Jed Peterson and Jim Hines — I guess I should get a picture of myself and Jim.
So, today, Jim C Hines was writing about the ethics of authors reviewing other authors.
I was thinking about this the other day. I noticed almost all of my GoodReads ratings are five stars. I started reviewing my ratings and realized something about myself. If I’m not beta reading for a friend, I tend not to finish books that I don’t fall in love with.
If I am beta-reading, and I really like a piece, I assume the final form is going to be at least as good, and I’ll rate it without reading the final version. Probably the only exception to this is pieces by Dylan Moonfire and Adam Whitlatch, both of which I usually end up reading one last pass of the final version.
I probably recite passages from Birthright and Sand and Blood in my sleep.
If I am beta-reading, and I’m lukewarm about a piece, I feel like it’s unfair to leave a rating, as often a few minor tweaks can make things come together. Then, I usually don’t bother to read the final, because I didn’t go nuts over the beta-read.
That being said, a fair review is a fair review. If another author read my work and genuinely didn’t like it. I can’t be upset if they give me a low rating.
Although, I should admit that I have held back a bad reviews. I usually do this because I liked the author and didn’t want to offend; or because I didn’t like the author, and I was afraid I would not be able to maintain my objectivity.
So the other night at the con, I was telling an aspiring writer that it was okay to suck, and he cut me off before I had the opportunity to make my point, telling me he was not Stephenie Meyer.
First of all, it was kind of rude of him to interrupt–but this is perhaps forgivable as alcohol was involved. Secondly, he had no idea who I was, and you can throw a stick in any con and hit two authors (this is a minimum, at some you can hit ten.) Now I’m not saying I’m anyone important, but for all he knew, I could have been Stephenie Meyer’s friend, or even worse, a friend of her agent. Also, and this may just be me, I don’t think it’s okay to be badmouthing other authors, unless they sodomized your dog, or burned down your garage. I let this rule slide a little if I know the person actually suffered through their books. Buy hey, tastes are different. I’ll forgive the pro whose work I don’t like way before I’ll forgive hubris.
Anyway, enough ranting, time to get back to why sucking is awesome–and no, no need to tell me about the innuendo, I’ve already thought of it.
Sometimes, writers get stuck. It’s a natural part of the creative process. Maybe you’re depressed or tired. Maybe you spent all your creative energy on another endeavor. At this juncture you have three choices.
- You can walk away. No writing today. I try not to do this very often, as I’ll explain below.
- You can sit and stare at the page, not coming up with a perfect next line. So, you’re not producing, and you’re not having any fun.
- You can give yourself permission to suck and write another sentence, then another one, and so on.
I tend to choose number three, and here’s why: Just because you give yourself permission to suck doesn’t mean you will. Even if you do suck, you took ownership of your piece and moved forward. Sure, some day you may delete it all in editing, but I’m often surprised by how good the material is. I end up editing it into something more usable. And sometimes, when I think I’m having a great day, I write pages of well-written material that don’t make it past the edit process.