Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Are you a good guy or a bad guy?

In the westerns, it was always easy to spot the good guys and the bad guys. Good guys had white hats (don't ask me why, since they're so hard to keep clean) and bad guys had black hats. In a critique group, the line between good and bad guys gets hazy. What makes you either one? Are you a bad guy when you discover issues with a manuscript that you have to critique? Are you a good guy because you thought a story was perfectly written?

In a critique group, is telling all (and I do mean nicely telling all, with specific suggestions about how to improve the writing) a bad thing? Does it make you a bad guy with a black hat if you let the other writer know what you really think?


  1. In my case I guess I would initially think you are a bad guy for telling me (nicely) my stuff was trash. But I would probably get over it after a short while and look at it objectively.

    I mean if it helps me get published why wouldn't I think of you as a good guy.

  2. I think most hats are gray - whether they start out white or black. Much of the time, critics probably read or watch many stories that they don't necessarily like but need to because they are committed to delivering a specific product. To have something read by one of these busy persons, not to mention get some feedback, should be an encouragement. It means that you made an impression. The advice may or may not be good, but you rated enough to get some recognition! That hat rates on the lighter side of gray.

  3. Well, I wouldn't necessarily phrase it just that way, Dwight. I'd point out the good things and then I'd make suggestions to strengthen areas I thought were weak. Honestly, I think it's rare that a manuscript is totally to be trashed. At the very least, you'll learn something from working on it, and as they say, everything can be fixed. However, it is true that not everything can be sold. Therefore, it is a good idea to be open to the fact that a manuscript may need to be shelved for a time while you work on other projects.

  4. @ Laura. And we know that grey has the advantage of hiding dirt and those pesky little clothing fuzzies!