I’ve mentioned many times before that I belong to the Erotica Readers and Writers Association, which is a website as well as running three very active lists. One of the lists, Story Time, is for posting stories or chapters of novels and receiving critiques from other writers. It is the best writer’s workshop in any genre. I’ve visited a lot of online and real life critique groups and none have come close to the level of support and depth of knowledge available in this group.
I rarely post stories anymore because I don’t have a lot of stories to post. However, since ERWA is an important community to me, I put in citizen hours critiquing other writer’s works. Yes, it gets a bit tedious when you’re pointing out the same grammar or style mistake to the same writer week after week. At some point, I usually stop reading his/her work. Yes, reading the same “impossibly hot girl with red hair, huge tits, and emerald eyes walks into a bar, hits on Joe Schmo, much to the barkeep’s disbelief (and there’s usually a bet riding on it between Joe and the barkeep), and they go knock it out with physically impossible sex, she comes ten times, Joe gets it up again seconds after coming, and oh, by the way, totally unoriginal twist – it turns out they’re married,” story offered up by a lot of new writers, but hey, they think it’s original. (It would be nice if people read the genre before writing it so that they knew how tired that story is, but eventually they do figure it out.) And yes, I get really tired of female submissive stories with perfect rich dominant masters who live in mansions. Zzzzzz.
But what drives me crazy is when I fall for a call for help. A writer friend told me that she no longer critiques because of being burned by one too many of these pseudo calls. After this weekend, I know how she feels. Someone posted a story with a header that read something like: “Help, I’m trying to get this published, but I need to drastically cut word count and I can’t see where I can cut. Please oh please oh please help me.” I’m always willing to lend a hand to someone going for publication, so I set aside several hours to go over her story line by line. It wasn’t a bad story. It wasn’t poorly written. It simply asked too much from the short story format. She had too many scenes. Too many characters. Too many plotlines pulling in different directions. I told her – it’s a novella, or you cut X,Y, and Z, use them for another story, and hone this down to your main plot and characters. Her reply? "I don’t want to do a novella. I like X too much to cut it even though it has nothing to do with the rest of the story. I’m keeping Y because I like the extraneous plotline. And by the way, I’m keeping Z too, because I think it’s a hot scene." The funny thing is that a few other writers I admire gave her essentially the same critique. (I didn’t read theirs until after I sent mine.) And she answered them the same way she did mine. She didn’t want help, she wanted to be told that “Yes, this is the greatest story, EVER!” I hate being duped when someone cries wolf (or editor, or publisher).
I won’t be critiquing her work again any time soon. And I doubt the others will either. It’s one thing to ignore our advice, quite another to boldly tell us that we’re all wrong. *rolling eyes* Writers….