ON WRITING

Remember writing doesn't love you. It doesn't care. Nevertheless, it can behave with remarkable generosity. Speak well of it, encourage others, pass it on. A. L. Kennedy

Wednesday, 6 March 2019

#IWSG post. Those critical critique partners.

Hey all, another month rolls around and here we have the IWSG post again. I confess I'd forgotten it, so swamped am i with writing projects, but someone just reminded me. So this is a quick in and out.

Click HERE to find the list of participants

Thanks to Alex J Cavanaugh and his team of awesomeness for the opportunity to talk about our insecurities or offer help to others who're going through something we've already mastered.

Alex's awesome co-hosts for the March 6 posting of the IWSG are Fundy Blue, Beverly Stowe McClure, Erika Beebe, and Lisa Buie-Collard! Visit if you can!

I'm ignoring the question for the month and posing a quick question of my own - I'm sure most of you have faced this and come to your own conclusions.

How much store do you place in suggestions from critique partners? 

I confess I tend to believe everyone knows better than I do, but I'm learning the hard way to trust myself more.

An example. I shopped a manuscript to two big publishers and received positive feedback, nearly making it with one of them, but after several editorial meetings, they decided to pass. Why? I was told that it needed a first chapter to set up the heroine's ORDINARY WORLD and then the rest would have flowed more. I had this first chapter written, but removed it on advice from two trusted critique partners. So now I'm rewriting it with this original first chapter included and improved. But the what if? nags...

This is happening a lot lately. It happened with the vampire series I'm writing where my critters wanted me to jump right into the story with action, action, action. I know where they're coming from with this, but it meant so much relied on backstory. A big no no. 

I'm starting to believe in myself and my decisions more. For me, that's a big thing. Critique partners are awesome, and I hate to think of life without them, but in the end, it's our story and we need to be comfortable with what we write.

What do you think?

Please share your thoughts. I'd appreciate it.

The combined WEP/IWSG enjoyed a successful challenge for the prompt, 28 Days. Please consider challenging yourself with our next prompt, Jewel Box, which happens in April during the A-Z Challenge.






28 comments:

  1. Hi,
    I can relate to what you've just said. I attended an international writers conference in Frankfurt, Germany this past weekend, and one of the agents talked about the necessity of letting your story be your story. He said a build up instead of a knock them over the head before jumping into the action is logical. Another agent also told me that if the editor reads the story and thinks that the structure has to be differently, he or she will tell you and work with an author on the structure if they accept the manuscript into their publishing house. So, that has really calmed my nerves concerning making big changes in my manuscript.
    I love critiquers also but I realized that it is important that I go with my gut feeling and own up to my own writing style and voice. To let someone change that is deadly regardless of who it is.
    Wishing you the time and patience and creativity in reconstructing that chapter back into your book
    Shalom aleichem,
    Pat G @ EverythingMustChange

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  2. I believe most of what my critique partners say, especially when they all agree. But, if it's something I feel strongly about, I go with my own instinct. My last book had the help of four critique partners and one wanted a major change in the story. I ignored it and I'm glad I did.
    Hope you find a home for that story!

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  3. I think there is a balance between taking advice and trusting yourself. And if two publishers are saying that your story should start in the ordinary world, then that's a big clue that this is how the story should go. Too bad they didn't just suggest you add that chapter. Glad you're getting so close though.

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  4. Critical feedback is great to help us polish our work, but not all critiques are created equally. Sometimes, it's hard to differentiate the good advise from the bad, but in the end, I think it's usually best to follow your instincts. Trust yourself. It's YOUR story.

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  5. It depends on what they are suggesting. Big changes, you have to go with your gut instinct. Those could derail your whole story and take away from what you wanted to convey.

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  6. Good for you for getting so close! The gut is a better judge than I once thought it was. It depends on how you feel about the suggested changes and how much they mold your story in ways you want it to go. If we had crystal balls, we'd always know the right choice

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  7. It's a hard call, and I understand the feeling of "they must be right." Glad you got the feedback that just might make a difference when you sub that ms. again.

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  8. Good for you! It's SO HARD not to believe/follow every suggestion. I'm very guilty of that.
    Sounds like you're on the right track - and almost there! YAY!!

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  9. That 'jump right in' is a common belief so one non-professional critiquers (and I mean this kindly--it's what most of us are) would default to. But, it isn't always right so your gut is a better barometer for what must be done.

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  10. I struggle with how to incorporate advice from critique partners! Part of my internal debate stems from their lack of "expertise;" that is, in my critique group we're all unpublished and unagented at the moment. So while I appreciate their effort, I'm never sure how much to trust comments -- especially ones that create big, sweeping rewrites such as you're describing.

    I'm so sorry you went through this, with taking out your "ordinary world" chapter and then being told to put it back in! I'm spending some time right now reading more craft books on plotting (I'm a pantser and plotting ahead of time befuddles me!) and so far, they all say to show the protag in their ordinary world before the catalyst hits. I'm not sure why so many people started demanding that a story "jump right in" to big action. It's definitely frustrating for those of us on the receiving end of the advice!

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  11. You definitely should believe your judgement over the others'. I found with my own well-meaning beta-readers that many of them don't really give you comments on your story. They comment on how they would've written this story themselves. Sometime they see in your writing what isn't there, or don't see what is.

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    1. Succinctly put, Olga. I'm learning to trust myself and that takes a load off.

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  12. Gah! Being passed on a chapter that could've been rewritten? So silly. But that's what happens. At least you know why.

    And yeah, I've had too many opinions on a previous ms and every time I changed something to suit the critters, my ms got worse. But I didn't know that until years later. It takes time to work out what's right for your story, and it takes time to read behind the lines to know exactly what the critique partners are saying, because it's not always what they are saying (if that makes sense, lol).

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    1. Yes, Lyn, that happened to another earlier ms of mine. So many changes I no longer liked/recognized the story. So silly. Live and learn.

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  13. You nailed it Denise. I wouldn't publish a book without a thorough mauling by my critique partners first, but at the end of the day it's my name on the cover and my call which advice to take and which to ignore. That's one of the most important lessons in my Critique Survival Guide!

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  14. I've had people critique my writing, but I've never had critique partners. I've incorporated constructive suggestions into a piece I'm writing, but I trust my overall judgement. As you said, you have to be comfortable with what you write. Happy writing in the coming month, Denise!

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  15. Crit partners and beta readers are awesome. Yes. But yeah, sometimes it's hard to know what suggestion do keep and what to throw out. I'm learning that if there are suggestions--something isn't clicking for them but their thoughts on how to fix it might be way off.

    Best of luck!

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  16. Glad you're close, Denise! All the best. I think most betas tend to project their own expectations on the story with all good intentions, more like what they'd want to write. It's important that you feel okay with how the story develops.

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  17. Totally my own biased opinion - and feel free to disagree. We will still be friends, partners :)

    I found myself in the same situation with my critique group. I'd been with them for about 5 years, we were comfortable with each other, and since we all - mostly - wrote in differing genre's, it was great to get "writing" feedback from different perspectives. But it all boiled down to what writing rules each person was following individually, and how they might write the story themselves. And yeah, I realized I fell into that rut myself when giving feedback. And yes, I believe crit partners are vital at any stage of writing development.

    But, YOU are the author, YOU know what story premise you are writing towards, YOU know all the backstory and inciting events. When accepting feedback - constructive or not, lol - author you needs to learn which parts are useful, or not. Not based on your friendship with and familiarity with the group, but based on how YOU want to tell the story.

    Not all feedback is useful. Some is trendy. Thank everyone for their honest and "constructive" feedback, review it all carefully over time, and make a decision if you will use it or not. Your story can't bend to every critique, and I'm sure Denise, you know what is really helpful, what is totally useless, and what might be worked into the revisions, if an editor/publisher says that is what is needed to get published by them.

    Sometimes crit partners are dead on, sometimes they are millions of miles off. Yes, trust your tried and true crit partners; but also trust your original story concept. Unless it feels off as you write. Characters have a tendency to change your plot concept about the middle of several months worth of hard writing.

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    1. Thanks for the book Donna. Love that you've taken the time to share your thoughts. You've given me something to think about.

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  18. When they all say the same thing, probably right. But when you think they are wrong and it doesn't go with your vision, best to stick with what you think.

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  19. Listening to others is important but it is still your story. You need to be happy with it.

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  20. Learning how much weight to place on CP feedback is as much of a learned art as the writing itself. So much has to be considered (when it's not a head-slapping moment of Well, crap. They're right. ... There are always a few of those good catches. LOL).

    For me, it got better when my debut did well, and I gained more confidence in my writing. I didn't fret as much over choosing which advice to take. I knew the direction I wanted for my stories and the elements my readers would expect from me, and that made it easier to chuck the suggestions that didn't fit.

    It also helps to have more than one or two CPs / beta readers. If 1 out of 4 CPs comments on something that doesn't resonate, you can probably ignore it. But if 3 out of 4 make the same note, you'd better take heed.

    You also have to take into account the skill of the writer critiquing for you and any genre differences. One of my 7 beta readers for a recent novel hated it. But she admitted she didn't read much romance and particularly disliked those with some elements mine had. The other 6 liked it, so I disregarded most of her feedback.

    As to your cut scene, that's a tough one. Some non-author feedback might have helped you. Writers see stories differently than non-author readers. Starting a book at the inciting moment and getting straight into action is a good thing, but there are valid reasons for making an exception. I did it with my debut (not getting the H & h together right away), and it paid off.

    Sorry. I didn't mean to write a book for a comment! Great post, though. I'm glad you decided to rebel against the IWSG topic. :)

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    1. Thanks for the book, Melissa. I value your points. I have everything covered except non-authors. I'll try that before I shop my women's fiction around again.

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  21. Interesting question, Denise. It leads me to another question. How does one select critique partners?

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    1. It's taken me years. The two I have I met at a Margie Lawson (How to write) retreat. Margie chose we 3 as compatible. I've used writing friends and online groups, but with little success.

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  22. Sorry Denise, I somehow missed this last week.
    Like any workshop partners, critique partners all have different points of view, so you have to know them well to understand their take. Each story is different, each editor/magazine has an interest in a particular style of story. So I think that as writers we just have to juggle with all this, attempt publishing with different editors and eventually hope to find a perfect match ! Looking forward to discussing Rebecca. Are you participating in the IWSG book club ?

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    1. Sorry Susan, I just don't have time, but what a wonderful novel to read/discuss. I love the film, too.

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