There's an interesting article on criticism by A History of Violence screenwriter Josh Olson floating around the interwebs this week. (Be warned: the language is a tad blue.)

Some of my favourite bloggers have talked about it here and here.

A couple of quote-worthy snippets:

It rarely takes more than a page to recognize that you're in the presence of someone who can write, but it only takes a sentence to know you're dealing with someone who can't.

(By the way, here's a simple way to find out if you're a writer. If you disagree with that statement, you're not a writer. Because, you see, writers are also readers.)


I was dying to find something positive to say, and there was nothing. And the truth is, saying something positive about this thing would be the nastiest, meanest and most dishonest thing I could do. Because here's the thing: not only is it cruel to encourage the hopeless, but you cannot discourage a writer. If someone can talk you out of being a writer, you're not a writer. If I can talk you out of being a writer, I've done you a favor, because now you'll be free to pursue your real talent, whatever that may be. And, for the record, everybody has one. The lucky ones figure out what that is.

Sadly, the people who need to read this article never will. They're too busy hunched over their computer typing madly away, convinced beyond rational thought that the words on the screen are absolute gold. As soon as another writer, agent, publisher, celebrity, anyone reads them, the heavens will open, angels will serenade the world, and utopia will once again be real. Praise will be heaped upon them, as well as millions of dollars, and this dream will be fulfilled. Tomorrow, they'll rewrite the Bible.

Anyone who's frequented any kind of critique group has run into this type. Inevitably, when they're told their writing is, uh, garbage, they get defensive or they insist you can't tell just from reading that tiny bit. Really, you need to read a whole chapter. Or better yet, the whole book.

No, I really don't. Like Mr. Olson says, I can tell within a sentence or two whether something is worth reading. Maybe that's from my background as an editor, but more likely it's because I'm an avid reader. I don't care if your story is the greatest idea since The Lord of the Rings, bad writing shows up immediately and a great idea is worth nothing if you can't get it down on paper with style and flow and finesse.

If you're a writer looking for critiques, remember what I said before about doing your homework. And don't forget the dos and don'ts.

I should add another: Don't bite the hand that critiques you.


TOPAZ status: Working on Chapter 33. Two or three more chapters to go, I think. Hubby's volunteered to be on kid duty today so I can get closer to the end...