Wednesday, March 19, 2014

Not all Advice is Good

About a year ago, I found an online critiquing site that really changed the way that I write.  The availability of people who were not only willing to read my writing, but also provide honest and thoughtful feedback was overwhelming.  Before, I’d had one critique partner at a time, but now, I had three critiques on a chapter, no matter what.

I had some great advice, and I had people point out some major flaws in my novel and my writing style.  I’m not going to say that some of it didn’t hurt, honestly that’s something what happens with a critique.  Not everything’s going to be positive, but hopefully it’s not all negative either.  However, I did quickly learn that sometimes, a writer has to follow their own gut instincts.  Just because someone suggests something, it doesn’t mean that it needs to be changed.  Whenever I start a critique, I always preface it by saying that what I say is my own opinion, but that the writer can take and leave whatever they want.  Ultimately, the decision is up to the writer.

But there were some instances where the suggestions just did not mesh with what I was looking for.  I had some critiquers who came in on chapter 12, not having read any of the previous chapters, or any of the following ones.  Their critiques may be based on the fact that they didn’t know my characters.  An action that may be sudden or unexpected for them may have been building for the past several chapters.
Then there’s advice that’s just wrong.

I think the worst advice I’ve ever received was: If you’re going to have dialogue, you have to have who’s saying it in front of the dialogue so that the reader can hear it in their voice.  Always preface dialogue with “John said” or “Jane said.”  That would really decrease the variety in sentence structure, and honestly, I feel like it would sound forced.  For me, that advice doesn’t work, and I don’t know that I’ve ever seen it in action in something that I’ve read.

Critiques are worth their weight in gold, but sometimes, it’s important to make sure you don’t have pyrite instead.

What’s the worst writing advice you’ve ever received?