Monday, November 1, 2010

A Lot of Critique is GREAT! If it all is in sync...

Part of the writing process is getting feedback. It is this feedback that gives a writer a new perspective on his or her story. For many writers, this feedback comes from their critique partners or critique groups. For other writers, the feedback comes from contests they enter or outside critiques. It really doesn't matter where you get it from, it is all good.

Sort of...

The biggest drawback all of this critique can have is trying to meet the needs of ALL of the readers. In other words, a writer simply tries to accomplish what everyone has said in the critiques and the end result is a tangled mess of a story. Let me explain.

Writers fail to look at the big picture of things. They get feedback from two different people on one select scene or group of chapters. Instead of taking all of the comments and looking at the issues as a whole, they work with one person at a time. While on the surface, this might seem like a completely logical approach to the revisions, they could run into contradictory issues. What the writer fails to see is that each of the critique partners were seeing the story in a different light and certainly seeing the outcome differently. They were focusing on techniques that would take the story to THEIR ending.

Think of this as if you were cooking. Someone comes over and tastes the soup you have in the pot. Someone might say that it needs some sugar to enhance the flavor. Someone else might encourage you to add another spice or a vegi and someone else might recommend taking something out. The end result could be a mess that isn't even edible. All that you have accomplished is to follow the suggestions of all of your critics without thinking of how it would all fit together.

This is one of the biggest issues I have with writers who enter a ton of contests. While they might think they are getting all of these great comments (which they might be) they are also dragging the story back and forth in different directions because many of the comments might be focusing on different factors that simply don't work together.

The solution is simple. THINK!



  1. I guess I enter contests for the wrong reasons: I want to win and get that reading from the editor or agent at the end of the process. I don't enter for feedback or critiques. As for critiques: I can't have a multitude of suggestions or I go beserk and shut down. I can't determine what suggestions to take. I used to be okay with critiques. Don't know what happened. I'm sort of like a kid who was attacked by a dog. Now...all dogs are alike. Critiques just confuse me. HOWEVER, I will say the best critiques come from those who are willing to read the complete manuscript. That way, they can keep things in their head, see what works and what doesn't with the book as a whole. Those are valuable! Few and far between too.

  2. WOW! As always, you have that perfect spark that sets a lesson firmly in my brain. This was wonderful timing for your post and I LOVE the cooking analogy.

    Off to shred the E.G. judge's notes . . . .

  3. I just wanted to say thanks for the informative post. Also, I can relate to it. I am in a writing/critique group in my hometown, and everyone that reads it has something different to say. That's the good thing, the bad is, their conflicting comments. It's maddening! One says take this out, flop it this way and it'll read better - and the other says its just awesome! I love this scene. And blah, blah, blah....

    What I try to do is to consider each of the opinions, then I think about the people I'm trying to reach with my story. Which comments match my intended audience better? Then I edit, and only then.

    No writer is going to make everyone happy. That's near impossible. Period. So don't try, and write for your intended and from your heart. :)

    Thank you again for the great post.

  4. This is unrelated to your blog post but I hope you can help.

    I've read conflicting information on what to do when an agent has a copy of your ms but since sending you've made changes to it. Is it okay to notify them of the changes? Does this irk agents? I'm sure I'm not the only writer to have experienced this.

    Before you yell at me for sending an ms to an agent in the first place. Know that the ms is complete, was complete at the time. Because an unpublished manuscript is something that can always be improved upon, I did another round of revisions.

    Thank you for any help or suggestions you can offer.

  5. I have a different note to this subject. I called a book company, like it said to do on line, and told them of my story. The agent asked to see the manuscript and in a couple of weeks they sent me an e-mail of overview- pros- issues and recommendations. Then they told me edit recommendations before they told me and that soon they would have proposal for me. We wrote back and forth for almost a month with the changes I was making for them. What confused me the most was how much they were asking for me to give them to publish this book.
    Sincerely, Marie :)

  6. Totally agree with this. I love getting feedback but it can complicate things. I remember getting two pieces of feedback a little while ago within a couple of days. They were both well written and made a strong point. To a degree i agreed them both.

    However there was one problem. the two critiques contradicted one another.

    Good feedback but they kind of canceled each other out. If i listened to them both that is. I didn't by the way.

    Like you say, Think! it is the key