The Ambassadors account maintains a list of writing advice books, and sometimes I scroll through to see how times have changed on the site. This chapter caught my eye because it’s a point we’ve discussed on the forum before; the comments are especially revealing.
This post was from seven years ago. Do you think this is still a conversation that could happen on Wattpad today? Or have standards changed? How would you have responded to the paragraph offered for critique?
I know that if one of us were doing the same exercise on the forum here (I considered posting the same paragraph as one I needed help workshopping), none of us would outright say “I think you have an award-winning short story right here”—it’s not as if this paragraph alone earned the award. But I do think that we would give this author a bit more grace, perhaps pointing out that while there’s nothing wrong with having an entire first paragraph dedicated to smell, it isn’t quite a necessity either. Maybe we’d suggest a synonym for “liniment,” or point out that this isn’t a style suited for Wattpad.
I’ll also note, in case this last point comes up, that the original context of this discussion was not strictly for online writing, even if the comments all came from Wattpad. So the “jury” was voting based on whether they could see this book in a bookstore somewhere, based on this first paragraph alone. I’m also assuming they were a slightly older, more experienced audience than the average on Wattpad.
Some of the comments I found particularly interesting:
I would read on. I mean, if I can survive endless description about Katniss getting primped for interviews and the food she’s eating… And the last few sentences wanted to make me read on, you know?
I don’t think that I would keep reading, but I still can’t say that the writing was utterly shit, I mean, the first few sentences were good and I was getting slightly hooked on it. But as the description of smell and whatever went on I lost interest and it really is a shame because all the writer would have had to do was to shorten down the description and focused on the characters of the book instead to win me over.
Honestly, I couldn’t finish reading the whole paragraph before I got bored and skipped ahead. That being said, I don’t think it’s a matter of good vs. bad writing, but an expectation from today’s readers that story will drive forward like a non-stop action movie. We are getting used to having our entertainment in blogs and tweets, the quicker and shorter the better, and anything that doesn’t immediately get to the point is taking too long. 1973 was 40 years ago; most of us weren’t even born yet. Just a thought.
Honestly? I wouldn’t read on. To me, it sounded a bit like a teenager trying to use big words, and I see a lot of this on Wattpad. To be Frank, I absolutely hate when people do that. I got bored halfway through and skimmed through the rest.
I wouldn’t read on. The repetition of smells and the word odor or reference to dogs and cooking made my eyes roll back into my head. I have no clue what the book is about or what the relevance of the paragraph even was.