Hi, I'm Heather Boyd, Lady Wicked, and I'm addicted to the regency era. I had the idea that I should introduce myself at the start of my first blog but now I read the above, I sound like I have more than a few problems. No need to bother you, I'll keep them to myself in favour of today's topic.
Every author needs feedback. We want occasional (ok, this can vary) validation that our writing is worth reading and at times, a set of fresh eyes to help show us our work in progress from new angles.
Feedback can be great, good, or occasionally awful, but it's how you react that determines whether the experience is useful. No one likes criticism but if everyone who read your work found nothing to suggest, no lines that jarred, or punctuation to correct, you would not grow as a writer. You’d wasted time, and time is a valuable commodity.
I joined our online critique group just over a year ago and I’m a little geographically removed from the other members. Ok, its more than a little, I’m in Australia and my American crit partners laugh at my Aussie expressions but I know that without their friendship and support, I probably wouldn’t still be writing.
Good critique partnerships must consider the feelings of the others. Honest feedback, served up tactfully, and with explanations, is an incredible gift that a writer can use, or as we often remark, lose. Acting on feedback is totally optional.
I’ve had three memorable occasions where the advice I received made me react.
The first was feedback on the first story I’d ever shared. Very tactfully, one crit partner wondered what the conflict was between my hero and heroine. I remember being upset – I actually walked away from the computer. It took me a day to read the feedback again and eventually I worked out what she meant, and learned how to fix it. Like lots of newbie writers – I’d made my characters life perfect. I’ve since learned to create chaos.
The second was from a writer I really admire. A scene revealed my heroine’s knowledge of the hero’s bisexual nature. I shocked my friend with the past actions of the hero. Simply because of the negative reaction I perceived, I immediately changed the situation to be less confronting. That might not have been the correct thing to do and with the story still in edits, I may just change it back.
The third piece of advice I ignored. A story had an assault scene and when I wrote the first draft, I skipped over the detail. A critique partner suggested I should write it instead of glossing over. I ignored her suggestion for six months, telling myself that I didn’t want to write violence. When I did write that scene, the story was better for it, and it supported the growing romance between the hero and heroine.
My point, and I do have one somewhere, is to take any advice you get with a grain of salt. Look at it, dismiss it if you want, but also stay true to your own vision for the story. If someone suggested, “this is nice but it needs more sex and a vampire”, it wouldn’t be the best choice if you were aiming for the sweet market. Are there many vampires in sweet romance? Not to my knowledge (and I'm totally ignoring Twilight).
There was a fantastic article in the November 09 Romance Writers Report about writing on the dark side by Larissa Ione. While I don’t write gritty pieces, the point that really came across to me was that I shouldn’t hold back. I shouldn’t try to be the next Julia Quinn or whoever is most popular in my sub-genre. I should just be me – with maybe a little more attention to the mechanics of good writing.
It is very easy to allow others to sway you but you must retain your own voice and authenticity. The limit of your story is only your imagination. Get the real story out of your head, share it with others, but don’t compromise on your originality.
Embrace it and get back to writing.