Ignoring Critiques

In my continuing quest to make rules to ignore apply to myself, here’s another one:

I read two books this week. Their names don’t matter much. I liked them both. They had me “turning pages”. But both had what I’ll call critique problems.

A critique group’s job is to find faults, but not all faults need to be corrected, nor can all faults be corrected. A critique problem is that thing your critique group would suggest changing, but shouldn’t be changed because doing so would grossly alter your vision of the story. Perfection shouldn’t be your goal. Your best and the space beyond it are your target. If you have control of your material and are achieving a certain effect and if following the advice of a critique would have you alter so much that that effect would be lost then ignore the critique.

This has been my second writing post. Chuseok pictures to follow.

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9 responses to “Ignoring Critiques”

  1. Ermilia says :

    One problem my co-author and I found with critique groups is that they’re people who enjoy writing, not people who have been published. There is a sea of self-published waste out there floating around with the quality books, but at the same time, some of those self published books are gold. We used a professional for a manuscript analysis rather than a critique group because if we don’t feel qualified to tell you what direction to take your book, why on earth would we take your advice on where to take ours? Even the professional gave us advice we decided, not so much to ignore as fix in a different manner than suggested. If someone says there’s a problem with a particular section, but removing or altering it ruins your vision, don’t ignore the problem, fix it in a way that keeps your vision intact.

    Just my thoughts.
    Happy Writing,

    Join our weekly “Picture it & Write” event here: http://ermiliablog.wordpress.com/category/picture-it-write/

  2. John Arkwright (@JohnArkwright) says :

    The worst problem I find with critique groups is that sometimes 10 people read a story and only 1 person has a problem with a particular issue, but when the group discusses the problem, 10 people start trying to fix a problem that 9 of them did not see in the first place. To a beginning writer, this may overwhelm them. They might decide they definitely need to fix things. Sometimes I am person number 11 who sees what is happening and says to the author afterward, “Trish was the only person that had a problem with that. I thought it was great.”

    Sometimes when I hear a criticism of my work, I immediately know it is right. Sometimes I immediately know it is wrong. Occasionally I am not sure and mull it over. I find that most of the time when I change something I mulled over, I regret changing it later.

  3. J. Spinazzola says :

    Who is your intended-desired audience? After a certain level of competency, everything depends on satisfying a particular audience.

  4. gordsellar says :

    This is an excellent point. I often preface my own critiques of things in, say, subgenres that aren’t my thing with, “I’m probably not your intended audience, but x rubbed me the wrong way.”

    It reminds me of a recent beer-tasting I attended the other week. A local brewer had some American craft ales on hand — a lot of IPAs, as he loves them — and the reactions of some of the attendees really varied. Some loved the IPAs, some (especially those who had never had such hoppy beers) hated them. I was in between, as I’m not a total hophead, but I can appreciate the style done right. There were beers where I felt something was “wrong” or “not quite right” with them, but there was maybe only one beer where the real beer-aficionados seemed to agree it was “not good.”

    That’s how it is with stories sometimes too, and not just with crit groups. One editor will see problems where another won’t, and it’s a tricky thing when you’re asked to rewrite in a way that might not match your vision for a piece.

    • Justin says :

      Yeah, I’ve started crits that way too.

      In this instance, with these two books, the thing that struck me was how successful I found both books while realizing where exactly a crit group would find “issues” with them. And that got me thinking. Crit groups get into the Crit mindset and may seek to change things which don’t need to be changed.

      Like in your IPA example. You can not like IPAs and crit from that perspective as well as crit from your knowledge of beers — but the crit of an IPA from a person who wished you made (another type of beer) and the whole critique is how many problems your beer has because it’s an IPA and not some other beer–that’s the crit you can ignore.

      Which should be obvious, but when you’re with a crit group and the crit mind is in effect this idea can get lost.

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  1. Deus X by Norman Spinrad : gordsellar.com - September 23, 2011

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