Friday, May 20, 2011

Negativity: Only Hurts You

Roni Lauren had a post today on writers judging other writers.

I once was one of those kids who complained about her little brother all the time. I decided as a teenager that, whenever I caught myself complaining, I'd force myself to say something good about him. I'd noticed even then that people notice and remember negatives better than positives.

It was hard. At first, I actually had to pause the conversation while I searched for something nice to say. I'd come up with things like "He can be helpful, sometimes, when he isn't more interested in teasing me." But the more I forced myself to practice this, the easier it became, and the more good things I noticed about my brother, and the less often I found myself complaining about him.

Over the years, other things have popped up that I've caught myself complaining about, though my friends are usually the ones who get those earfuls, and evidently I must be an interesting ranter or something because they actually encourage me and say I have reason for venting when I realize what I'm doing and apologize.

Negatives are easier to see than positives, unless you're biased towards a work (Ooo! UF w/ unreliable narrator!), in which case it can be easy to skip the negatives. My friends know that they'd better have time if they ask me about a story, because I often discuss a book or series for a half hour or more, naming specific good and bad things about them.

Take Stephenie Meyer. I actually respect her. Did I find her Twilight series incredibly melodramatic? Yep. But I read it through a veil of irony and thereby enjoyed it. After reading book 1 and the excerpt of book 2, I remember thinking: "Edward's personality so far would make him leave Bella to keep her safe, but that would make readers mad. I wonder what she'll do instead."

Upon reading book 2, I was actually shocked that she followed Edward's personality to the logical conclusion. Stephenie Meyer wrote precisely the story she wanted to tell, even when she knew some readers would be unhappy with her. (Breaking Dawn's anti-climactic climax, for example.)

Look, there are reasons for the bestseller lists. Okay, maybe author ABC is clich├ęd, and ZXY's sentence structure does resemble an academic paper [speaking of which, US or UK? Academic papers have different standards and appropriate writing styles between countries]. But instead of ranting and raving about why you can't get published when you have "perfect" grammar and sentence structure [yeah, 'cause that's possible], evaluate what those bestsellers are doing right.

Because they are doing something right. Otherwise, nobody would be wanting to read what they're selling.

Focus on those somethings. You might actually learn something that helps you write better.

Besides, do you really want to insult potential fans by dissing their favorite books?

What are your thoughts?

—Misti


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