Nathan Bransford, Author


Wednesday, February 13, 2008

When Do You Follow/Ignore Writing Advice?

One of the very most difficult aspects of the writing process for any author is how to respond to feedback about their writing.

Listening to feedback in order to improve one's work is an incredibly important skill, and some authors are adept at skillfully improving their drafts based on the advice they receive (I've seen it happen). But what happens when you don't necessarily agree with the advice?

What is the balance between listening and ignoring? Do you follow the people you trust or go with your gut? Should you bow to someone with more experience or trust your own instincts? When do you go with the advice and when do you hold firm?

Successful revisions hang in the balance!






95 comments:

Furious D said...

Hmmm...

I think it would depend on the advice and the reasons behind it.

Some advice is given because of the honest desire to improve the work. Other advice can be just someone being in love with the sound of their own voice.

I guess the secret is to discern which is which.

I try to be open to constructive feedback, because I'm always looking to improve my work.

Laurel Amberdine said...

Great question!

I depends a lot on who is giving the advice and what I'm hoping to achieve.

- If the advice is from an editor or agent, I'd do it unless it's going to turn my work into something I couldn't bear to have to have my name on.

- Readers are always right. If a reader is confused or bored or irritated... I did it wrong. Sometimes I can't simultaneously address every reader's concerns, but I would always try.

- The biggest "should I do this?" issue comes from writer/critiquers who often want to revise things into their own vision of a story, or to whatever standards they've decided are obligatory.

In that case, of course I take advice I agree with. But, if it's not too much trouble, and I have the time, I'll try advice I don't agree with, just to see how it turns out.

calendula-witch said...

Good question, indeed. I try to always listen to advice, especially from my solid (and published) crit partners. But when I get contradictory advice from different people, I tend to either change it a different way altogether (figuring I confused people anyway), or stay with what I had in the first place (if I still like it.)

Adrienne said...

I say go for the gut. But the gut only comes into play after I've really taken in the advice and theoretically applied it. I get defensive almost right away with any edits and suggestions (I can't deny it). I have learned however, to still take them in and see if the person maybe has a point. Many times they actually do. But sometimes, after giving their advice a shot, it still feels wrong.

Of course it also helps to respect the source of the advice. There are certain people I will listen to wholeheartedly, I might not agree in the end, but I will give their advice due attention. Then there are others that I will nod and smile at, and forget about two seconds later.

Roxan said...

If one opinion out of several is different, I tend not to listen to the one. If it is something everyone is pointing out, then I will consider their advice.
Then sometimes I'm really stubborn, especially when I like something I wrote and flat refuse to change it.
I agree with furious d's assessment of those who just like the sound of their own voice. I also run across those who will say negative things no matter what.

Cory said...

As the other commenters said, it depends on who's giving the advice and the reason behind it, which can be difficult to discern. Most often, though, I find myself agreeing with people's criticism, so it works out fine for me.

If I don't agree but don't feel strongly about it, I'll give it a try to see what works better; only if I feel very strongly that following advice given would ruin my intentions for something will I refuse to change anything (and that's only after I've given it a lot of thought).

Anonymous said...

Well, I think you have to consider the source.

For example,if you are writing experimental lit fic, better to listen to someone who loves your voice, your sense of writing, (editor, agent, teacher, etc.) and such a person can really help to refine or improve it.

However, someone who writes -and lives for- spy novels might not be an appropriate for that kind of writer in many cases.

A wise woman once said to me, do not try to make a yellow flower red. It will frustrate both of you.

However, if someone -in the advice department- really gets what kind of a writer you are, or are trying to be, -and wants to contribute to the development and realization of that process- I think that in itself is very helpful to taking their advice.

Also, if you are in school or have signed on with someone, well, in affect you have hired them as an adviser and expert. If you can't at least listen to them, and consider what they have to say, perhaps you should find a different expert.

However, as Keroack said in his 30 Essentials...

storyengineer said...

I've been a lurker on this blog for several months. This is a great question, and I want to comment on it. First, however, I just wanted to say that I gave this blog an award. I love the query tips and the sense of humor you have. For that, thanks!

sex scenes at starbucks said...

I always carefully consider advice given to me by industry insiders--you folks on the business side. It's all served me well, so far.

I have four critiquers and I know their style, preferences, and biases very well. One person's advice I take almost without thinking, because s/he's always been spot on. Another's advice sometimes doesn't work for me because s/he often misses how the trees build up the forest. And yet another won't take their fiction as dark and dirty as I'll take mine, so I recognise their qualms when I see them. Generally, though, I'm very fortunate in the advice/critting department.

Dwight's Writing Manifesto said...

You should listen to everyone kind (or unkind) enough to give you feedback.

But God gave you a middle finger for a reason.

At the end of the day, it's YOUR art, Pedro.

storyengineer said...

The first thing I do when I get writing advice is to look at the story again. If I agree with them, I'll change it. If I don't agree with they're suggestions, I'll at least consider changing it another way to make it better. I find that I haven't written it the best way the first time, so the advice at least points me to trouble spots.

Jessica said...

Ooh, a question very near and dear to my heart, as I'm currently sifting through a big batch of critiques. It is a tough question and one that I've been wrestling with.

Unsurprisingly, I make changes that I agree with. If, as I'm reading through the comments, I find myself nodding along, that gets pretty quickly changed. I also make changes if I have more than one reader comment on the same thing.

If the reader seems to 'get' the novel overall and have a good sense for what I am trying to accomplish, then I tend to give a little more weight to their suggestions. They are usually spot-on.

I also give more weight to readers who read the genre, but I don't discount comments from those who don't.

It's incredibly frustrating when readers come back with opposite feedback on the same thing. Half the readers think that a particular scene or aspect of the writing is what makes the book, and the other half think that the same ruins the book. When that happens, I will sometimes just go with my gut. I try to reread that section as objectively as possible, but know that ultimately it is my book and the final decision is mine. If I feel that it still works, despite suggestions otherwise, I'll stick with it. Sometimes I'll do as laurel amberdine suggested, and try rewriting according to the critiques, then compare the two versions.

I'm struggling now with conflicting critiques and am still stumped as to how to proceed, so this is an interesting question! I'm curious to see how others respond.

Jared X said...

Comments I always at least consider revising for:

"I didn't believe the part where..."

"This part was a little slow."

"Oh, was that supposed to be funny? I get it now. [polite laughter]"

"How did she back down the driveway when she was still in the house?"

"Dude, I was, like, sticking an open Sharpie in my eye to stay awake."

All advice can be helpful, even if it doesn't ultimately lead to revision. If the person's advice isn't valued, he/she should have to buy a copy like everyone else.

Angela said...

Revision suggestions from someone I trust: I try it. Even if I don’t like it; I try it. Sometimes the changes work; sometimes they don’t.

Writing isn’t sculpting – if someone advises a sculptor to chop parts off her art, it might be a little bit difficult to put back together again.

A writer can go back to the ov if the revisions don’t work.

Adaora A. said...

Good topic.

In my opinion if I don't agree I tend to have a crack at giving it a rework based on suggestions (and I keep the original). You can rework it with their suggestions, and ask - people you trust - which version they prefer. If they say the new version, they could be right. Sometimes writers are attached to the original version because of that old; 'blood, sweat and tears,' being put into the work. Sometimes it serves to give it another angle and see which works best. I always take advice as something given with a desire for it to be better be it agents or your steadfast reader.

Brenda said...

Thanks for this post, Nathan.

I think cultivating a tough skin and a good ear for listening is really essential.

A dear author friend of mine once said that edit advice should be taken by a writer like a doctor reviewing symptoms. Having this viewpoint makes me less touchy about what people say. Even when they say very definite things like, "I hate your protagonist."
I label such comments as 'concerns with protagonist' and move on. If several people were to say the same thing, I would see their response as a stronger symptom, but not the problem itself. It is for me to assess the trouble area of protagonist-likeability and make my own diagnosis about what makes my character seem unlikeable. Sometimes a change only involves minor cosmetics. At others, major surgery.

I agree that some people are way more qualified to give critique than others. I really appreciate input from agents and editors, even rejections.
During final edits, I also like to get cold reads from people who might be target readers. They catch glitches in story that really open my eyes.

Mon Chéri said...

It depends on the source and my gut.

I have received conflicting advice from two sources that were equally qualified. They personally knew each other and thought it was funny they gave me apposing advise. In the end, they both agreed that it was up to me, the author, to decide. So if I mess it up, it rests on no one else’s shoulders but mine. After all, the author should know the story and the characters better than anyone else. And the author should be able to see if the advice will actually help or hinder the story.

Other Lisa said...

if someone -in the advice department- really gets what kind of a writer you are, or are trying to be, -and wants to contribute to the development and realization of that process- I think that in itself is very helpful to taking their advice.

I think this is exactly right.

The important thing as a writer is that you really try to listen, to keep an open mind, to not let your ego get in the way of hearing what has been said.

The quality of the advice and the way it's delivered make a huge difference for that last part.

I've been incredibly lucky in that regard.

Regarding conflicting advice, I've had that happen too. This really comes down to whether the advisor gets what the writer is trying to do and wants to help the writer realize his/her intentions (of course it does help to know what your own intentions are, and the best advice I got helped me sort through all that). But even advice that is not useful in and of itself can point to problems and lead to tangentially related solutions.

I think of books as, well, houses in a way. When I read other peoples' stuff, they may be writing a book that isn't for me, building a house that I wouldn't want to live in. But that doesn't mean I can't take a step back and say, "okay, how do we make this house better? More livable? More pleasing to the eye?"

I generally advise against stucco, regardless of genre.

Paprikapink said...

I found this article in the New Yorker, about Raymond Carver's editorial relationship with Gordon Lish, http://www.newyorker.com/reporting/2007/12/24/071224fa_fact
to be a very moving account of the depth of a writer's need to express what they really need to say they way they need to say it. Finding someone who can help you achieve that expression without stifling you is a valuable find indeed. And sometimes you find those people standing around on street corners! Take Nathan's first page contest as a random example. We had "unpublished, self-appointed editors" (horrors!) voluntarily reading and commenting on the pages. The feedback those readers gave me on my 500 words was so valuable! Any decent feedback is really a gift. Not all of it is going to be what you want, but you've got to be grateful for every scrap. As for using my "gut" to decide...I find that I have to let time elapse between receiving the feedback and deciding on it. My gut seems to include a lot of ego and just plain stubbornness at a superficial level, but if I let it percolate, I can usually find a truer response.

Anonymous said...

Ooh, I want Jared X's critique partners! Ha!

For me what matters most is if the advice is meant to help MY vision of the book become stronger. Suggestions that don't strengthen YOUR vision of the story are usually gimmicky and off, tone-wise.

I'm posting as an Anon because I've been on the receiving end of terrible advice, from people "in the industry" who, as it turned out, didn't know their ass from a plot point.

A quiet novel is a quiet novel and things like "... can't this character be assaulted right here, or why isn't there any sex..." proved that this advice giver had no clue of the industry itself, much less the type of book I'd written.

Tom Burchfield said...

Funny this came up as I'm about to send a draft of my book to five to ten readers for vetting. These are all people who may or may not know each other(so each opinion stands on its own; there's no "group think" at work.) Most are writers of one kind or another, some are not. I'm of the philosophy that not all readers are writers and my book is written as much for sheer pleasure as art (and are they that different?).

I don't respond well to "shotgun criticism." Most writer's groups I've known follow that policy and that's why I don't do them anymore. It always seems the critic is just trying to show how "tough" they can be. Or, as I like to put it, "I can't hear you when you're shouting and, besides, we're not curing global warming and bring peace to Iraq here."

Usually, the calmer the critic, the more I hear and understand what needs to be done. I'd say it's about 50-50 with me. If there's a genuine consensus something is wrong, then . . . something is wrong.

Danette said...

I take all comments seriously--after all, I've asked for a critique and I need to see how what I've written hits the reader.

I never trust the critique that begins and ends with "I love it!" Even if it's true, I want to know what I did right so I can do it again.

If two or more qualified readers comment on the same issue, you know I'm looking at it again. And if my editor makes a suggestion, I'll do whatever I can to satisfy that suggestion. If it doesn't work, I'll now be able to explain why.

People sometimes say, "I don't want to hurt your feelings." You can't hurt my feelings by providing constructive criticism.

Ulysses said...

Depends on what they're pointing out.

Technical stuff, I can look up. Did I actually break a rule of grammar/spelling/style in a moment of inattention? If someone finds this stuff, I say thank-you with utmost humility, correct it, and give myself fifty lashes with Strunk and White (much less painful than using the hardcover Chicago Manual of Style).

Story stuff depends further.

I've always found the best criticism articulates a feeling or concern I've had at the back of my mind, but have previously ignored or dismissed. "This didn't work for me because A isn't the kind of person who would do that for B." Yeah. . . that's right. A isn't like that at all. A would much more likely. . .

Otherwise:
I consider what I'm trying to do with the bits in question. Would it be done more effectively if I made a change?
Is this something other people have brought up before? If so, I'd better rewrite it. Regardless of my personal feeling, it appears something's not working.
Are they displeased by something I did intentionally? Did I do it well? Can I do it better? Given who they are, how they read and what they like, should I bother trying? Did I write this passage for a reader with tastes that differ from those of this advisor?

I have one reader who's advice I occasionally ignore because she's often looking for things in my work that I have no desire to put there. Nothing wrong with her taste. It's just that she wants to read a story that is different from the one I'm trying to write.

And, of course:
If this advice comes from an editor/publisher who promises publication upon a successful rewrite (does this ever happen?), especially if they're dangling a substantial cash offer, then I pay rabid attention, take copious notes, and flog myself with those notes instead of Strunk and White. And then I follow their advice. I guess I'm a mercenary at heart.

wonderer said...

lauren amberdine wrote...
- The biggest "should I do this?" issue comes from writer/critiquers who often want to revise things into their own vision of a story, or to whatever standards they've decided are obligatory.


I run into this problem quite often. My critique group has some members who tend to go overboard on the "What if you...?" and "I think you should..." comments, and it's frustrating. However, they are very astute critiquers in other respects.

Apart from that, I agree with previous commenters that certain types of feedback should always (or almost always) be addressed, especially when there's a consensus among readers. Some changes are a matter of opinion, and I can take them or leave them (after due consideration, of course). Other changes are pretty much required, even if I think I've been clear. As Laurel said, if the reader is confused, it's probably my fault.

Wanda B. Ontheshelves said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
millhousethecat said...

I joined an online site where others kindly offer to read and critique your work.

Once you post a few chapters and you find that you have "regular" critters, you can weed out the ones who get your voice and those who would pay money to read other works in your genre from those who are too kind to tell you about the spinach between your front teeth and those who just want to crush your already fragile soul. This, to me, can be invaluable.

My friends and family have been willing to critique, but are more likely to say, "Good job!" This makes my naturally curly hair more bouncy, but does nothing to improve my work.

However, anonymous (-ish) critters can offer some of the best advice. I generally revise when I get: "This is slow."; or "I have read this seven times and I still don't get it."; or "WTF?"

When you have an idea of the spirit of the comments and criticisms, and they are offset by the occasional, "Man, I wish I'd written that!", it is easier to take.

There are some comments, though, that I shake my head at and ignore completely. Particularly if the critter spells they're for their.

I'm just saying.

Sophie W. said...

[i]If the reader seems to 'get' the novel overall and have a good sense for what I am trying to accomplish, then I tend to give a little more weight to their suggestions. They are usually spot-on.[/i]

Jessica is exactly right. The first thing I look for in a beta reader is someone who 'gets' the novel. The difference between critiques from those who get the novel and those who don't is astronomical.

As a general rule of thumb, if I find myself nodding along with the beta's comments, then I take them seriously. If I'm spending thirty seconds between each comment trying to figure out what they're talking about, I'm not going to give a lot of weight to their critiques. Except, of course, for those instances when they say something like, "I didn't understand this part" or "Could you be clearer here?"

Sophie W. said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Michael said...

I'll follow the advice when it resonates with concerns I already have with the story and characters, or if the advice strikes a particular new idea on how to present the story. Otherwise not so much, if the critics wants to tell a story, they should tell their own. (That said, basics of spelling, grammar and comprehesnibility always matter, I'm referring specifically to story/character/plot issues).

pete osborne said...

To be successful, you've got to listen to feedback, process it (boozing, screaming, swearing, crying; pick your process), and then start addressing the comments. It’s work. It’s hard, it sucks, and it’s what separates us from the vanity press.

The comment may offer up a point of view that you’d never considered. And if the reviewer comes up with the comment (e.g., ‘I don’t get it.’ ‘What does this mean?’ ‘The hero should’ve died at the end of the first chapter.’), then you can be sure a big ol’ sampling of the book-buying public will, too. As special as writers are, the non-writers are prone to groupthink. Deal with it and smile.

That said, when writing for any client...well, any corporate client – and really you should consider your agent and editor as your two biggest corporate clients – try, hell, demand a clear consensus and agreement (is that redundant?) on major changes to the plot or main character. Similar to notes/edits that constitute a fundamental shift in a business/marketing strategy, the shift in direction needs to be clarified, because misinterpretation can lead to lost time and lost tempers. Unfortunately, you can’t drop a change order on your agent or editor to get more cash. Or can you?

Some clients just like to put their stamp on things. If publishing is anything like the real world, reputations are calling cards; success is authority.

I suppose the other option is to thumb your nose at any constructive criticism, find funding, and start your own house. And for the truly independent and misunderstood, there’s always POD, because if you write it, we’ll be compelled to read it.

Kind like this comment.

Becky Levine said...

See, this is one of the good things about a critique group. When several members of your group walk into the coffee house, swearing with their blood that they have not conferred before this moment, and they all tell you something isn't working, well...you have to be an ostrich with a very long neck to idnore that feedback.

Other than that, it varies for me. The gifts are when a reader makes a comment, and the lightbulb zings brightly in your brain, and you see it, right then, how it's all going to work and make things so much better. Then there are the times it's more like a serious ache in your stomach. When you can't see it at all, you don't know how you're going to make that feedback work, but you know they're right, and you need to.

Pretty much, on the ones where there's no lighbulb and no nausea, but just a, "Huh? What?" kind of reaction--I give myself permission to ignore those.

I think that the best thing we as writers can do about this is to know our own stories. Which we can't do without serious thought and revision, anyway. But the more you know your book, the more you know not just the overall meaning or plot, but every detail, every scene, the more you'll be able to sort through the...oh, what, chaff? Wheat? Some agriculture metaphor, anyway.

150 said...

Believe the criticism, disbelieve the praise.

Dave F. said...

I listen to every comment and I consider every comment. I try to see what they saw that prompted the comment.
However, I won't sacrifice style and tone to a reviewer. I probably wouldn't sacrifice a character to a commentary.

Anonymous said...

This is a great question. Basically I consider every comment I receive as important, I figure it's my job as the author to see that readers are not puzzled or confused by my story. However, I also consider how each reader actually fits into the target audience for my book and some where between those two points is how I decide what to change and what to leave as it is.

I also submitted a partial you and you responded with a comment and an invitation to resubmit. Even though I have reworked the chapter in question, I haven't resub'd back to you because I'm not sure I completely understood your comment and I don't want to hack you off by sending you emails to question you about it.

sigh...

Sam J. M. said...

Sometimes it all comes down to desperation. If i've exhausted other avenues and still haven't found a home for the story (or whatever), I'll go ahead and make some suggested changes I might not be super gung ho about.

Sam Hranac said...

I thrive on the advice my crit group provides, but I do not take it all. Some of what they give me is a slam dunk. Some of it, I say thank you, and continue on without touching it.

Some of it, I have to study. This is some of the best stuff, even if I don't use it in the very chapter they were critiquing. Advice that makes me sit back and challenge assumptions always makes me grow as a writer. Now and then, I take such advice and try it on, like a shirt in the store. I play with it, re-writing a chapter here and there. Even if I don't use it today, the experience has helped me to grow.

At the end of the day, it is my story. I use what I want and I thank my crit group for all of it.

Aimless Writer said...

First I see who is giving it. Published author? Agent? Editor? I take them all very seriously.
Joe schmoe on the street? I look to see where it comes from? Is Joe an avid reader? Writer?
Is he telling me he can't picture my character or that I use the word f*ck and its offensive to him?
Then I carefully consider the advice. Would this really improve my work? Would their advice work with my story?
I hope I always keep an open mind. You never know where/when you'll get that little nugget of advice that will make your story glow. I think a writer always needs look for ways to improve her craft. Did Davinci ever stop striving to be greater?

Emily said...

To be quite honest, a lot of factors go into the decision making process.

1. The Adviser - a lot depends on WHO is giving me the advice. I have certain people that I know will be able to spot a plot hole instantly, so I will take their advice about that. Others that have demonstrated a grasp of grammar and nit-picky stuff will be listened to for that information. But these people have to earn my trust. If a random person tells me "I think you should make Bob marry Jane" I will roll my eyes and think, *Uh, huh.* But if an editor or agent were to tell me that, I'd be scribbling notes. *Must make Bob propose to Jane....*

2. The circumstances - would the changes drastically alter my plot/characters? If so, then a lot more thought goes into the decision. If not, and the change makes sense, then I'm all for it.

3. The vibe - if something about the advice just seems wrong, I'll hesitate before altering anything.

4. My mood - if someone tells me that I should change my main character and I've just had a long day... well, then the adviser should either run or be prepared to be snarled at. :)

Melanie Avila said...

I seem to fall among the majority of people here. I have one reader who, without fail, finds every section I cut myself some slack on (as someone else said) and I almost always take her advice.

I had another reader I stopped using because she couldn't seem to form sentences in her own work (a lot of grammatical errors) and I rarely agreed with her suggestions. Often she questioned things that were explained in the previous page, which made me think she wasn't paying much attention.

I'd like to think I can take criticism, as long as it's constructive and actually helps.

Angie said...

First, I'm more likely to take advice from someone giving me money. [wry smile] I've accepted changes from editors I've worked with on getting stories ready to be published which I'd have rejected coming from someone in a workshop or whatever. A lot of suggested changes (no matter where they come from) are just matters of taste or personal style or whatever, and I prefer mine unless someone's about to hand me a check. I'll still squawk some changes an editor suggests, but I work hard on not being a PITA writer from my publisher's POV.

Other than that, it depends on whether I can see the reasons for the suggested change. I won't change anything just because someone else thinks I should (unless they're handing me money, as above), but if they have a good reason for the change, then I'll strongly consider it.

If someone says, "I don't like Joe's dialogue," I'll thank them for their comment and move on. If someone says, "Given what you've shown us about Joe's background, his education level, the fact that we never see him reading books or anything like that, I don't think his vocabulary fits him, as in these examples..." and then references specific lines -- that I'll listen to. Maybe I'll change Joe's dialogue, or maybe I'll add a line or three to show that yeah, he actually does have his nose in a book whenever he's not busy with something else, since that'd been in my head all along but I just hadn't gotten around to putting it down in phosphor, oops. But in general, a specific point made with logical reasoning and examples attached will always get more of my attention than a vague generality.

Sometimes a person's suggestion will be completely off the mark, but the reason they're making it will be significant. If someone misunderstands a plotline or a character so badly that they suggest a "fix" that's totally wrong, I'm not going to take their specific advice but I probably will go back and fix whatever miscommunicated or overly subtle points sent them down the wrong path in the first place. These kinds of comments are very useful, even if the specific suggestion made is worthless.

I don't really worry about who it is who's making a suggestion. A big-name writer is just as likely to make a suggestion which doesn't fit with my story or my way of telling it, and a reader who's never written a word of fiction in her life is just as likely to ask a vital question or put her finger on something confusing that needs to be smoothed out. I welcome constructive criticism from anyone, whether friend or stranger or anonymous commenter. Unconstructive criticism is ignored with equanimity. :)

Angie

Keri Ford said...

If it makes sense and makes me go, "dang, I wish I woulda thought of that," then I take the advice. If it leaves me with pursed lips and squising eyebrows, then it's probably a good idea to leave it alone.

Tammie said...

Every now and again I hear someone tell another writer, a new writer to stay away from writing First Person.

And yet every book I seem to enjoy more than others is written in First Person.

I would just hope new writers don't take everything they hear/read as being written in concrete.

Henry said...

I agree with many of the responses. Taking advice is a hard thing to do. A new website that seems like it could help people with that is www.writiki.com. It's a writing wiki where ANYONE can edit your work. It might take a bigger person not to get offended but it can be neat to see people's take on your own writing. They are also partnering with a coffee roasting company to give away prizes to the first 100 contributors.

Linnea said...

That's a tricky one. When I'm shopping my manuscript, I take careful note of the reasons for rejection. If I find more than one person commenting on the same thing I make revisions accordingly. Generally, though, the person I trust the most is my editor. His sole purpose is to make the story saleable. I don't make every change he suggests. All changes are thoroughly discussed beforehand. I'm pretty flexible and so far no blood's been spilled !!

Sandra Gail Lambert said...

I use the Defensive-O-Meter method for critique I don't agree with. If I just think "oh, they've missed the mark" and smile politely, then I'm probably right. However, if I think that not only their comments but they themselves are so way stupid, then, well, maybe, possibly, there might be just a chance that I should pay heed.

Shannon Yarbrough said...

Like most here have already said, I think it depends on the source.

Case in point: I recently put a few chapters of my novel on youwriteon.com. I've received 8 reviews so far, and of the ones that were quality reviews...

1. There were a few that pointed out the same things to me again and again and had things in common from other reviews I'd received.

2. Then there were some that brought new things to my attention that no other review had pointed out yet.

3. And some picked at stuff that worked well as is, but they just didn't get it because they were only reading the first 3 chapters.

don allen said...

I think there's something in the back of your head that tells you when the writing isn't where it's supposed to be, but you need to hear it. I love and crave criticism because you can’t make something better if you don’t know what’s wrong. You can disagree, but at least someone has pointed out something that you have to look at – that’s great-Unfortunately, too many people either don’t know when something is bad or don’t want to hurt you feelings. What I don’t like about agents criticism is vagaries. Ex. “In the end, the sum total of the work didn’t add up to enough. WHAT THE HELL DOES THAT MEAN? If you don’t like it just say it sucks and move on.

cynjay said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Susan Helene Gottfried said...

ALWAYS trust your gut.

If the criticism's good, it'll make the creative wheels start churning and your gut goes, "this is good stuff. Keep at it."

If the criticism sucks, well, your gut will know that, too.

Mystery Robin said...

What I believe is that if a reader thinks there is a problem, then there is - at least for that reader and it's important to listen. However, the fix is up to the writer. So, if the advice is: the ending doesn't make any sense, and a paragraph where you explain thus and so - you need to address the ending not making sense, but not necessarily in the way suggested.

Paradox said...

I listen to advice when I know it's right. I ignore advice when I know it's wrong.

If I have any doubt, I re-write the entire section.

Jan said...

One thing I've learned is that I have to listen to my gut.

That said - it depends on where the advice/criticism is coming from.

I've put my writing out there with hopes of getting constructive critiques and if I am hearing the same thing over and over - it is usually needed.

So I'd have to look at the source.

Katzie said...

I try to look at my stuff objectively and see it through the advice giver's eyes. It mostly depends on if the advice is grammar/editing related (which is generally easier to accept) or something more subjective, like something story-related. In that case, it depends on how vehemently they feel about the proposed change and how much personal taste factors in. Usually, though, since I can't see the story with new eyes, it's good to gain that perspective. Overall, it's a reflection of me, so it always come down to what is the best for the story itself and I'm not afraid to compromise on or forego an element I liked if it makes the story better in the long run.

Julie Weathers said...

I've been critiquing and receiving critiques at the Compuserve Books and Writers' forum for a long time. I also belong to a secret society one, where you have to knock three times to get in.

When I give critiques, I try to find things the person has done right. First it softens the blows for the criticism I am about to give. Next, it lets them know what they are doing right so they don't get too discouraged. Very few people do everything wrong, but from reading many comments I couldn't guess that. If all I hear is negativity, then I begin to wonder if I am doing anything right.

As for how I take criticism--it varies.

If the person is a skilled writer and they seem sincere about trying to help me I welcome it. If I get the impression they are just tossing out jabs to get a laugh from the audience, then I'll pass.

I don't toss out much information that I don't use. So, if I include a scene where an initiate is giving a sick horse an examination, there is a reason for it. If she mentions she feels a weakness in the stifle, it's so the readers aren't suprised later, when someone tries to jump a gully later and the horse fails. I don't like tossing out convenient coicidences. All the clues are given, the reader just has to notice.

When commenters tell me I need to start slicing and dicing scenes to pick up the action, I have to look at how important the scene is to later action.

Yes, I realize one fight scene after another keeps readers turning pages, but I don't write that way. Don't try to turn me into what I am not.

I once did some short stories on an old Indian storyteller. That's how I see myself. Just a storyteller.

Anonymous said...

If it is from someone I truly trust as a reader/critic or from an agent or from my editor, I'd consider it carefully. However, if it's going to turn it into something that I'd hate or be ashamed of, nope, wouldn't change it.

For any other comments, I work on the following:
1 comment on something is an opinion
2 comments on the same something is a coincidence
3 comments on the same something means you better think carefully about what they are saying.

I want to improve my work. I want to make sure that what I have in my head is what is getting on the page. I like feedback that tells me where I've gotten it right, where I'm off.

Nikki Duncan said...

I'll listen to advice if it doesn't change the vision I have for my story. Though, that said, I've been given general advice by an agent that got me thinking about and in turn took the external plot of my story a completely different direction. I think what I'm normally "married" to is the emotional develpment of my characters.

Then again, I received a critique from a published author once that told me I couldn't construct a sentence with correct punctuation, nor could I put an emotion on the page to save my soul. This came directly on the heels of an agent telling me she loved my characters and the depth of emotion I made her feel in a few pages. So, umm, I trashed that critique. I don't care what else she might have had to say.

Elyssa Papa said...

Nathan, this blog is so fitting because it's something I've been struggling with for the past couple of weeks--okay, months.

My CPs are very reliable and their advice I take because we have built a relationship where I know what they say is true and they know the story.

The problem comes when I let new people read it, and I get advice or critiques back.

I can take it. I can.

But then I start wondering... if they're right. What if my conflict isn't strong enough? What if my writing is just "light" and "fluffy" and fits the elements of a romantic comedy?

I think one of my fears is that if I don't listen to their advice and change my story, that I won't get published.

But what I realized perhaps like only a day ago was that I can't change my voice or my story. I did try and take their suggestions and change it... and I hated the new story. I hated the characters, and it just didn't feel right to me... or the story.

So basically it depends. You have to trust your gut but also be open enough to take criticism because it could make your story better. But, at the end of the day, if it doesn't feel right to you... then don't do it.

I think this will be something I struggle with no matter what... perhaps because I'm just weird like that.

Really great blog.

Anonymous said...

I have a picture book that's been critiqued and revised so many times that now I'm wondering whether the first version might have been the best. I've revised with suggestions from my writing group, critique partners, two agents, and two editors. I'e taken out a character and put her back in. Changed the ending. Changed character's professions. Changed food, clothing, and other details. Now I'm making a final revision for an editor who'll be taking it to the acquisition committee in two weeks. It's still my story, but..

Sam Hranac said...

I used to have a hard time accepting certain advice, because I was in LOVE with what they were telling me to get rid of. It was a personal growth moment when I was finally able to say, okay, 5 out of 6 people said the same thing. Maybe it ain't as hot as you think.

Sheryl A VanVleck said...

It's very important to know where the advice is coming from. You should always remember that not everyone knows how to give a critique.

As a professional artist of 30 years, I know to start with a positive. My idea is never to tear someone down. But, not everyone has that agenda.

Right now I am fortunate to have access to a gifted sixth grade class about three hundred miles away. I email chapters and they read them. Beside the fact they love the first three chapters of my novel; one boy, in particular has been invaluable.

He points out things that a kid wonders about that I have not fleshed out enough. He points out things I'm using that a new generation doesn't 'get.' He also has a great sense of humor.

I also have an adult friend who did a one chapter critique. By the end, I wanted to strangle him. He is a nit picker (grammar is my final edit, not my first) But, I also know what his taste in literature is and it was not geared to a modern youth novel. Some of his advice I did make changes on and others I just thanked him for.

In the beginning, I don't share with anyone but I'm nearing the final draft now, and ready to hear critiques. But, in the end, remember, it is your work out there and must remain so

Moose said...

When a number of people I respect say the same thing, then I give it great weight.

Still, it's up to me to succeed or fail by my own efforts.

Just_Me said...

Time to Listen: When I get the same comment from multiple reviewers in my critique group. When I see a published author do it "correctly" or when I can find a better way to show instead of tell.

Time to Ignore: When the feedback is wrong for my genre. IE- when I write a fantasy novel and someone writes I should take out the werewolves because they don't exist. That was sort of the point, this being a fiction piece and all...

Or when the advice goes against my own moral values, have the character curse more, maybe they should sleep together just because, get the character drunk and let them drive.


I'm usually pretty open to advice from anyone willing to share, but I weight the advice I get. Someone who works in the publishig field or who is published gets more attention than my neighbor who hasn't read a book since high school 30 years ago.

~grace~ said...

if someone gives me advice I don't agree with, it's usually because I didn't do a good job of expressing what I was actually trying to do. so while I don't necessarily make the changes suggested, I take their confusion into consideration when rewriting.

but I'm very independently-minded (read: stubborn). you really have to be convincing if you think I should change something.

Robert said...

I would have to say that it boils down to the critique really and the person giving it. If you when to a person and asked for their opinion, I am sure that you would also respect their time and ideas enough to listen with both ears and an open mind. This person is also more than likely a friend, and if you cannot take or listen to a friend's criticism, you will never be able to take it when you try and get your material published.

Usman said...

150 above said to disbelieve the praise.
I would disagree, if you believe you are getting an honest critique; treasure the praise. The critiquer is highlighting the strongest parts of your writing.
I want to know what works as well as what doesn't work.

When the advice I get conflicts with my own believes on how the story should go. Then I have a problem.
If it resonates with me, like a scene I never really liked, gets shot down. I don't hesitate a second and analayse the writing.
If it is a scene I love and know the reasons behind it. I get circumspect.

It is all iffy.

Dixon Bennett Rice said...

I'm fortunate to have a critique group of folks working in different genres, but all dedicated to improving our writing. As in AA where you stay sober by reaching out to others, those in my group often learn most when we're helping another writer improve his/her story. Like Roxan, if there's just one voice raising an issue, I fugure they're having a bad day. If 2-3 critiquers jump on the same issue, then I know I'm the one with the problem. In the end, I may decide that it's a matter of style and stand my ground but first I take a long hard look at the suggestions.

lynnekelly2000 said...

Easily, I'll take the advice that makes me smack myself in the head and say, "Of course!" Something like, "You could say this same thing with fewer words," or, "Can you vary your sentences more? They're all the same length here and many of them start with the same word."

I'll look at anything that confused the reader, like if they had to re-read a sentence five times to understand what was happening, or if they have trouble picturing what was going on or where the characters were. In revising that part I have to assess whether the scene would be confusing for other readers too or if the critiquer was just sniffing markers at the meeting.

The comments I tend to ignore are ones in which someone thinks the character should say or do something that just doesn't sound like that character to me.

On a draft of my manuscript that's on my computer, I make notes at the end of each chapter of the critique feedback I got. That way it's there when I'm ready to revise, and it gives me a chance to rethink some of the comments after I've had some time away from the chapter.

gerriwritinglog said...

I always consider the source and the type of advice.

Anyone who tells me how to fix my sentences or that I'm too literate to be writing the genre or that the sentence MUST BE "she's dressed in a red dress" instead of the more sane "she's in a red dress" will not only have the draft tossed across the room, but have obscenities heaped on their head, get recommendations for playing in traffic, and then be summarily ignored.

Yes, I've had those things happen to be. Anyone who tries to "fix" my prose will be told (insert crass, physically impossible without dismemberment things to do with themselves).

That being said, if a sentence is awkward, I don't mind someone saying "That's an awkward sentence." Then the someone needs to shut up and let me do the fixing on my own.

Why, yes, I am opinionated about my prose. That's because I have my style, and I worked very hard to develop said style. I don't want people screwing it up.

When it comes to Story, though, I listen more. Unfortunately, most people say less because they simply don't know what to say. They'll say "this bothers me, but I don't know why." That's where I pay attention. Often, I can identify the problem, but that's because I've trained myself to.

But the people able to do such things are rare, which sucks. I've gotten to the point where I'm getting rejections from publishers and agents, but no one really can tell me what's wrong, only that something is. And it's even worse now that I made another huge jump up in skill level. But that's a different rant.

I will tell you another experience, from the reviewer's pov, that I had a few years ago. I hang out on a writers' chat, and one older gentleman had me read his novel. His writing is very erratic. He's got scenes of brillance intermingled with scenes that lack focus, lack conflict, or are infodumps. Basically, awesome idea, very spotty execution. I told him what he needed to do. He needed to cut some things, blend other things into other places, add some supporting scenes, boost the really good scenes, and otherwise tighten the whole thing up until it drags the reader through until the end. He has the skills as a writer, and the book showed that he could do it.

He came back to me after reading and rereading my comments, and told me that he thought I was completely wrong, that the book didn't need those kinds of changes, that he didn't think what I suggested cutting needed to be, and so on. I said sorry you think that, good luck.

He's racked up 75 rejections on that book. And I know why. But he won't listen. And it's sad. He's sitting on the next great space opera trilogy if he'd just do what he needs to do. But what can I do? Nothing. And it sucks.

It doesn't help to ask for advice from people who can identify specific areas and can make suggestions for fixing things, and then completely dismiss their suggestions. That's what I took away from that experience.

I just wish I could clone myself and have me review my own stuff. That way, I know I'd get good advice. :p :p :p

Mark Wooding said...

It's a judgment call for the writer. The most important thing is to be true to one's own vision, but that doesn't mean an author shouldn't keep an open mind.

If editors or agents were good writers, they probably wouldn't be in their current professions. Their advice should be listened to, but not necessarily heeded.

A Reader from India said...

Hi Nathan, Thank you for the question - I have been ponderfing about the very same issue for the past few weeks, looking over the mixed responses to my excerpt in the Abna contest.

My very first review was from a published author and a professional editor, and though it was rather harsh, I agreed that she had some valid points in her assessment.

The reviews from my fellow contestants were completely mixed -Interestingly, the writers whose work I liked very much gave me glowing, positive reviews and there was an utterly useless review from a writer who condescended that 'it would make a fine YA book with some editing' (I love YA literature, but my novel being critiqued is not YA, and no one else seem to think so either). That was an easy one to ignore.

On the whole, the critical reviews have given me some very useful points to work on the next draft. And as many people commented here, one learns to recognise the constructive criticism that really add value.

Anonymous said...

I think there are as many schools of thought on this as there are writers.

Me, I take the suggestions and ideas that make the particular story better.

Sometimes I get fantastic suggestions and it breaks my heart not to use them because they are just that good. But they would make it a different story than the one I was telling.

Sometimes I get some lame suggestions and I always thank the reader graciously, but I know I'm not going to use them because the reader was too far removed from the story to offer me anything useful. "Dude, it's chick lit... why are you telling me how I can make it more like The Godfather?"

I do find that I don't usually take someone's suggestion verbatim. (Obviously something like a grammar correction I would, but I'm talking about story elements here.) Instead I run them through my own mental filter and try to distill what that suggestion is intended to accomplish in the story. More of a catalyst for a change than an implementation of it.

"Remember: when people tell you something's wrong or doesn't work, they are almost always right. When they tell you exactly what's wrong and how to fix it, they are almost always wrong." -Neil Gaiman

I try to remember that when I catch myself succumbing to the desire to please others (i.e. implement their suggestions) against my better judgement.

And, you know, it's important to remember that not all advice is created equal. Some people just get off on being catty and snide about other people's work as a form of self-validation. Some people are going to worry too much about your feelings and hold back legitimate criticism.

Anonymous said...

"If editors or agents were good writers, they probably wouldn't be in their current professions. Their advice should be listened to, but not necessarily heeded."

Ouch, there, Mark Wooding. Just because someone does not write for a living does not mean that they cannot do it well. Just like painting, dancing, playing music, or any other art.

And don't underestimate the value that a good editor brings to a work. A diamond you dig up in a field is a valuable hunk of rock, but there's an artistry in cutting it too.

Anonymous said...

I find it depends on how strongly I disagree.

If I don't think it makes much difference, I'll make the change and see how that reads. Sometimes it's better, sometimes not.

If I'm violently opposed to the change, I analyse the reason for my strength of feeling. That nearly always shows me some aspect of the story could be developed further and then used to solve the problem in a different way.

I won't make a change I profoundly disagree with unless an editor insists.

mpe

Kate said...

If the feedback revolves around something which could use a little clarification I'll listen to that because I know one of my biggest weaknesses is assuming that people will just know what I'm getting at. Recently though I got a critique which chopped each of my sentences up into neat little pieces and told me how to rearrange them. After taking a long, hard look at it I set that one aside. Essentially it was instructions as to how to rewrite the section replacing my voice with the reviewer's.

That said, if it was an editor making those suggestions I would at least have taken a longer look. There's a reason publishers pay them to be editors.

Mary said...

I need all the help I can get! ;)

But seriously, if the feedback is just praise, I don’t believe it for a moment. Good, constructive criticism, I will always take on board. I may eventually throw it over the side, but if I respect the source and their advice makes sense, then I’ll do my best to use it.

I’m aware of some of my problems. So I’m always pleased when these are pointed out, because I do know how to fix them!

Chris Redding said...

I absolutely go with my gut.
If it feels right, even if I think it will be difficult, I go with it.
cmr

inherwritemind1 said...

I'm fortunate to be a member of a fantastic critique group -- most are published authors. Once in a while someone just doesn't "get it" or isn't listening carefully so I simply say thanks and ignore the helpful suggestion.

Listen to your heart. It's your manuscript.

mlh said...

All right, Nathan, I'll put in my two cents on the topic.

I take advice like I take aspirin, in small doses. I listen to what their saying and consider the side effects on what it will do to change my work for better or worse. Then I give some time to myself to mull it over on whether or not I really need to take it.

I might step away from the writing for a day to get my thoughts clear on what I want the story to be about. Then I put my writing hat back on, chip away at the aspirin, swallow a little pride if I need to, then better the work as I see fit.

Perhaps it's a stupid analogy, but it works for me.

Luc2 said...

Often the (constructive!) criticism that hurts the most, helps the most.

I will look at every comment with an open mind. Often it is a matter of gut feeling, but when there's a pattern in the comments from 3 or more critters, it's almost automatic.

As to the "more experience" matter, more experience in what? I want experienced readers with an open mind and a critical view. The opinion of a 16 year old fantasy buff can be as valuable as that of a literary bestselling author who doesn't really like fantasy. But sometimes someone who never reads fantasy looks at things from a surprising angle, and offers valuable advice.

lk said...

1. Personal preferences have a lot to do with it. Some people, including many professionals, will insist that you chop everything down to bare bones. But if you actually have a gift for prose you shouldn't follow that advice.

2. The advice that I always take first is the advice that makes me say, "I knew (or should have known) that!" Advice that could have come from me, if I could only read my writing in an unbiased, fresh way.

3. I'm more likely to accept advice that says, "I really like X quality, but Y stinks."

4. On conflicting advice, I once had one person slam a certain "parenthetical" passage, but I ignored that advice. Later another person praised it because it captured the spirit of the whole novel. Suddenly I realized why I'd left it in.

lk said...

On giving advice, I often tell people what I would like to see or cool ideas I had from reading the excerpt. This is not meant to reshape their work in my vision, but is actually meant as a positive critique. Good writing spawns ideas.

Anonymous said...

This clearly all depends on who is offering the comments. And whether you're new or have been publishing for a long time, you take each comment as seriously as the person who gave it.

If an editor wants revisions, and you trust the editor from past experience, you usually listen and make the revises.

Same goes for agent advice...if Al Zuckerman says you need to change, whatever, you might want to listen. But if Betty Jane the Blogging Agent, who still refers to her mother and father as "my Mom and Dad" in blog posts, offers advice you might want to think twice before you make the revisions.

Travis Erwin said...

Ultimately I go with my gut, but I do consider the source and if four or five say the same thing I have to face the facts, my gut is fat, hairy, and wrong.

Kate said...

I have two primary criteria in deciding whether to follow advice:

1) I consider the source. If the person giving the advice is a more experienced writer, one whose work I admire, one who writes stuff similar to mine (or of course an agent or editor), I give the advice greater weight. If it's a novice who's just repeating "rules" she's learned, I'll generally ignore it, unless I know that's a problem area for me.

2) Sometimes I'll know immediately if a piece of advice is right. Sometimes I react negatively at first, but after I mull it over for a while, I'll see the validity of it. I know my own work well enough now to have a gut feeling as to whether certain advice is right for my work.

In critique groups one often gets conflicting advice from different people. I've sometimes found that if different people suggest different solutions for a particular problem, the problem is probably real, but the best solution will be one that I come up with myself.

lynnekelly2000 said...

I don't remember where I read this anecdote, but this reminds me of something I read about E.B. White when he was writing for a newspaper. He reported about a woman who was hit by a car; when her husband ran into the street after the accident and saw his wife he said, "Oh, God, it's her!" White's editor told him to change the quote to, "Oh, God, it's she!" so it would be written in proper English. He refused to change it, quit his job rather than change it, since everyone knows that when a man sees his wife lying in the road he says, "...it's her" and never "...it's she."

Maya Reynolds said...

Writers can make themselves crazy, trying to accommodate random advice from well-meaning people.

For this reason, over the past four years, I've searched for and found five critique partners in whom I have complete trust.

I know them inside and out--their strengths, weaknesses, likes, dislikes and the odd quirk. That knowledge helps to inform my decisions on whether to accept their feedback.

For example, one has trouble with violence and will always want to soften the action scenes. I tend to disregard her comments in this regard. However, she can spot a soft POV or a passive sentence in the dark, and I never argue those comments.

My manuscripts are much stronger as the result of their critiques and I'm enormously grateful.

Mary Paddock said...

I recently faced a first for me--a beta reader who didn't like the work and it caught me by surprise as he's always been such a supporter. Frankly his criticisms (which were heavy and many) not only hurt some, they rattled me and left me worrying about whether or not I'd wasted a year of my life.

But this is why we look to more than one beta reader, right? I was very fortunate this time to have several readers (Not always been the case)--two of whom were friends of a friend who'd himself also written a book. Their generous feedback (considering they were doing him a favor more than me) was not only very positive--they were constructive and largely consistent with one another. It made it easy to address the fixes and face the weak spots in the plot.

I realized that the friend who had been so hard on the book had offered some very valid feedback--not only were many of his observations spot on--but it also reminded me that I can't--shouldn't--write to suit everyone. Sometimes the reason someone doesn't like your work is because they weren't the target audience.

Too, I think we writers are often harder one another than need be--and not always because we want to see the other person succeed. It doesn't hurt to make sure some of your criticism is coming from people who simply like to read.

It makes sense to pay attention when you get consistent complaints about a scene or a plot problem from more than one person. And it also makes sense to pay attention to very specific comments such as "You have this character walking through furniture here . . ." or "Wait a minute. I thought the character was here. Now you've moved him to here." And statements like "This sentence is convoluted and makes no sense." bear listening too as well. Sometimes we (meaning me especially) aren't as deep as we think we are. :)

Nona said...

When it comes to writing advice, I follow the advice of Stephen King.

He’s not a big fan of criticism, constructive or otherwise. He says that the first draft of a manuscript must be written with the door closed. It’s okay to have an “ideal reader” in mind, usually the writer’s significant other, but that’s all. “With the door shut, downloading what’s in my head directly to the page, I write as fast as I can and still remain comfortable. Writing fiction…can be a difficult, lonely job; it’s like crossing the Atlantic Ocean in a bathtub. There’s plenty of opportunity for self doubt…Let your hope of success (and your fear of failure) carry you on, difficult as that may be…even after finishing I think you must be cautious and give yourself a chance to think while the story is still like a field of freshly fallen snow, absent of any tracks save your own.”

He’s also wary of writing courses. “…daily critiques force you to write with the door constantly open…The pressure to explain is always on, and a lot of your creative energy…is therefore going in the wrong direction.”

And last but certainly not least, he relates, “I have written because it fulfilled me…I did it for the buzz. I did it for the pure joy of the thing. And if you can do it for joy, you can do it forever.”

Ulysses said...

My pet peeve is vague criticism.
"X doesn't work."
"Y isn't believable."
"I don't like Z."

WHERE does X stop working?

WHAT about Y is not believable? WHEN did you stop believing?

WHY don't you like Z?

If I'm going to understand the critique, I need specifics: as many of the W5 as I can get.
Anyone who responds with a request for more information with something like "I don't know. I just didn't get it." Is no help to me at all.

Anonymous said...

I once paid for a critique from a person with a good reputation and resume--popular writing book (which I enjoyed), online classes, etc. The crit. was supposed to be in four steps, each one building on the other. It wasn't too pricey, but I was pretty strapped for cash, so it was a big decision to mail off that check.

When I got back the first response, the expert had one suggestion--a major change to the story (the literary equivalent of turning a serious drama into a light-hearted musical). It was a change I didn't agree with and didn't want to make, but I mulled it over. Surely, this person was right? I mean, they had a reputation. They were a professional. I paid them to tell me this!

The problem was, if I didn't make the change, there was no second step. I had three steps and emails coming to me and if I didn't play ball, what was I supposed to do?

I considered making the change "just for the experience"--maybe I'd like it! Maybe it would work better. That sort of thing. But I just couldn't picture putting all those hours into turning my project into something I didn't want it to be.

In the end, I sent off an email, thanking the expert for the input, but saying I just couldn't make myself make that suggested change. They wrote me back, saying okay, they understood, etc. And that was that.

I haven't paid for a professional critique since. My writing buddies are great at trading crits and if their vision doesn't match mine, I'm no poorer for hearing it.

Kelley said...

I follow it if the ones offering it are the ones who are going to be cutting the check.

I follow it if it's given by others who are pointing out mistakes I should have caught-grammar, punctuation, plot holes, etc.

I ignore everything else, because I haven't yet had one beta tell me what I really need to know. And that is if the mss is marketable. Will it sell? Will an agent want to rep it? A publisher buy it?

Not a single one has EVER been able to do that. So they're feedback is pointless for me. Sadly, myy own intuition has proven more accurate than any beta.

Marva said...

I guess it all comes down to whether or not you agree with the advisor/critter.

What I really don't like is somebody trying to make me change my story to fit their style and idea of what it should be. I have a style, such as it is. It's mine and I'm keeping it. You want to write the story? Then go do it on your own time and don't waste mine.

Good, this is so far down in the comments queue, I don't have to worry about anybody critting my comment.

Nona said...

Haha, Marva, you're wrong -- I'll comment on it. :-D

I agree with you wholeheartedly. When it comes to writing, "I'm the decider." I get to say what happens, when it happens, who it happens to, and what they bloody well have to say about it. That's because I'M THE ONE WRITING IT.

You want to change it, go write your own story. It's that simple.

Lupina said...

I listen to critiques when they give me an "Aha!" moment, or when they come from an editor who is paying me, or when they come from someone in my intended target audience.

Worst critique I ever had was from a well-known fiction author at a writer's retreat I had paid large bucks to attend for ten minutes of his/her time. My submitted pages had not been read as had been promised, and all I got was a quick scan, some picking at characters names, and a confused ramble about something in someone else's work.

One of the best, well reasoned and thought out and typed on 2 pages, was from a 14-year old boy who had read my YA fantasy novel.

I do feel I owe thanks to anyone who gives up several minutes to hours of their life to read what I've written. After all, it can be embarrassing or distasteful for them, too, if they don't like it!

booklady said...

Most of the time I listen to critiques, although I often change them in a way that's different from what was suggested, trying to correct the original problem in my own way. But when I don't agree with a comment, I set it aside for a while and mull it over. What made this scene/character/word choice not work for them? Is it a one-off, or do they have a valid point? I'll often have another person critique as well, so I will ask them, too. In the end, I still have final say--at least, until I have an agent/editor!

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