How do you know whose opinion to take about your writing?
I have many critique partners. Some of them, I use all of their advice; others, I use almost none of it.
(We recently discussed critique groups HERE)
How do you decide – whether you’re looking at 10 different opinions or five or two – which ones to utilize and which ones to ignore?
It is not as easy as it sounds.
A talented writer might give you great suggestions that you ignore! A schmuck might tell you stuff that you use, messing your story up even worse!
I use one rule.
What is their writing like?
We may not be able to paint a great painting, but we know the art we like. Start there.
Feedback from a bona fide source is good feedback unless the artist is deranged (and you’d figure that out over time).
When someone is reading your writing, especially if they are reading a chapter at a time, you don’t know where their mind is. You don’t know where they’re coming from. You don’t know what jokes they’re getting and which jokes they’re missing.
On the other hand, if you have samples of their writing to read, you can say, “Oh, I think this is funny; oh, that was poignant; oh, that was very astute.” You will learn what they understand by reading their writing.
As a result, if you don’t understand anything they’re writing about, it’s fair to say their interests and their point of view and their mindset are different from yours.
If you really get to know them and you just love what they are write, it’s fair to say you’re on the same page.
As your palate grows, you’ll come to appreciate finer writings, just like people enjoy white wine and learn to appreciate deep reds, or people acquire a taste for sushi or whatever. Once upon a time, Jack and Jill rocked your world. Now, not so much. Continue to develop your literary tastes by reading new things and expanding your reading universe. That’s the benefit of the “read a lot part” of “read a lot, write a lot.”
And this is where the tricky part comes in.
You’re writing to an audience, but you don’t necessarily know the spectrum of intelligence and humor understanding and emotional viability of that audience.
Or do you?
Well you can, or you should.
You should write to YOUR audience.
You should write to – hopefully – maybe just one person.
We have talked about that before (HERE and HERE), but if you are writing to a specific muse, or a generic combination high school friend (it’s really four people merged into one), or a nondescript middle-age woman in her 40s with grown children; if you are writing to that one person, that doesn’t change.
In your mind, that person gets the jokes and understands where you are emotionally and comprehends what you’re bringing to the table.
You don’t have to change it, then, based on what other critiques say. You just have to hone it.
For example, certain of my critique partners totally get all the jokes. So when they don’t, I know I’ve made a mistake.
I know they get the jokes because they make comments indicating they do, and because when I read their stories I get their jokes.
And I’m just using “jokes.” It could be anything. Emotional level. Skill level. Descriptions. Whatever.
So I’m using “jokes” here but it could be the way they described a cloud.
In the end, if I’m satisfying the three or four people that I really rely on, I don’t really care about the other seven who read it.
Oh, I care about them all, just not as much. I went them all to be happy and I want them all to enjoy the book, but the fact is: if I don’t like westerns and my friend writes a Western, I’ll like it because it’s my friend’s, not because I like westerns.
If I have a friend who doesn’t like sci-fi, she might read my sci-fi story because it’s mine. Because she likes my writing, not because she likes sci-fi. So her comments about the sci-fi stuff may be slightly less valuable than somebody who really loves sci-fi. Especially if I’m writing for a sci-fi audience.
And that’s the key. We are writing to a specific audience and we’re going to market to that specific audience. You don’t want to write one word of a book that is made to be loved by the world. You can’t. A book like that appeals to no one.
The book that you write to one person – when you’re very specific, when you connect – that appeals to everyone.
I know it’s the opposite of what you think, but it’s the reality of the situation.
Share it with like-minded people and draw on the confidence that becomes yours – because you earn it. Let your confidence grow and thrive. Suddenly you don’t care what so many people think. The opinion that matters most is the one you own.
Who do you trust with your stuff?
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Dan Alatorre is the author of several bestsellers and the hilarious upcoming novel “Poggibonsi” – yeah, we know. We’re trying to convince him to change that title – check out his other works here http://www.amazon.com/Dan-Alatorre/e/B00EUX7HEU/ref=sr_ntt_srch_lnk_1?qid=1425128559&sr=1-1 and check back often for interesting stuff.