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Looking for Opinions on Your Writing? Beware …

When looking for opinions about your writing, here's something you should know...

I’d like to stay on the author/talent show comparison for just a little while longer. I mean, the name of the blog is, “So you think you can WRITE,” right? And for this blog segment in particular, the word “think” is the operative word.

Let’s talk “American Idol” for a moment – a very short moment, I promise. For the first eight years we watched every single episode. (Please don’t ask me why or how. Just know we’ve stopped watching and are now leading more productive and happy lives.) What was most surprising throughout the years were the contestants who auditioned and were completely incapable of holding a note or staying on key.

Now I’m not talking about the people who wanted their fifteen minutes of fame or were obviously out of their minds. I’m talking about the contestants who really believed they could sing, yet were so off pitch and out of tune, we’d squirm in our chairs. You know who I’m talking about: the competitors who would stare at the judges in disbelief when they were told the truth about their lack of talent – their eyes filled with incredulity, helplessness and tears.

And why were they so incredulous? Because most of these naïve people, if not all, had been told by their friends and family that they were “wonderful,” an “amazing vocalist,” the next, “American Idol.”

Well guess what? They were getting advice from the wrong people.   

My mother loves everything I’ve ever written. From the three-page “novels” I wrote in giant letters at the age of five to the book I just published in May, “One Last Lie,” she devours every word and has never had a negative comment regarding any of my work.

Is she my biggest fan? Yes. Can I depend on her to find a spelling error or grammatical mistake? Absolutely. But can I trust her opinion when submitting a manuscript to an agent or publisher? Unfortunately, no.  L

When I need honest judgment and unbiased reviews, I stay away from friends and family. I contact writers groups and do a little review-swapping; I enter contests (legitimate ones) and see how close to the Winner’s Circle I get; I pay editors to provide impartial comments and recommendations. I do whatever it takes not to fall into the trap of false adulation or unbiased opinions. Once I’ve gotten a sufficient amount of reviews and recommendations, I take those I think can elevate my work and revise the writing until the final critique is in – mine.

In the case of “One Last Lie,” it appears my mother was right. I’m getting amazing reviews (see for yourself: reviews) and heartfelt adulation from strangers… people I’ve never met and will probably never meet. And when it comes down to it, those are the individuals who will turn, “So You THINK You Can Write,” into, “So You KNOW You Can Write.”

This post is contributed by a community member. The views expressed in this blog are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of Patch Media Corporation. Everyone is welcome to submit a post to Patch. If you'd like to post a blog, go here to get started.

Al Brecken September 14, 2012 at 09:18 PM
Rob, because I'm seeking the opinions of Greenwich residents on the quality of my writing (after being warned to accept rejection ) ;how do I effect that?. My composition was a brief article of local historical interest ,and because the pupose of my article was to INFORM, my essential question to anyone who read my article would be "did you learn anything interesting"?.
Rob Kaufman September 14, 2012 at 09:36 PM
Hi Al, Thanks for your post! As I'm sure you know, whether one's writing is fact or fiction, good quality writing is essential. I would think that if you're with someone as they're reading your work, you could simply start off with, "What did you think?" rather than ask them specifically if they liked it or learned anything. Make the question generic enough that you give them the opportunity to offer their true opinion. When posting a blog or having people read your work remotely, if people respond (or leave comments, as you did) it means that your writing struck a chord. In the end, that's what most writers want - a response. And whether the response is positive or negative, it gives you the opportunity to learn.

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