Blogger: Rachel Kent
What do you do when one critique partner loves your book and the other just doesn’t get it? Or when two editors at different houses ask you to change different parts of your manuscript and you aren’t sure what changes to make?
If you are ever faced with conflicting critiques, here are a few suggestions for you:
1) Take a moment to pray for wisdom and an open mind. It’s hard to take feedback, and we’re all programed to only want to listen to the good reviews. Pray that God will give you discernment when looking at the critiques so your own feelings and opinions wont bias you.
2) Go back to the critique partners and ask questions to understand if the different critiques pinpoint the same problem. For example, if Critique Partner One said that your character was flat in a particular scene and Critique Partner Two said that your character wasn’t at all likeable, go back and ask Critique Partner One if he or she felt the problem extended beyond that scene. Then ask Critique Partner Two if that scene was a big part of the problem. This cross-referencing of your critiques will help you to glean more information and will help to you understand what they were telling you. It’s not always appropriate to go back to the editors to ask these questions. I recommend step 3 if you are in a confusing critique situation with editors.
3) Seek another opinion. If you’ve only had two people critique your manuscript, seek out a third opinion. If you have an agent, it would be great for the third opinion to be your agent’s. If you don’t have an agent or have already heard your agent’s opinion, be sure that your third critiquer is part of your intended audience and has the time to take a good look at your manuscript.
4) Don’t get caught up on minor issues. If one person loves that your character adores chocolate and the other was annoyed with the chocolate addiction, let those two opinions cancel each other out and move on to something that actually matters. However, if you hear from everyone that the minor issue is a problem, go ahead and change it.
5) Rate your critiquers’ opinions based on the level of experience each has and weigh the opinions in that order.
Have you ever been in this situation?
How many people do you usually have read your manuscript once you’ve finished?
How do you deal with conflicting manuscript critiques? Via lit agent @Rachellkent Click to tweet.
Tips to help you with conflicting manuscript critiques. From lit agent @Rachellkent Click to tweet.
I solicit 3-4 opinions, all from writers, but none of whom are in my genre.
I honestly haven’t had large issues come up with crit readers. I don’t know why, but it’s not that these people are entirely uncritical.
If this comes happen, I hope to be able to listen to each side without a defensive or prejudicial attitude, but in the end I am the one who has to make the decision.
I can’t please everyone, and novels aren’t written by committee.
Rachel, perfect timing! I’m currently in this situation. Thanks for your words of wisdom. Also, once my manuscripts are complete, six people read them–Five writers and one friend.
I’ve had this happen with contest feedback, but my cp’s tend to see the same problems, which makes it easier on me! It’s not difficult to fix something when the majority tells you it’s a problem. 🙂
Thanks for the thought-provoking post, Rachel. I like the idea of praying for discernment…especially when suffering through a bout of “paralysis by analysis”! 😉
As a new writer, the process I’m starting to use to elicit feedback on my MS (first revision) is to first run a chapter by my crit group (three writers). Then I incorporate some of their ideas, and once I’m satisfied, I’ll send the chapter to a freelance editor.
It costs a bit (for the editor), but I believe it will save time, effort and $$$ in the long run.
Paralysis by analysis! Love it! And a freelance editor is a great idea to add to the list. Thanks, Kathy!
Jennifer Zarifeh Major
I had this happen in contest feedback as well. One judge said that my storyworld was very well done, that he/she could feel and see everything around him/her. The next crit said my storyworld description was terrible.
I also had someone say, in regards to the phrase “the look in his white father’s eyes…” that I needed to be more specific in the sentence about the relationship the MC had to the white guy.
I might not exactly be Faulkner, but…yeah, umm, thaaaaaaanks.
I was recently at a SCBWI conference and had prepared a query for months, using all the resources I could find for direction. At the Pitch Fest, Arthur Levine of Scholastic stopped me mid-pitch and said, “Never say “12-year-old Joey. Leave out all those adjectives!” The materials I had read insisted that you identify the age of the protagonist, but I learned that there is no hard and fast rule about any of it except Keep It Short. (And Arthur eventually said he liked the pitch and encouraged me to query him). One reason we have so many books is that different things appeal to different readers.
Yay! That’s wonderful, Sheila … about the query! 🙂
Great advice, Rachel!
Rachel Leigh Smith
I’m having to rewrite my heroine in the one I’m editing right now. Editor and beta reader both agreed she turned into a whiny bitch. When I stepped back and looked at it, they were right.
I’ve had to give similar feedback to a client before. She was successful in fixing her character. I am sure you will be too!
I’ve got to work on establishing a critique group.
But I’ve been working on canva.com today … guys, I love it! It’s great for website photos, FB covers, etc. I could stay and play on there all day with photos … hold me back!! 🙂 Thank you, B&S!!
Kristen Joy Wilks
I used to enter the Genesis contest every year and the judges always had very different opinions. Sometimes there is a problem and they don’t quite know how to describe it and so they say one thing but mean another. And sometimes they just don’t like your kind of writing. Figuring out how to decipher critiques has turned out to be such a huge part of learning how to write. I didn’t expect that.
Rachel, regarding option three about finding another option–maybe your agent: I’m still agent seeking and learning the industry. Is it common for agents to always read through every manuscript an author writes, or do some agents prefer to only read synopses after, say, the first book or two of an author? Some agents can give off the impression of being so busy, I might feel like asking them to read another manuscript would be too much, though that seems like wrong thought.
I have the luxury of time, since I’m not under any particular deadlines, so when I’ve gotten critiques that were challenging to hear, my first impulse was to dive back in right away, but I’ve found that giving it time to settle for a few weeks helped give me perspective. It wasn’t conflicting critiques, but I think that’s how I’d handle it either way. It helped for the emotion to move through and then I could look at it more clearly again.