How to write a negative review

There's a good way to do it.

Everyone has had the experience of disliking a product and getting all worked up into a lather. "I must warn the people!" But while it's true that a negative review can be a valuable asset, there's also a good way to go about it and a not-so-good way. 

Bad reasons to write a negative review include revenge ("that company will rue the day they messed with me!") and humor value (it's always easier to be funny when you're going negative). A good review should be balanced, fair, and even-handed. It should not be written when you are feeling at the height of emotion. If you must, then write it and delete it unpublished just to get the vitriol out of your system.
 
A well-written review will reflect well upon you, bring more traffic to your blog, and make you look like an interesting and intelligent person. A poorly-written review, especially a negative one, will have the opposite effect. It makes you look sloppy, childish and vengeful - not exactly the best qualities to attract and keep an audience.
 
The best way to keep yourself on track is to imagine that the creator/company/designer of the thing you're writing about is going to read your blog post. Because the chances are good that they will. You might think that your blog is too obscure for them to ever notice, but the almighty Google will bring them right to your doorstep. Most companies and individual creators have Google Alerts set up to email them whenever a new mention of their name or product appears anywhere online.
 
With this in mind, pretend that your best friend has made this thing, and has asked you for your honest input. You won't be doing your friend (or the world) any favors by ignoring the flaws. Honest, humane feedback is how we improve. And it's also what your readers are looking for, when they read your review.
 
On a more granule level, try to avoid being overly dramatic or making sweeping generalizations. ("This was the worst sandwich I've ever eaten IN MY LIFE.") They undercut your point by making you look childish and unsophisticated. If you can explain the problem without sounding like you're complaining uselessly, then you are on the right track. Taking a sandwich for example, "The bread sucked!" is a useless complaint. "The bread was spongy and dry" is a simple explanation of the problem. 
 
Be as specific as possible, and don't forget to mention the positives as well!
 

The evils of word count

How do you know if you’re making good time or your novel is long enough?

I am currently in the process of writing my first novel and so many things are new to me.  There’s quite a difference between putting together a short story here and there and making the commitment to drop tens-of-thousands of word onto the digital page.  In fact, aside from the placement of one word in front of the next, I walked into this thing completely in the dark.  So when I decided I wanted to see if I was making good progress or not, I hopped on the Internet to see what it could tell me.  The answers, as it turns out, were not so simple.

I decided to check both daily word counts and the overall word count that my novel was shaping up to hit.  At the time, I was writing somewhere in the neighborhood of 3000-4000 words each time I managed to sit down and pay attention to my work.  Still, I felt like I wasn’t making any progress.  One chapter a day out of what my outline said was going to be a 50 chapter novel just didn’t feel fast enough, especially considering the fact that I don’t get more than a few days out of the week to work on it.  Given my outline and the progress made so far, it looked like the end product was going to be around 160,000 words or more in total.

So were these good numbers?  Was I making good time and was I aiming for a solid goal for a first-time novel?  If you listen to the Internet, the answer is yes and no.

Many of the suggestions I read said that 2000 was a good number of words to aim for daily.  For me, that isn’t enough.  If I don’t write at least five or six hours in one sitting and complete a chapter (whether it be a 2500 word chapter or a 4000 word chapter), I am not satisfied with my progress.  Then I read some counts from some legendary word-count producers of the past, people that were turning out 15,000 words a day on average.  Well, why can’t I be like that?

When I looked at the overall total, I found that the recommended total word count for a new novel was between 80,000 and 120,000 and that if you put the numbers too much over that then the chances of being rejected were increased.  To make matters more complicated, many of the authors I read are of the fantasy genre and most of them seem to have first novels that defy these recommended norms.  So is putting together a novel of 160,000 words a bad idea?

I still don’t have the answer to these questions, no matter how much I’ve pondered them.  The only thing I could come up with is that I like to write in large bursts and I have a lot to say.  Maybe more will come out in editing and I will whittle my book down to 120,000 words and thus stay within that “safety zone.”  Or maybe not.

I think my point in relating all this is just to let other writers know that the world of novel writing is hard to define with strict sets of numbers.  You can make big novels and be successful and you can write as little or as much as you need in order to feel productive.  The answers out there might be good guidelines, but should by no means be barriers to your creative process.

Editing Other People's Work

A rewarding alternative

As a writer, we learn a lot about grammar and story development, making us good at editing other people's work. The transformation from writer to editor is relatively painless unless you have a problem telling people the truth about their work, but that's what they pay you for.

 

I know many writers turned editors in the industry and many of them prefer it over writing. It's certainly less stressful to critique someone else's work than it is to listen to someone critique yours. Editing goes far beyond simply making sure commas a used appropriately.

 

It also requires that you examine their characters, plot, paragraph mechanics, etc. You need to take what they have and polish it into something that is publishable. You need to take the same care that you would use polishing your own story. In fact, several editors continue writing their own stories on the side.

 

When the stories become popular or win contests, your reputation as an editor grows. Editors get clients just as much by referrals as anything else. When you have satisfied customers, you have people that will tell their friends.

 

You may think that editing may not be lucrative, but a good editor can make a decent living. It won't be easy and it may take several years to get your reputation high, but it can be worth it. I guess the moral of the story is if you want to be a professional book editor, don't start by quitting your day job and instead work up to it one project at a time.

Finding the motivation to write post-NaNoWriMo

With a little help from my friends...

One of the biggest reasons I do NaNoWriMo every year is because it gives me the kick in the pants that I need to get to work on my writing.  Now that NaNo is over and I didn't reach my goal for the month, however, I'm needing to find another way to keep myself motivated.

I was actually hoping that NaNoWriMo would see me through to the end of my novel, which is the second in a series.  I wrote the first novel last year, starting it earlier in the year, and then finishing it during NaNo.  The second novel I started just a few months ago, during the August session of Camp NaNoWriMo, and I was hoping to put an ending on it during November.

No such luck.

So I need to find ways to keep me motivated, until I finish the book and beyond.  One attempt will go into effect tomorrow evening: I'm going to have a "write-in," just like the ones we had during NaNoWriMo, with a friend of mine who also writes.  If I do that occasionally, hopefully it will keep the creative juices from ceasing to flow, and keep my novel in the forefront of my mind.

In the same vein, I also intend to continue meeting with some other friends of mine from NaNoWriMo.  Talking about my progress on my novel, as well as scheduling writing time with others who are like-minded, should help to keep the trail from getting too cold.

Of course, I can't rely on my friends to provide all of my motivation for me, but I think maintaining and surrounding myself with a similar writer-culture as the one that so motivates me during NaNoWriMo will help to keep me motivated throughout the year.

How do you keep yourself motivated to write?

You didn't write your novel during NaNoWriMo did you?

Don't sweat it.

So, you joined NaNoWriMo this year with the intent of finally getting that novel out of your head and onto the page. Odds are your started out really good, but after a week or two, things started to slow down. By the end, you hadn't written on it for days and what you did write is pretty much gibberish.

Don't sweat it. Only a small fraction of people that join NaNoWriMo actually get through to the very end and frankly, that's a good thing. If everyone that joined actually wrote a book, then the market would be flooded with thousands of hastily made books self-published and sitting lonely on Amazon's digital shelf.

NaNoWriMo isn't actually about writing an entire book, it's simply a way to spur creative thinking and writing. If you get through half your book, then you're half way to finishing it. Don't think of the end of NaNoWriMo as a failure, but as a success. If you even wrote one additional word on your novel, then you did what you were supposed to do.

The key to getting the most of NaNoWriMo is to take what you've got and make it better. NaNoWriMo is supposed to be about regurgitation. It's literal vomit. You puke it out and then it's up to you to clean it up. Now that you have something written, take it and polish it. It might just spur you on to more writing. I know it does for me every year.

What I've learned from NaNoWriMo 2012

I may have failed to reach 50K words, but there are still reasons to consider this a success!

Today is the last day of my seventh NaNoWriMo.  I started participating in this challenge back in 2006, and I've done it every year since, though I've failed to reach 50K words more often than not.  Although I'd won last year, and again in August when I participated in the summer session ("Camp" NaNoWriMo), this November I failed to reach my 50K word goal.

However, I don't consider this NaNoWriMo to be a failure.

Since I was finishing the novel that I'd gotten halfway through in August -- I figured 50K was a good halfway mark for this novel, at least by the way it felt -- and since I'd lost the thread of the novel in September and October, the biggest success this month was getting me back into the novel.  The hardest thing about writing a novel is picking it back up again if you happen to take a few days or a few weeks away from it.

The other thing that NaNoWriMo did for me this year was to force me to fill in my outline -- so, even though NaNoWriMo is leaving me with more work still to do, I know where I'm going with it now.  Having the rest of the story in your head always makes it easier to keep writing.

And the final thing that NaNo has done for me in 2012 was to help me figure out more of the series outline.  This novel is the second in a planned series (I wrote the first book last year and am working on revisions).  I figured out gaps in my plan for the series, and solidified plans for future books, too.  It's all coming together, piece by piece!

And that is how NaNoWriMo can help you, even if you never make it to 50K words!

Take a break from writing for Thanksgiving?

Determine what your priorities are.

One of the hardest decision that I have as both a father and a husband is when should I take a day off from writing. I have a regular day job and holidays such as Thanksgiving are some of the few times I get to be at home and not at work 24 hours of the day.

Part of me wants to sit down and finally get that six-hour writing block that I have been dreaming of and the other part wants me to put the computer away and play with my children and snuggle up with my wife for some good movies. 

For me, my family has and always will be my priority. They're the ones I am writing for anyway. My wife is the one that has encouraged me to develop my writing talents and when I feel down, then she always picks me up.

I wouldn't be this person if I didn't have a family. They have made me want to strive to beyond what my education and background says I can be. Will I cut out writing completely this four-day holiday weekend? Probably not.

I still have the itch and I have to scratch it, but it will most likely be an hour or two here and there and they'll be constant interruptions from children wanting to play and a wife looking to snuggle. I don't know about you, but it sure sounds like the perfect holiday staycation to me. Happy Thanksgiving everyone!  

Lamenting Time Lost

Don't Sweat the Small Stuff

I've been a writer since I was a little girl. I remember as a child creating “books” that I would read to my parents and they would laugh and play along. As I grew up, my writing improved and I even won a writing contest in high school.

 

I went to school to be a teacher, but that didn't work out. I wanted to be a writer, but everyone told me that I needed to get a real job and not to focus on this writing daydream. So that was I did for 10 years. I focused my life on my work and nothing else.

 

Eventually, I got married and had a few kids and my priorities changed. They were my life now and work seemed less important. I quit my job and started my life as a stay-at-home mom. It was until recently that I decided to get back into writing and it depresses me to think that I have wasted so time on working instead of writing.

 

I've started being a full-time writer now as well as a stay-at-home mom. I sit and write what I can between breaking up the fights of my boys. As a career, it is rewarding and the potential income boost from being published is an an extra perk.

 

I do everything from fiction writing to article writing for many websites. I love being a freelance writer, but I am lamenting all the time I wasted working. Working is important, but I et it interrupt my muse.

 

 

Writing game: It's a roller coaster

Writing is full of emotional ups and downs.

Writing for pleasure or business certainly isn't easy and it's an emotional roller coaster where you can feel like the king of of the world one day and complete loser the next. This is something you need to know before you get too deep into the game.

It all starts before you even write your first word. You battle with your own inner demons that are telling you that you can be the next Stephen King one minute and total hack the next. Most people can't get past this first barrier.

If you actually make it to putting pen to paper, then you'll start to question your writing. I know when I write, I think it's all complete and total crap as I type and it isn't until I go back and read it that I start to feel like “hey, that's not too bad.” I go through this page after page.

When the story is finally done and completely edited to the best of my ability, it's time to send it on for publication. Odds are by the time you're finished, you think your story is awesome. If you didn't, then you wouldn't try and get it published.

You may send it out to one place at a time or to several places via e-mail and/or mail. You hope that it's going to be snatched up right away, but be prepared for rejection. It may not fit the publisher's criteria, it may not have been their cup of tea or they didn't even get a chance to read it, but it was rejected and rejected and rejected.

Rejection is part of the game as well. No one gets accepted every time, especially when you're starting out. Be prepared to run the gambit of emotions especially when it finally gets accepted.

Ignore your writing feedback

Both positive and negative!

I recently wrote about how to avoid getting fleeced by these "paid feedback" services. For the most part, they are scams. But the more I thought about it, the more I realized that 99 percent of all feedback - both positive and negative - is bad for you.

The 1 percent exception is the bits of feedback that you will occasionally receive which will, like, literally change your life. I remember each and every one of these that I've ever gotten. I get one maybe every five years. You won't necessarily recognize it at the time, but you should take these to heart.
 
As for the rest: it's garbage. And yet we crave it, don't we? The thing you have to understand is that it's a lot like your craving for junk food. It seems so real, but it's very bad for you.
 
Negative feedback is obviously bad for you as a writer. I can't say it any more succinctly than "Haters gonna hate." The internet is a river of negative feedback, on everything, for every reason, 24/7, 365 days a year. Whether it's a comment on Reddit or a comment on YouTube or a comment on your blog, negative feedback serves no useful purpose. 
 
Allowing yourself to be used as a punching bag for random strangers and idiots is obviously detrimental to your growth as a writer. I know it's hard to ignore the bad feedback, but you should.
 
This even includes the "stealth negs." Like if someone says "I really liked the stuff you used to write better," or "This would be a great story if you set it on Mars instead of in a Manhattan office." This is the well-intentioned feedback, and it's just as bad as the mean stuff. It boils down to the same thing, too, which is "I didn't like it." But the thing is, people rarely understand why they don't like things. Or sometimes they think "I would have done it differently, like this…." But you should ignore them, because they are not you (and vice versa).
 
Positive feedback is almost as bad. It stunts your growth, because positive feedback means that you're in the Safe Zone. As long as you're getting positive feedback, you won't be pushing yourself farther. The hard truth is, if you want to get better (and you do - we all do) then you have to learn to set aside positive feedback just as much as negative feedback. Maybe more so!
 

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