1. Kallisto
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    Kallisto Active Member

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    Art through adversity

    Discussion in 'The Art of Critique' started by Kallisto, Mar 14, 2016.

    I was talking to a friend of mine about the books we were both involved in writing. And I talked about how I was re writing it because of some negative critiques I got about the book. She basically said something in the range of, "Why don't you just write what you want, and not care what the hell people are saying?"

    Well, personally I'm a firm believer in "Art through adversity." When I got serious about writing, I also got serious about feedback and taking it into consideration other people's thoughts on my story. I didn't see a problem with that, considering I still had a lot of control over my story and feedback helped me take a more objective view of the story. And I really don't mind making changes to it. I feel there's a thousand ways to tell a story and the real trick is getting your message across in a way that is clear and people are engaged in. And many of those changes were wonderful ideas that I would have never come up with on my own. So I don't really feel compromised by taking in consideration advise others give me.

    So what are your feelings regarding writing and feedback?
     
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  2. Fernando.C
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    Fernando.C Active Member

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    Feedbacks are definitely important and can be very useful at times. We are after all writing stories for people to read which means we need them to be able relate to our stories and characters, to find our writing and what we have to say engaging; feedbacks are vital in achieving that.

    On the other hand, there are as many different opinions and views as there are people on this planet. This means that what ever you do, there will always be at least some that won't like you're story, or disagree with a certain aspect of it or with a particular massage you're trying to send, or in some case some people might even be offended by your story for some reason.

    What I mean to say is while there is no harm in taking some feedback into considerations and even changing parts of your story accordingly, don't try to please everyone because you won't be able to and you might even end up ruining your story by trying to do so.

    So do listen to feedbacks but don't just rush to implement every suggestion and criticism into your story. Don't forget what it is that you like about your story and if a change suggested in a feedback ends up taking away from that, then that's a feedback you wanna ignore. Remember that above all you, as the author, need to be satisfied and comfortable with the direction your story takes and the way it ends, so keep that in mind while reading and listening to feedbacks.
     
  3. peachalulu
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    peachalulu Contributing Member Reviewer Contributor

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    I posted a bit of a short story on another site and got some good advice and some negative comments too. It was so scattered someone noticed and sent me a pm and told me not to let it sway my style, that the site encouraged more genre writing and didn't know quite how to deal with anything experimental. I thanked the person and told them I'd come to that conclusion but I liked the site for nailing grammar issues. Anyone just starting out though and I wonder how they would've taken it.

    I'm very much for writing how you want given you can achieve three things - some interest ( you won't interest everyone but you should interest someone - lol ), clarity, and some justification for your confidence. Other than that a lot of things are subjective.

    I've loved some of the suggestions I've gotten whether they are ideas for the story, a sentence rewrite or a line or two. I've done the same while critiquing and I've had people that are very much - not changing my story and a few that loved the suggestions. There have also been suggestions I've quickly dismissed.

    Depending on how confident you are you can ride a fine line between writing by committee - I've seen some stories implode from suggestions. And others that stubbornly carry on ignoring things that could make their work better. You really need to hand pick stuff and not get too caught up in what other people want or think.

    I've been watching GuardianWynn's project through several threads and she's in a spot I don't envy - between getting swayed into conforming or not conforming enough. I think part of the issue is it's a likable genre which has a lot of readers with a lot of opinions.
     
  4. Lew
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    Lew Contributing Member Contributor

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    I have had about 25 people read my WIP, and while the "wow, that's great!" makes my little ego turn backflips, the criticism is what I need to hear and take seriously.

    There are a couple of different kinds of criticism: "This is crap, your characters are flat and the plot stinks!" with no specifics. I haven't had this kind, and unless you get that from several independent sources, it is best ignored. If a number of people say it, get a friend to read it and make a detailed explanation of what is wrong, then suck it up and fix it.

    There are going to be criticism of style, especially from fellow writers. Evaluate that, but remember, style-wise, no two people will write alike.

    Some of the best criticism I got included
    1. I had two characters with the same first name, who were also cousins. One was a Roman senator, but I had to tag line him with Galba, his last name, which would have been then, as now, unconscionably rude. Solution: his first name became Aulus, and I could now refer to him appropriately
    2. I had a long 3rd person narrative in ancient Alexandria which would have been great in a history book. I took the same descriptions and turned it into a narrative of things they see and talk about on the way a ship moored on the island of Pharos, near the lighthouse. And, oh by the way, the centurion noticed the scantily clad cuties cavorting on the beach in 1st century 50s-style bikinis... they had 'em then, I have a picture of an ancient mosaic of girls playing what looks like beachball to prove it. And I modeled that scene on that mosaic.
    3. When my group got to Bactria, I spent 30K words on their stay there, 10% of the book. Was all this necessary? My wife accused me at that point of not wanting to finish the story. I haven't implemented this yet, as I have someone else doing an edit, and I want to hear their ideas, but I can see some massive reductions coming there.
    4. All through the book, Parthia was the adversary power, trying to prevent any contact between Rome and China. The expectation was that when the Roman group got to Parthia going home, something bad would happen. Yet they went through Parthia like grease through a goose, which that person thought was disappointing. Again, holding off on a rewrite till the other person gets through it, but some rethinking is happening.

    WIPs are like new-born babies. We all think they are the most beautiful things in the world, and we have to protect them from the harsh world. So don't expose your WIP carelessly, because one bad criticism can cause you to doubt yourself. On the other hand, friends who can honestly tell you what needs fixing are worth fine gold. One point: do NOT go back to re-edit until you have finished the first draft, unless what they found was either very easily fixed (like a name change), or is a fatal flaw that needs fixing now, so you don't build a story on impossible premises. Some of my betas were reading chapter by chapter as I wrote them, and I kept an email file of their recommendations, but did not incorporate most of them until I finished and started revision one.
     
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  5. Kallisto
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    Kallisto Active Member

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    I think the main reason why I was getting feedback is because as I was writing my rough draft (I still contend that I'm writing the 1st draft) I realized that another character would work better as the protagonist. I put it up to critique boards even though it was about 50% completed and confirmed that in fact people related better to the other character.

    So the way I see it, it's not the story I wanted to tell. It's better than the story I wanted to tell.
     
  6. Lew
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    Lew Contributing Member Contributor

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    Interesting that it wasn't until the third revision of my WIP that I figured out who my protagonist was! I spent a lot of time in the head of the centurion, who is definitely a major character, and undergoes a great deal of change, and is critical to their getting back to Rome from China. And the pirate devises the ingenious jailbreak and escape from China that keeps their heads on their shoulders. He is the villain-turned-hero who dies in the end.

    The mission was led by a Roman senator who begins as an affable enough guy, a little taken with himself of course. But he is the one who makes the key decisions, that keeps them going to China when a lesser man would have quit after one ship was hijacked and the other two have compromised crews... he actually contemplated suicide at that point, but his slave/financial manager talks him out of it. From that we learn that his slaves (former slaves: he wrote their manumission papers while contemplating suicide) not only like but love this guy, which tells you something about him. And in China, he has to make a serious choice of honor and almost certain execution for the entire group, or expediency and let a Roman citizeness be executed on false charges. His choice of course necessitates the dramatic rescue by the pirate.

    On the way back the man is walking 20 miles a day, or riding 50, for 5000 miles, learning to fight in his fifties at the hand of the centurion, and losing lots of senatorial fat along the way. At one point, he is taking orders from a nineteen year old boy with whom he is riding security: because the boy is in charge and knows the lay of the land, and the money, power and political savvy he has as a senator count for nothing on a caravan in Central Asia. Learns humility.

    Gets back to Rome a changed man, and when faced with political opposition over his failed mission and offered the chance to lie his way out of it, cares not a fig for the political bullshit and the fact that they may bankrupt him. He has put his life on the line many times, and killed several people trying to kill him. Political ruin no longer frightens him. And he wins over the political opposition in the end

    Yes, he is the protagonist, but I did not recognize him as such until the canvas was done.
     

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