Wednesday, April 17, 2013

Opinions about your writing - how to handle it

"Opinion has caused more trouble on this little earth than plagues or earthquakes." ~Voltaire


It's always a good idea to have someone else read your writing before you deem it finished and send it out into the world. Because, let's face it, you're only one person with limited perspective. The more beta readers the better, because there are as many opinions as there are people. If you had 100 people read your book, reader 101 would point something out that everyone else overlooked. So would reader 102. But what if you don't like what some people are saying? And what do you do when some people love a certain part of your story while others hate it? Believe me, this happens all the time and, although it can be frustrating, leaves the writer where she should be: in charge of her own work. 

How to handle advice 

I always consider what my readers say. Even if it doesn't make much sense and my initial reaction to it is nausea. It's always a good idea to try to see where the reader is coming from. Possibly they reacted the way they did because your writing wasn't clear. Usually, though, when a reader suggests something I don't like, I end up tossing it in the end. 

If more than one person comments on the same thing, I deeply consider changing it. If several people comment on it, there's something wrong with it and it has to go, unless, of course, they're giving it praise. 
I've had a lot of stories critiqued by fellow writers and it never fails, there's always something that some readers loathe while others declare it their favorite part of the story. The main thing to remember is that it's your story. You choose what goes, what stays and how it all fits together.

Whose opinions count? 

I most often have other writers critique my work. They know the craft, after all. And they're the most likely to take the time to give you feedback because they want some feedback of their own. But different writers have different styles and not everything a writer friend says about craft is going to apply. What they say as a reader, on the other hand, is the most helpful. Writers are definitely readers. Writers probably buy more books than anyone.
If you can get other people to read your unpublished manuscript, go for it. I don't care if it's your neighbor or the janitor at your child's school. Anyone who reads counts because they're the ones who buy books. They're the ones you want to please.

Tomorrow's post - Plot


28 comments:

  1. I am always open to opinions but in the end make my own mind up
    Yvonne.

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    1. Sounds like you know what you're doing.

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  2. Sensible advice, I would add not to get dragged down by the critique either, it doesn't help. I just take unreasonable comments with a pinch of salt.

    http://thenovabug-blog.blogspot.co.uk/

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  3. I think it helps develop your own sense of what works and what doesn't to get a range of views and then to see what strikes a chord.

    mood
    Moody Writing
    #atozchallenge

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    1. Yeah, it does help to get as many critiques as you can.

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  4. Love this post. Yes, opinions can be challenging especially when it can effect your work in a huge way. I like to collect opinions on an areas that are causing issues ex: half these readers love it, half these readers don't and I look at who is telling me what. Do these people have novels out do they have experience where they're reading MS'S for a living. Do they just read a lot of books in general and review them? Those opinions I look at first and follow besides my own gut.

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    1. I like your method, Rosa. Thanks for your comment.

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  5. It can be so hard, but the more I'm critiqued, the more I find out how to be better. It's worth it all in the end :)

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    1. It is an important part of learning the craft.

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  6. As painful as it is, having a story critiqued is crucial. Whenever I try to send something out before my writing group reads it, it is never as good and I end up getting rejection comments that are just the things my group told me. I do wish I could find more beta readers, though.

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    1. I find it crucial to have my work picked apart. I won't send anything out without having at least a few beta readers first.

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  7. Having a wide set of talented betas is so useful. Typically I can isolate what is just one person's bias that way, as opposed a truly failed joke or underperforming scene. Advice can be rough, but it's also so important to honing craft.

    John at The Bathroom Monologues

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    1. It is an essential part of honing. I'm always grateful to have my flaws pointed out before I submit.

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  8. I think getting another person's opinion is important also, but at the right phase of the writing game--not too early when the idea is blooming. Critique partners are the best! Thank you for stopping by my blog!

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    1. so true! It's best to wait until you feel like it's pretty much done.

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  9. I agree with Voltaire. I'm an English teacher and editor. People get defensive when I point out an error in their writing AFTER they ask me to read it.
    I'm grateful when someone points out a mistake of mine -- I make plenty of them.

    My challenge posts are on confusing words. Did I mention I'm an English teacher and editor? :-)

    MM

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    1. Thanks for stopping by! I appreciate people pointing out my mistakes as well. It's all for a good cause.

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  10. You know what they say about opinions, everyone has one. Although I did have someone tell me once, "That's my opinion and it should be yours.

    I do understand your point and agree with it. Good "O" topic!

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    1. I've met a few of those, too, Vicki. Some people think they have the only right opinions.

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  11. The best lines in this post are that some people will love a scene, or whatever, and another will not. It is so subjective. And, yes, we can be open to other opinions, and always be true to ourselves, and our stories.

    Cheers!
    Thanks for visiting and following my blog.
    Play off the Page

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    1. It is very subjective ... and there are no rules! That's the beauty of it. It can also make it a very daunting task.

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  12. I've heard that when someone tells you something's wrong, they're probably right, but if they tell you in specifics how to fix it, they're probably wrong. While not true all the time, it is better to have issues pointed out, then figure out how to fix them yourself.

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    1. Very interesting theory, Connie. The online critique group I'm in stresses that if we point something out as wrong, we should always try to suggest a way to fix the problem. I think it depends on the situation and how specific the suggestion is.

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  13. Great post and so true! You also have to consider the source - especially if you're in a large writers' group and an "off" critique comes from someone with a very different writing style. When I critique, I try to keep my own style out of it, but that's not always easy.

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    1. Great points, Cindy. A lot of opinions are style based.

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  14. You say a lot of the same things about it as I do--including that it's better to get SOMEONE to read it than no one--even if you can't pay a pro, you can find people who will read, and at the very least catch your worst typos and maybe even the places where the plot fell apart and they can't follow the action. . .

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    1. Exactly! Great to see you again, Rebecca. :)

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