Tuesday, April 27, 2010

W is for What the French Toast!?!

This is the last week of the Blogging from A-Z Challenge over at Arlee Bird's Tossing It Out Blog.  I've been blogging and commenting for the past month while trying to run my finished manuscript through critique circles for feedback.  As a result of all the contradicting comments about my novel, I decided to appeal to the ether for feedback...

Some people have said that my character is too emotional and that someone so sensitive would not be in her line of work, at least not for long.  Others have said that she isn't emotional enough...that the physical manifestations of emotion (shaking, sobbing, etc) are not enough and that I have to  "Say" what she is feeling as in...anguish squeezed my heart.

I think that there is a fine line between sensitive and an emotional train wreck and I'm afraid of crossing over. Then again, critique circles are supposed to help us by challenging our writing and helping us to grow in our craft.  Sheesh!  I'm going crazy trying to figure out if there is really something wrong...or I'm just getting opinion.

My question to you is this: How do you wade through all the comments and suggestions to find what is relevant and what is not?  Do you find critique groups helpful, or discouraging?  I'd love to know what you think.  Until next time...Go Write!

Photograph by Ben Werdmuller von Elgg, Uploaded on March 9, 2009.


Alex J. Cavanaugh said...

I've never used a critique group, just a couple test readers. And their suggestions were good - and similar.

Jen said...

YUM I love french toast... okay back to the meaning of this post.

I just received my very first set of critiques and my first reaction was the over dramatic "Oh my gosh they hate my writing!!" once I realized that they were making some very valid points I was able to reasonably sit down and go through them.

It's hard to decide what to keep and what to throw away. My suggestion would be to choose another party, around the same age as the character and have them read it and see what their opinion is. See if the character is relatable. I try not to take any of it to heart, only take the good stuff, throw the rest away. If you are having conflicted views of the character it sounds to me like it would be more of an opinion, that's just me though!

Sydnee said...

It's really hard sometimes. Usually, I decide what to listen to and what to ignore by judging my initial reaction. If a piece of critique has me going: "Wow, that makes perfect sense", then of course I'm going to apply it. But if I still feel skepticism or annoyance a day after the feedback, I'll ignore it or only follow it as I see fit.

Even if I don't use every piece of critique in the piece it was given for, I'll still keep it in mind for the next story I write.

B. Miller said...

I listen to my gut. If the suggestions make sense, I go with them. If they don't, I thank the critiquers anyway, and head on down the road.

Stephen King says when you give your novel to your first readers, keep this in mind: if several people focus on one thing, it's something to be concerned about. If several people focus on totally separate things, it's a wash. Just go with what feels right to you.

I'm having the same issue with my protag. He's a cop so I'm worried that I'm making him too emotional, too soft. But I'm being true to the character. It's a fine line to tread.

Whatever you decide, GOOD LUCK with it, my friend!!

Ellie said...

I am not in a critique group; I know what I like. I think a character has to show many characteristics and flaws. Just because emotion is shown, doesn't make the character
to sensitive, it feeds the fuel of why this character, will do at all cost, what is coming next. Why there is an emotional charge! I mean, isn't there usually a reason impacted with emotion, that we do
what we do. I need to lose weight; I need to get emotional about it. Why did i gain it back,
I'm mad, I frustrated....emotions
show us the bridge of why our character went that path, acted out, etc. Emotions show the change of the character, the turn of their moral code or not. I don't know the literary terms for what they call this. I just think a non emotional character, would probably be in the military, an assassinator or a robot. ( I can say this, my spouse is in the Navy.) Yes, he gets emotional, off duty, but you get the gist.

Patricia Stoltey said...

I think critique groups are great! I have my own group, plus I've helped start two other groups affiliated with Northern Colorado Writers. One thing I stress is that all critique comments are suggestions, and it's totally up to the author to pick and choose which suggestions work and which ones don't.

My own rule of thumb is that one member's comment means "think about it." If three or more members make the same comment/criticism, it's time to pay serious attention.

KM said...

I always take into consideration opinions of writers I trust. If one of my critique partners that I know is good says that I should change something, I seriously think about it. But sometimes, they can be wrong. If multiple people say the same thing, then you should probably listen.

With one of my WIP's, I was told that the beginning was boring. By a lot of people. Including contest judges. So I changed it. But one person was adament that my MC was corrupting young minds, and I had to blow that one off.

Go with your gut.

sarahjayne smythe said...

I'm into an online crit group and I'm just beginning to find my way. I like and have a lot of respect for my members and have always listened to my betas, but in the end, it raally is all about what your writer's gut says. :)

Eric W. Trant said...

I've never done a critique group.

I have a few readers who read stuff (sometimes), and they are, in order: a writer, an honors English teacher, and my brother (aka Satan with a flaming case of hemorrhoids).

I throw away anything that begins with, "I didn't like..."

I chunk out comments that contain "I'd rather..." or "That's not grammatically correct..."

Blah blah. I don't care what you did or did not like, and I know it's not correct grammar. Grammer grammer grammer. How do you like ~that~!

I keep anything that begins with, "I didn't understand..." or "I don't get..."

Personally, if you want my honest belief on critique, it is this from an old memoir of mine:

Revision can take a good rough draft, pound out the lumps, roll the kinks smooth, straighten the curves, round the edges, and untangle all the thoughtless knots—until there's nothing left but a bunch of flat, balmy words. Blech!

Don't over-revise based on feedback. You'll screw it up.

Write from your heart, listen to YOUR inner critic, and only change things that improve the story's clarity.

- Eric

The Alliterative Allomorph said...

I've never been in a critique group before - obviously becasue I live in Greece, and it's difficult, but I have had it read by a couple of professionals and even then I didn't agree with everything they said. You really just have to go with your gut, like B says. If someone suggests something, and you're immediate reaction is 'I understand your point, but it won't work because ...', then you're probably right. If you react defensively, then there's probably something that needs attention.

Anonymous said...

although I don't write...
I read.
My feeling about critique groups is mixed.
If they like what I write then great.
If they don't I'd find a group that does.
It's not up to you to satisfy them, write what you want and find the group that likes it and wants more.
I like hearing cricitm of others work, if it hits the mark.
But how you determine what is good criticm is the problem.
You can't please everyone, so you got to please yourself, ( thanks ricky Nelson for the song also).

Raquel Byrnes said...

Wow...I actully feel much better! You guys are right...thanks!

I take all the ideas with a grain of salt and go with my gut...any consistent complaints and I'll take a second look.

Great advice you'all.

Marjorie said...

I'm going with B. Miller on this one. What she said is exactly what I was going to get at. Of course, she said it better than I would have.

Elizabeth West said...

I agree with most everyone; you have to go with what makes sense. It's tempting to get mad when people attack your baby!

The most important thing about picking readers, I think, is finding people you trust to critique you without tearing you up.

ModernDayDrifter said...

I don't really use critique groups myself. The way I see it, everyone has an opinion and not all are going to sound that great. Go with what you think and feel. You are the one who knows your character the best.

arlee bird said...

Have never dealt with critique groups but it might be interesting. I agree what has previously been said. It's all just opinion-- it might provide good guidance, but it's not the final word.

May 3rd A to Z Challenge Reflections Mega Post

Rae said...

I used to get my husband to critique my writing, but he was so critical that I just stopped writing for awhile.
Then I realized that I had to write for my own sanity so I just don't share with him any more.
He knows I blog, but he rarely takes a peek.
I'm fine with that. Everyone has their own opinion. Don't let one or two people steer you wrong.

Watery Tart said...

It's such a HARD problem (and really common)! The first and foremost is what rings true to YOU? Give feedback more weight if you feel like THAT'S what you would have done if you'd thought of it.

Where there is contradictory advice, i would also give weight to who has PUBLISHED in the genre, who WRITES the genre, and who READS the genre--In that order, and any critiquers who do none of those, take with a more general brush--readers of different genres demand different things of their literature and SOME want gushing emotions, some demand show don't tell (which is what it sounds like you've got), and some demand detatchment.
THEN: how often do you hear one versus the other? If you have 4 readers, are they evenly split (just a preference probably) or is it 3 vs. 1?) I do very little with a single opinion UNLESS it rings true or a person actually publishes.
(and ALWAYS keep true to your vision, even if you are breaking a rule for your genre)

R. M. Iyer said...

I like that we blogged about exactly the same thing in our letter W.
I have test readers who I trust, and they have offered me contradictory advice- I guess the best thing is to just go with your gut.
If the majority thinks differently from you, you may be doing something wrong,but if it is split, you can go either way.
All the best.
~ Rayna

Sor.Cecilia Codina Masachs said...

Muy agradecida por tu paso por mi blog.Es muy interesante la descripciĆ³n que nos haces de los libros, no conozco a los autores. Pero gracias.
Con ternura