Monday, August 17, 2015

So Your Writing Has Been Critiqued -- Now What?

Recently there's been a flurry of hashtag activity on Twitter centered around the Pitch Wars writing contest. I was lucky enough to participate in Pitch Wars a couple of years back (shout out to Brent Taylor!). A number of the contributors here at MG Minded are mentors in this most recent round, but I'm not one of them. I'd be perfectly willing to be one if ever called upon, since Brenda Drake, Pitch Wars, and especially Pitch Madness are all big parts of why I have an agent today. (Brenda probably has a waiting list of enough potential mentors to get her through Winter of 2027 though, so it's safe to say she's got it covered.)

I think I'd be fairly qualified to act as a mentor or even just offer critiques to other writers, with the advanced education degree and the English minor and the decades of instructional experience, along with my own reading and writing background. But even if I were to put all of that on a little laminated business card to proclaim my level of assumed expertise as any kind of mentor or critique partner, it wouldn't mean all that much. With whatever background I have, all I could hope to offer anyone would be an opinion. Hopefully something of an informed opinion, but an opinion all the same, and one that wouldn't necessarily be any more or less valid than anyone else's. In the end, that's all critiquing is.

There are very few, if any, absolutes when it comes to evaluating art. You could ask five different critique partners to read your work and have them come back with five drastically different takes, then you could query fifty different agents with your revised manuscript and have forty-nine of them pass for different reasons. But as we all know it only takes one, and if you get that one yes, then YAY! Someday you and your agent will find yourselves out on submission, patiently waiting for what could easily result in seventeen different editors passing for seventeen reasons that have nothing to do with each other.

All of that subjectivity is important to remember when you enter a contest like Pitch Wars, or even as you search for a compatible critique partner. Contest mentors and critique partners want to help you realize the full potential of your manuscript. In doing so, they'll point out the strengths of your writing along with things they think could be improved, even if sometimes you don't like hearing it. I can think of times I've received feedback and had the knee-jerk reaction of, "But wait, NO, you missed the point! I know you said, 'Do this differently in this part,' but that's already exactly what I was doing! How can you not see that?!" Only later did it occur to me that if someone else didn't understand what I was trying to do, I hadn't gotten the job done yet.

If someone tells you something about your manuscript and you don't necessarily agree, it's still a good idea to at least give some serious thought to what they had to say, even if you don't end up taking their advice. But if you keep hearing feedback from different readers mentioning the same improvements to be made, you probably want to give your work another look, even if it means venturing into the "kill your darlings" territory and exploring things about your manuscript you hadn't thought about before.

Ultimately it's your work, and it's up to you to decide how to prepare it for the contest you're entering or the agents or editors on your query list. But if you're fortunate enough to make the cut for something like Pitch Wars, or you find critique partners or Beta readers willing to look at your writing and offer their opinion, take in what they have to say with an open mind.

Outside of a (thankfully) select few, these people are going to be in your corner. They are investing themselves and their time in your work, because they want to see your writing become the best version of itself that it can. The smartest thing you can do is take advantage of that.

No comments:

Post a Comment