I've said before that the real purpose of critique is to get a writer to look at their manuscript differently. You don't have to take every piece of advice your betas give you—in fact, you don't have to take any of it if you don't want. But that begs the question: Then what do you take?
For me, I go by my reaction to the suggestion. You know your story, and critiques that improve it will resonate with you. Those that don't, I tend to ignore. I'll give you a run down of some of my reactions to critique:
1. What the CRAP?
Sometimes I'll read a suggestion that feels completely out there, one that makes me think, "Did they read the book?" These are the ones I usually throw out, because they'd make my book something it isn't and there's nothing I can do about that.
2. Um, that's not what I meant.
When a beta mentions something I didn't intend or something they didn't understand, then it's an indicator to me that I need to make my writing clearer. For example, one of my betas thought my MC was naked at one point when she'd only taken her over-shirt off. Yeah—CLARIFY.
3. Dangit, I hoped I could get away with that.
These are the crits I knew might come back, but I was lazy and didn't want to do the work unless someone called me on it.
When I don't expect a huge suggestion—one that would take massive rewriting—but it makes sense, that's my first reaction. I try to wiggle my way out of it, but in my gut I know I'm going to have to dig in and rewrite.
5. Wow! I never noticed that!
Sometimes my betas point out themes or issues I hadn't intended, but are freaking awesome. Often I go back and try to bring those out if they strengthen the plot/characters.
Then there are the times when betas point out really obvious things that make me feel blind. Or they point out my excessive semi-colons or glaring typos or copious amounts of "just" and "even." These are usually easy fixes that I should have caught.
7. That's PERFECT.
Usually I know the trouble spots in my book, but I'm at a loss for how to fix them. My betas are amazing at helping me fill in those holes. Sometimes they'll say one little thing that opens up the story and makes it just right. These edits make me excited to get back to work.
As you can see, there's only one reaction that makes me throw out advice. I think that's how it should be. I seriously consider most of what my betas say, and I make changes accordingly. I may not do exactly what they prescribe, but I fix it in my own way. Sometimes it's hard to listen and decode, but my manuscript has always been better for it.
Did you have a lot of "What the Craps" today? ;)ReplyDelete
Thanks for this post! Feedback is always the hardest part of revision for me, especially the "noooo!" critiques. I like it the way I have it, but I know deep down it's going to have to change.ReplyDelete
None at all, actually;PReplyDelete
This says it all so perfectly. Number 3 always gets a big laugh at our group--I think that "getting away with it feel" is also just a bit of knowing we can let it go if we don't have THE answer when writing, because our critique group is going to help us figure out a solution.ReplyDelete
I know those "Dangit, I hoped I could get away with that..." well. I even caught myself writing something in the other day, the whole time thinking "I bet my CP will call me on this, but maybe I can get away with it!" I ended up deleting it before I sent it to my CP. Other times I leave it in, just to see...it usually doesn't fool anyone though ;)ReplyDelete
Thanks for the breakdown, Natalie! This will help me process information as I start getting feedback. :)ReplyDelete
I love how you express your reactions.ReplyDelete
I'm totally bookmarking this one. Someday soon I'll be getting my MS out to betas and this will be a good refresher for me when the time comes.ReplyDelete
Critiques are the hardest part of writing for me. I'm great at giving them, but less good at taking them. I like your breakdown. Most of the time, when I react strongly to something, it really is just me saying but I don't want to change it, even if it would be better. Thanks for the post today.ReplyDelete
Those are the exact same reactions for me. I've learned so much over the last year about what a critique is, how to give them and how to receive them. My friends have been so patient with me. I think of the time they put into reading and giving feedback and I count my lucky stars.ReplyDelete
Great list. Getting a critique is so nerve wracking, because it always shows you how much more work you have to do! I also find it helpful to tell my entire story to willing friends as a verbal synopsis - then I can see how well my overall story goes down from their reactions.ReplyDelete
I sometimes worry that I pay too much attention to what my critiquers say - it's easy to get lost sometimes when re-writing - particularly if you're unpublished and keen to be so, so keen are you to improve and impress. Early in my writing career I once massacred a manuscript trying to please all my reviewers, until I realised that the creative responsibility ultimately lies with the writer, and I now try and take an approach very close to yours, Natalie. I'm not sure I succeed, and I do find myself getting very anxious when I'm about to receive feedback! Finding the right balance is tough, but this post certainly helps.ReplyDelete
Excellent advice. Every reader sees a work through his own lens, and sometimes that lens can be a bit cloudy. As you say, if a critique doesn't resonate--especially if it gives you a WTF (or WTC) moment, it's usually wise to simply thank them and ignore the comment.ReplyDelete
You are wise in accepting critiques with an assessing mind. I normally feel an initial stab then I bandage the wound and see what truth i can gain from the comments.ReplyDelete
These are so true. I especially love No. 3... not that I am every lazy about my writing, or anything...ReplyDelete
I can relate to all of those points. Well said. :)ReplyDelete
Very true post!! I can relate to most of them, although thankfully I haven't had the first yet :)ReplyDelete
Haha, yea I know some of those, and I've only gotten comments back from one person! :) Thanks for sharing.ReplyDelete
I couldn't have said it better. You nailed it! Ya gotta love beta readers. Mine keep me honest and help me expand my writing and my thinking about every manuscript. Thanks for putting into words that which I have felt.ReplyDelete
Excellent post! I'm passing this along to a friend who's in the midst of some major revisions. :) As a beta, I try to do what I hope to get back from betas when I send out my writing. That said, I also hope to not give my writer friends a ton of "What the crap" comments, but I'm sure I've done it. But, if I have any comment (not just random line edits), I always try to explain WHY I'm making the comment or pinpoint what made me think that way so the author can get into my head when they read through how I read their MS. I think that's because, as a writer, I ask "why" (in a good way, not a I-don't-want-to-make-this-change way) a lot when I get back critiques and end up having to talk to the betas about it so I can try to avoid doing the same things in the future.ReplyDelete
I'm doing a "NOOOOoooo!" right now. That means Major fixing. *sigh* But that means the book- will- be- better! *Head thumping on table* Glad I'm not the only one out there. Thanks Natalie. =)ReplyDelete
Nice post, and really timely.ReplyDelete
A writer friend has asked me to be her beta. I'm an avid reader, but a beta virgin. Any suggestions about being a beta?
The Blogger Formerly Known as Linguista.
As usual, brilliant! These all nail the reactions I have to beta reader critiques. Sometimes I'm stubborn and throw things out just because I'm stubborn. Which is stupid. I usually always go back and fix it later after I've accepted it.ReplyDelete
I love this! Breakdown by reaction. Very cool. Now would you go put some clothes on that poor MC? It's chilly! ;)ReplyDelete
You just totally demystified the critique. I say some of those same things!ReplyDelete
This is a very accurate breakdown! Well done.ReplyDelete
Betas rock. Seriously, how would we write without them. Thanks for putting it so well!ReplyDelete
I can relate to what you've said. Though, I've never called my critique group betas. Hmm... Usually when I say, "What the crap..." I think about it and sometimes, they are right. I hate it when that happens. But there are times when they are way off the mark, too. Thanks for a wonderful post. :)ReplyDelete
Heh, thanks for this Natalie, for me this particular little gem couldn't have come at a better time.ReplyDelete
I am currently waiting for my first round of heavy duty beta feedback from my beta's for my first full length book (attempt).
I've gotten a bit of filtered feedback from one so far and had a few 3's a 4 and a lot of 2. My alpha reader (bless her soul) has managed to give me three 7's. The ones that where getting me was several "what the crap?" reactions. Glad to know it's not just me and now feeling more secure in what my response to beta process will be.
I read and try and take value from every comment, but I absolutely will not take a suggested solution as written from a beta, particularly if they are suggesting a passage of prose, as one of them has already displayed a wont to do.
#4 is one I encounter a lot :P And I love when #5 happens.ReplyDelete
This is such a great way to frame feedback! The humor makes it easier to remember, too. I'll definitely link to this advice for my Fresh Voices writers.ReplyDelete
Seeing as I'm just going through and reading beta comments on a first draft, this is an appropriate post. I go through the same responses.ReplyDelete
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This post is fantastic... and so spot on. :DReplyDelete