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Monday, November 3, 2014

On Criticism, #NaNoWriMo, and #WIPMadness Check-in

Whether you're trying to fast-draft a novel in a month, or taking many years to draft a story, chances are good that you have faced or will face criticism that will threaten to halt your progress. Every writer I know hears criticism from even the most unexpected sources (and sometimes the unexpected sources are the most painful!), and those criticisms can feel like the only thing any one has ever said about our writing when we hear them.

But the truth is, there are many readers out there in the world with vastly differing moods and opinions! Because I think it's ridiculous how much criticism can affect our progress as writers, I decided to make a list, all in one place, of things I've personally heard, or seen in reviews of other authors I love in hopes of shining a light on the ridiculousness of spending any time at all thinking about one person's criticism.
  • "There's too little description I couldn't picture it."
  • "There's too much description and it slowed down the pace."
  • "Cardboard characters, lacking detailed description."
  • "Why would I want to know every detail about what this character eats for breakfast?"
  • "Starts off too slow."
  • "I got whiplash from the breakneck pace."
  • "Too languid and boring."
  • "Too quick-paced and choppy."
  • "Unlikable characters. 
  • "Characters are too perfect."
  • "Too short. I like my books at least three hundred pages."
  • "Too long. Went on forever."
  • "Too much sex and cursing."
  • "Felt too clean to be realistic."
  • "Melodramatic."
  • "I wanted to feel more emotional connection."
  • "Strange plot. Unbelievable."
  • "Cliche. Felt like I've read it all before."
  • "Main character is too angst-y."
  • "I wish the characters had more passion."
  • "Not enough conflict."
  • "Too much going on. I wanted a minute just to breathe."
  • "I hate issue-driven books."
  • "I hate character-driven books."
  • "I hate plotty books."
  • "It's too simple."
  • "It has everything in it but the kitchen sink."
That's a long list, but I'll bet there are many more I haven't mentioned. Seeing them all together helps me at least to remember not to put too much weight in any one thing anyone says. Feel free to add to my list in the comments, and let me know if criticism has ever hindered you from something creative. And how did you get over it?

Also, what are your goals for November? Are you joining in on NaNoWriMo, or do you have your own different set of goals for this month?


  1. I'm participating in Nano. My normal pace is 30k a month. I want to see if the faster pace affects the quality of my first draft. This is also the second book of my YA series, so I'd like to release the first two books within a two months of each other.

    1. I'm interested to hear your experience, Ron. To be honest, my writing usually ends up better from pushing myself to get more words. I tune into a different part of my subconscious mine, I think. All the best with it!

  2. It's great to see these criticisms all together in a list, because even though we KNOW criticism and negative reviews can be totally subjective, being on the receiving end can really be tough to take. Important to remember that it usually says way more about the person dishing it out than it does about the book/person/whatever being criticized!

    Not officially NaNoing, but I plan to finish a first draft of a YA I'm a few chapters into.

    1. Awesome to hear, Shari (and I'm glad the list was helpful to you!) My one and only complaint about NaNoWriMo is that it has such strict rules. I think they should have different levels of NaNo-ing or something...the full NaNo. The half NaNo, etc, so that we can all still be hooked up and cheering each other on through their website.

    2. Ha! Yes! Like how marathon, 1/2 marathon, and 5k will all be part of one running event. :) I guess I could sign up with my own goal of 1/2 marathon, but if it's officially a marathon, it still feels a bit like a failure if I only do 1/2...

  3. I'm doing Nanowrimo! I'm ixtumea over there!
    My big thing lately has been the whole call for diversity in YA and yet I just got another comment to take out the Spanish in my project. It's so frustrating. Sigh. I decided just to write this story for now.

    My Nanowrimo is a sequel I promised to publisher. I will be upping the horror and romance in it based on feedback from my readers.

    1. Yay! Go go go, Kim! (I always have trouble locating buddies on the site, but if you find and add me - denisej - I will add you back!)

      Sigh, I know exactly where you're coming from with diversity. They say they want it, but then they seem to do everything to make us take it out.

      All the best with your sequel!

  4. Conflicting criticisms and suggestions can be bewildering. I don't envy new writers who hear everything and try to incorporate it all. A good knowledgable critique partner (or group) can be a big help sorting it all out, but in the end I think we have to write the way we're wired.

    I'm doing NaNoWriMo again, albeit reluctantly. I'm hoping to finish a WIP that I considered abandoning earlier this year. Ha! Time will tell how that works out. I'm Wildwood Gal on the NaNo site.

    1. Yay, Carol! Go go go! (Isn't it funny how sometimes all we need is a little bit of time away to get to see the value in our work again?)

      I always have trouble finding buddies on the site, but if you find me (denisej) and follow me, I will follow you back!

  5. I hit 25K yesterday. Okay, it helps that this book is so much fun to write. One of my favorite movies growing up was "All of Me" wit h Steve Martin and Lily Tomlin (Lily takes up residence in Steve's body, mayhem ensues). So I totally ripped it off into my YA version. I think half of that 25K is the dialogue.

    1. Congrats, Ron! I just passed 25k this morning. And I love the premise of your book. Sounds very fun!