I got a kick out of Nick Mamatas’ Ten Bits of Advice Writers Should Stop Giving Aspiring Writers. (If you’re allergic to profanity, avoid this piece!) Probably because I’m SO tired of hearing some of these things regurgitated SO often. But my favorite, hands down, is number six:
We should stop telling aspiring writers… It’s All Subjective
Because it’s NOT. It not ALL subjective.
The Submission Guidelines to that publisher you hope to land are NOT SUBJECTIVE. Just try ignoring them and find out. You can disagree with the Chicago Manual of Style all you want, but if it represents, as its subtitle suggests, “the Essential Guide for Writers, Publishers, and Editors,” then ignore it at your own risk. And if good writing is subjective, then why are there so many books and blogs and seminars and courses and manuals on… how to write better? If good writing is subjective then there is no need to get better at it. In fact, “getting better” is completely relative.
As much as we dislike the Rules, there really are some Rules an aspiring author should try to master before they go breaking them. Which means… it’s not ALL subjective.
I can hear it now. People have different tastes, you object. Some folks hate peas and Hemingway, while others like chopped liver and Pollock.
Well, no duh.
There’s a difference between your “taste” in something and the actual quality of the product. A good reader / reviewer / critic should be able to separate the two. Just because I don’t “like” liver does not mean liver can’t be properly cooked. In the same way, just because I don’t “like” Amish fiction does not mean it can’t be well-written. Similarly, I might not “like” a film, but that shouldn’t keep me from admitting it was well-made. Conversely, I can admit a film is poorly made, but still believe the story has merit.
People who suggest that “Good writing is ALL subjective” are usually referring to taste, not quality.
For the moment they concede there IS a standard for quality writing, they undermine their own argument. So you must make a distinction between “preference” and “precedence,” between “what you like” and “what is well-done.”
Essayist and art critic Dan Schneider, in a rather academic piece entitled Objectivity, Subjectivity, And The Fallacy Of Self Limits In The Arts affirms that “Subjectivity exists, but in the small gaps between easily identifiable (i.e- objective) quanta.”
The critic that claims there are no objective criteria on which to base an opinion of something is really stating their own inability in doing so… Those who claim that all is subjective are a curious lot, for if they really believed that then they would not argue the point, since its arguing belies their belief in its objective nature. If all is subjective, after all, then all viewpoints are equally viable. But that is, again, patently silly. (emphasis mine)
If there is no “easily identifiable (i.e- objective) quanta,” for what makes a good story, then puking on the page is just as reasonable as polishing the prose.
Make no mistake about it: One of the primary reasons people play the “subjective card” is to excuse bad art or their taste in it. Your writing might really suck. But how will you ever admit that if you believe… it’s all subjective?
If you’re still not convinced, if you really think good writing is all subjective, then here’s a quote from my new book entitled “Abstract Writing.”
“Wjhdf lguyrk. Jvn ksdnajf nN le-5bx784nfgv? Khtv 3rlkjvn dvk.erjgb. Mfkiuvlrl v943jm ;dnv. Swu676woulOd, lbpv-5i! ybDD! GGG. Hanfurgd fiyrnkd. ## dor887bJHG…”
Question: Would you like to pre-order a copy?