Sunday, October 9, 2011

Balancing Critiques

One necessary part of the writing process is sending out your manuscript to beta readers. No matter how good a story may be in your mind, there's no real way of knowing how it will be received until you put it to the test with real live readers. Plus, no matter how many times you go over your manuscript, there's simply a point when you become blinded to its flaws. I've referred to this as living inside the monkey house. It's always best to find out if that manuscript you believe is the complete shiznit...well, isn't in reality just a big pile o' shit.

In the best case scenario, you'll find a well-balanced group of peeps to send it out to. People that have different pet peeves, ensuring they will come back with unique perspectives--point out a myriad of different things that will help round out your manuscript. Worse case scenario--you send it out to a group of people who fail to come back with any kind of constructive criticism. Let's face it. No work is ever perfect--no matter how good. If you receive nothing but positive accolades -- well, first off -- CONGRATULATIONS!! I'm jealous beyond measure. (I can't even begin to tell you how jealous that actually is. LOL.) But most of us are pretty human, and if nothing else, typos will be caught--awkward sentences squashed out of existence, plot holes filled.

Critiques can be a double-edged sword at times, tho. What one reader determines as a problem area, another will take no issue with. In the end, you may be left wondering who's right. Perhaps you see the merits of both sides--so you don't know what the heck you should do.

Well, I wish there was an easy answer to this dilemma. There isn't. Sometimes you simply have to take a step away from the manuscript for a while--come back to it with the two opposing opinions in the back of your mind. A quick read through may highlight one as the better way for you to take your work... then again, it may not. Sometimes, whether or not we have the confidence to make the determination--it simply comes down to a matter of opinion.

When in doubt, I say, TRUST YOURSELF.

It's a scary thing, that. Trusting yourself. No one wants to admit out loud that they've ignored someone's advice because they believe HIS/HER way is better. It sort of comes off as asshole-ish, doesn't it? You've asked your readers for opinions, they gave them, and in the end, you decided to disregard what they had to say on a particular point. I know we all send out critiques with the caveat that the writer can take or leave our comments... but do we really want to be ignored? NO. WE are right.

Well, the truth one is really right or wrong in this situation. Reading is a subjective experience. What may rub one reader the wrong way will totally tickle the fancy of another. This is a NO WIN game. You're never going to be able to please everyone. The only thing you CAN control is satisfying yourself and feeling confident that you've analyzed and broken down each and every comment and taken or discarded all of them in the vein of trying to make your book the best it can be.

It's a hard line to draw, but it's one we all need to make.

Just remember that if you send out calls for beta readers that you should and need to give each and every comment due respect. A person took a lot of time out of their schedule to read for you--and the comments they made are important enough for them to include them in a critique. You may feel the urge to immediately dismiss a particular point as outright WRONG for your book, but I would recommend taking a step back and coming back to it later. Maybe it will hold more water after you've taken a break. Then again, maybe not.


Happy writing, everyone.

BY THE PALE MOONLIGHT is going to go up for sale on October 18th!!! That's only --9-- days from now!!! WHOOT WHOO!!!


Deniz Bevan said...

Yay, 8 more days!
It's hard to trust yourself sometimes - I mean, you've trusted yourself this far, and created what you think is the best you can do, and then betas come back with (if you're lucky) piles of comments - and then you have to trust yourself *again* to pick and choose among all the advice? It never gets easy :-)

Jennifer Hendren said...


VERY exciting. :)

And NEVER gets any easier. I keep thinking it will, and it just doesn't. You may tackle one issue only to discover a half dozen more. LOL. Oh well, as long as you keep learning. (g)