Saturday, November 15, 2008

Critics Don't Have That Much Power

We read critiques everywhere, and everything nowadays seems to be subject to criticism. We may not always believe the critics when they say that this movie is the worst thing to ever hit the cinemas, or that this book is impossible to put down. Still, critics form a good part of today’s print media, and they can influence what books sell, what movies earn money, and even what restaurants can go from anonymity to standing-room-only.

Critics can also influence writers. In dictating what books sell, they can unduly push writers toward certain styles, plot lines, and even characters. This can constrain a lot of writers, you included, especially if you want to make it in the world with a voice that is as unique as it is independent.

One way that you can avoid being imprisoned by critics is thinking that they don’t have the power that people give them. It sounds very New Age, but think about it (and fix up your mindset so that you don’t end up being a slave to critics):

* People can choose not to read critics. No one is ever forced to read critics, much less agree with them. People have a choice, and lucky you if they choose to read you over and above what any critic will say.
* Critics are people. People have opinions. Opinions will differ. There is no right or wrong opinion: it’s JUST AN OPINION.
* Critics are not the barometer for what’s good or what will sell. It’s up to a lot of readers. Besides, best-sellers’ lists are not the barometers for what is considered good writing either. Remember, not all good writing sells; and NOT ALL THAT SELLS IS GOOD WRITING.
* Critics can be swayed by freebies. For instance, some critics can review books favorably because the author handed them free copies, or promised them free books for life, or gave them a goodie bag that had nothing at all to do with the book. Granted, not all critics are like this, but remember, people’s opinions can change because of many things, not just because of a book.

These are only a few things to keep in mind when you start writing your novel. I’m not teaching you to hate critics: I’m teaching you to see another side of the issue; I’m teaching you to look beyond what people expect you to produce. Good luck, and happy writing!

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