Tuesday, 1 April 2014

A New Writer's Conundrum: Trust my instincts? Or trust the constructive criticism?

Since I won a critique of my current manuscript, I have been eagerly and nervously anticipating the response. Well, today I received it and, while I have points to work on, I know it will only serve to improve my novel so I couldn't be more grateful.

It was interesting to have someone highlight some of the areas I already knew I somewhat skirted past. I sometimes sacrifice some of the extra details, only doing so can assume the readers knows what I am talking about - which isn't always a safe bet. I will have to keep this in mind as I review and improve my novel. It was suggested to infuse more information about the setting and I absolutely agree so am so thankful to have this in my editing toolbag. I realized I need to introduce the city to my readers just as I need to introduce it to my protagonist. Along with highlighting my setting more, I definitely need to determine how much is too much (or too little) with regards to referring to accents. My 'lead male' is Scottish. From some previous feedback and research, it seems to be more common to choose a few choice words to highlight the characters accent and remind the reader that the character is Scottish (or another background). I have always struggled with this. If I put too little, someone comments to add more and vice versa. Is there a rule? I especially want to know because I don't want to submit this to the interested agent only for her to reject it on some small facts that I could of/should have corrected before hand.

While I have only had feedback from a few people now: a blue pencil review, 3 beta readers and now a critique, the results have all varied, exactly representing the vast differences of opinions out there. I love that I am receiving feedback like this because, like all writer's, I just want the readers to love my characters and enjoy their story. Having readers of different preferences helps me improve my story even more.

The slight downside to having some difference in opinions is when it comes to working off of those suggestions to make improvements. I actually changed the start of my story based on a blue pencil appointment at the SIWC, indicating I should include some background of how we get to the scene I had the story starting on, as opposed to just jumping into it and revealing more details along the way. With the new beginning in place, when sending my first chapter to beta readers, I asked their opinion specifically on the current start compared to where it previously began. I received unanimous response that the addition works better which was rewarding. I felt that I was able to take the constructive feedback from SIWC and improve the start of my story because of it.

Now, with the response from my critique, it's questioning if the readers need this information (a reason why I didn't have it to begin with). Similarly, some descriptive choices I make, while I have had a reader boldly plead that I never change that sentence ever, the critique narrowed on this point more negatively, once again leaving me with the question: Which is right?

I feel inclined to sway toward the information from the critique, though a rebellious side of me wants to pretend I didn't even notice the suggestion. The first beta reader I was lucky enough to find, has been responding exactly as I had hoped a reader would: commenting on areas of improvement yes, but also becoming instantly attached to the characters. She gets me as a story teller, including these particular descriptive points, but I know it's not as simple as that. As we all know, just because one person likes it, doesn't mean the next will. It's more difficult than I imagined.

 I am not necessary a 'new writer' but I am new in the sense that only in the last year have I begun working at improving this manuscript, completing it and cross-my-fingers becoming published. Meaning, I care more. I feel more invested. That's not to say I was disinterested before with my writing. That couldn't be further from the truth. I always love writing. I love learning about my characters and the story that develops around them. What I am learning is that the 'writing' part is much easier than attempting to become published. There is much more work involved and, it feels like, much more is at stake. Because, now that I have decided I want to have these stories published, the real work began. It's just...the more I reach out for feedback and suggestions, and the more I work on improving my story, I'm finding it quite like a tennis match. Left or right. Yes or no. I just am not sure how I will know which is correct and which will have a more positive affect on my novel. I already tend to edit and re-write my scenes over and over again. I just don't want to make changes that will hinder an agent from wanting my novel. I already feel I can edit until I am blue in the face, especially having contradicting comments. It makes me think it's only going to get more difficult from here. I am prepared for all feedback...I just want to somehow avoid writing and rewriting and not knowing when to 'put down the pencil and eraser.'

To fellow writers out there: how do you know when to incorporate the feedback, and when to STOP with the re-editing and rewriting? When to know to trust your instincts and when to listen to the feedback?

I appreciate any comments. I want to be able to move forward in my editing and get to the finish line. Your feedback here will help me so thank you in advance!

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