In a recent post I talked about my experience with YouWriteOn. I’ve continued to receive critiques from fellow writers, and to incorporate the suggestions that are repeated multiple times into revisions. What’s been interesting (if a little frustrating), though, is the number of times I receive precisely the opposite reaction to the same line or character or piece of dialogue.
It’s a reminder that all critiques include an element of personal taste and opinions, and need to be taken as such. When something is repeated consistently, it’s worth paying attention. But when one person says they love a line or a description or whatever and another says it ruins the flow or is not believable, etc., then you have to decide whether to accept or reject that piece of advice. It’s also a reminder that when you are sending your query or partial manuscript and it is rejected (even multiple times), it’s not necessarily a reflection on the quality of your writing, but on the preferences of the agent or editor.
However, try to be objective about the comments received multiple times. You may love a particular approach or combination of words, but if you hear repeatedly that it doesn’t work, it probably doesn’t. I’ve also realized that on this site some reviewers pay attention to basic writing flaws and some don’t. I know when I review I tend to be general if I’ve observed a lot of spelling or punctuation errors, or if the writing is just plain bad. (Someone can be a great storyteller but a poor writer). I have found myself suggesting on numerous occasions that the author have their work edited professionally to pick up on those issues, unless it’s one or two misspelled words or something similar that is easy for me to point out. I do believe that if you have read your own work numerous times you cease to see the minor spelling or punctuation errors that can then distract the more objective reader.
The more feedback you can receive on your writing, the better it will become, as long as you can sort through the inconsistencies.
And while I have your attention, I’d like to also mention another resource I’ve been finding useful. On LinkedIn there is a group called Readers Entertainment where some great (and practical) conversations have been taking place. One example (which has been going for over a week now) is “What’s the feel out there for pricing e-books at 99 cents? Brilliant marketing ploy or devaluing your work?” It sparked a rousing debate and some excellent marketing-related suggestions. If you’re not a member, you might want to consider joining.