1. "Your opening hooked me right away."
"This starts in the wrong place."
2. "This paragraph is awkward. Consider different phrasing."
"Love this paragraph!"
3. "I don't understand this sentence."
"Can totally relate to this!"
These are just a few of the types of critiques I've gotten recently. Two different people commenting on the exact same issues. With completely different feedback.
Oh, the frustration!
When I'm editing, differing opinions and suggestions like these often confuse me and sometimes make me want to pull out all of my hair. My biggest fear is changing it too much, thus causing "me" to disappear altogether, along with the vision I had for the story.
Everyone has an opinion, which really stinks when it comes to receiving critiques. Correcting grammar, commenting on passive phrasing, or pointing out tense changes is one thing. But when it comes to personal preference, how do we know who to listen to?
The answer is we don't. That's when we have to trust our "gut." While many authors hold onto critiques to refer back to later, I don't. I open the document, along with my manuscript, go through each comment and make changes immediately, based on whether I think it's a good suggestion at the time. When I'm done, I delete the critique. If I didn't do it this way, I would make myself crazy. And Lord knows, I'm crazy enough already.
I'll admit that sometimes I get annoyed when I first read through a critique, especially when there's a ton of "red" comments. But if I really think about the advice being offered (and remind myself they are trying to help me, not make me cry), I can usually understand what they're saying. Then I have to weigh it against the other comments I've received - and my gut - and decide if it's something I should implement.
The most important thing to remember is that not everyone will "get" you or like your writing style. This plays into the scores from contest judges. Most of my non-finaling entries have earned two very high scores and one very low score. Interestingly, I've also found that unpublished authors are often the toughest judges. We aren't as forgiving for breaking the "rules." (I don't fit in with that "often" group, by the way. I am pretty forgiving as long as it works within the story or the author's voice.)
I am so thankful for all of my critique buddies and truly appreciate the time and effort they put towards making me a better writer and my manuscript publishable. No matter how they sometimes drive me crazy!
What about you? How do you handle conflicting critiques?