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OTHER ITA SITES:
Comments & Criticism: What To Do With Them
As you progress with your book project and begin to discuss it with others who may or may not have read pages from your manuscript, you'll surely get comments or criticism on your plot, characters, writing style, etc. Some of the comments may make you want to gnash your teeth (what do they know anyway??!) but others might make you go "Hmmm..". What you do next depends on how the comment makes you feel and how well you know your work.
What Are Your Problems?
Why is it important to understand your work? Because you won't recognize an opportunity or an answer if you aren't clear on what your problems are. Here's an example: My current novel in progress is about two sisters. I thought I had to spend a certain about of time and conjure up specific events in their childhood to illustrate the development and depth of the women's closeness. It's important because their future actions are based on their connection. I was discussing this with a friend who very casually suggested the sisters could be twins. Wow! I never considered that! More later on what this idea will do for the story. The point right now is that I wouldn't have given my friend's comment a second thought if I hadn't been aware that the story had a problem in the first place. Here are some examples of issues you might be struggling with:
• How to get your characters from city A to city B in terms of place, or point A to point B in terms of development.
• How to increase the level of drama in the story to make it more interesting to the reader.
• Where to begin the story.
• What kind of character you need to fill a missing viewpoint.
If you're not sure, whenever your writing is going slowly or you seem stuck, just ask yourself, "Why is this hard? What specifically am I trying to do and what isn't working?" Write down the answer so you have it in front of you and it's imprinted in your mind. You're more likely to attract an answer before you realize it.
Does the Comment Give You a Way Out?
You'll know the idea or comment you hear is a good one if it brings more to the table than just solving the one problem. With my twins example, for instance, I get an automatic connection for the sisters because they're twins. But I also get added drama, especially if one twin physically hurts the other (does she hurt herself in the process because they've always seemed like one?); I get the potential for surprise if there were secrets surrounding their birth; I get to look at issues of favoritism if one is better looking or more charismatic than the other. See all the potential? A great comment will open many avenues for you. All you have to do is see them!
Does the Comment Light Your Fire?
Don't forget to consider this: How does the new idea make you feel? Like you've been given a ton of bricks to carry? Or like a herd of stampeding cattle couldn't keep you from your computer because you're so excited to get to it and start writing? You'll want to feel excited because you may need the enthusiasm to help you carry on. With my first novel I received a comment that was amazing and I knew I wanted to go with the idea, but it required that I rewrite the whole present day storyline--nearly half the book! Know what? I didn't flinch. I knew the changes would make the book 100 times better. I did it again when my editor suggested I get rid of a character--more work, but the book was much more provocative because of it.
The choice won't always be easy. It might make you rethink your commitment to the book if you can't face that much work. Maybe you need to put it aside and let it--and yourself--rest for a bit. It might take you some time to figure out exactly what it is you're feeling but don't be afraid. You just have to go back to the basics--when in doubt, trust your gut.
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