Thursday, September 22, 2011

Well, That's Convenient & Awards

While doing rewrites, I was looking through notes from the contest I entered and there was one spot where one of the reviewers said, "Well, that's convenient." As a writer, you don't want to hear that about something in your story. What made that statement worse was that it was something I'd put very early in a book where a group of teens were developing various abilities. I wanted this particular ability to be put to a much greater use near the end of the book, so I introduced it in a minor situation in order to introduce it without it being deemed "convenient." In other words, I had been quite aware that placing this ability in the wrong place or in the wrong way would be convenient, so I attempted to avoid that. That one comment, more than anything else in there, really stuck out and bothered me.

Instead of being vague, I'll just spell it out. I needed my heroine to have healing abilities for something major near the end of the book. I also feel it ties in with her other major ability. To introduce it, she accidentally discovers this power while nursing a minor cut near the beginning of the book. How is one supposed to introduce something to be used later on if not this way? I thought by it being near the beginning of the book, and for a very minor thing that would heal itself within a couple days, that it would be a valid introduction.

I still think that.

This is one of those criticisms that I will be ignoring. Feedback/critique is a wonderful thing. It leads us to see things we may have missed on our own, as well as showing us how things look to a reader. However, there's no way anyone can take every little criticism or suggestion and incorporate it into their story. There's also no way every single criticism or suggestion would necessarily improve anything. That one specific sentence was a reminder to me to lighten up and read my critiques with a critical eye. There were some wonderful things in there, including things I already questioned, but also some things that I didn't feel were valid for my work. This is going to be true of any critique we, as writers, get, so be sure you take feedback with a grain of salt. Just don't ignore it entirely, either, because there are bound to be gems mixed up in there, as well. Things that make you go "hmmmmm."

I also wanted to thank Michele, of A Wanderer in Paris, for the Versatile Blogger and One Lovely Blog awards. Michele is a children's writer participating in the Writer's Platform-Building Campaign.

A quick Project 52 update: I can now strike out #31-Reorganize Office. Woo-hoo! I'm not making good enough progress on this and need to step it up.

How do you take critiquing of your work? Have you gotten a particularly good or bad bit of criticism? Do you try to make every change suggested? How do you decide what will work for you?


Anonymous said...

Hi Shannon,
Hope you are well. I know what you are saying it is just a case of playing around with your blog and finding out what works isn't it?! As you rightly said we may be computer programmers by the time we have done hahaha!!! :-)
Thank you so much for your comments.
Love your blog.
eve xx

Helen said...

I think sometimes when we are writing, we have to put things in that are 'convenient' in order to move the story forward.

As far as critiques go, I think it depends on who is doing the criticising. If it's an agent or editor asking for changes, then we might have no choice but to agree (if we want to be published). More informal feedback is a different matter. While I'd always take the advice on-board, I'd have to consider if I could/should change the piece. Everyone's opinion is subjective, after all. If several people were saying the same thing though, I'd probably take that as a definite indication changes were needed.

Annalise Green said...

I have to take a step back, because sometimes it's something I don't want to hear that's totally true. Otherwise, it's just something from someone that a) Is a good critiquer that understands my stories but is wrong in this case b) a good critiquer who does not understand my stories c) a bad critiquer who is right in this instance d) a bad critiquer who is totally wrong as per the norm. There are so many different possibilities, and it's hard to tell what's what until you've taken a step back from the work and become objective.

ruth.the.writer said...

I think there's nothing more valuable than a good honest critique. Bottom line is, though, that the writer is the one trying to convey a certain thought. It's up to us to decide if the critique is in line with that or not. Of course, if it's coming from an editor or publisher, it definitely warrants a good hard look at the comment.

Shelly said...

Hey Shannon: Go with your gut with this little piece of advice. Critiques of that nature are opinions.

Andrew Leon said...

I never look at one critique and make a decision from that. Generally, I won't make a change unless it's something that people are consistently saying is an issue. I think authors too often try to take an individuals word about things that person is saying to change. Especially agents. Unless it is something dealing with an grammar, something objective, all critiques are just opinions, and the author's opinion is the only one that really matters.

J.A. Kazimer said...

Hate it when those little critique things dig at you, especially when already knew the ability would be convenient at some point. But, you know what? you had to add it, and the judge doesn't get to see the necessity later on.

My last critique group disbanded and I haven't gotten involved in a new one because it's so damn hard to find a group who both gets your work and will be honest about it. How about you? Are you involved in a group now?

Arlee Bird said...

I like to get feedback and it's worth heeding. After all as the writer, I have a strong bias about what I've written that blinds me to weaknesses and errors that might be more evident to an objective reader. Objective is important. I won't have my mother critiquing any of my writing as she'll blow my head up telling me how wonderful it all is.

Tossing It Out

Anonymous said...

Sometimes a suggestion or a critique makes me cringe but they're sometimes really helpful. There are some aspects that can't be changed though.
I absolutely hate it when someone says that something in my WIP was so convenient.

Congratz for the award!

Crystal said...

I really don't see how that was convenient. Like you said, how else were you supposed to introduce this hidden power at the beginning in order to make it credible in the end? I think you're right to discard it.

I like to think I take my criticism fairly well because I do realize that it's a necessary evil. I try to consider every change and what it would mean for my work, but I definitely don't use every piece of advice I'm given.

Maude Lynn said...

I love the point that you make about critique. Knowing what suggestions to reject is just as important as knowing how to accept suggestions.

Rebecca said...

i think critiques are good but feel the wisdom is in knowing which one is right for you and which isn't. I mean for example if you know pink doesn't look good on you but someone says that a pink scarf would make an outfit you wouldn't consider wearing just because someone said to because you know what looks good on you.. same way with writing you have to know what's right for you and what your fans like about your writing to know which critique is helping you and which ones aren't. just my opinion and congrats on the awards

Shannon Lawrence said...

Eve, thank and definitely. I hope you got things worked out.

Helen, I tend to agree with your take on it. The feedback I received on this was valuable, but not all of it will work for me.

Annalise, very true. After I read through it the first time I left it for about a week before hitting the edits. I did actually institute some suggestions or use them as springboards for other changes, but this one just doesn't work for me.

Ruth, definitely true. The critique gave me insight into what others thought about various things, which was very valuable.

Shelly, thanks!

Andrew, true, and this is the first I've heard of this particular issue out of four critiques.

Julie, definitely true that they don't get to see the need later on in the book since it was just the first x number of pages. I don't have a critique group, and I'm definitely open to one!

Lee, so true. No moms critiquing! I have always appreciated constructive criticism and am able to view it from the outside, whether in writing or elsewhere.

Sabrina, yes, just the fact that this is the specific critique got under my skin a bit. Probably because it bothers me when there is something ridiculously convenient in a book/movie, so I'm sensitive to that happening.

Crystal, I view it in the same way (both this particular critique and the overall opinion).

Mama Zen, I definitely think that's true. Otherwise, a book would never be finished.

Becca, all true. No pink scarves for me!

Deniz Bevan said...

Hmm, you're right, that sort of comment would bug me too. But if it was a given that the book's a paranormal, and she's got to have *some* ability, why is it surprising that she would at some point discover her talent in a lucky way? Maybe the scene just had to be more clear - I guess the critiquer thought your character wasn't surprised/grateful enough?