Skewering Twits

I remember reading, somewhere — in a long-ago issue of Dragon Magazine back in the 80s, I think — some quip about wizards being “cute… on the end of a spear.” One of the joys in the blogosphere, for me, is watching Nick Mamatas skewer twits so we can see how cute they are on the end of his verbal spears. Example here.

Object lesson? Don’t pretend you’re in a Creative Writing MFA program with a writer who is:

  • actually good
  • cleverer than you
  • likely to verbally bitchslap you online (deservedly) when you inevitably become offensive

… and then go and post at length about what’s wrong with the first sentence of his story. Especially when you don’t know enough grammar to crit the grammar right.

Critique is fine. Reading stories you don’t like to try to figure out what other people liked about them is fine.  (Hell, my crit group — classmates from Clarion West, all — is planning to do that with a story, because several of us want to know why in the heck it was so popular when it seems to “meh” to us.) Writing about why you think they worked is fine. Heck, even publicly stating that it wasn’t your thing is fine, in my books. Publicly deconstructing stories sentence by sentence in as hoity-toity a fashion as possible, and making errors willy-nilly while you’re at it, is just foolish.

The striking thing about the dodo’s criticism is that it was all negative. Which reminds me of a lot of stories from friends in MFA programs. (My experience was different; less negativity and harshness about work, and more cliquishness and ego stuff, as well as my radioactivity as the only “genre” writer in the program.) How tedious and depressing it would be to be in a class with that booby.

(The readerless blogger, not Mamatas. In a crit group with Nick, I imagine I’d probably be a little intimidated — though the his feedback is, in my experience, reasonable, fair, and often quite worth heeding! — but, I daresay I would not expect to be bored or depressed in a crit group with Nick.)

Whatever you do, don’t comment on the booby’s site. Those 0 Comments all over it are just too damned funny to ruin!

3 thoughts on “Skewering Twits

  1. Mark,

    Well, but you’re reviewing things in a relatively three-steps-back, objective manner. You’re not [poorly] analyzing the grammar of a well-known author’s short story and point out what’s “wrong” with it. (Much less criticizing a published story, where MFAs are usually looking at some form of draft.)


    No problem. I may end up teaching in one someday, but I surely won’t let me classes become like that. I learned a few important things at Clarion West, like the importance of mutual respect and courtesy, and how none of us was “da shiznit” but none of us knew nothing, either, and how important it is to point out the things someone is doing right in his or her writing — what is working.

    I do think a lot of MFA programs often are mastiurbatory, and mine was to some degree, but they needn’t be that way.

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