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Levels of honesty

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Levels of honesty

Post  Maggie on Sun Jun 26, 2011 10:26 pm

So I was thinking recently about what to do in a situation where a friend of yours gets published, you read their book, and you hate it. What do you say to them? Keeping in mind every relationship is at a different level, should you tell them it's awful? I mean, at that point it's kinda too late...

Also, I was thinking about honesty with un-published but currently-being-queried novels. If the author has decided it's good enough to send it out, and you happen to be reading it during this time, what level of honesty is OK and what's rude?

Personally, I like to be very honest. I think sugar-coating or lying is only going to hinder the author, and especially long term does them absolutely no good. You slow 'em down. However, it's a fine line between rude/hurtful/discouraging and just tough love.

All this to say, what are all of your thoughts on it? How would you handle a published book vs. unpublished? How much honesty do you like to use? When do you sugar coat or avoid the truth, if at all?

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Re: Levels of honesty

Post  Amanda on Sun Jun 26, 2011 11:23 pm

This is something that I've definitely thought about, heh. Several people have told me that I'm too critical, because I tend to just point out all the negatives--I assume the other person knows I love the rest of it, but, well...apparently they don't. Rolling Eyes

Anyway, I think with a published book, I'd point out the top three major problems with it, rather than mentioning smaller details, and point out at least three things that I liked about it, hopefully also some major things. If there isn't anything major I can honestly say I liked, I go for smaller details, like word choice or the way sentence length was varied--something technical that I can legitimately compliment them on.

For unpublished, I'd probably be harsher--I'd definitely point out every little thing that was wrong with it in the nicest way possible, without lessening the severity of the problem. They need to know that their novel isn't ready to go out into the world yet. I mean, I'd point out the things I liked, too, because crushing someone's ego is just as damaging as letting them think they're all that when they're not, but I wouldn't want my friend to burn all their bridges with a novel that could be awesome with work. I wouldn't feel like I was being a good friend. That's how I see it. Smile
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Re: Levels of honesty

Post  Constance on Sun Jun 26, 2011 11:40 pm

Oh, good thought, Twin!

For both published and unpublished, if I knew them well enough that I didn't consider it rude, I would go ahead and say something like, "Honestly, I didn't like it." Then I'd explain why, as artfully and honestly as possible, then I would probably add, "But that's just me; I'd get another opinion/I'd take it with a grain of salt."

If I didn't know them so well, and they were published, I might white lie and/or deflect from actually saying I liked it, and focus on two aspects: What I DID like, and what I DIDN'T like. And I would try to be brief; one-two sentences per each. Because, I mean, they're already published. You can't do anything to change that now... But at least they'll know what they need to work on for the next book(if they're open to constructive criticism).
If they're unpublished, I'd probably go ahead and be honest again, but try to be as nice about it as possible. And again, focus on what I did like too. Only difference would be, I'd go into a little more detail on what I mean.

Huh. I just realized... What I'm saying is exactly like teaching swimming. When a kid does a stroke wrong, I'm supposed to correct them, but do it so that they aren't discouraged: tell them what I liked about their stroke, use positive wording, etc.

But anyway. Basically, it all comes down to wording. I would tell both the good friend and the acquaintance the same thing whether they were published or not, but I would word it according to my relationship with them, and length of my explanation depending on published status.
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Re: Levels of honesty

Post  Maggie on Mon Jun 27, 2011 12:08 am

I totally agree and am mostly the same with Constance, and I really like what you said, Amanda. I wish I could be more like Amanda, but like Constance said I'll be honest in the nicest way possible, especially if it were published.

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Re: Levels of honesty

Post  Sarah on Mon Jun 27, 2011 3:52 pm

I'm the same as Lizzy, I think that if you sugar coat it then it's not really helping the writer. Also, I want people to be completely honest about my novel so that when it goes out it's in the best possible shape so of course I'd want to do the same for them. If I hated the novel would I tell the person? That always depends on the situation, in most cases I would probably tell them that the novel didn't work for me and then explain why. I'd try to be nice about it.

@Amanda, you said you were learning Russian, right? I'm helping out at VBS this week and the kid I'm with is 3-4 years old and only speaks Russian. It's such a cool sounding language! His name is Alexander but apparently the Russian nickname for that is Sasha. It's so cool (even if I don't understand a word he's saying). Haha, I just thought of you and Renee when I heard him speaking Russian Smile
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Re: Levels of honesty

Post  Matthew on Mon Jun 27, 2011 9:31 pm

If the book is already published, then it seems to me that there must be at least one person who likes it. We're all different, so even if I don't like the book, there are probably others who do, right? If I had a friend who was published and I didn't like their book, I'd probably focus on congratulating them rather than telling them how much I loved/hated their book. If they were asking me if I liked the book then I'd probably go for a white lie.

If they were unpublished, I'd be honest with them. Like Lizzy said, lying to them would only hinder them. I'd approach it like I was critiquing anyone's work: be honest without being rude.
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Re: Levels of honesty

Post  Maggie on Tue Jun 28, 2011 3:11 pm

@Sarah That's good to know. Very Happy And how cute is that! How does he understand what you tell him to do??

@Scribbler Now I know to never ask your opinion on my book when it comes out. Hehehe!

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Re: Levels of honesty

Post  Sarah on Tue Jun 28, 2011 4:13 pm

@Lizzy he's super cute but no, he doesn't understand a word I'm saying or what I'm telling him to do. I can point at something, say it's name, and show him what to do and for the rest of the day he'll get it but he doesn't know any english. But he likes me, even though I can't understand him, so he'll follow me and that's how we get him from place to place, either that or his mom comes in and tells him what to do.
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Re: Levels of honesty

Post  Maggie on Tue Jun 28, 2011 8:39 pm

@Sarah Awwww, so cute! And how unusual!

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