Thursday, September 30, 2010

Critiques, Feedback and the writer's choices...

More and more I find that I want feedback on my writing. How else could I move forward if not by listening to the voices of others? My writing isn't for my journal - to be found years later by my grandchildren. It is for now and if I want to be published I must hear what others think. That is why I jumped at the opportunity with Clarissa to have my first two chapters critiqued and why I leapt to make sure I was on the Pitch the Publisher mound at Word on the Street. Hearing what others have to say about our work is crucial AND we also need to know what is true for us and what is not true. If I respond to every suggestion I won't have a book, I'll have a crazy quilt and while I love those I yearn for a different outcome for my manuscripts.

When I was first practising the art of receiving feedback I was like my younger self learning to ride a bike. If my dad shouted out 'you're leaning too far too the right!' I'd lean too far to the left and fall on my noggin. Or I'd be mad that he'd dare to say anything and keep leaning too far and fall on my noggin. I got many headaches in those days. With my writing I'd rush to do what was suggested immediately without really looking at what was being said. Or I'd get all bristly and defensive and snap back that the person didn't understand my work, the genre, the world, etc...

Now I weigh what is said and incorporate it or not as I decide. And I'm getting pretty good at realizing quickly what is worth noting and what is just a view like I might have only different and not something I need to jump to.

An example of this is in Clarissa's crit of my first two chapters. I radically changed the second chapter because what she said made perfect sense. This sounds a bit out there but I read what she said and I felt it in my body as true. 99% of what she said seemed like that to me. The only thing that sticks out as not being true for me was when she told me she thought that brown and turquoise don't go together! So when I read that, again this is a felt sense, I knew that I would ignore this comment. Now, I don't want to get into an argument about colour - that isn't the point. The point is that we need to glean through the feedback we receive with confidence and our intuitive ability.

The same with what Gwen did in her extensive edit of my whole book. Most of what she said I incorporated immediately and some I just thought 'no' in my body and left it as is.

On Sunday the publishers gave feedback to everyone after their pitch. Mine was laced with positives and a few ideas for getting published. One was to try and find published writers in my genre who know my work or are willing to know it and give testimonials for my pitch. This seems like good advice but hard to do. I will think about it and attempt it. The other was something one of the publishers had said to the fellow before me who had pitched a great long story involving paranormals and said it was part of a trilogy. She had told him to just pitch the one book. I've heard this before and it makes sense but it didn't when she said it to me. I talked about the second book in the series I'm writing because I've researched the mystery market and those who publish mysteries WANT to know you've got a plan for the future with this protagonist. They want to publish books that will engage readers to read more of the series. And it is significantly different than a trilogy. Each book stands on its own. This publisher doesn't publish any genre fiction so perhaps does not know this. I smiled and thanked her but will not incorporate this advice.

How is your practice of taking in feedback going? Any tips for those of us in that part of the journey?


Clarissa Draper said...

In my opinion, I would totally ignore the brown and turquoise comment. Who would give that kind of advice anyways? That woman has no idea what she's talking about! I would go to her blog and leave a really mean comment!

In all seriousness, Jan, I belong to a writer's group. The greatest group out there IMHO and they have taken me from a pathetic writer (3 years ago) to a much better writer today. But, even with them, I received many conflicting reviews and comments. It's so important to go with your gut.

In the end, it's you and your family that have to feel proud of what your wrote, if you like it, that's the most important. If you would proudly place your book on your shelf, it's a job well done!


Carol Kilgore said...

I know what you mean by feeling it in your whole body. I am the same and that is the only way I know to express it, too. It's not a cognitive decision at all. Nor is it an emotional one. It's a total immediate knowing. You're the only other person I've ever known who's stated anything like this.

Elizabeth Spann Craig/Riley Adams said...

I usually just go with my editor's "suggestions," but there have been a couple of times I might have conveniently "forgotten" to take care of a suggested revision. :)

Hart Johnson said...

How fabulous to get to a place where you feel like you know which advice to take and which to ignore.

As to brown and turquoise--reminds me of soutwest chic- the native american stuff often has turquoise in with more natural colors.

KarenG said...

Awesome post! It's so great to gain that maturity as a writer, where your gut tells you what works and what doesn't. And how else do we get there except by practice? The more we write, the more confident we become about our voice, our story-telling abilities, and our self-editing capabilities.

Jemi Fraser said...

Feedback is vital. I've learned to trust my 2 crit buddies because they are so insightful. But, if something they say goes against my gut, I stick with my own opinion ... mostly :)

Michele Emrath said...

Great attitude, Jan. In practice, taking criticism is hard. What you write is very personal--even if it's not ABOUT something personal. Even just putting a small piece on one's blog can be a bit nerve-wracking.

Jan, I so look forward to reading your work!


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