I love getting good reviews on my fiction that I post on fiction sites. And by “good review” I don’t mean the ones that say “it was good, I liked it”. To me, a good review is one that points out weak spots that could be improved. As far as I am concerned, the best reviews are the ones that help me grow as a writer.
That’s why I do a lot of reviewing and critiquing on those sites. I want to help other aspiring writers in the same way that I want others to help me. I try to be nice about it. I really do. But I have been seeing some things lately that have me scratching my head at the sheer stupidity of the people posting nonsense and expecting everyone to sing its praises.
I don’t mean to come across as a snob. The people on those sites are not professional writers; like me, they are just amateurs with dreams of someday being successful writers. But this goes beyond plot holes or grammatical errors. I am talking about the kind of mistakes that make me wonder if these people have ever actually read a book, or if they have completed anything beyond a third-grade education.
These people want to write.
They choose to post their work.
They want others to read their work.
And then they cry and wail “bully” or “flame” if anyone has the audacity to say anything that doesn’t fart rainbows or belch sunshine.
So I have put together a list of basic things that your average chimp should be able to master before putting anything on a writing site for others to read.
- Paragraphs. People, learn what a paragraph is. Do not write your entire 3000-word story in one gigantic paragraph. Do not have more than one character speak within the same paragraph.
- Capitalization. Do not post your 5,000-word opus without any capital letters and call it your “artistic style”. Names are to be capitalized. Period. Sentences begin with capital letters, even when those sentences are inside quotation marks. You are not e.e. cummings, so knock it off.
- Punctuation. Okay, there are a lot of very confusing rules about punctuation, and everyone is going to make mistakes. However, it’s pretty easy to remember that sentences must end with some kind of punctuation. A period. A question mark. An exclamation point. Something.
- Spellcheck. Don’t tell me you didn’t have time or that your computer program doesn’t do spellcheck. I call Bullshit.
- Story vs. Play. A story has narrative. That’s a fancy way of referring to the parts of the story that are not dialogue. If you want to write a script, write a script; if you want to write a story, write a story. If you don’t understand the difference, go read Slaughterhouse Five and The Crucible and see if you can figure out which is a story and which is a script.
- Sex scenes. Don’t write them if you’ve never had sex. “Nuff said.
- Site rules. Please take a moment to read the rules of the site you are choosing to use. If you don’t agree with the rules of that site, post your work elsewhere. Violating those rules and climbing up on a soapbox about Freedom-of-Whatever is not defending your rights. It is having a tantrum and being an ungrateful brat. Grow up.
- ALL CAPS/Bold/Italics. These are to be used for emphasis. Do not write your entire story in one of these forms. It is annoying and difficult to read.
- Plagiarism. If you didn’t write it, don’t post it. Duh.
- Right Site. If you are going to be brave enough to post your work on a public site for the entire world to see, please put it where it belongs. Don’t put short stories on a poetry site; don’t post fiction on a non-fiction site. And please, please, stop posting non-fanfiction work on a fanfiction site.
That last one is a biggee for me. I know I spend far too much time on Fanfiction.Net, but I am absolutely mystified by the number of utter numbnuts who insist on posting original fiction, journal entries, essays and personal announcements on that site. I mean, the site is called Fanfiction.Net. It’s right there, in the name. It’s a fanfiction site, for writers of fanfiction to post their works of fanfiction. Pretty simple.
Or so one would assume.
I sound like a grumpy old English teacher. I can deal with honest mistakes, such as “lie” vs. “lay” or “its” vs. “it’s”. I get that we all make mistakes; I’m sure there are a few grammatical errors in this piece that I’m posting today. I am far from perfect, and I would be wrong to ask anyone else to strive for perfection.
But I am asking for basic common sense. An acceptable level of literacy.
If you want to write, read. Learn from other writers. See what’s out there.
And for God’s sake, learn to take criticism. Not everyone is going to love everything you write. Deal with it. Everyone who points out your mistakes is not a bully, not out to get you, not jealous of your questionable talent or lack thereof.