Tuesday, July 31, 2007

To Take or Not To Take Advice

The true secret of giving advice is, after you have honestly given it, to be perfectly indifferent whether it is taken or not, and never persist in trying to set people right. ~Hannah Whitall Smith

Judy is going to smack me upside the head for talking about this, but I can't stand it. I have to.

A few days ago, someone somewhere (how's THAT for obscure?) posted a question regarding passive voice and adverbs, having been told by her crit group not to use them. In her message, she mentioned that she "didn't care what Stephen King thought", that adverbs were perfectly good parts of speech and she liked to use them. And so, by the way, are words like "was". So what was the problem?

Various people responded, but none really addressed her question. The discussion hared off into what to do with crits -- fix your stuff right away or keep moving forward with your writing, and the whole adverb/passive voice thing got pushed to one side.

So I, despite misgivings and having been kicked in the teeth before, chose to respond to her initial question by using examples of why stronger verbs are better than weak verbs + adverbs ("he whispered" instead of "he spoke softly" for instance). I also tried to show why active voice is better than passive. I linked to several articles about the same, and encouraged her to listen to her crit partners (some of whom are published authors), and to decide whether she was writing only for herself or for the chance to be published. I mentioned that any editor would tell her to tighten her prose if she liberally used adverbs and passive voice in her writing.

I got two responses -- one from her saying (with liberal amounts of sarcasm), "Well, then, I guess I'll never be published then." and one from someone else, quite long, explaining just why the use of passive voice is a better choice than active in some cases.

I should have expected the same. After all, why should she listen to me when she wouldn't listen to Stephen King? And I made a vow to never, ever stick my nose in where it wasn't specifically invited by name. No more comments to general questions.

Still, it's amazing that anyone who is seriously seeking publication (which this person is) would discount the recommendations of others. I'm not talking about me -- but the links I gave her were written by some very well known folks. And, well, there was the King comment.

I simply don't understand.


It occurred to me, this morning, that I can't post pictures of our trip because you can clearly see the faces of my family. Some time ago, I posted a picture of my DD at her ballet recital, and received some slimy, anonymous comments that gave me the willies. I decided that I would never post identifiable pix of my family on this blog. I'm sorry... but one bad apple and all that...

I could post a picture of DH's boat (he wanted a new one -- because the boat has changed somehow since last years pictures?) or the scenery... but those are dull.

I can post a picture of Otto, though! How's that for a segue into Pillar Place? This was taken on Saturday (and because of how close I needed to get, it's a tad blurry -- which is why I couldn't take them when he was smaller):

Since then, he's probably tripled in size. Tomorrow will be Otto's tenth birthday (ten WHOLE days since he hatched), and he'll be transferred into the butterfly box because they make pupas sometime between ten and fourteen days and his container isn't big enough for when he becomes a butterfly, so he can't pupate in there.

We checked on the outside pillars, and found we'd lost some. DD was distraught and asked if we could bring them in. There were three, and I only had two containers, so one was left outside until Otto moves into the box. If she's still around on Wednesday, we'll grab her. Her name is Nellie. Please, God, let her live...

The other two are named Anne and Andy. I know "Anne" shouldn't have an "e" (they're named for the Raggedy's in case you hadn't picked that up), but I don't like how Ann(e) looks without an e.

Our next swallowtail should hatch on or about Thursday. Then two more a day later. And then a two day break, and the last one.

Raising pillars has been exhausting. I don't know if I'll do it again any time soon. Of course, it's probably like giving birth. Next year, I'll have forgotten what a pain it is!


I don't think they're asking the right questions...

You're a Gorilla!

Highly social and group-oriented, you like hanging out with the same people constantly. You have either black or gray hair and spend a good deal of time grooming it or getting others to groom it for you. Sleep is a big part of your daily routine and you like to either make very loud noise or no noise at all. You have more skills with language than most, however. One of your absolute favorite drinks is hot cocoa.

Take the Animal Quiz
at the Blue Pyramid.

I am SO not highly social, though I do typically have only one or two good friends that I hang with. NOT groups. Yes, I have dark hair, no I do not spend time grooming it -- what good would it do? My hair is hopeless. I'm good with the language skills and hot cocoa, though. :-)


DH was off yesterday and goes back to work today. My whole week is going to be messed up because today feels like Monday. Urgh.

Happy Whatever Day!


Allie Boniface said...

The person you're talking about actually belongs to one of my study groups at WVU...and I read the entire thread you're talking about and decided I wouldn't comment because I already knew how she would respond. It's unfortunuate when you take the time and others don't want to hear what you have to say.

Now that I think about it, I believe she's already moved on from our group to torture someone else's...

Rebecca Burgess said...

Many people don't really want honest advice, they want you to tell them they are right. Unfortunately, the internet doesn't allow for us to take in the whole person in our communication (body language, facial expressions, etc...) making it difficult to discern between the "I'm right, right!" people, and those who genuinely want your help. Please don't let one right seeker keep you from helping others; you have a lot to offer those who want to benefit from what you have to say.

Melissa said...


Good for you taking the time to explain further to the person. I'm just sorry they wouldn't listen to. Often writers aren't at a place where they can hear anyone, let alone published, experts, even editors. You just hope they will be there some day (sooner rather than later.) It's just sad that someone can't take advantage of the advice and your willingness to help them out. But kudos for giving it a shot!


Jen said...

LOL, Marianne, I remember that discussion! Anyway, as in all areas, there are those who just can't take advice. I know I've been guilty of it. But it's still completely annoying.

Otto's so cute!

Gay said...

I 100% agree with you, and I suspect you'll grab your red pen a few times at least when you get your copy of my book to read through (should arrive tomorrow, if it didn't today)... I know there'll be a few places where the damn things crept in when I wasn't looking. Those gnomes again, you know?

Some people don't want advice. Some people just want strokes. It happens in everything in life. But if you're ethical, you at least call them on it once and then drop the subject.

I've never worried about pix of family, including daughter... but she's always been a nationally competing athlete. Her pic has been "out there," so I figure whether or not it's on my blog or web site isn't going to make any difference.

MaryF said...

You may not have helped HER, but you may have helped someone else reading her blog!

Ick on the slimy comment about your daughter!