Monday, December 12, 2011

The Writing Week (Vol. 4) part 205 - Which Notes to Heed

Receiving feedback (or criticism, notes, input, thoughts, whatever else you want to call it) on a piece of writing can be hard. It's great when someone absolutely loves what you're doing, but be wary of such glowing feedback. The last thing you want when trying to shore up your piece is a misleading, gushing but disingenuous response. Rather, it is all the more common to receive notes that are far less than wholly flattering. At times, they can be downright difficult to hear and ingest. That's why a thick skin is one of the most important tools in a writer's arsenal.

Fortunately, when I submitted the synopsis for my demon thriller to the League recently, their responses didn't necessitate the densest of hides. However, the feedback that I got raised some interesting (internal) questions, the primary one being "when should I pay close attention to a note, and when is it more opinion-based?" By that, I mean, say someone hates my protagonist; he's not supposed to be likable, and I achieve that. But they still flat out do not like him. Well, if other people enjoy not liking him and enjoy the story despite his off-putting personality, that's one thing. But if the entire writers group loathed my protagonist to such a degree that they abandoned the plot and didn't bother to focus on the material... well, that's another thing all together.

Take, as another example, my idea. It involves demons and souls. A character is supposed to be corrupted at a certain point. One of the group members felt adamantly about the fact that her corruption did not equate to sin in his mind. He fell off-board with it there and then, and very firmly believed that I was doing a disservice by posing it as I was. Well, maybe that was a larger theological debate than the script engendered. However, another Leaguer had the exact same reaction. Then, too, did a third.

When certain notes reappear again and again, it's time to take notice of them. I might disagree with the point they're making, but the fact of the matter is, three of the five people who I showed it to brought up the corruption without prompting, and they found it detracted from their reading experience, because they so disagreed with it. Even if I don't see it the way they do, I have to recognize where they're coming from. As a writer, I don't want to alienate my readers. A common readers' problem becomes my problem. Other things might be up to opinion, but something so agreed upon is a big, flashing warning sign. 

"Change this now, or be faced with changing it later once the project is in script state. Worse, be faced with a pass because you never bothered to change it at all."