Some thoughts on the writing life at WDC.
|I love reviews! Doesn't everyone? Getting feedback is one of the key reasons why I keep logging into WDC. Without this community of opinions, I would be left alone with that little voice in my head. And she's really critical of my writing and has yet to tell me it's any good. I call her Maggie.
All feedback helps me improve my writing in some way, even if it only helps me to know my audience. With my upgraded membership, for instance, I know that 13 WDC members have read my first WDC piece and that most of these readers are young, college-educated females who happen to be single. Twelve of the 13 readers have been female. I love this stuff. Where else could I find out which audience my writing attracts?
So, to my readers and reviewers, I thank you! Really.
So, Paige, why are you here?
To appease Maggie (and because I'd like to vent), I'll tell you. It finally happened earlier today. . . my first two-star review (a.k.a. THAT review) . . . on that story I'm referencing above - it's only a few days old. Until THAT review, it had averaged a healthy 4.25 stars. And then . . . WHUMP . . . a two star review.
It's not all about the ratings, Paige.
I know. I know. But it is, too. I want to please everyone, and the stars assigned to my stories are a quick glance at how I'm doing. So, where is this famous piece? Here's a link to it, below:
In a nutshell, the piece tells the story of how I got asked to prom. It's autobiographical and . . . gulp . . . embellished in a couple of spots - I don't tell you that I had a crazy pimple crop up that morning, for instance. I did, by the way. I remember it, but, hey, while writing this story, I had a chance to be seventeen again, if only for a few hours. I decided to make the most of it.
So . . . at the time of this writing, I've received six reviews on this story with, as I said, an average rating of 4.25 - well a little lower now, given THAT review. And - have I gotten some great feedback! Thank you, reviewers.
So now I get to have a little fun with my reviewers . . . I hope they'll understand.
Sometimes, reviewers contradict each other. THAT review told me that my piece "made for a light, easy read" and that the "the paragraphs were all spaced out". A different, 4.5-star, review told me that "paragraphs would have helped with the flow", implying that it had no paragraphs at all.
I'm not really sure what to do with that.
Sometimes, reviewers give you a glimpse of the preconceptions that they bring to you:
A different reviewer told me that her "preconception was that I wasn't going to like this" and then she went on to say she was "pleasantly surprised" that she did. She gave me my first five-star review, by the way.
I cherish feedback like that!
Two reviewers loved my ending - including THAT review, which said that the "'punch line" at the end was especially good and cast a humorous light on the rest of the plot, leaving the reader with nice lasting impressions."
I've been wondering what kind of 'nice lasting impressions' I left her with that resulted in a two-star rating.
My five-star reviewer also commented explicitly on my ending, saying she "loved it". I think she really did.
And now, my readers, enter with me into the Twilight Zone of Reviews. . . .
Queue Creepy Music
When I sat down to write "On the Road", I was channeling my seventeen -year-old self, who I've had some . . . years to ponder.
THAT review came out and wondered if my seventeen-year-old self would "actually exist in real life".
Gee, I hope so. I mean, if not, I'm in trouble, I would think.
Another reviewer, who called me a "good writer" (thanks ) acknowledged that I "managed to create believable scenes without an abundance of words, which is refreshing."
And yet another reviewer told me that I "do a great job of getting inside the head of a nervous teenager." She went on to say that she "felt for her!" and asked "Haven't we all been there?"
Yes, (thank you) and, actually, I was there. I do exist. And I did get asked to prom.
Back to THAT review, I'm glad that I'm not seventeen any longer, really glad, because I would've gotten a complex had I read this next line:
"While Paige may very well be a socially awkward person, it is important to avoid the 'nerd' stereotype."
Ouch. This got my blood a-boiling and gave Maggie lots of fuel to add to a fire I had long ago gotten under control.
I also was chastised for having Paige think with "sophisticated words" . . . like "nonchalantly", for example.
No one has ever called me 'brilliant', but my Creative Writing teacher thought I was a pretty bright student. I bet I'm remembering my seventeen-year-old self correctly when I say the word "nonchalantly" would have been in her lexicon. She (I) was a writer, after all, even back then. Thesaurus and all.
My chastisement continues:
"In real life, most teenagers don't think using such sophisticated words, and this casts some doubt on the credibility of Paige's character. This takes away much from the piece as the reader feels somewhat alienated from Paige, although the entire plot revolves around her."
So . . . my seventeen-year-old self is a.) socially awkward, b.) a nerd, and c.) an alienator of people. I can see Maggie taking notes. This is going to come back to haunt me. I know it.
Another reviewer came to my rescue:
"This reminded me of my high school days, stumbling over words and cramming into the back seat of a car during lunch"
That reviewer finished by telling me that she had felt an "immediate connection with the narrator". Awww . . . maybe I'll ask her if she's socially awkward too. At the very least, I didn't alienate her.
A different reviewer concluded her review by telling me that "Paige seems an interesting character." While that doesn't exactly mean she didn't see me as socially awkward or shy, at least she wasn't alienated by me. She concluded by saying: "you should see if she might take you somewhere interesting!"
I did and she has.
Those experiences will make it into later stories, I promise.
So, THAT review did tell me not to "trash it [my story] entirely" because it "could easily be turned into a great work of young adult fiction", but first, I had to "establish a personal connection between the main character and reader. . ."
stop being so alienating, Paige.
I also had to dumb down my story so I wouldn't "confuse" young adult readers. Hmmm . . . I think young adult readers are intelligent enough to make it through my 600 word story.
So, with all that, I'll end on a positive note from another reviewer, who thinks I'm still seventeen (thank you, I love you.)
"If this was an exercise in dialoging, make sure to hand it in. I'm sure that your English/Comp. teacher will love it!!! The balance of spoken word, hidden thought and scene details were effective in setting up a mood that kept this reader going."
Awww . . . shucks. I love reviews.