Off Topic: I just read “A Christmas Carol” for the very first time and I think this needs to become a tradition. I feel all warm and fuzzy and…Christmas-y. I’m taking the fam to see the play at the Marriott Lincolnshire Theater (in which my lovely ultra-talented friend Summer Smart will be performing.)
On Topic: I have yet to meet or hear of a writer, published or otherwise, who does not get at least someone to read their work before they send it to an agent or editor. Whether it be a critique group or friends and family, getting outside feedback and opinion can be really helpful, if not crucial to the success of your work.
It can also be aggravating, maddening, or extremely disheartening. It’s hard to see something you thought was so wonderful scribbled all over and torn and hashed with varying opinions and criticisms.
So as I get ready to send my hard work into the shredder, I’ve laid out my four basic reactions to getting feedback, followed by my carefully thought out prescriptions for all four reactions.
- They don’t get it. What an idiot!
- They get it. I don’t. I’m an idiot.
- That is a stupid suggestion. NO WAY!
- Yes, yes, yes. Click “Accept Changes.”
They don’t get it. What an idiot!
My job as a writer is to make the idiot get it! If something I thought was totally clear is not coming across to someone else, I need to look at it again. It may be more clear in my mind then it is on the page, and it needs to be clear in words because people are going to read the words, not my mind.
They get it. I don’t. I’m an idiot.
I’ll just quote one of my favorite writers, Gail Carson Levine, who said at a conference, “I’m really stupid when I write, so I have people read my work to tell me where I’m stupid.” If she can be stupid then I can be stupid and still be a good writer in the end.
That is a stupid suggestion. NO WAY!
While a suggestion may indeed be stupid, the reason behind that suggestion is probably valid. If someone says “You know I would like this part a lot better if the the evil guy suddenly turned into a bat and gave everyone in the room rabies.” Okay psycho. This is about bunnies and leprechauns, but whatever.
What they’re really saying is, “This scene is lame. I’m bored.” Try to block out the specific suggestion they are giving and try to figure out why they are giving it. Something isn’t working for them and they’re just trying to communicate it in a soft, non-threatening way…bats and rabies.
Yes, yes, yes. Click “Accept Changes.”
One thing and editor once said that really resonated with me was, “You can tell when something has been through one too many workshops because the story gets away from the author. They’ve just pieced together everyone’s suggestions.”
I have to take careful consideration of ALL the feedback I get and then I will take careful consideration of how or even if I need to change something in the manuscript. I can stick to my guns on certain things. I just have make sure I have really good reasons for keeping something the way it is when someone told me to change it. (If several people give me similar feedback it’s probably not wise to reject it.) And if I decide the criticism is correct and something needs to change, I just need to make sure the change comes from me.
Any other advice about receiving criticism? I feel like I’m gearing up for Gladiators. Entering the Arena, hope I don’t die.
This dude is seriously buff and he has a shield and a sword. But the lion looks like he’s about to rip that shield away, so my bets are on the lion.
So I call I get to be the lion.