Saturday, October 8, 2011

Learning from Reviews

Being a writer, means learning to keep your mind open so you can learn how to do your job better. And reviews are a part of that learning process. I love reading reviews that take a story apart to show you both the good and the bad. Good reviews are similar to writing critiques but at least with a crit, the writer is expecting you to find fault. Once a story is published, well, what's to criticize? Sometimes a great deal.

Over at Spinetingler, Nick Mamatas did a review of "Three Theories of the Murder of John Wiley" by J. David Osborne. He picked the story apart, told what didn't work for him and what did. A commenter told him to "go fuck himself". But the part of the story he picked apart is something that writers need to watch out for in their stories. Making sure the story is believable and that the story flows properly from scene to scene. I got what Nick was saying because it's a problem I have in my own work and something that I have to check for in the editing and rewriting.

You know what I'm talking about, those moments in a story when a reader scratches his head and wonders how they got there. A good example? You have two men sitting at the dinner table arguing. Next scene they're standing toe to toe and throwing punches. Okay, when exactly did they stand up? It's those little things that trip up a story. And Nick made a valid point of calling the writer on it. And it's something a good editor should have caught.

Writing for online publications, I discovered that not all editors are created equal, some will go the distance to make your story great and others will just publish whatever you send them. So, I learned early on that I needed to be both writer and editor if I wanted my stories to be good. A good writer doesn't depend on an editor to find the flaws, but a good editor should catch what the writer doesn't.

So you writers out there. Don't just write great scenes, make sure they flow one into the next with a believable continuity. It's in your own best interest. And editors will love you for it.

Oh, and Nick's review is here if you'd like to read it.


Thomas Pluck said...

Good storytelling advice from the South Park guys-
bad segue is "and then..."
good segue is "because..."
The scenes should flow in reaction to one another. Not always in the exact order, nor should it always be obvious, but when the story is over we'd better know why Y occurred after X.

sandra seamans said...

I think some of the problem lies with the writer, for me anyway, I see things in my head that don't always make it to the page. I understand what's happening but I sometimes leave my reader flapping in the breeze. Bad habit!

Anita Page said...

Sandra, I found it interesting that the person who commented argued that the events in the story had occurred in real life.
As if "real life" was ever an excuse for writing that fails to convince the reader.

sandra seamans said...

I agree, Anita. Trying to write a story from real life is almost impossible and most readers won't even believe it. Pulling threads from real life to write new stories works much better in fiction.