren’t clumps of cookie dough shaped by the same triangular cookie-cutter, so they’re not all entertained by the same thing.

However, let’s begin the discussion with a positive message: if lots of people have the same opinion about your thing, lots more people are going to have the same opinion.

Recently, I received a manuscript from a science fiction writer who was trying to re-invent the Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy. Let’s call him Bob. Bob told me that he’d only gotten dumb reviews form his beta readers so far, and hoped that I, as a fellow science fiction writer, would be able to give him something better to work with. Honestly, I think he was looking for an ego boost. Well, I read it, and I found it dull, tedious, lacking direction, and not funny. Not exactly what he was hoping. I think if we’d been talking face-to-face, he would’ve started yelling at me…luckily, we were emailing, so he just used a lot of exclamation points.

Basically, if everyone jumps off a bridge, you should do it too, because it means that the billion-dollar lottery is waiting at the bottom. Look at this guy, hoping against hope that a different sample population would yield different results for his disappointing work-in-progress; he was wrong, because people don’t generally do “unique”. Your audience was born in the same culture of literature, and therefore prefer reading things that follow the same general format; otherwise, they get confused and hate everything. The same applies in reverse- if lots of people love your thing, lots more people will adore it. I realise this goes against my anti-cookie-cutter leading statement, but give me a second; there are exceptions to the rule of “herd-mentality-humans”.

Another thing that happened recently was that I started sending

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my shit out to people. I’ve gotten a lot of good reviews, so I was feeling pretty good about myself. One day, I opened my inbox to find a whole rant from some beta reader my protagonist managed to piss off in 2000 words flat. She was screaming (silently, because emails don’t talk) about how romanticising murder was against her beliefs, and how aliens go against the Bible, and how boys with a sense of style who self-harm shouldn’t be made into likeable characters since they then become role models who corrupt her pure, innocent children.
Now, as soon as I saw the word “Bible” in her email, I knew this wasn’t going to be pretty (little did she know, there would be some gay sexiness later), but I was astonished at how vehemently opposed she was to both my premise and my protagonist, which all my other readers considered fucking amazing. They all rated my plot and character at least 7/10 in any given chapter; I even got a couple 10/10s in the especially angst-y scenes. Given all this positive feedback, how could this one woman hate my writing to this extent? How could she not realise that romanticising murder is the one perk of being a writer? How could she not understand that an edgy-punk style is sexy as hell? Although…given her religion, she might’ve been against the hell part of sexiness.

This might not be the best example since, well, she was probably not a big fan of the fictional genre (I can’t count how many books I’ve read where the characters kiss without being married- scandalous!); however, it does illustrate my point.

It doesn’t matter what a great writer you are, or how fabulous your story is; there will always be someone who will hate them, and you, and will then send you an angry email about corrupting society with your work. My advice is to not send them an angry email back about how their inflexible beliefs make you want to wrap them in rotting fish guts and then piss in their mouth. It comes across as rude.

Here’s what you should do: keep the email. Maybe the contents are stupid with faulty logic, but the anger that it arouses will yield some very zesty sex/fight scenes. I should know- I think Jay killed off at least three pigeons when I sent him hunting with a self-aiming laser gun.

 

 

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7 thoughts on “Dumb People and What To Do About Them

  1. Looks like you had to deal with both sides of this problem, Ella. I think it’s a natural tendency for writers to want other people to love their work. Probably because we pour ourselves into it. But it’s important to take criticism seriously during the editing stages, because it’s the last chance to work out problems before agents, editors, and publishers get their hands on it. The fewer major problems a story has, the better chance it has of being accepted.
    On the other side of the spectrum, there will always be people who are outside your target audience and who won’t receive the book well. What I can’t figure out is why that woman wouldn’t have just said, “Hey this is outside my area of interest and I don’t think I could provide objective or helpful feedback.”
    Writers can’t change their book because of one person’s personal beliefs or interests. They need tangible, specific items that they can address.
    In the end, you showed a valuable point from both sides. If one person’s comments are so vastly different than everyone else’s they can usually be tossed. If several people are commenting on the same thing though, that means that whatever they are saying is wrong, really should be fixed. Or whatever they are all saying is great, really is great. If you had found that guy’s story to be brilliant, he probably would have taken that and allowed himself to ride that high all the way to an agent just to be rejected. It would have been of no real value or help to him.
    I always intend to leave a short comment. Maybe next time.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. You write essays for comments, and it’s adorable. I don’t know how you do it.
      I agree with you, largely because you’re agreeing with me, and I make it a point to always agree with myself; things get too confusing otherwise.
      It makes sense to me, probably because of my scientific background, that the more people who agree with a certain point, the stronger that point becomes. Those who prefer working with case studies or anecdotal evidence probably disagree with me, but that’s okay.
      I really just don’t understand why people who have volunteered to read your shitty (or not-so-shitty) manuscript of their own free will, refuse to be helpful. Like, hello, given specific questions, they should really be able to provide strong, specific answers.
      Have you started beta reading yet- I think I remember you working on a manuscript? Or are you still focusing on your short stories for now?

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Haha I’m glad you agree with me…or you. Specific recommendations on how to fix a problem are always the most helpful. Although, I know sometimes I can tell someone that their pacing isn’t right in a section or the dialogue is awkward, and sometimes I have ideas on how they can fix it, while other times I’m at a loss. I just know it doesn’t work as it is.
        Beta reading…I’m still editing. I have 15 chapters done. I wrote two new chapters, one of which is in the 15 chapters I have done and the second is in the chapters I’ll be reviewing today.
        My main problem is that my story starts in 1785 and runs through the present. I wrote it chronologically, and I decided to pull the present to the front of the book, which has required rewriting portions, creating a new inciting incident, and adjusting the pacing. Then I’ll have to figure out how to sift the original 11 chapters from the beginning throughout the book. I also figured out I had a little point of view issue with the present day characters in a few spots.
        But I’m moving along and I’m hopeful that I’ll be ready for beta readers by 2099. Wait…I’ll probably be dead by then.

        Liked by 1 person

      2. Yeah, it’s hard to come up with suggestions, especially when it’s one book in a series, and you don’t know how the series ends… Personally, I just need people to tell me what’s wrong with my writing- I can brainstorm ideas and ask their opinion on said ideas later.
        Your book sounds super complicated. but also super cool- is the present 2017, or a different time?
        Right now, I’m getting a lot of people telling me that my pacing needs work- there’s a lot of fluff that my beta readers seem to think is a really major plot point.
        Well, who knows what awesome biologic technology will be invented by the time of our old age? You could still be alive- and then die when you receive awful feedback from assholes who don’t understand true Art!

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      3. The present day is kind of a moving target. There are dates, like April 4, but no year attached to it, other than you know it’s the present. I’m kind of using the calendar from 2019 as a rough estimate for determining ages of my characters and such since the dates in the past are fixed.
        I’m laughing at your true Art comment. Hilarious. I always worry about feedback being the end of me.
        It sounds like you are getting some useful feedback. There are so many things you can anticipate a reader might have a problem, but I always think it’s interesting when they come up with something unexpected. I have found that the perception people have of one of my minor characters is sometimes way off from what I envisioned. Then it’s a matter of deciding whether it’s important enough to change. I think beta readers zeroing in on something that is supposed to be fluff is interesting. Hopefully it’s easy to fix.
        What type of pacing issues are you having? Too much every day type stuff that slows down the pacing, or too high of tension without breaks?
        You know how when you say a certain word over and over again, it begins to lose all meaning. I feel like that with editing, where I’m concentrating on a rule or a problem so much that I no longer have the ability to figure it out and fix it.
        Anyway, that’s my essay for the day. I hope your edits from the feedback your beta readers gave you goes smoothly.

        Liked by 1 person

      4. I can only imagine the amount of timeline organisation you must have had to invent in…wow, but that sounds super cool!
        Well, getting feedback is nerve-wracking and a truly awful expereicne. The only reason I’m subjecting myself to the judgement of others is because I literally had no idea where to start fixing my WIP. Hopefully when your turn comes to start asking people for help, your self-esteem will survive the experience!
        It seems to vary chapter by chapter. I think I just divided my chapters up weirdly, maybe too focused on making sure each one is approx. 2000 words. Some of my chapters are pure fluff, important for developing relationships between important characters, but otherwise unessential to the plot- they think those chapters are too slow. Funny, but slow. Others, I stick in a whole lot of action, and my attempt to cut it into bite-sized chunks seems to frustrate my readers. I think I’m going to have to reorganise my chapters, make them longer, and shorten the fluff. Ugh, this writing business is more hassle than I thought it would be 😛

        Liked by 1 person

      5. It sounds like you received some really good feedback though. At least you have a direction to head. I know it’s so frustrating, but you’re already closer to a completed novel than you were a month ago. You’ll get there. 🙂

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