I posted this to Backspace as well, but I'm interested to hear what the Crimespacers think.

So I've got a friend who is a talented writer and his books sell well. We're not Best Friends Forever by any stretch, but we've been on friendly terms for several years. There's been something about his published novels that has been bugging me, or rather, there's a tendency he has that weakens key scenes in his book. It's the sort of thing that one doesn't always recognize until it's pointed out.

I've belonged to several writing groups over the years and the urge to critique runs pretty deep. I also believe that anyone can benefit from a well-directed remark. Still, getting a critique post-publication is likely to elicit annoyance. Either my friend won't agree or worse, he'll agree and wish he could go back and fix what I'm pointing out. There's also the fact that he hasn't asked for a critique or ever said, "So, what do you think?" about a published book. I've casually mentioned that I could give him a beta read on his next book, but I think he gets pretty good reads from another mutual friend and from his agent (with the obvious exception of this one point).

So do I mention this to my friend? I'm convinced that a little self-reflection on this subject could help his future works, but no matter how I look at it, my comments are like to come across as rude. Personally, I would want to know, but I know that not everyone would feel the same way.

Any thoughts?

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I reacted to the question more as a therapist than as a writer. Jon was right on target in asking which you value more, being right or the friendship. I might also ask how come this weakness in your friend's writing bugs you so much. In general, each of us has the energy to manage one person's life--and in this case, one person's writing career. Wouldn't it be better if it were your own? Granted, we live in a culture that encourages us to give and demand "advice." But the consequences of this make a lot of people resentful and discontented, even drive some into therapy--not that I'm complaining. ;)
Since everyone chose to answer the question, it would be interesting to turn it on its head and reflect that it's worth considering letting another writer look over a work and get some feedback on it.

As much as it bugs me to receive advice, it can be valuable, at least for getting rid of the stylistic tics (or even, god forbid, gaping plot holes). Writers get so little valuable feedback as it is, that a "what do you think of this scene" could prove invaluable.

As always, YMMV. If it hurts too much to ask, then you shouldn't ask.
There is also the possibility that you're wrong. If his books sell well, maybe your idea is a personal preference rather than a definite road to improvement.
Hi Michael, I agree with most of the views here. No-one ever gets thanked for unsolicited advice, unfortunately, no matter how good that advice might me. Especially as the books are already published and are good enough for the agent/ publisher/ public. Even if a writer friend does ask for your views, you then have to assess: does my friend really want my view or is he/ she just asking for validation? If the latter, then you may, for the sake of the friendship, just give them what they want to hear and if the former, you do still need to be careful how you frame what might be perceived as negative criticism (and we all know how touchy writers can be!!).


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