ON WRITING

“It’s very easy to quit during the first ten years of writing. Nobody cares whether you write or not, and it’s very hard to write when nobody cares one way or the other. You can’t get fired if you don’t write, and most of the time you don’t get rewarded if you do. But don’t quit.” Andre Dubus

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Wednesday, 7 October 2015

Insecure Writers Support Group - #IWSG post -- Insecure about critiques

Hello Insecure/Secure Writers

Thanks to Alex J Cavanaugh and his team for the month of October -- awesome co-hosts -- TB Markinson,Tamara Narayan, Shannon Lawrence, Stephanie Faris, and Eva E. Solar! who are hosting this group think tank/whinehouse,motivational writing group.

Today at my place it's a whinehouse.


I want to say how insecure I am at the moment due to some confusing beta reads on one of my novels. Somehow I feel I've lost the plot, so to speak, by getting too many pairs of eyes over it. Now I've reached the stage I've just metaphorically dropped it in the bottom drawer and may not pick it up again, which sucks, considering I've spent so much time on it.

It would be different if all my betas/critiquers found the same lumps and bumps in my story, but no, the crits are very different and confusing. But I've learned one thing, and tell me if you disagree--you shouldn't ask people who don't write in your genre, or a genre close to yours, to run their eyes over your work.


  • What do you think? How have betas/critique partners worked for you?
  • How's things at your place this month?
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51 comments:

  1. Oh, I definitely agree that people who do not read in your genre do not make good beta readers. Either they don't like any of it (because they don't like the genre) or they "like" it but have no constructive suggestions.

    Putting the story away for a little bit while you mull over the feedback might not be a bad idea. Or -- maybe -- you can dig a little with one of your more promising beta readers and get the information you're looking for.

    With one manuscript, I had several beta readers identify the rising action leading into the climax as "too confusing." No one could adequately explain why. They just said "you lost me" or gave contradictory comments. However, when I asked the most savvy of the readers some pointed questions, she was able to pinpoint something, and suddenly everyone else's comments made sense.

    And oh my gosh, it was such a simple things to fix! It involved names -- and nicknames -- and my imprecise way of identifying a certain group of people. . I revised a little, but mostly I just edited and was more consistent and precise about how I identified the players in the drama -- thus clearing up all the confusion.

    I hope you find a similarly simple solution.

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    1. Thank you Diane. It sounds simple, but not easy. Glad it worked out!

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  2. It does help if they write or at least understand your genre. I'd say the ones that don't, drop their suggestions.
    Of my three critique partners, two write in my genre. But the one who doesn't still gets me as an author, so she's just as good. And they usually match up on suggestions.

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    1. Yes I can't imagine critting science fiction.

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  3. Mark Twain's work was always diluted by the people he trusted to read his work. When his original work is published, it always reads better ... to me.

    Hire an editor who goes over your work for plot holes and grammar -- but other than that, trust your instincts. But that is just me.

    I wish you the best with your latest WIP. Believe in yourself. :-) You're a good writer.

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    1. Yep Roland, I'll find an editor. Actually I have a great recommendation I have to follow up. Thank you.

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  4. You're a fab writer, Denise, and at the end of the day, no one knows your story better than you-- so go for what your gut says. I think I may know the MS you're talking about.

    Novels are very hard, and I've faced a bit of what you're saying too-- differing crit partners. I've taken what matches my vision of the story, and put the rest aside.

    All the very best, and I agree with Ronald, believe in yourself!

    Sorry to leave a link, Blogger won't allow my wordpress comment:
    Daily (w)rite

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    1. Thanks Damyanti. Blogger and WP wars again! I always think others know better but, yeah, I need to get me some self belief.

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  5. Hmmm...a critiquing minefield, to be sure.

    I always reckon you can get valuable feedback from folks who don't write in your genre. You do have to be more careful how you deal with the feedback, and separate out things that might simply be down to not understanding the conventions of the genre. On the plus side, you can sometimes get unique perspectives that could enrich the story in ways you might not have thought of.

    As for the confusing feedback you've got, when critters simply don't agree on something I take that as a cue to follow my own instincts.

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  6. I keep seeing stuff about beta readers and writers' groups and critiques, and it concerns me. Are these people professionals? Do they understand the writer's genre? Do they criticize rather than critique? As an editor, I've encouraged some of my clients to pull back a bit from these groups because authors can end up so discouraged they think they should stop writing. When I took a couple of grad school classes, I asked someone in one class who had just finished his master's to read my first graduate school essay. He said all sorts of horrible things about it. I had written it the same way I always wrote essays. I decided to ignore him. I got an "A." We want our writing to be understandable, but we must be true to our hearts.

    Love,
    Janie

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    1. I've come to some of these conclusions myself Janie. Writ writing and reading is subjective.

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  7. I say go with your gut instinct, Denise, but if they don't read or write in the genre they are reading for you, it's more difficult for them to see what you are trying to achieve. I take all critiques with a pinch of believability and glean what I think is useful. I also think allowing time for the story to ripen is a good idea.

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    1. It sounds like you have it sorted DG. Good advice.

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  8. That's why I've kept the same crit partners for years--because I know their likes and dislikes, their strengths and weaknesses, so when a conflict does come up, I can sort through the personal taste stuff and the stuff that must be fixed.

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    1. I should add... don't give up. Maybe give it some time so you have a clearer view of it when you do get back to it.

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    2. Thanks Lyn. Getting a trusted team together is mighty hard. Good for you.

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    3. It is excruciatingly hard. I'm still on the look out for a third regular CP who 'gets' my work and is able to offer the kind of help I need.

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  9. I don't know if I agree about the genre. I liked having you read my draft, and your feedback was fantastic. I do agree about too many pairs of eyes. Hope you don't give up on this one.

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    1. Thanks Rhonda. I was nervous giving you feedback as we didn't know each other at that stage. I love travel narratives though.

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  10. I hope you carry on working on this, maybe you just need a break from it? You might find that if you leave it for a while, when you do go back to it you'll know exactly what to do. Good luck!

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    1. Thanks Laura. A break might be all I need.

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  11. No, no, no, no, - must NOT 'never pick it up again' Denise! Putting it in the bottom drawer's okay if it helps to 'mature' the story. You're a good writer, trust yourself and go with your own judgement where the readers are in conflict.

    I do agree with you about too many pairs of eyes, but not on the genre.




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    1. Thanks Nila. I'll dust it off when I get some confidence back on this one.

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  12. I have gotten conflicting advice from critique partners and from editors at conferences. Take a break from it and then trust your own judgment as to what you should change. Good luck with it.

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  13. Hi Denise - it's creating a work that will appeal to many, yet stay within the concept one envisages ... sometimes I get some funny comments - but then I realise they're from another part of the world - who at that stage doesn't get the Brits... though they seem fine with me! I dread the day when I ask someone .. and yes you're on the list!! Cheers Hilary

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    1. I certainly need to believe more in my story and voice. I'm over the taking it personally and feeling hurt, but I have lost confidence in my story.
      I'd love to read for you! :-)

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  14. Hi Denise, I think it comes down to your characters and your goal for the book. You know them and where you want to go with the story. Trust you! Critiques are always difficult, but I take the advice, mull it over, and usually know which advice to stick with and which advice doesn't fit. The other thing that criticism does for me is to spur me to action. Don't tell me I can't, but more importantly - don't tell yourself you cant!!!! So, take that book out of the drawer - you've got this! Trust yourself!

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    1. You know this story and your crit was excellent as I'd asked you about plot specifically. I must trust myself. Yes!

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  15. I'm not sure what to say about beta readers. I've gotten very valuable feedback and I've gotten useless feedback. I think it depends on who the beta readers are. Everyone has their own perspective on things. Like Alex said, one of his beta readers is not a writer of his genre, but "gets" him as an author. I think you should take some time to let the comments mulch and then ask yourself some questions about whether the suggestions are right for your book. I've learned that the story knows best what it wants to be. Ask the story.

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    1. Thanks Karen. Yes, I noted Alex's comment. Having someone who gets your writing is precious. And I do have some!

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  16. Hi Denise!

    Critiques are always tricky but I do think you're on to something regarding genre. I have three people that I will trust my novel to for a real, blood-and-guts critique. Only one of them writes in my genre but the other two are very, very good at editing. I trust them grammatically and with plot. In other words, the technical aspects. As for the meat and potatoes (the genre specifics), only one of those friends reads and writes my genre. I'll look to him for those critiques.

    Bottom line: trust your instinct and the story that came to YOU. It's good to consider what others say, but at the end of the day, the story needs to be YOURS, not theirs.

    Good luck!
    Jen

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  17. I've never used a lot of critique partners and I worry about that happening. Everyone has a different opinion and we just need to pick the ones that line up with our vision.

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  18. Sometimes getting too many opinions is not such a good thing. You can't please everyone. You have to write your story, not the story they envision. An editor would be my suggestion.

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  19. Just giveit some time in that drawer. You'll find the thread(s) you want to complete. I know it.

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  20. For some reason, it never occurred to me to make sure the beta readers actually read the genre you're throwing at them haha .. I have no idea why that never occurred to me, so thanks! If the critiques are bothering you, I would set the book aside for a while. You'll come back to it fresh. :)

    - Madilyn Quinn @ NovelBrews

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  21. Several things are crucial when choosing CPs: that you admire their writing, that they can write good crits, and that they at least understand your genre. Betas are harder to judge, since you usually don't read their writing, but make sure they read and like your genre. Also take everything with a grain of salt. Sometimes CPs/betas make the right call and you'll know -- you'll feel it inside -- but sometimes their suggestions just won't work for you. Don't feel bad about it. It might be a good idea to let your WIP rest and ponder the feedback. New ideas may occur to you. Wishing you much good luck!! :)

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  22. Hi Denise,
    I've made that mistake. My problem was that everyone loved the story and forgot to be critical. I learned from that experience that I needed a writing coach and I sought one that had a good rep and had worked in the writing and publishing industry. I must say my writing coach is no nonsense. She's serious about her job and take my writing seriously. I've been working with her since 2013 and I don't regret it. Maybe, that is something that you may want to consider.

    Shalom,
    Patricia

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  23. Try ignoring the feedback from the ones with no background in your genre. Maybe some time away will help, but don't leave it too long. Best of luck!

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  24. Tough, tough, and tougher. Once you sort though all and figure out were everyone is coming from that should help. I do think the majority of betareaders should be read you genre, but I also think it's good to have one from the outside too. The one on the outside can point out stuff that those insiders miss because they all ready know how it all works.

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  25. Hi Denise, true. But you should not be discouraged. Writers entering contests get different feedback from different judges, its all subjective. You have to believe in yourself and your writing.

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  26. I think beta readers should read and/or write in the genre they're reading for you. Try finding 2-3 in your genre and ask them to read. You may get a clearer picture from that. Good luck!

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  27. Beta readers are not all the same even in same genre and not all know how to critique or be helpful without trying to change your voice-story, It works best I think when you give specifics like have one look for overall content, maybe another grammar, another is it makes sense and if not why? they must always answer the why not question, and so on. If given too many things to look for it gets confusing if using several,

    Overall throw out opinions that don't work for you or try to change your story--in the end it is just that an opinion--no one really knows the story you want to tell except you--not everyone will get it, doesn't mean they are right,

    They should be able to tell you why it doesn't work, and if not, they don't know either--go with your gut, but don't let someone else murder your story over opinion, Fix what you think needs to be fix and to heck with the rest. Sometimes a break lets you see it clearer too, Best of luck, I hope your story finds the light of day again,

    Juneta Writer's Gambit

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  29. Betas have helped me immensely. They have discovered so many holes in my books and its better they catch them than buying customers post release.

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  30. Now I'm worried about reading it! Sometimes its good to get people who don't read your genre to "run their eyes over it" simply because they can see plot holes and technical errors that others don't catch. They are not making suggestions to change things according to how they would write the story. But its good to have more beta's in your genre who know the genre expectations. Gotta take both feedback and know what to use, what to toss.

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  31. Very familiar with the critique debacles! I've a dear friend who critiques for me, though she's a contemporary fiction author, I find her perspective valuable, as it helps ground me when my flights of fancy take off in too fantastical a direction. As for beta readers, I stick with a group of gifted teens. They are my target audience after all, and their feedback is pure gold!

    Something Wicked This Way Comes

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  32. Oh, Denise. *deep sigh* I wish I had a magic carpet that I could fly on. I would zoom to you and give you smooches and hugs. You cannot have that many eyes scouring your project. It is counter productive. If you truly believe in it put it away for a month and then haul it back out. I know that I know that I know you will be inspired. And forget the betas. YOU know what it needs. XOXOXOXO

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  33. When it comes to CP's and betas, I have A LOT to learn.
    I read somewhere, that it's good to have a variety of CP's, which should include at least one person who doesn't write in that genre. That person who isn't too familiar with the genre may just be the one to offer an 'out-of-the-ordinary' perspective, which in turn could open up all sorts of possibilities, ones that could take the story to greater heights...?
    I believe that you should also listen to your gut... YOU know YOUR story.
    I don't know how long you've been working on this novel, but I'd say leave it in the bottom drawer for a little while... let it stew... remember distance lends perspective. You may pick it up a month later with a different mindset and the solutions will jump off the paper!
    You are such a great writer. I'm sure you'll work it out.

    Or maybe you need the solid eyes of a good editor?

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  34. Hi, Denise,

    SO sorry to hear this. I Hope it's not the we've been working on.... I really love your piece, and I don't write in your genre... But a good beta will appreciate all GOOD writing.

    I hope it works out.

    I have been VERY LUCKY with my beta readers. Even the ones that don't like my pieces, I have learned a lot. Even if it is ONE thing that rings true for you, all the other things can and SHOULD fall to the waste side.

    ALL THE BEST and keep at it...

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