Thursday, February 3, 2011

Those Crazy Critiquers

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 Interestingly, I've also found that unpublished authors are often the toughest judges.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?


Dara said...

I get conflicting critiques all the time. Generally I'll read each comment and weigh it against what I want for the story. Basically I go with what my "gut" tells me.

As much as I want to please everyone, that won't happen. So I just do my best to follow instinct.

Joanne Sher said...

It's hard. Like you, I have no choice but to go with my gut. If I have two saying one thing and one another, I'll probably go with the two, though.

Sarah Forgrave said...

Oh boy, I think this is something every writer struggles with. I loved that I had 3 judges in the Genesis...If two of them had differing opinions, I used the 3rd one as a sort of tiebreaker. But you're right, ultimately we have to make sure we don't lose ourselves in the process.

Great post!

Ralene said...

Like Sara mentioned, if I have 2 conflicting opinions, I wait to see if someone else gives the same critique. Often, if only one person says something, I consider it and, if I don't agree, discard it. If mutiple people start saying the same thing, then I have to stop and consider it more closely.

Katie Ganshert said...

This is stellar advice! Too much feedback can definitely be confusing. Look for consistencies and go with your gut!

Linda Glaz said...

Smith and Wesson works well.
JUST KIDDING! Getting the diff opinions is awesome, reminds us there are as many readers out there with diff opinions as well. Woohoo, somebody's gonna like it!

Sally said...

With different opinions it provides that broader scope to see your work from several angles. I have a harder time keeping my emotions from being involved.

Pamela Hamer said...

We are on the same page with this one. Follow your gut. At what point would you get a (editor)? Is that a person that you pay to critique it? I've thought about hiring someone to go through my manuscript for me at some point.

Lynda Schab said...

ROFL, Linda!

Pam, it's totally up to you to get your ms professionally edited. I personally wouldn't pay for it when ACFW has so many wonderful authors to exchanged crits with for free. I might consider it if I'd submitted my ms to several agents and wasn't getting anywhere. Then in would definitely help to get an expert opinion. :-)

John'aLee said...

Just found your blog and LOVE it. I too am an aspiring writer. I've been studying the industry for over 15 years and am working on some memoirs.
So glad to have found you....
I'm your newest follower!

Lynda Schab said...

Welcome, John'aLee! I'm honored that you stopped by and, better yet, are now following my blog. Much success to you with your memoirs!

Deborah Anderson said...

Love your new look, Lynda.

Conflicting critiques? I never get any. (If you believe that, I have land I'd like to sell you.)

If I get several people, all of them pointing out the same thing, I pay attention.

Lynda Schab said...

Thanks, Deborah. We'll have an opportunity for conflicting critiques very soon with the return of our Genesis entries. You entered this year, didn't you?

Ang said...

When I get conflicting critiques, I try to rework things so that the two critiques meet in the middle, so to speak. I love criticism on my work, so I try to follow that criticism unless I feel it wouldn't help the story out at all.