Notes from An Alien

~ Explorations In Writing { and reading and publishing } ~

From The “I Can’t Believe It” Department . . .

Criticism is critical for writers—provided by beta-readers, editors, and readers.

Well-balanced writers appreciate the good comments but crave the criticism that points toward possible improvements.

Writers who can’t handle negative criticism should rebuild their expectations or, possibly, self-edit and never read reviews

But to sink so low as to bully one’s negative critics??

Ray Garton has a piece on the Huffington Post called Stop the GR Bullies: Get Over Yourselves.

GR stands for GoodReads.

Ray begins by saying, “When I taught creative writing, I discovered the majority of the people who took the class were interested in only one thing — being told they were brilliant. They bristled whenever I pointed out problems in their work because there were no problems with their work. It was perfect. And who was I to say otherwise? They were not writers then, and with that attitude, it’s unlikely that they are now.”

Then comes an “I-can’t-believe-it” revelation:

Stop the GR Bullies is made up of people who think the bad book reviews they get on the website Goodreads are some form of persecution. They have done something no writer should ever do — they have responded to those bad reviews. But their method of responding is rather frightening.”

Then, the most damning description of the group:

“They investigate the authors of reviews they don’t like, then post personal information about them online, including where they live, where they work, where their children go to school and where they like to eat out. The result is that some of these reviewers have been harassed and threatened.”

Mr. Garton goes on to describe some of his early reactions to critics in his otherwise successful career.

He also gives a good bit of advice on the right attitude to have towards negative criticism.

Any aspiring writer would do well to read the whole article—perhaps a few writers well down the road, too :-)

He also has three pieces of advice for the GoodReads Bullies:

“First, shut down that irresponsible, indefensible and disgusting website — which reveals far more about you than about you’re unfortunate targets (and none of it is good) — before someone gets hurt or killed.

“Second, if you don’t like what you see on Goodreads, don’t go there. Nobody’s holding a gun to your head.

“Third, and most important, stop writing because you obviously can’t handle it.”

How would you handle the situation if you discovered a writer who spread personal contact information about you because they didn’t like what you said in a review?

Do you think there are legal restraints that can be applied against folks like this?

On the Stop the GR Bullies site they say they only publish information about negative ctitics that’s already publicly available.

Do you think the Stop the GR Bullies are bullies themselves?

Is ignoring them and hoping they go away the best course of action?
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2 responses to “From The “I Can’t Believe It” Department . . .

  1. Gwen Patton September 24, 2012 at 2:13 pm

    Criticism is achingly important. If something is legitimately wrong with my writing, I need to know about it so I can fix it. If I’m doing things right, I’d like to know, because encouragement is nice to get, too. That said, there’s something to be said about the critic who does his or her best to poison the well with irredeemable criticism, a person who can never be made happy no matter how well you write, because he isn’t interested in seeing you do well.

    I’ve run into one of those at a local writing group. Everyone else was a reasonable mix of criticism and encouragement — it wasn’t a puff-party of unrelenting sugar, no one ever criticizing anything, I got plenty of negative remarks. Everyone gave me very useful and positive criticism, things I could actively use to make the story better, even if it involved totally reworking characters or entire sections of plot or dialogue, that was fine, so long as the goal was to help make the story work.

    But one person clearly had other ideas. When HE got around to my stories, it was always “Why do you bother? Why don’t you just take this and put it in a drawer and try something else, because this one isn’t worth the effort. You could try rewriting it, but by the time you got done chopping, you’d just end up with a Feghoot anyway, and what’s the point? Just give up.” Mind you, around a dozen other people had already given me a wide range of encouragement and criticisms on the same piece, usually saying that they liked it, but THIS thing here could stand some polishing, or this over HERE wasn’t quite right…and one person found a plot hole big enough to throw a dog through that required a complete rework of the ending! But NO ONE ELSE did their level best to savage me, to make me feel bad, or to make me “give up” either on the story or myself.

    Since this person is a major, integral member of the writers’ group, I no longer to to that group. I refuse to subject myself to that kind of abuse. I know I’m better than he believes I am, and that most of the rest of the group does, too. I don’t need to sit there and endure his nonsense, and I don’t. But by the same token, you can see that I have not identified him, I haven’t asked that others do anything to him, I haven’t demanded that his life be ruined or any such thing. He’s welcome to his opinion, I simply refuse to have anything to do with it.


  2. Alexander M Zoltai September 24, 2012 at 3:39 pm

    Bravo, Gwen.

    I’ve avoided that sort of criticism by not attending normal writing groups—I spend my time now in a very supportive community of writers on Book Island in the virtual world Second Life.

    Beyond the value of support, Book Island lets me mingle with folks from all over the world while I stay in my writer’s cave studio apartment :-)


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