Buffet-style critique

The past couple of years the culinary buffet has been about as popular as a cough in an elevator. Not so the metaphorical buffet of writing circles, critique partners and other peer feedback. But sometimes all this amazing (and sometimes contradictory) feedback can leave a writer confused with a side of panic.

For the newbie, I will share one of the hardest lessons I learned: the humility that comes with that first round of real feedback. I was used to getting “A” for every creative writing project I’d ever done. So when it came to university and I joined the Fiction Writers club, it stung when they didn’t love my work as much as my teachers. Obviously, I didn’t give up and neither should you.

First, accept it is unheard of to get malicious criticism of your work. Writers who take the time to critique your work are well meaning. They want to help you to be the best writer you can be. Second, that doesn’t mean they are all correct, or that you have to integrate all of that feedback. You probably shouldn’t.

How then, do you choose what to use? What if you’ve sent your work out to a circle and upon reading the feedback it feels like you’ve sent a different book out to each of them? My advice is to use your intuition on this and take the comments that resonate with you the most — pick and choose, like you’re at a buffet. More specifically, look for those comments where you’ve felt that maybe that’s a hard truth to hear, but you probably should have known it already!

I’ll end with a fun example from my own experience. I had 8 judges through 2 different competitions read the same 3 chapters and synopsis. A couple of judges loved my heroine and totally got her, but didn’t feel like the hero was fleshed out enough. Then some felt exactly the opposite! In the end, I added depth to both. You can never have too much character, right?