No one is obligated to help ANYBODY, but it's the kind thing to do, to help someone out of the goodness of your heart. I don't believe that you should write their story for them, but if somebody asks for help, then by god, you should help them! It surprise me how many un-giving people there are here. Why must we be like? Why can't we spend our time giving? What better things are there to possibly do then giving to others? I certainly can't think of any.
Drawing from my experiences in creative writing workshop classes at my college in this post.
I had a professor who allowed students to turn in unfinished stories for critiques. Sometimes this was okay. A person would turn in one half of a super long story one week and the other half the next. My thoughts on the piece changed when I read the conclusion, of course, so I generally prefer finished pieces when I have to critique something--but still, I was fine with the unfinished work so long as the author had a clear vision for the story as a whole and clearly meant to get us there eventually.
What I DIDN'T feel fine with were people who came in with the beginning of a story and no ending... like, at all, not even in their head waiting to be written. One girl literally came in and said "I have no idea how to end this story. Can someone tell me how to end it?" This has happened more than once in these workshop classes, and every time it does I just sit there and say nothing. Why should I give you MY ideas? Why should I hold your hand and guide you through a story that should be coming from nothing by YOU? Another student, a guy this time, came in with three paragraphs of people talking; he asked how he could build a story around the three unconnected conversations. Um. Excuse me? You mean to take my ideas and run with them as if they were your own? What the hell is that???
To sum: I will NOT oblige "write my story for me" requests. I've seen this online, in workshops, and among friends, and I hate it. No exceptions. I will do just about anything when it comes to critiquing stories, but when a critique turns into me writing your story for you, SCREW THAT NOISE, I'm going home.
Well, at one point the professor called on me saying I'd been unusually quiet all workshop (I'm a talker; surprise!) and that I surely had something to add to the conversation. As I sat there trying to figure out what to say, the less talkative guy next to me jumped in with: "It's kind of hard to say anything when the author didn't bother to turn in an actual story for us to talk about."
I added: "I don't feel comfortable commenting on what's here because it's obviously still in development and I think the author should be writing a story that comes from from within, cliche as it sounds. I know that my stories tend to be close reflections of myself, so the idea of telling the author what to write just seems invasive and almost like a kind of creative molestation."
Everybody got reeeeeaaaal quiet. Except for the guy who agreed with me. He offered me an under-the-table fist bump of camaraderie. Haaaaaa.
What I said was true of myself, of course. Even my fiction is a close reflection of who I am as a person and how I struggle with myself and the world around me. Ray Bradbury suggested that if you have writer's block or get stuck on a piece, it's because you're not writing about something that truly matters to you or resonates within you. The writers who can't end a story just haven't figured out how to connect with the piece yet. How can an outsider ever hope to forge that connection? Helping them flesh out a plot or avoid a cliched plot is one thing, but to totally write it for them from the ground up... GAH.
What's supremely odd about my writing is that I never try to put myself and my emotions into it. Nine times out of ten, however, people who know me well will point out the ways my personal life leaked into the text in ways so obvious I don't know how I didn't see them in the first place. It's gotten to the point that I've just stopped trying to keep it out! At the very least I can say that I really feel my work.
I help those who help themselves. If someone is looking for a book idea, for a new OC, or something to start the process, it's not happening. If I have a great character idea, chances are I'm gonna look for a way to use it myself--I'm just greedy that way.
However, if they are in the middle of something and run into a brick wall, then I will do my best to help. That may mean a substantial amount of help, like walking them through options, and even writing a sentence or two for them to help them understand voice or something. The difference being they have shown they are making an effort and taking the initiative.
It's the different between spoon-feeding someone and showing them how to use a fork so they can feed themself.
As for what it takes for me to help them? Asking and being patient for my help. Not whining and expecting me to drop everything for you. And definitely not passive aggressiveness. Coming to me and saying "oh, no, what am I gonna do, I don't know how to do this story and if I don't I'm gonna feel like a failure forever" is *not* gonna guilt me into helping you.
Haha, I don't think it's greedy to use your own ideas
Yeah, totally. I enjoy bouncing ideas off other people and asking them questions to help them, but honestly sometimes they've been total douches about it 'ugh why are you asking me things I just want heeeelp' and at that point it's like, BYE.
Seriously, the only thing that could guilt me is if they'd done me a huge favor.
Well, so much of that comes from the RP way of learning lit. When someone gets stuck in an RP, someone else jumps in and writes them out of it. So when they transition to traditional lit, they expect the same thing. They get stuck and they want a way out handed to them--they don't want to think it out.
I think I benefitted from the fact I never internet RPed. It was all table-top. As GMs, we had to write wholly contained stories which your players ran through. I think the whole collaborative storytelling of modern RP is fascinating, but I think it does a great disservice to a lot of people.
Yeah, that's true. I guess that's a good argument to use. If you were drawing a picture of a person, you wouldn't go up to someone and say, "hey draw this arm for me." Though that's essentially what people do when they ask someone to do their writing for them.
I think, in a nutshell, we have to help ourselves. Or rather we have to help ourselves by helping others in the hope that they will help us to then help ourselves in whatever we may need help with. In a nutshell.
We all, probably, need help with at least one thing - even if we do not know it or want to say it and, the community definitely can help you there is no doubt in my mind about that. If you ask for help there are lots of people out there who can help, though that in itself isn't the whole story. When it is just you asking something that makes a total of 1 person, but I've already said that nigh everyone in the community may need help with something - and a huge percentage will be asking this question at the same time as you are. Sure these other people may not be asking the same people as you specifically are, may not be asking the same groups or even working on anything close to what you may be working on. Nonetheless the case is always that there is not just 1 person but, for sake of argument, shall we just say 1,000 people asking for help. And it's not just a one off either, we might get 100 extra people asking for help on one day and only 71 people successfully gotten their help - it's a moving limit of who needs what.
Now, of course people go all across the community both far and wide to get help specific to them - and that's great. There's always some people, or some groups, some chats or forums, that gets asked for more help than it may be able to give out man for man (persay). 'This' is where the problems start. Who helps who? How can they be of help? are two, maybe more "official", questions to ask but I don't think the community asks those questions. I think the community asks the following questions instead: "Has this person asked me for help before?" "Has this person any idea of how he/she wants me to help?" or, in some cases the questions are: "Jeez, can this person just stop spamming me with requests?" & "Ugh, I just finished helping someone - do I have to help someone again?"
Okay that might make people look bad but I don't think we can deny that some people will think this. If you've ever been in a big chat you'll have probably noticed that, over the course of just one day, a lot of people ask for help with something - even if it's something small or actually not related to their literature - a lot of people ask many questions. Sorry, I'll rephrase: pretty much everyone asks a lot of questions about pretty much everything.
So, once we start getting pessimistic about the whole thing we start denying help or just avoiding these questions - don't deny it, how many times have you specifically have overlooked any question be it "Hi, I'm new to this, can you help?" or "I'm working on a 100K manuscript, can you help?" How many times have you just accepted that someone else will answer the question for you? Don't deny it - it's a lot, if you've ever been in a big chat, more so.
Don't get me wrong I think the community should help people wherever they can if it is within their power to do so. I don't want people to start saying such things as "Oh, but it's not within my power to do so" but I know it happens. I know some people may vigorously help one person with something but then write the next occasion off for whatever reason. There's never an obligation to help - it's good will, but if 'person A' doesn't help 'person B' then 'person B' will probably never help 'person A' - and he/she might be an amazing help. It's good will, but it's clearly more than good will as well - manners and respect are very important for me - and in helping someone out it could give you a great friend.
You know, I could go on and on and on about this subject but I'll leave it here. We always want what's good for ourselves, which in many cases is very selfish if I'm being honest. But we do have to think about others in the community because without them we ourselves are nothing. It's a balancing act and both the helper and the helpee really do need to think long and hard about the other party. (I know helpee technically isn't a word but it works).
Hey, that's the rationale for altruism! Which really isn't my thing.
That said, yeah, I get the point of helping people because someday you might need help too.
"Who helps who? How can they be of help? are two, maybe more "official", questions to ask but I don't think the community asks those questions." - you just did, and I demand thoughts on how those should be answered!
So almost diffusion of responsiblity, isn't it?
As far as selfishness, my take on it is that if you're not your own best advocate, who else will be?
I was trying to put it the way I did because it's the way I most often see it. Having to be in the chats a lot I guess it just sinks in - day in - day out - some people notice it more than others, some people just don't really think about it whenever the question comes up. Most people just act in a spontaneous way for thwat they think is to their own benefit right.
hmm ... maybe it's one of those things that feeds the problem into itself then. People don't help, so when new people come along and don't get help they in turn don't help the next person in the chain and so on?
Its a foothold in every artists career when they begin to realize that no one needs to understand the true quality of their work other than themselves. It's often what allows the reader to understand it as well.
No human being is obligated to help another. Yet that never stops me from trying to do it as much as possible. If that makes me naive, so be it.
I was wrong. More people do tend to love art when it's manufactured and designed for them to enjoy rather than from something that the artist actually felt. I was too self-absorbed in my own perspective.
Lucy-MerrimanFeatured By OwnerJan 25, 2013Student General Artist
As far as the community goes, I aim to get people involved with more organized things. There are chat sessions, critique swaps, and critique-focused groups like that are great for getting feedback if you're willing to give a little. Then there are groups like and where you are pretty much guaranteed to get feedback (I know, I'm behind on crits! I'll catch up, I promise!) as long as you follow the prompt.
I rarely do critiques that are outside of groups, but people don't usually ask me to specifically. Fortunately, I'm not popular enough or a CV to attract a lot of attention mongers. I think the last critique I did outside of WW was of =futilitarian's story [link] and it really just caught my attention because it was for a #transliterations prompt and we both picked the same line.
Also, if you're nice, have a personality and hang around long enough, chances are you'll make some friends. Friends are generally more willing to collaborate with you on stuff or do critique swaps, because they find you fun or insightful and they like hanging out with you. They aren't obligated to do stuff for you any more than any other lit member, but they might spontaneously leave you in-depth comments, or get excited about collaborative projects, because they're like you in some way.
And just like in real life, making friends takes time. It also takes not being self-absorbed and having ulterior motives. So, there's that.
I don't mean to be snotty (though it's hard not to sound that way) -- but I effectively critique folks for a living. I'm an editor; it's what I do. So I really don't want to do that in my time off. I'm not adverse to offering a comment or two, and I'll write decline notes with critiquey (not a word; I know) sorts of sounds to them. But if someone asks for critique, I won't do it. I'm selfish with my time. And if someone hounds me for it, it torques me, though I'll respond nicely. I'm a bit of a weenie, though, and I may push it off by saying "I'm busy; I'll do it when I get around to it." But I won't. Get around to it, that is. Life is too busy, and I have a job and a family that comes first. <<SLINKS OFF IN SHAME>>
I don't mind giving people feedback/critique with the usual (grammar/spelling/punctuation/things that could be improved), but when it comes to having to decide names and go over plot detail, etc. with them, it's too much. Do your own work, people! I'm busy enough trying to get my own stories developed, so why would I take the time to sit and have to deal with every last bit of plot development issue that you have and try and solve them for you?
...granted... if it's with close friends (and I mean VERY close friends), we often talk about ideas with each other and see which works best, but when it comes to just any stranger looking for that kind of work, it's a no go.
(Also... people who message you back a day after you say you'll critique something and ask where the hell it is... no. Just no. I have a life too. Be grateful I'm even taking time out of my schedule to do it for you in the first place. 24 hour turn-arounds aren't going to happen. Sorry.)
What really irked me was they sent me one 24 hours later and I told them I would be getting to it the following week since I was visiting my girlfriend on the other side of the country... and halfway through that week, I get ANOTHER note "Where is my critique?" ... Peopleeee.