Friday, April 15, 2011

The Truth about Critiques

*edit... I'd like to thank my kids for the original title of this post. Th

My husband pointed me to something interesting the other day. For those of you who don't want to click through and read it, it's a post that someone put on Yahoo Answers, asking for a critique of a first page. The poster didn't put anything to identify the work and the resulting critiques varied from constructive to pretty harsh. One person even said that the poster knows it needs work, so why ask people to look at it. What the people responding didn't know is that this was the first page of a book by David Foster Wallace, INFINITE JEST. This book is considered by many to be a genius work. It's on several top 100 lists. And people were tearing it apart.

So? What's the point, you may ask. I have two thoughts I want to share.

There will never be a point at which our books are going to be acceptable to everyone. Being published won't make people like what you wrote. There will always be something more that could change. There will always be a critic who can't understand or doesn't connect with what you wrote. It doesn't mean that your work has no value or that others won't see it as good and meaningful.

Second, just because someone says you need to change something, it doesn't mean they are right. You are the one who knows your story best. At some point, if you keep changing things to match what someone else thinks, it's no longer your story, but theirs. You have to carefully weigh the critiques against your vision of the story and know when to stand your ground.

And there you have it, friends. What are your thoughts?


ali said...

This is so interesting, and totally not a surprise. It's like what I tell my children ~ there will always be someone smarter, faster, better than you--and always someone less smart, slower and worse than you, lol. The trick is to do our best and be happy with our efforts.

KaseyQ said...

You can please all of the people some of the time, or some of the people all the time, but you can't please all the people all the time!! I am a firm believer that my talent is from God and I always rely on him to be my most important sounding board. At the end of the day, if it feels right to me and my heart is at peace about it (which to me means that I've got a thumbs-up from the Lord), then as far as I'm concerned, it is what it is and I let it go. If it's accepted by others then it was meant to be accepted by others, and if not then it wasn't. I accept the outcome as being what God intends for me at that time and I learn what I can from it and move on.

Lovely blog, and thanks for visiting mine! :-)

Kristi said...

Hey stranger! I've missed you and I love the new look of your blog!

This post is soooo true and it's something as writer's I think we all tend to forget. Great reminder! ;)

Anonymous said...

Great post! It's true that not one will like your story, it happens to be best sellers. :)

교인애 Inae Kyo said...

I have a problem when I see writers begging for critiques, and assuming all writers should want that. 99% of people who might offer to critique aren't the appropriate people--- perhaps they don't know or like the genre, they don't know what matters in fiction writing, or they are insecure enough that they feel they have to be nasty. And by the time you go through that 99%, you are in no mood to listen to the one person who might be helpful.

I think we as writers need to learn to self-critique our own work to get it in shape for the marketplace. We shouldn't feel the need for other people to say yay or nay to it.

Sierra Gardner said...

I also think this goes to show that something can be brilliant and still not follow all of the 'rules.' There is a fine line between being able to accept good advice when you hear it and thinking that your book can't be great until it meets all of the requirements laid out in a particular book on writing or by a famous author. My favorite authors may not be brilliant writers 100% of the time, but I still read their books voraciously and can't wait to get more =)

Jolene Perry said...

If I were to be given a published book, and not told it was published, I'd have suggestions and comments.
I think about that when I get comments from other people. I will ALWAYS have something to say, but it doesn't mean things should be changed.
Good, thought provoking post.