The Lost Art of Manners

Interview by Regan Leigh
April 4, 2011
Open Wound
April 12, 2011
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The Lost Art of Manners

I grew up in the Midwest were people are generally pleasant and say please and thank you. I thought this was the way things were in the world.

And then I moved to the South.

If manners in the Midwest are a condiment, they’re a heaping side dish in the South chock full of syrupy pleasantries. I loved it. I loved the not just “thank you” but “thank you, darlin’ aren’t you so sweet?” I loved the way children were raised to say “”yes, ma’am” and “yes, sir” when asked a question. I loved the way people would willingly let you in traffic and with a friendly hand wave to accompany the gesture. The South is full of over the top goodness.

I moved back the Midwest, but I’ve tried hard to instill Southern manners in my younger children. Some days I’m successful, others not so much. It’s a work in progress yet it’s an important part of parenting, teaching our children to appreciate when someone does something for them.

This has been on my mind in regards to the writing world.  When we write our babies, we need people to review our work. We need critique and beta readers to point out the things they like and also the things they think need work. Some people are nicer about this than others, and honestly, that’s a whole other post.  The point is, other writers read and critique your work and take their valuable time to do it. They could be writing on their manuscripts, or spending time with their family or friends, yet they took HOURS to read your masterpiece. Hopefully, they enjoyed it. Maybe they didn’t.  Nevertheless, no matter what their final conclusion is, no matter whether you agree with their opinion or not (and honestly, I don’t always agree, no one does) THEY DID THIS FOR YOU. They send it back and you say THANK YOU.

I am continually astounded by the number of people who don’t.

It’s not just happening to me. Lately, I’ve heard other writers mention the same thing. They send back a beta read or critique and never hear a word. I understand hurt feelings and frustration, but in my opinion, a thank you is still in order. Besides, after their words have sat around awhile, you might realize that they had a point. All the more reason to thank them.

I’m taking a new approach to critiquing, a little bit of tough love.  If I critique or beta read a few chapters and I’m not thanked, I’ll let it go as an oversight. But if it happens again, I’m going to respectfully decline.  I deserve a little appreciation. And so do you.

What I’m listening to: Evans Blue, Cold (But I’m Still Here)

6 Comments

  1. J. Koyanagi says:

    I couldn’t agree more. I do try to give them the benefit of the doubt, like maybe my critique never got there, or maybe they’re overwhelmed and it simply slipped their mind (goodness knows this happens to me). It happens.

    But when I never receive a thank you for two, three, four critiques, or even just an acknowledgment that they’re reading the critique, I do start to wonder whether I’m wasting my time. You’re right; good, thorough critiques are time-consuming. Even if I can’t understand where a beta reader is coming from, I’m sincerely grateful they’ve taken the time and energy to evaluate my work.

    So yes. Great post. 🙂

  2. Alta - says:

    If I was one of those people that didn’t say thank you, then you have my sincerest apologies, and a huge, heaping thank you from me 🙂
    I know I usually try to say thank you when I get something back from people. Even if it’s a harsh critique, I still try to thank them for the time they put into it.

  3. Alicia Dean says:

    Very good post, Denise. I am one who need beta readers/critiquers quite often and I sincerely hope that I show them my gratitude. It takes a LOT of time to read someone else’s work and it deserves, at the very least, a thank you. I have been on the other side of the fence, too, as someone who critiques for others (a great deal, it seems. Yikes, do I have a lot of projects awaiting me right now ) I think you bring up an excellent point. In my opinion, not only should you get a ‘thank you,’ but the favor should be returned and the other person should offer their assistance to you.

    I can’t say I’m always in total agreement with the critiques I receive, but I can say that I’ve found at least SOMETHING helpful in each one. And, whether or not I agree, the time that it took for the other person to read my stuff is greatly appreciated. You know, the critiquers/Beta readers who DON’T like your stuff should get an even bigger thank you. They actually had to SUFFER while helping you out. 🙂

    Sorry for such a lengthy comment. I’ll get back to work now.

  4. Gretchen says:

    Ouch, runs off to thank Kathy and Sara. Also Alta you too if I didn’t do it before. And Denise if I forget. Thank you so much, Darlin, you’re so sweet to take the time to do that for me. (put that on my account) 🙂 because I do appreciate it.

  5. dms052564 says:

    Lest everyone think I’m a total hard ass, I KNOW people get busy and forget. Shoot, *I* get busy and forget, but hopefully, it’s with someone I have an existing relationship with and I’ve consistently said thank you, so one missed one is overlooked.

    I’m talking about people who continually give material for review and NEVER, EVER thank the person critiquing.

  6. Excellent points Denise.

    The lack of a simple thank you is a glaring caution sign to me. No matter the feedback, the Beta/critter took time away from their own lives to help you out. It should be appreciated.

    IMO, this goes for contest judges too. I’ve been spending alot of time judging contests this past year. At least a dozen so far. So if you multiply five by seven entries per contest–I’ve probably judged close to seventy entries this year. Of those seventy, I’ve received 4 thank yous. And all but one were were from authors who’d moved onto the finals.

    I thank my judges regardless of whether I agree with their feedback, regardless of whether their one score prevented me from entering the finals–they took time from their busy lives to do me a favor, and they should be thanked for it.

    Plus- you’d be surprised at the value of a simple thank you. I’ve had judges respond back, and we’ve developed friendships. I’ve even had judges offer to hook me up with their agents. Sometimes a simple thank you can have unexpected, but very nice results.

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