Glass Houses

Valerie Douglas

I live in a glass house it sometimes seems and some people sure do like to throw stones. I’m a writer, you see, and unlike a painter almost everyone thinks they can do what I do.  After all, we all learned to write in grade school. Even worse, I’m an independent writer and people make assumptions about that. Personally, I don’t have any complaints there, it’s part of the job, but lately it seems almost habit for some people to add the line ‘it needed and editor for spelling and gramatical errors’ to every indie writer review. (That, by the way, is a direct quote from a review.)

Now, I’ll be the first to admit I’m not perfect and we all know things get missed sometimes. I’m also not one of those people who runs around pointing out that a lot of traditionally published books have mistakes and typos. They happen, and I’m not in a competition to see who commits the least or most. If you’ve seen some of those examples of how the eye and mind can translate words created with numbers or dramatic spelling errors you can understand how it can happen. I’ve also always advocated that a writer should even read bad reviews (although oddly, this one was a good one) to be sure you’re not ignoring a real problem. But it’s hard to take criticism on spelling and grammar from someone who clearly has a bigger problem with both, especially when the review is laced with text speak. I’m sure u understand. (I also have to wonder, have they seen so much bad spelling that they can’t tell when a word is spelled correctly?) Another commented that you can’t have sentences without a verb. Like this one. Used in the proper context, for effect, or when the verb is implied, of course you can. Which just tells me someone wasn’t paying attention in their creative writing classes. These kind of reviews have happened often enough to me and other writers that I have to wonder if that assumption hasn’t just become habit – ‘All indie writers need an editor.’  Some do, yes, but many others have them yet still face the criticism. Or if people really need to be critical.

I don’t know how to change the perception but I do wish people would stop saying it when they need to look at themselves. People in glass houses shouldn’t throw stones

Make no mistake, I really appreciate the folks who take the time to write a review and I thank everyone who does, but please don’t hold me to a standard higher than you hold yourself. If your review is riddled with spelling and grammar mistakes it’s difficult for me to take you seriously when you criticize mine. Better yet, be sure  they really are mistakes or else just don’t say it.

(By the way, this was written in a colloquial, conversational style and should be read with that in mind.)

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Valerie Douglas is a contributing Author for Indies Unlimited and the writer of the epic fantasy series The Coming Storm and the contemporary romance series The Millersburg Quartet. For more information please see the IU Bio page, her blog or visit her web page .

10 thoughts on “Glass Houses”

  1. Excellent post, Valerie, thanks. You're right to point out that it's not a competition to see who has the fewest typos, and that kind of complaint is not helpful anyway. As a writer, I want to hear about where the reader got bored with my story or why they didn't have any sympathy for one of my characters; that's what helps writers improve.

  2. Good stuff, Valerie. And yeah, I know that 'sentence' doesn't have a verb. 🙂 I like sentence fragments when they serve a purpose, but even some of the members of our critiquing group think you shouldn't use them.

    I find very few people take pride in the way they write posts even on forums and it makes you wonder where (or if) they were educated.

    "Which just tells me someone wasn’t paying attention in their creative writing classes." I doubt many of them even know what a creative writing class is. Perhaps they are simply jealous of your achievement and so to 'save face' they do their best to find something in your work to criticize so they don't have to feel so guilty about their own lack of achievement. Maybe? (Oh, oh–another non-sentence! I'll be getting a bad review, too.)

  3. Well said, Valerie. What these uneducated critics don't see is that broken rules, when used 'correctly' (lol) enhance the text, make it richer and draw a reader in to the content. If the only thing they can find fault with is spelling or grammar they are not reading for content, but only to feel 'holier than thou'.

  4. Great post. Yes, I've had a few of those reviews- not exactly Indie bashing, but poorly written reviews harping on my grammar and spelling. I had to thank the one reviewer that called my attention to the one word I had really goofed up. I quickly fixed it and sent out a new version. Those reviews I don't mind; the ones I do mind are the "you suck" kind of ones. Like has been mentioned before, even the great authors get bad reviews. So I add it to the experience pile and carry on.

  5. I have seen absolutely correct manuscripts whose writing, premise, organization and narrative were very very poor.

    Each sentence in itself had no typos or grammatical gaffes. But correctness alone does not make a book wonderful to read. I agree with you, Valerie, about editors and their value and usefulness to the experienced writer.

    Editors who know their stuff tear out their hair when the manuscript can be brought to a satisfying level of 'correctness', but still not deliver what it should in the way of content.

    Substantive editing includes examination of concept, story and premise, and many authors have been known to sit back and exclaim – OMG, did I write that? Is that what I meant? Did you see that in my novel? It's wonderful now!

    It's their work, they wrote it – but they couldn't see the premise because they chased correctness.

  6. What was really strange was the review itself was very good – stars – but there was almost this obligatory comment about spelling and grammar while misspelling "imersive" and other words.

  7. Great post, Valerie. I have often wondered if the reviewer, who writes their review with grammar or spelling errors, went to school or is just being lazy. Makes me wonder, too, if their review is full of errors, do they even know if it is really wrong in the book they are reviewing?

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