Hey there my lovelies! It's Sunday which means another wonderful blog about writing from yours truly! First of all, huge thanks to Lisa Fellinger for guest blogging; I hope you found her advice helpful, and funnily, it organically fed right into this week’s topic. Because today I'm giving you My Two Cents on How to Take Advice.
That statement is a little vague, so let me break it down. We've talked a lot in previous blogs about how important it is for your writing to have critique partners (CPs) and beta readers. And Lisa Fellinger gave us some excellent advice last week about Finding the Courage to Share Your Writing . We've also discussed how important editing is, and we’ve touched on the different types of editing available, but today's post is going to be about how to take ALL that advice and recommendations onboard, while still maintaining the integrity of your voice.
Let’s face it, opinions are like a$$holes, everyone has one and sometimes they stink. So what do you do when an opinion about your work is far outside what seems right to the story? And how do you approach differing opinions? What if one person says one thing and the next person gives you completely different advice?
Taking into account that I don't know everything, I'm going to share the 4 steps I use to determine how and when to implement editing/revision advice.
1. Consider the source
Okay, so this may seem harsh or rude, but the first thing I always think about when considering editing/revision advice is who is giving it.
Is it an industry professional? If so, that advice is going to hold more weight than say someone who's just an avid reader. Reader feedback is obviously invaluable, but if the advice is about editing, formatting, etc, a trained editor will likely have more accurate advice than someone who just reads a lot of books. Similarly, if it's advice about pacing, voice, plotting from an agent or developmental editor, that's likely going to be more helpful than suggestions from my great aunt Sally who has read every Harlequin romance ever written.
Is the person another writer? If so, do they write and read the same genre as you? If not, that person would probably have less influence on my opinion than a writer who has a lot of experience reading/writing my genre. Also, what level is this writer at in their career? If they're also a new, unpublished writer, their advice may hold less weight than someone who's out there already killing it in the genre I am trying to publish in.
The point is, consider who is giving the advice/recommendations carefully. All of these types of readers (as we've discussed in previous posts) are incredibly valuable in different ways, but don't forget to consider who they are when deciding what advice to implement. What is their level of expertise and at what weight should you be holding this advice?
2. Ask for the advice you need
This seems self-explanatory, but in case it isn't, let's break it down. Most writers have at least some idea of where their work might be weak.
This can be identified by a feeling–it feels slow, or dull in some part even if you can't tell why. It can be something specific you know about. For example, I know I'm the worst at accidental comma splices and poor punctuation. But for you it could be grammar struggles, tense issues, or really anything. Or it could be you know you have a plot hole/inconsistency or a character issue that you don't know exactly how to fix.
So the suggestion I have is to specifically ask for the advice from the above sources that you think you need. What I mean is, if you're sending your work to an editor and you know you struggle with grammar/punctuation, tell them that and ask them to specifically focus on that first. If you're sending it to betas and you're worried about a plot point or a character flaw, address it going in so they can be on the lookout.
The point is, point them in a direction. Let them know what you want or need from them, and if you're open to other suggestions beyond that, tell them that too. If you give your readers carte blanche to give you whatever advice they think you need, you're likely going to get more advice than you know how to handle and it can quickly become overwhelming.
3. Marinate on the advice
This is something I've talked about a lot before, but let me just reiterate. Before you make any changes to your story or manuscript, take a beat to think about how you feel about it.
Let's face it, criticism is hard no matter the source, but it's important to take the space to really consider what the advice means for your story. You can't take everyone's advice to heart because let's face it, try as you might, there is no way to please everyone. Let me repeat that for the people in the back–you will literally never be able to please everyone. So don't try.
Listen to the advice, take it onboard, marinate on it and then move on to step four.
4. Prioritize the advice
Okay, so again, this tracks with the first two steps, and may seem self-explanatory but this is what I do.
Put the advice in order from what makes the most sense to you, to what makes the least sense.
You're likely to get advice/recommendations that instantly makes complete sense and you'll think, “duh, why didn't I think of that?” But you're also likely to get advice that makes you wonder if your reader understood the story or the character at all. Or if you do. 😂 Also, if you're sharing with a lot of different people, you're likely to get contradictory advice.
So what I do is implement the things that make complete sense first. Especially grammar or punctuation issues, but also any character/voice/plot things that instantly resonate.
Next I consider the things that make less sense. Does the advice point me in the direction I want the story to go in? Does it fit my voice or the tone of the story? If I change whatever it is, does it make me like my book/character more or less? Ultimately, you're the author. I am going to reiterate–you're never going to please everyone, so please yourself.
And finally, I consider the contradictory advice. If the advice is telling you two (or more) different things, first determine if you think a change is even necessary. If you decide that it is, then do the same thing as above. What fits the best with your story? With your voice? With your characters?
You're looking for your reader, which ultimately, when you think about it, is people like you. If you're writing something you would like to read, then you are a good judge for what the story should be. While it's important to get outside input because you can't be completely objective about something you're so close to, if the revision doesn't make sense, then don't make it. Or if you're getting multiple points of view and don't know which to take, figure out what you would want to read and do that.
And that's it! Those are the four steps I use when deciding How to Take Advice. I don't think I can stress enough how important it is to be true to yourself. I'm not a person who takes advice or criticism lightly by any means, and I think it is ALL important, but ultimately you have the final say on what makes sense for your story, so don't forget that. You don't have to take people’s advice just because they give it. And not everyone who has more or different experience than you is going to know more than you about your story. I'm certainly not telling you to not take advice you don't like, but I am saying consider it carefully and make sure it makes sense!
So that's My Two Cents on How to Take Advice. It's not necessary to take it all and it is okay to have a different opinion.
Don't forget next week is release week for my new adventure in Kindle Vella! So please make sure you check out my twisty thriller Someone's Always Watching.
Thanks for reading my Lovelies!
-Rose Rayne Rivers
Comment below and tell me have any other advice about taking advice? What do you do?
Also, let me know if you have any topics you want me to cover in the upcoming weeks!
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