Whether it’s the first draft or the fifty-first draft of your short story, poem, or novel, you’ve decided to share it with others for critique and feedback. And that’s a smart idea! At Writer’s Relief, we know that sharing your work with beta readers or your writing group can help you spot inconsistencies and weak spots. But, while your readers and writing community can offer input that might improve your work, don’t let your creative writing be run by committee. Here’s how to accept or reject advice and not lose your unique voice.
How To Ensure Your Creative Writing Isn’t Run By Committee
A good critique offering an honest and objective viewpoint can help you be a better writer. But if you try to make everyone happy and accommodate every change that’s suggested, your own voice will be lost among the many. It’s important to know what creative writing advice you should take to heart and which you should tune out.
Ask ten different readers or writers for the title of their favorite book and you’ll probably get ten different answers. In the same way, ten different members of your writing group might each have their own ideas about what would improve your work. Writers have different styles, different tastes, and different ideas about what elements make a story or poem interesting or fun to read. We also have different backgrounds, personalities, and experiences that shape our writing voices.
Here’s an example of what happens when your writing is run by committee: You present your carefully written romance story to your writing group. Jill, who loves cats, is convinced your story needs more cats. Meanwhile, Basil, who is a fan of thriller novels, thinks your story would benefit from a dramatic chase scene. Now, instead of enjoying a romantic meet-cute, your protagonists are in a cat-filled taxi speeding after hijackers. Interesting? Maybe. Confusing? Definitely. And it’s no longer the story you wanted to tell.
Likewise, a reader who enjoys rhyming poetry might suggest adding rhyme to your poem. But today’s literary journals don’t favor rhyming poetry, and you’d be writing yourself out of publishing opportunities by following this advice.
Rather than letting your readers run in every direction with their comments, direct them to give you the feedback you’re looking for. If you only want the critique to cover plot holes, inconsistencies, or anything confusing, be sure to specifically ask for that feedback.
What if the critique comes from a literary editor or agent?
Sometimes, a literary agent or journal editor might reply with a few changes. In a best-case scenario, the suggested edits really do make your work better. But what if you’ve carefully considered the requested revisions, and you don’t agree? Should you make them anyway?
If the edits are only mentioned by one or two editors or agents and you don’t feel strongly about the benefit to your work, wait a bit before making any changes. You may decide to leave your work as is. But if you get the same critique from multiple sources, it might make sense to give the suggested changes more consideration.
As a writer, you must develop a thick skin when asking for feedback—you may not always like what you’re going to hear. And whether suggestions come from an agent, an editor, or a trusted member of your writing group, you might want to give the revisions a try. It will be easier to determine if the change works—or doesn’t—once you actually make the edits. If you don’t like the result, you can always revert back to your original draft.
Remember: You know yourself and your writing best. Feedback and critique are meant to help root out spots that could use some bolstering—not to make you rewrite your work completely in order to meet everyone else’s vision of how it should look. Trying to please everyone will almost surely lead to pleasing no one.
And once your short story, poetry, or novel is polished and ready to submit, the research experts at Writer’s Relief can help you pinpoint the best publishing opportunities for your writing and boost your odds of getting an acceptance. Learn more about our services and submit your writing sample today!
Question: How do you protect your work from being written by committee?