(Strap on the life vest. I'm goin' in deep today....)
This question has always plagued me. When I first started with a crit group, I changed every single thing they told me to. I guess I just sort of assumed that's what everyone did who got feedback. Hey, I was a newb. Don't judge me. *wink*
Some people have been blogging about this this week. Beth Fleisher said it yesterday on the QT blog. Jessica Faust had something about writing what you know (and I added "love" Write what you love). I swear I scheduled and wrote this before I read their stuff. I've been to crit group this week. I've heard some stories lately from people who are changing everything because of a single suggestion. (Not people I've directly talked to, so this is all hearsay, but still. I know it happens.) And it got me thinking and asking myself:
How much stock do you put into what someone else says?
So way last summer, I was telling my DH about a crit suggestion I got (which is a miracle, cuz he doesn't much care for the writing gig), and I just didn't like it. And he said the words that changed my life. Seriously. He said, "Like I tell my sixth graders, just because someone tells you to do something doesn't mean you have to do it."
Whoa. Wait. What?
I don't have to change it? For real?
It was like I'd never thought of that before. Since then, I take every suggestion seriously, I really do. But sometimes they just don't work for my story. Or I've worded things the way I want to, and I don't care that it's not grammatically correct or that it repeating. It's deliberate.
My confidence has increased in this area since I've realized that just because my critmate doesn't like present tense, doesn't mean I have to change it to past. Or that if they don't like something, doesn't mean it has to go/change. Now when all three of them can't figure out what the heck is going on...well, then yeah. I have to rewrite whether I like it or not.
Don't get me wrong, all critiques are attention-worthy. That's why we're in crit groups, right? But changes are not mandatory. Over the last year, I've learned what kind of writer I am and what I'm trying to achieve. The critiques I get that fit me and my story are like drugs. I just can't get enough. And I usually do implement everything they tell me. The critiques I get that don't fit me and my story and my style get tossed. In private, of course, but tossed still the same.
This is why random crits by people I don't know are difficult for me. I know there are places to find critiquers (Critique Circle and OWW for example) and I've been to those places and left dissatisfied. My online groups are with people I have spent time getting to know and trust, even if we haven't met in person. I know they "get" me and/or they "get" my genre and my style. That's important to me, so I can get the best drugs, er, crits possible.
So I'm curious. How much stock do you put into what someone says about your story? Have you enjoyed Critique Circle or OWW? Where did you find your critmates? What about agents? Do you automatically buy what they're selling? Why or why not?
How much stock do you put into what someone else says? Especially someone you don't know that well. That's what I want to know. Here's why: I've seen some people in the past change everything everyone says. Their story gets lost. They get lost. They have no confidence. So I guess this is about YOU too. How do you get the confidence to toss the crits that don't work for you? How do you decide what kind of writer you want to be? Have you? Do you stay true to yourself and your story? How do you do that amidst the advice, critiques, and self-doubt?
Wow. Toldja it'd be deep. Hope you had the proper gear.