Author Topic: His writing is not all that and a bag of chips...WHAT Have I Done????  (Read 4743 times)

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SoCalVal

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Re: His writing is not all that and a bag of chips...WHAT Have I Done????
« Reply #15 on: June 15, 2014, 01:53:43 AM »
His novel isn't awful, but it's obvious he is a nonfiction writer who hasn't internalized many of the basics of good fiction writing, such as "show, don't tell." The background on his characters tends to be very long-winded, dry and expository.

This is what FormerBFF did in that one chapter, and I did use the word "expository" in critiquing her.  As I recall, she went a bit silent at her end, and I never heard again about her "fabulous" novel.  Frankly, it read as if she were trying to write erotica but, even then, it was incredibly boring (she was obsessed with scrabble back then; don't know about now).



Redsoil

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Re: His writing is not all that and a bag of chips...WHAT Have I Done????
« Reply #16 on: June 15, 2014, 02:03:21 AM »
"I always loved your non-fiction pieces and I honestly think you'd do even better to go to the next level and join a writer's group to improve on technique. You can bounce ideas off others who are in the business and look at different styles that may suit your fiction interests.  There's just so much to learn in writing!"
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poundcake

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Re: His writing is not all that and a bag of chips...WHAT Have I Done????
« Reply #17 on: June 15, 2014, 04:09:40 PM »
Time to suggest he needs someone more qualified than you and point him in the direction of a tutor or writers group.

This, exactly. You aren't an editor, you're a friend who enjoys reading his nonfiction. Besides, he may be terrible at fiction now but with some professional guidance, something could click. Or he could leave an interesting bunch of stories to family when he goes. Or he could realize that he really sucks and should stick with nf. But none of this is your job or responsibility, and, in fact, it's a problem that so many beginning/local writers think that they can take writing in to the local librarian and get editorial feedback. (I have several librarian friends who bemoan this problem of especially very old or very young people wanting them to "look at" or "help with" their writing, and no, it's not their job, nor even their talent!) So I would strongly suggest you start bean-dipping him about acting in an editorial capacity when you're on the clock as a librarian. If you still want to outside of the library, that's different.

As suggested, point him to a class or group. I've had great luck with community college writing classes because there's usually a mixed group. If you're in a larger city, there may be formal groups like Grub Street in Boston or Detroit Working Writers.

Winterlight

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Re: His writing is not all that and a bag of chips...WHAT Have I Done????
« Reply #18 on: June 16, 2014, 10:15:24 AM »
It's time to direct him to a writer's group or a class. Tell him this is beyond your pay grade.
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bopper

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Re: His writing is not all that and a bag of chips...WHAT Have I Done????
« Reply #19 on: June 16, 2014, 11:28:20 AM »
I agree with others...direct him to a writers forum such as

http://community.compuserve.com/n/pfx/forum.aspx?webtag=ws-books

Yarnspinner

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Re: His writing is not all that and a bag of chips...WHAT Have I Done????
« Reply #20 on: June 16, 2014, 11:33:24 AM »
Thanks, every one.  I am going to try and direct him toward a writer's group.  I got involved in this because he first published a couple of (not well researched) YA books with a local vanity press and he sold a couple of copies to us.  We buy ANYTHING that's written by a local author.  Or we do now.  (Stonecold says so.  Years ago the head of our children's department would refuse vanity publications and not without good reason...we collected some of the efforts as examples of what not to do.)

Unfortunately, because the publisher keeps praising Jason and asking if he has more, Jason is going to go on publishing and assumes that because they give him praise his stuff must be really good.  I have burst the bubble of a vanity author once before and it wasn't pretty.  She was, in fact, a professor at library school who did not take kindly to a report I did on vanity presses--turned out ALL her publishing was done through one of the most notorious companies ever and I had included them in the report.  Yikes.

Jason is also part of our archivist's "history" columnists group who occasionally write short pieces for her website...so I know him from that angle as well.  We don't hang out but he is in that sort of blurry area where he could be a patron or an honorary colleague.  And since I made the mistake of saying I write as well, particularly liking ghost stories, he now emails me short scary pieces.

I think when I get back tomorrow I will let him know that the science fiction he's been sending is out of my expertise and will get him the name of a good writer's group.  He's such a nice man I would never want to take this away from him.


poundcake

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Re: His writing is not all that and a bag of chips...WHAT Have I Done????
« Reply #21 on: June 16, 2014, 11:50:05 AM »
I mean, it is entirely possible that he's actually quite good and his work just isn't to your taste, but, really, I kind of doubt it.  ;) I think the best way for him to find out is via a writing group. In fact, good feedback can help passionate and active bad writers turn into better ones. Even decent ones with time and practice! Good luck, OP!

mime

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Re: His writing is not all that and a bag of chips...WHAT Have I Done????
« Reply #22 on: June 16, 2014, 01:56:47 PM »
Do you think he is looking for honest critique rather than just praise? If a person is open to constructive criticism it can be tremendously helpful.

If he is: Since you already like his nonfiction work, you even have the opportunity to start from a position of praise:

"Your nonfiction and historical pieces are so charming and engaging that I'm honestly disappointed to see you moving away from that style."

"I enjoy your nonfiction work so much, and you use the XXX technique so well there, but it doesn't seem to translate well to writing fiction, like where you do YYY...; maybe do a little less of A and a bit more of B" (now I have to apologize because I am so far out of my realm that I can't even come up with real examples of XXX or YYY or A or B...  :-\ )

It could help him either decide to stay with what he already does well, or figure out how to improve with his current interest.


LadyL

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Re: His writing is not all that and a bag of chips...WHAT Have I Done????
« Reply #23 on: June 16, 2014, 02:09:56 PM »
Unfortunately, because the publisher keeps praising Jason and asking if he has more, Jason is going to go on publishing and assumes that because they give him praise his stuff must be really good.  I have burst the bubble of a vanity author once before and it wasn't pretty.  She was, in fact, a professor at library school who did not take kindly to a report I did on vanity presses--turned out ALL her publishing was done through one of the most notorious companies ever and I had included them in the report.  Yikes.


If Jason is bright enough to write fairly accurate historical fiction, my guess is that he also knows that he is not an author in the sense that, say, Stephen King is an author. I am not a writer but even I know that book deals involve agents, advances, needing to sell X units to be considered a success, etc. My guess is that the vanity publisher either hides or downplays the low-to-nonexistent sales of its authors books to prevent them from getting discouraged, and praises all of their work unilaterally to get their $$. As long as he's not mentally compromised, publishing vanity books doesn't seem any more harmful than any other expensive hobby really. But in my mind I would classify him as a hobbyist rather than a professional (though I'd keep that view quiet).  I put it in a similar category as MLM sales - people intellectually know that they are unlike to get rich doing it, or really do more than supplement their income at best - but the sliver of hope that they will be the exception keeps them going.  In your "author's" case maybe he has a sliver of hope that one of his books will become an unexpected best seller, like Angela's Ashes, written by a retired public school teacher.

ChinaShepherdess

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Re: His writing is not all that and a bag of chips...WHAT Have I Done????
« Reply #24 on: June 18, 2014, 10:05:46 PM »
I'm a writer and most of the people in my circle of friends are writers; I've also taught fiction classes to students of various levels of skill, polish and confidence. Some phrases that have really helped me respond honestly and generously to well-intentioned work: "For me, your work really hits the high notes when you [concrete expression of whatever it is they do well -- in this case, maybe what you find so appealing about his non-fiction writing]. Good writing makes the reader greedy, you know? I'd love to see even more of that!" Or if a piece is entirely not to your taste: "I'm so sorry, but [whatever genre or style] is pretty far out of my wheelhouse. I'm afraid I'm not your reader on this project."

Agree with the PPs who have suggested pointing him to a writer group. What writer doesn't want to geek out about technical elements of craft with other people who love the process writing just as much as they do?! Glad to read that OP is taking that approach -- I really think he'll thank you for it, if he finds a group that's a great fit!

JoyinVirginia

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Re: His writing is not all that and a bag of chips...WHAT Have I Done????
« Reply #25 on: June 19, 2014, 02:16:42 AM »
Jason, have you thought about getting a professional editor to look at this and give you some feedback from a professional standpoint?
I also looker the suggestion of a class or writers group.
A website of one of my favorite authors, www.jimbutcher.com has a link to his blog. the entries are not recent but are very good advice on the craft of writing. Maybe look for some online resources he could check out.

Lynn2000

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Re: His writing is not all that and a bag of chips...WHAT Have I Done????
« Reply #26 on: June 19, 2014, 11:22:19 AM »
Yipe. I also write fiction as a hobby and I purposefully don't want criticism of it, that's why I only let my parents read it, with the proviso that they can't say anything critical (which I think is something you can only ask of your parents!). My feeling is that if I put something out there for other people to read, I have to accept that they may not like it, or may criticize various points (hopefully, in a constructive and not mean way).

Of course not everyone realizes that. At least Jason's stories are short, and you don't have to slog through a long, horrible novel. I like the idea of redirecting him towards other writers' resources, like classes, groups, and forums.

If you want, you could sound him out on constructive criticism by offering up a smidgen of it to see how he reacts--maybe something like what mime said, "Your nonfiction and historical pieces are so charming and engaging that I'm honestly disappointed to see you moving away from that style." I think that's a very gentle, but definite, criticism. If he seems keen to know more, you can continue doling out some constructive remarks. If he seems a bit affronted, you can pull back.
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