1. Goldenclover179

    Goldenclover179 Banned

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    Getting Critiques Changed my Writing - For the Worse

    Discussion in 'Editing' started by Goldenclover179, Nov 5, 2016.

    I've been putting some of my writing up for critiques (not this site, a different one), and the ones I got back were beautifully in-depth, detailed, and thorough. They made some fabulous points and showed me errors I hadn't noticed before, and it was all-in-all pretty great. Just one problem - they basically rewrote the entire work(s) I'd shown them. To some, this may simply be a sign that my piece just needed a lot of editing that I hadn't given it, but what they gave me just... wasn't my style.
    Not that what they wrote is worse than what I did, maybe it's better - but it's not the way I write. It's the way they write. Every writer has their own voice, and they tried to shift mine into theirs.
    However, I can't stop thinking about the writing advice they gave me. It doesn't suit my writing and it doesn't match up to what I think works best with my style, it's made my writing awkward and clunky, made it so my writing doesn't belong to me anymore. I can't drop it though, and now when I write, I'm writing how they thought I should write and I hate the way it sounds.
    How can I get my own writing back?
     
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  2. Cave Troll

    Cave Troll It's Coffee O'clock everywhere. Contributor

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    Well possibly have somebody not from that other place take a gander at what you got instead.
    Might just be that those others were trying to turn your work into something that they would
    enjoy rather than actually being helpful with a critique of what works and what doesn't
    within the story itself.

    Personally I would be insulted if someone rewrote anything of mine, as it would not
    be anything recognizable to me, nor feel like it was mine.
     
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  3. 123456789

    123456789 Contributor Contributor

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    Voice is something you develop. It's possible you never had voice and that this this is why you so easily adopted your friend's writing mannerisms.
     
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  4. Goldenclover179

    Goldenclover179 Banned

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    That's the thing. I used to have a definitive voice and my writing very much belonged to me, but now it's gone and I can't find it.
     
  5. Cave Troll

    Cave Troll It's Coffee O'clock everywhere. Contributor

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    Well then write what you want, how you want. Stop worrying about what others think, and let it come
    from within. They are your stories, characters, and universes of your creation, no one elses. Own it like a boss.
     
  6. Goldenclover179

    Goldenclover179 Banned

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    I can't. I want so badly to write how I used to, but no matter how hard I try, and no matter how much I ignore the criticisms, it still comes out like that - subconscious or something.
     
  7. Cave Troll

    Cave Troll It's Coffee O'clock everywhere. Contributor

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    Perhaps reading your older works may reacquaint you with your original 'voice'.
    Try to let go of everything that isn't you.
     
  8. jannert

    jannert Retired Mod Supporter Contributor

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    What kinds of things did they suggest you should do? And did they explain why?

    It's tempting to just jump in and say 'write your own way and ignore what they said.' Of course that may be the way forward, as critique-givers also have biases and can be very wrong. However, if you got consistent criticism about specific issues, you might want to step back a bit and consider WHY they felt these areas needed work.

    Don't just make changes because they told you to. Make changes because they pointed out areas that YOU can see aren't working very well. Once you understand the 'why' behind recommendations, you'll feel happier about changing whatever it is you're doing.

    Writing is about freely expressing yourself your own way. But it's also about communicating your vision with others. If that second half isn't working, you probably do need to make some changes.

    However, it's always a good idea to share your work with as many people as you can, just in case you run into a prejudiced bunch of folks who only like writing if it's exactly what THEY would produce themselves. A good critique giver should help you to communicate better using your own voice.
     
  9. EnginEsq

    EnginEsq Member

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    You say you can't help writing the way your critics showed you, but you don't want to write that way.
    Just because "it's not the way you write." So some part of you may believe it's the way you should write.

    I suggest you stop looking at in generalities and start analyzing it in detail.
    What exactly are the differences between your old style and the new style you seem compelled to use?
    For each difference, what are the pros and cons of it, in your opinion (not according to others) -- although other's opinions should inform yours. (e.g. I don't think I would have figured out the downside of "head hopping" on my own, but once I read about it, it's was a "D'oh" moment).
    Maybe that will help you figure it out.

    Writing relies heavily on discarding things - first drafts, conceits, plot details, all kinds of things.
    On the one hand writing takes a strong ego, but on the other you have to be willing to let go of things.
    Perhaps your struggle is related to this tension.
     
  10. jannert

    jannert Retired Mod Supporter Contributor

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    I like the adage : "Write without fear, edit without mercy." Maybe that's the way to approach this situation.
     
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  11. Lady Fickle

    Lady Fickle Member

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    By loving it. Your relationship with your writing is your own. Critique is like somebody is baby-sitting your writing for you. That need not be the case. You don't need to be reviewed by a writer, you have to learn to think like a reader. For instance, if you are writing a book about teenagers - think of language that will speak to them. Leave the story aside for two weeks, come back to it, and have the reader's experience.

    I, personally, do not approve of critique, which tries to alter your style. Critique should be there to encourage you and throw an idea or two, about how can the elements of the story be improved (plot, character, setting etc.) It should be brainstorming about how you feel when you read a certain piece of writing. It should be positive and genuine. It should be celebrating your writing and not condemning it.
     
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  12. Goldenclover179

    Goldenclover179 Banned

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    They all gave pretty similar criticisms, but it just wasn't working for me. For example, when I wrote:

    "The way the moon was painting the water the color of the skies Louis would never touch, it was almost haunting. There was a spider scuttling down the banks of the river, and he stared it down until it stared right back at him."

    Someone told me this would work better:
    "The moon painted the water the same color as the sky, creating a haunted atmosphere. He stared at a spider scuttling down the river bank, and felt the creature was staring back."

    I didn't like the second one at all, but everyone agreed that that worked better. Maybe I should cater to the reader rather than myself, I don't know, but now I can't stop writing like the second one. I can't bring my own writing back.

    Yeah, I had a few "how the hell did I not see that before?" things, but I got very little critique that dealt with the works of the writing (i.e, unclear what's going on, head hopping, purple prose - that's always helpful when people point it out). It was more they didn't like the descriptions or the metaphors annoyed them, then they totally rewrote it in their style. There seems to be a blurred line between keeping your own voice and writing for the reader, and I think maybe that's what I'm struggling with. But thank you for the advice :)
     
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  13. 123456789

    123456789 Contributor Contributor

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    There's an expression pertinent to writing forums, about the blind leading the blind. I don't like any of those sample sentences. Not yours. Not your friend's.
     
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  14. Goldenclover179

    Goldenclover179 Banned

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    Exactly. My writing was crappy and needed to be edited, but their rewrite was just as bad. Only problem was - it was bad and not my voice, rather than bad and my voice. But now I'm writing just plain badly, without my voice at all.
     
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  15. 123456789

    123456789 Contributor Contributor

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    Question. If you were influenced once, why can't you be influenced again?
     
  16. Goldenclover179

    Goldenclover179 Banned

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    What do you mean?
     
  17. GingerCoffee

    GingerCoffee Web Surfer Girl Contributor

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    When I first started getting critiques, it bothered me when people suggested I write the story they would write until I learned how to sort those critiques out. As soon as someone says, "you should write X," I politely say thank you and either ignore them or try to pull out what their objection was without paying mind to their solution.

    The critiques that helped me the most were the ones that said, show more, tell less, I don't feel anything for your character, those details are boring, can you describe how the scene is moving your story forward, et cetera.
     
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  18. jannert

    jannert Retired Mod Supporter Contributor

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    Just from those two samples you gave, I think what the critics have picked up is your awkward sentence structure. However, their re-writes took the life out of it, didn't they?

    In fact, the first 'correction' eliminated what I suspect is an important part of what you wanted to say. That Louis can't touch the sky. (Is this an important part of what you wanted to say?) In both cases, they removed the immediacy of the image and depersonalised it. I do agree that you should not try to use their versions. They have sucked the life and voice out of your story here.

    However ...if you can agree that the two sentences do need some work—and I believe they do—maybe try to zero in on exactly what you wanted to say and try to rephrase it?

    In the first sentence, 'it was almost haunting,' just doesn't work for me. Almost haunting? What is that? And who is being nearly haunted? Louis? The observing reader?

    I also feel the first half of that sentence is unclear, to the extent that I had to re-read it to be sure of the meaning. The way the moon was painting the water the colour of the skies Louis would never touch... A bit of a gallop here, and the meaning doesn't make immediate sense. Maybe starting with The way is a mistake. What if you just began with: The moon was painting the water WITH the colour of the sky (or skies) ...and work from there?

    What is the most important part of this sentence for you? The moon creating a painting of the sky, reflected on water? The fact that Louis can't touch the sky? (Had he planned to? Does he want to? Is he being prevented from doing so? Is this sky painting a reminder of what he can't have? Or has lost?) Or the fact that the moon's painting haunts (presumably) him for some undefined reason?

    Can you zero in on exactly what you wanted to say here, and maybe say it in a more straightforward way? From Louis's perspective, if he is the POV character?

    You could start by reading that sentence out loud to yourself. Read it exactly as you have written it. No pauses at all, until you get to 'it was almost haunting,' because you have no commas in anywhere else. You might agree it's an awkward read. If reading it yourself doesn't convince you, because YOU know what you wanted to say, get somebody ELSE who hasn't seen this piece of writing before to read it out loud to you instead. See if (and where) they stumble, because the sentence doesn't flow as well as it could. If that happens, try not to just tinker with the words you've already written, but also try to discover if there is some other way to convey your meaning. I definitely think 'it was almost haunting' should be replaced with something that makes more sense.

    The second sentence is easier to fix, without losing your voice at all. Why not change There was a spider scuttling to A spider scuttled, and see how that sounds?

    The very best piece of advice I can give you, and it's easy for you to do, is read your story out loud, or—even better—get somebody else to read it out loud for you. NOTHING will pinpoint awkward sentence structure like that little trick.

    When you find a spot that doesn't read well, then mark it. Later on, sit down and grapple with those passages until they read better. That way you'll be keeping your story voice, but you'll smooth out the rough edges you inadvertently left behind while you were creating your world. We all need to edit our work for this kind of thing. It gets easier with practice.
     
    Last edited: Nov 5, 2016
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  19. VynniL

    VynniL Contributor Contributor

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    I really feel for you. We all have a natural style and I suppose that is what I call the 'voice'. It may not be perfect or to everyone's taste, but it is uniquely your own. I do feel that needs to be protected and allowed to organically grow as you take on feedback and learn. Trying to drastically change that is where I suspect problems will happen, and where writers will feel overwhelmed and lost.

    It might help if you take a little time from writing and just go and read a few books you enjoy to connect with yourself as a reader. I guess the way I've always approached it, is that I am writing to the reader in me and no one else. So if I was ever overwhelmed as you are, I would do that.

    But I try never to get to that point, and I feel it is important to treat all critique with suspicion and as something that could potentially damage my writing as a default. You are often dealing with aspiring writers with their own notions of good writing, so you only need to scan the threads in forums to understand the dangers. It's possibly like picking up an STD where something feels good at the time, but it may not be good for you in the long run.

    I've had someone who claimed to be a published writer give me the best critique to date, and it was not at all a flattering critique. But he pointed out a critical problem with my writing which I could not disagree with, and also gave me a useful exercise to do after I clarified his meaning. I did not rush to following this gentleman's advice. And every once in a while I re-read it and ponder. I have definitely made some changes to my writing because of it, but it is very selective and only if I can clearly justify it is for the better. So it is something I am slowly introducing because I don't wish for his opinion to overly influence my natural progression. The only reason I am taking his feedback seriously too is that I have read his writing in great detail, and I was quite blown away by the beauty and clarity of his prose.

    Before making serious changes, I strongly advise that you get as much reader critique first as well. I think this will give you greater confidence in judging what you should take back from the writer critiques.

    Good luck.
     
    Last edited by a moderator: Nov 5, 2016
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  20. Mouthwash

    Mouthwash Senior Member

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    I disagree. Let me try to improve yours: "The way the moon had painted the water the color of the skies, that canvas Louis could never touch, was haunting. A spider came scuttling along the sandy riverbank, and he stared at it until it stared right back at him."

    Sorry if this isn't helpful. I just think that it works a lot better than either one, and it's closer to your original style. Although since Louis isn't my character, I don't know why he cares about the sky.

    Humans are natural plagiarists- your original prose was still built out of bits and pieces of other writing styles. You should give up trying to get yours back and focus on general improvement. A pattern will emerge again.

    (Speaking from experience.)
     
    Last edited: Nov 5, 2016
  21. ChickenFreak

    ChickenFreak Contributor Contributor

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    Just FYI, I like yours much better. It has more emotion, it's more immediate, and I frankly find it charming. I realize that doesn't help, but I wanted to say it in case you're going back and forth about whether it's worth trying to retrieve your voice. I think it is. I realize that I'm having a lot of opinions based on one itty bitty sample, but I'm having those opinions anyway.

    The rewrite is slick and generic and eliminates the emotion and charm with a self-conscious sophistication that buys you nothing. It's not better. I also see that they changed from "stared right back at him" to "felt the creature was staring back". They're trying to insert a pedantic literal accuracy. You don't need that. The rejection of literal accuracy is part of the charm here.

    Your version has a somewhat childlike vibe, and the sentences don't flow in a slick elegant way, and many writers think that writing is about being slick and sophisticated, so they want to scrub that out. They're wrong. Now, in multiple pages you might need to "straighten out" some of your sentences, so that it's a bit less of a clause tapdance, but that should be done with a recognition that that clause tapdance has charm, and so you don't want to scrub too much of it away.

    And I don't mean that yours has no sophistication. It does. It's just far less self-conscious about it.

    Is there any chance that the "childlike vibe" could be part of the key to getting your voice back? What if, for a while, you deliberately tried to have a child's POV, or even write first person as a child? I realize that you wouldn't want to do that permanently (unless you do), but it might help to get that slickness out of your voice.
     
  22. Goldenclover179

    Goldenclover179 Banned

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    Oh wow. Thank you so much, I can't even begin to describe how much this helped.

    It's supposed to be from the POV of an adult, but I'm thirteen, so I'm guessing that that's where the childlike vibe is coming from.
     
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  23. ChickenFreak

    ChickenFreak Contributor Contributor

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    Did the critics know your age? That may be part of why they rewrote your words with so little regard for the original--given your age, they may have decided to treat you as if you're starting from zero, rather than trying to couch their recommendations in the context of your own voice and style.

    Maybe.

    It's a theory.
     
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  24. Quanta

    Quanta Senior Member

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    I don't think the job of a critique is to rewrite your work for you but to point out what needs improvement. I am working with only one critique for now, someone I trust not to spare my feelings but who will also not try to make my story their own. She points out to me what is unclear, redundant or pointless and it is up to me to rework the text.
     
  25. 123456789

    123456789 Contributor Contributor

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    @ChickenFreak

    Maybe I should hire the local children to start writing novels for you..... :D
     

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