Allow me to tell you a story. After my recent hand injury, and subsequent surgery, which I still haven’t fully recovered from, I decided to try to submit my latest work of fiction, With Rainbow Hair, which only had two chapters at the time, to the world-famous brony blog, Equestria Daily.
Why? Well, because it’s the first story I’ve written with no romantic plot or sub-plot. And they have some rule against what they call ‘foalshipping.’ I’m pretty sure that means romance involving the younger members of the cast. Yes, all my other stories do contain romance involving at least one the famous Cutie Mark Crusaders. Why? Because it seems more interesting that way. In A Waking Dragon it’s a minor sub-plot, but it’s there.
I did submit My Little Destiny back in the day. But I never got a response, and since I learned of that rule, I never bothered submitting again, given future plot points.
Now, some may think this restriction on Equestria Daily, the banning of ‘foalshipping’ material on their site, constitutes censorship. I’ve seen quite a few people make this accusation. But I call bullshit!
It is a bit unfair that the most popular site, and pseudo central hub for all things brony, would make random and pointless restrictions on their content. After all, whether the romance involves Rarity or Sweetie Belle, what difference does it make from a moral perspective? But at the end of the day, it’s their site, and they can do what they want. They’re a private business, not a publicly owned institution.
That’s not to say we can’t criticize such action, we can. But calling it ‘censorship’ is just insane. After all, they don’t publish the material. They don’t host anything. In fact all they do is promote fan fiction. It has to be hosted on other sites, like FiMFiction, or the Pony Fiction Archive. If someone really wants to read ‘foalshipping’ material, they can go to those sites, or any other.
It’s the free market at work people!
But anyway, With Rainbow Hair doesn’t feature any shipping. Not even a little. So, that fact, combined with my incredible writing skills, made me think I was a shoe-in to get promoted on Equestria Daily. I’d get so much traffic, I’d be able to bathe in it. Maybe even some critical responses that would get me to think about certain plot-points. And more fans, motivating me to keep on writing!
How great would that have been!? Well It would have been fantastic. If only I actually got accepted.
No, they actually turned me down, and it made me angry. Not at Equestria Daily. They have a standard they want to keep and I salute them for it. No, the people I’m angry at are all the people who lied to me.
Lied? People lied? Yes, they lied! Like any self-respecting writer, I asked for feedback on my work. Why? Because I want to be a better writer. And the only way to get better is by being challenged to get better. Criticism makes you aware of your faults, and allows you to fix them.
Now, it is true that it’s not the responsibility of the average reader to comb for errors. But when one offers to be an editor, and responds with: It’s perfect. When it’s not. Well, that can make you angry.
Yeah, someone actually said one of my pieces was ‘perfect.’
But of course, it is true that I never asked any of them to edit With Rainbow Hair. But I did notice one thing. That most of the criticisms levelled at my submission, also apply to the vast majority of my earlier works.
Let’s go through the letter. In fact, I’m gonna go through the entire thing, even though I don’t really need to.
Response (strike one of three):
Okay, first off, calling it a ‘strike,’ makes it look like I did something wrong. But I digress.
Dear The Black Widower,
Thank you for taking the time to submit this story to Equestria Daily. We are sorry that it took so long to get back to you, but our pre-readers have been inordinately busy as of late dealing with a deluge of stories and personal issues.
I submitted it on the 19th of December. This response, I got on the 1st of January. That’s less than two weeks. That’s not long at all. If it was several months I could understand an apology. But this is unnecessary.
Wait, are people that impatient that they’ve been complaining of a two-week wait? Oi…
We are sorry to inform you that this work does not yet meet the criteria for the types of works that we seek to add to the blog. There are a number of reasons why this should be the case.
1.) Comma confusion abounds. Some series of nouns are missing a comma after the second noun. In some of your dialogs, you are missing a comma before the proper noun. The sentences should read “You might be on to something there, Pinks” with the comma before the name. Furthermore commas are sometimes used to add clauses to sentences that should instead stand on their own. In the second chapter, you have a sentence that begins with “As she held the sword in her teeth…” That sentence contains four clauses held together awkwardly by five commas! It could, and should, be at least two sentences, probably three. The over-use of commas in another sentence separates to clauses that should be a single one. The clauses “… once clouded over, a milky white…” is more easily understood as “once clouded over and milky white”. All of these comma troubles must be addressed before we can consider the work for further review.
2.) Ellipses require a space after each use… as you see here. This is easily fixed with the find/replace function on most word processors.
These errors are not exclusive to With Rainbow Hair. In fact I noticed them in my earlier works, but I didn’t actually think of them as errors at the time. Does that seem weird?
3.) Word repetition. “Zoomed” is used twice in a single sentence in the first chapter. This was in a sentence that should be multiple sentences as well.
The repetition was actually intentional. She made the exact same movement, twice. It only made sense to use the same word.
4.) Missing words. In the second chapter, Twilight says “I got to go”. Did you mean “I’ve”, perhaps?
No, that was in dialogue, and it was a colloquialism. She was under stress. The fact that she dropped a syllable shouldn’t be that surprising.
5.) Word choice. You describe Fluttershy as an “elder pegasus”. As nothing about her in the story seems to suggest she’s ready for the retirement home, we suggest “older pegasus”.
Really now? Shall we?
- : of earlier birth or greater age
- : of or relating to earlier times : former
- archaic : of or relating to a more advanced time of life
- : prior or superior in rank, office, or validity
Notice the definition he refers to, regarding the elderly, is actually listed as ‘archaic.’ ‘Elder’ simply means ‘older than,” as in, ‘older than the other pegasus in the room, Scootaloo.’
6.) Capitalization errors. You capitalize “the Citadel” and “Grand Reopening” when they are being used as common nouns instead of proper ones. Please rectify this error.
Huh, never thought of that. I thought of them as colloquialisms, or alternative names. The grand reopening was an event, given a proper name. One that is granted to a lot of events.
Then there’s the citadel. It’s not just any citadel, it’s the citadel! That’s what we call it. It’s its colloquialized name. Then again, I didn’t capitalize ‘the,’ so he’s probably onto something.
The above were all mechanics and grammar. The problems we are having below reflect the narrative.
Oh boy, now you want to mess with my baby? Let’s see.
7.) Fluttershy is described as “battle-hardened”. What is up with that? Is this a reference to an earlier story?
She just got through fighting her way past a blood-thirsty zombie horde. Did you miss that?
8.) While it is necessary to set up your work, the emphasis on the Pangare Crisis (crisis should be capitalized, as it is a specific crisis, such as the Suez Crisis), distracts from the narrative you are attempting to develop. Either do more to explain why it is important, or reduce its presence.
Yeah, it’s not really relevant to the main plot, at least in such detail, but trying to avoid it is like trying to avoid talking about the literal elephant in the room.
It was originally supposed to be a minor plot-device. Then it kept growing out of control. If I didn’t mention it, it’d feel like I was avoiding it. The entire population was zombified. I can’t just ignore that.
9.) Can nothing be done to move up the parts concerning Dash? If this story is truly about her abilities, then we need to learn about them sooner. Perhaps a flashback at the beginning to a time when she first realized that they exist?
…No. The story is about a lot of things, not just Rainbow’s abilities. Other things have to be covered first.
I’m reminded of the criticism I got on My Little Destiny. A lot of people said the encounter between the Destiny crew and the natives of Equestria was taking too long, and they were probably right. It’s not until chapter eleven that they actually have any sort of interaction. But damn it, I regret nothing! Those early chapters were crucial to character growth, and for establishing important plot points.
The story wasn’t ‘about’ getting these two groups together, though that certainly does happen. It’s about the challenges they face, both independently, and together.
This must seem like quite a list. Please do not feel like we are attempting to antagonize you. We are simply looking to make the story approachable by our readership. The best advice we can offer is for you to find an editor who can help point out what we noted here. Best of luck!
Hey, I’m grateful. I just wish someone told me sooner.
Yeah, not all of their criticism is apt. In fact, much of it isn’t, at least in my mind. Me and him could probably go back and forth on this, which would be a fun little ride. I’d love that discussion. But I doubt anything would come of it.
See, I have this little rule. Once I publish, I leave it alone. I don’t go back over my old work. If I did, I’d probably never do anything new. Apparently some people do go back over their old work, and that’s exactly what happens. They become trapped.
That’s exactly what happened to Survival Guide to the Apocalypse, a webcomic about exactly what you think. They started to redo their early comics and since then, nothing new was released. Actually, that site hasn’t been updated in over five years. What the hell!?
So, now that those chapters are published, I’m not going back. I’m married to them, and yes, it’s a very happy marriage.
I might rewrite some of my old work some day. But I never went back to The Equestrian Incursion, and I’m not sure I ever will.
So, it’s too late. There’s nothing I can do. If I was told about this earlier, instead of being lied to. Things might have been different.
But why would someone lie like that!? Why would they do something so evil? Well, I’ll tell you. Because of the old brony philosophy: Love and Tolerate.
Excuse me while I vomit.
Ostensibly, that’s a good thing. Tolerate the actions of others, and love everyone, no matter who they are. But the problem is, so many people interpret it as being overly nice and considerate, to the point that they all find any sort of criticism to be a personal offence.
I’ve criticized the work of others. Why? Because I think of it as a public service. Someone needs to tell them the truth, so they can get better. But many have reacted with anger.
One person, DawnFelix, wrote a story that contained the following line:
“That does not mean he it’s yours!” Rainbow Dash respond aggressive way.
He submitted it to a DeviantArt group, of which I happen to be a high-ranking administrator. I explained what was wrong with that line, and even made the proper corrections. I also offered to edit the entire piece so it would be readable, if nothing else. He responded by saying that grammar was a matter of opinion, and that we were just arrogant. (Sadly I can’t link to this because it would just result in a 403 error.) He followed this up in his DeviantArt blog, by saying that we were just jealous of his amazing talent, and that we attacked him.
Well, considering he thought a sentence with two subject nouns was properly structured, I can safely say I’m not jealous of anything he has. There are people whose talents I can definitely say I’m jealous of. I can name them. But he’s not one of them.
Now as for attacking. I don’t see how an offer of assistance can possibly be considered an attack. Yes, I offered my assistance. That’s not an attack, that’s the opposite of an attack. It’s… a… generous donation. How could that possibly be considered an attack!?
Even more recently, someone reacted to my criticism with profanity, and ad hominems. The weird part? It wasn’t even their work I was criticizing; it was someone else’s. The actual artist appreciated my criticism, and was happy about it. Despite my less than diplomatic approach.
Now why would someone react in such a way? Well if everyone else responds with praise and chocolates, another responding with rational criticism might feel like a personal attack. Their baseline is altered.
And generally that’s what happens in the brony community. Most people praise mediocre, and stay silent on crap. People get rose petals, when they deserve tomatoes.
A great man once said, “Criticism is a powerful force for good.” I think he was right. But so many people are being showered with false praise, they expect it as the default, so when they encounter even legitimate criticism, they react with antagonism. Can we please stop this? Can we please learn to criticise; to critique; to find fault in anything? And can we please learn to take criticism like adults?
Some may argue that nitpicking in such a way is unnecessary. But shouldn’t we strive for perfection? Shouldn’t we take any little problem, and at least point it out? I’m not saying we should demand perfection from artists. But we should strive for perfection as artists. We should always try to get better. Never stagnate.
I don’t know if that’ll ever happen, but let’s try.