Sometimes chats ensue in the comments that beg to be addressed. Because, yeah--I care about this community and your thoughts on what goes on here.
So I noticed the comments on the apparently larger-than-normal amount of cheerleading that went on during this month's Secret Agent contest. Now, it's no secret that there's NO WAY I have to time read every single comment. Yes, they all come into my inbox. Yes, I randomly check them. But I trust you all to a) be good critters and b) let me know (privately) if anyone is being snarky or troll-y.
Because I will kill a snarky critique faster than you can say Embittered Writer.
(Cheerleading, on the other hand, isn't nasty or ill-intentioned. So it's not something I will ever delete.)
Let me say, first of all, if you have ANY concern about the critique that goes on here, to please email me. Don't throw it into the comment box (especially a comment box that would be better used as a place to thank our Secret Agent) or grumble among yourselves. TELL ME.
I may or may not agree. But I will definitely take your concerns seriously. Because I want as many people as possible to be happy and comfortable here. (Yes, I mean that.)
Secondly, I want you to know that, while I believe cheerleading is kindly meant, I DO agree that it's not the best use of comment box space during Secret Agent contests (or any other online critique session, here or anywhere else). Here's why:
1. Critique sessions exist for a specific purpose: To provide USEFUL FEEDBACK for the serious writer. We all know how vital this is. And, despite how it may stroke our egos, a string of "This-is-so-fabulous-wait-til-you-guys-read-the-whole-story-like-I-already-have" is not USEFUL FEEDBACK.
2. Public encouragement does not carry greater weight than private encouragement. You all know that I am ALL ABOUT ENCOURAGEMENT! We all desperately need it, and I try to provide it here on a regular basis. But if you want to encourage your crit partner or writing buddy or best friend whose excerpt happens to be in our latest contest, PLEASE DO IT PRIVATELY. I can assure you that it will be equally appreciated.
3. As writers, we should strive to present ourselves professionally at all times. And constant cheerleading during a session that calls for USEFUL FEEDBACK does not come off professionally. At all.
4. Fluffy comments about how awesome you think something is, without a stitch of helpful critique added, provides NOTHING USEFUL for the hundreds of people who are reading these critiques to learn more about what works and doesn't work in their own writing. Imagine the serious, neophyte writer, reading an excerpt and forming his own opinions about it, but wondering what other, more "experienced" writers might think. Scrolling through the comments and seeing nothing but a bunch of "Yay, you!" and "Your story rocks, girlfriend!" isn't going to teach him anything.
Mind you, there is certainly a difference between cheerleading and commenting honestly that you think an excerpt was well-written. Pointing out the positive is as helpful as pointing out the negative. So please don't think I'm asking you to stop saying nice things. Heaven forbid!
But I think you all know the difference there. I love that so many of you are connected with writers whom you genuinely like, and whose work you believe in. These are powerful, important connections! But the comment boxes of an online critique session or contest isn't the place for pompoms.
So please bear this in mind when you show up to critique. Thoughtful crits take time; I view them as a loving sacrifice from whoever offers them. And that's what this place is about--giving to each other and receiving in our turn. That's why there's been so much growth here...so many success stories! This isn't a magical blog with special powers; it's a vibrant community of dedicated writers who are PAYING ATTENTION, WORKING HARD, and GROWING!
And I adore you. Thanks for listening.