About The Crucible

You're excited. You wrote what you think is a great story, essay, poem, or report. Your mother loves it, your significant other is ape about it, and all your friends clamor for you to write more. Still, you harbor these nagging doubts...is your writing really good, or is everyone just being nice to you? Well, there's good news for all who find themselves in this predicament:

I ain't your mother or your friend, I know something about writing, and I'm willing to reveal blunt, unvarnished truth about your writing.

If you're brave enough, send me a chunk (no more than 1000 words) of what you consider your best writing. I want the best from you, something that you seriously think you really shouldn't change much. Maybe a few word changes or the odd punctuation, but overall, you're really pleased with this sample of your writing. Fill me in on any back story you think I need to understand it. So often, I get writing that starts with "Now I know this needs work, but...." or “This is just a draft, but...” So no excuses. You send me something and stand by it and say, "I like this. I think it's really good. I can't find anything in it that I would really change. This is my best."

If the idea of standing behind your writing 100% intimidates you, why not visit Hammer & Tongs and beat some chinks out of your writing? It may boost your confidence enough to dive into The Crucible. I'll post your writing sample in The Crucible with my critique of it for the benefit of all who visit.

If you have a question about writing for Hammer & Tongs or a writing sample for The Crucible, send it to unlikelyson@gmail.com.

Here's what I expect from you:

You firmly suppress your ego. You understand that my opinions about your writing say nothing about your intelligence, your ability, or any other aspect of you as a person. You're a stranger to me. I couldn't make any kind of personal assessment of you even if I wanted. In general, I view anyone who endeavors to write as probably above average in intelligence.

You understand that my opinion is just that, an opinion. However, I almost always back my opinion with good reasoning so you know I didn't just pull it out of the air.

You understand that my opinion is not meant to make you write my way or change your story to my liking. It is meant to point out definite errors, sure, but mostly it is meant to show you ways to improve, particularly in clarity and meaning. It's meant to encourage you. If you've read any of my critiques, you know I don't hand out praise often, but when I do, it means something. Finally, it's meant to spur you, to excite you about writing.

You will not send me any graphic sex writing. By graphic sex, I mean writing that aims to describe the physical sex act and body parts and their size and how they work. Sorry, I think that type of content is trash, regardless of how technically well-written, and a wastebasket is the only way to improve it. Romance, Detective, Horror, Sci-Fi, Academic, Technical...anything else is A-OK to send. However, I reserve the right to opt out of anything that makes me uncomfortable. On the whole, I think authors today try to out-sex, out-profane, and out-gruesome each other, and the world could do with some authors who write with a little more profundity, insight, and dare I say it, inspiration.

You will not send me someone else's writing and claim it as your own. To some, nothing salves their own inadequacies better than to knock a person down a peg, particularly a person they know possesses considerably more experience and expertise than themselves.

“Hah!” they say after my critique. “That was <famous author>! This proves you don't know anything about writing!”

What it proves is that you are a liar, and I can competently critique even a famous author's writing. Sorry, but celebrity does not a good writer make. Witness the Twilight series and Fifty Shades of Gray. Popular? Yes. Good writing? Nope - patently awful to the core writing by just about any standard. I think Joyce and Faulkner were technically great, but terrible writers. Readers should not need to part with a pound of flesh to gain an ounce of meaning. I think Stephen King is a writing god, but I dislike most horror. However, I read The Green Mile, and sheesh...just try to change a single word...you can't. I can only wish my writing were as clean and efficient. I think most of Maya Angelou's “poetry” stinks on ice.

The point is this: everyone has an opinion - dime a dozen. What separates the expert from the herd is reasoning. An expert can give you solid reasons to back his opinion, where others simply say things like, “Didn't work for me” or “It's clunky” or “I like it”. An expert can pinpoint exactly what's wrong or right and why. I consider myself an expert in writing.

In short, be honest. Send your own writing. Or, if you want my opinion on an excerpt of some famous author's writing, tell me. I have no problem critiquing famous authors. Just don't lie.

So what's the problem? Go ahead...make my day. Heh, heh.

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