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But bearing in mind that the novel is already completed, I'm not conceited enough (even if I am an editor) to say, "OK, now go back and rewrite the whole thing in the style I'm suggesting" -- which is essentially what "criticism" of the excerpt would imply.

I don't think that's the case. Do you have to be an artist to identify good art? Or a musician to know when you like something? Sometimes having a passing familiarity with the skill necessary can hinder or help the ability to critique a piece, so by and large I'd argue that it's a non-issue either way.

Without a few fiction novels under my belt, I don't feel I have the expertise/experience to say "Trust me. I know what I'm talking about."

Well, I don't know if anyone here can honestly say "I know what I'm talking about" since, as far as I know, none of us are published and highly successful fiction writers. Granted, I do get extremely assertive about some stuff, but that's from reading enough about the process that at the very least I think I understand the superficial concerns. But that's still a far cry from first-hand experience.

When it comes to fiction, all I can say (editorially) at this point is "I know what I like." And that may very well not be what other people like, or what the author is aiming for.

Sure, but that's a given. We express our opinions and commentary, and Mark (and whoever else opens themselves up) can accept or deny our "contributions". At the very least everyone's comments are food for thought.

Also, the vast majority of sci-fi out there I consider complete crap. I mean, utter and complete crap. There are very famous and well liked authors that I can't stand, and some authors that I greatly enjoy who are very obscure. So in the end, anyone who is being critiqued needs to understand that different people have different viewpoints.

I absolutely loved "The Fifth Element" and really thought "The Matrix" was average. Most people are quite the opposite.

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