I've recently been reading over at Authonomy, and I have to admit that I am simply blown away by how awful some of the stuff is. My main shock is how great a percentage of what's posted is simply grammatically incorrect. For me, the absolute first rule of writing is to get the basics right. Has that gone out of style? Am I hopelessly out of date?

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Hmm. Interesting point about the 'unwashed' feedback.
This sounds perfectly normal to me. Different people look for different things in their reading. There are those who object to prologues outright and say they'll nver buy a book with a prologue. And there are those who like description and detail and those who detest it. From the point of view of marketability, a point taken by agents, easy reading and lots of action is a plus. This would not apply to literary fiction, which has different requirements.
Ultimately you must be your own judge. It helps to be informed about books similar to yours that have done well.
Oh yes, it is normal, I agree with you there. But it's one of the things you don't get from reading most books and websites about writing and getting published. You basically get the message that you have to steel yourself for good critiques, but don't get that actually using the critiques is more an art than a science.

And yes, I totally agree that it helps to be informed about books similar to mine that have done well. I narrow it down further - it helps even more to be informed about similar books by authors that were not previously bestsellers that have done well. Many of the thrillers in the top 40 of bestseller lists would not IMO have made it through the slush pile - a combination of the fact that most authors 'books get worse once they have multiple bestsellers and the fact that authors with a good following can break "rules" that a first-time author is less likely to get away with breaking.
Critiques are much like reviews: they often say more about the person giving it than about the alleged writing they have critiqued. I belonged to a writers group for about ten years, and came to know the others' tastes quite well. One was excellent at spotting inconsistencies, or things that were inadequately prepared, but he never got a joke of mine in his life. I listened to his comments about the first two, and ignored whatever he said about humor.

That's very difficult to do when sending writing out on the web for comment from (relatively) anonymous sources. Too hard to tell who's on my wavelength, and who's full of crap. Now I have a small handful of people I trust, and take my chances.
I don't disagree with you, Dana, but IMO the great advantage of online feedback is you can get a lot of feedback fast, mostly from unbiased sources who have no relationship with you. (You know how little agendas sneak into meat-space writing groups.)

But instead of examining individual comments, do an analysis of all the comments and focus on their commonalities. That's where the real benefits are found in my experience.
Eric and Dana - excellent points both of you!
Eric makes a good point. If everyone--or at least a strong consensus--says something is wrong, it's time to take a closer look.
There is something to be said for having gotten through a gate keeper, i.e, an acquisition editor of a traditional publisher. It doesn't actually mean the book is great, but it means someone thinks it's exceptional and is willing to invest his/her company's resources to put it out there. Usually it means they're willing to edit and copy edit it, and that they expect the author to bring his own high standards to it. Sure, some self-pubs bring those same high standards to their publication efforts. But most think that simply being in-print is the same as being published.

I've been teaching writing for a long time, usually to adults, and I'm shocked at the grammatical sloppiness and ignorance I see. I'm especially stunned when some of my worst students, in this regard, are school teachers themselves. There have been quite a few in that category, most of whom saw no need to improve their grammatical and punctuation knowledge. How can they teach this stuff if they don't know it and don't value it?
Umm, add to that the occasional goofs by copy editors. :) That always gets me, because they clearly think the author knows nothing about grammar.


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