Why critique is a gift (even when you ignore the advice).

I’ve received lots of critical feedback over the course of writing my manuscript of WISE JIM.  Most of it hits the mark, most has given me what my manuscript needed many times. This isn’t always the case, and that is good too.  I have found a pattern with said feedback that is really interesting to me and proves just how subjective the whole publishing thing really is. 

The advice I’m referring to went something like this: 

“The beginning of your book is too slow, you need to shed some of this scene building and ancillary action. Get to the point.  I don’t want to wait until Chapter 5 for the good stuff.”

This was excellent and accurate advice.  It was humbling to realize that I was not immune to the reality that the first 50 pages was just me warming up to the story.  Revisions began, pages 1-50+ were deleted and time passed. It was far from finished, but I was getting somewhere.  Somewhere better. 

Months later, I received the following advice on the rewritten first chapters:

“Your beginning just packs all the action right in there, eh?  I have no idea who any of these kids are.  Slow it down a bit and stretch the intro over a couple of chapters.  I’d like to know who we’re dealing with before I can tell if I care about them when all hell breaks loose.”

This was accurate to a point as well, so I stretched the intro and compromised a bit and now all hell breaks loose at the end of Chapter 1 (page 10).  I believe we have a more decent balance between intro of characters and world building so you get a sense of the players (and their magical abilities) before everything goes awry.

Months later, new advice:

“I wish we had more of a sense of the time before the opening scene.  I love the voice but wish we could see why he is late to the diner and why his lip is bleeding.  There is no need to have everything hit the fan right away.”

*sigh*

I know I can’t be the only one who has experienced this sort of conflicting advice. 

Feedback is an interesting thing.  Something that has come to me as a result of getting repeated critique: I know why I am doing what I have done in my book. I know why things happen when they do. I know it all much more solidly.  And I can tell right away what aspects of critical feedback make sense and which don’t. 

Does this mean I am done accepting advice and making changes? No way!  I can and have been swayed on details in spite of standing more firmly on my story.  The difference is that I am no longer feeling so personally devoted to every single word and idea.  I am taking a more detached look at my own work, and seeing whether or not the work can actually stand on its own.

To me, that is the gift of critique.

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