Sharing your work can be a vulnerable and stressful step in the writing process, but it’s an inevitable one if you plan on publishing. Workshops, teaming up with an editor, letting your friends read your work—all make your work stronger in their own ways.
But sometimes the advice you seek goes against the vision you have for your work. What do you do in that case?
The More the Merrier
It’s important to remember that the people reading your work have their own way of processing information, their own way of building the worlds you’re laying out in their heads, and their own opinions. That last one is the most difficult…
But, the more people who read your book and give advice, the merrier. Especially if enough of them go against your vision. I’m not telling you to give up your vision for your own work. I’m telling you that if enough people say it isn’t working—it probably isn’t working. It’s time to take their advice and figure out another way to present your vision that works with the readers.
Think of your vision like a river changing course. The beginning and end of the river remain the same, but the way it gets there changes. So should your story if it’s not flowing the way you wanted it to.
What if They’re Wrong?
Sorry, but they’re never wrong. Everyone reads stories differently, and not all stories are everyone’s cup of tea. But even the worst advice has value, and you should consider it. Hold the advice up to your vision and compare the two. Is there a way this advice could improve your work?
The reason we ask for feedback is we want to test our stories and visions on other people. We, the writers, know what we’re looking for when we read our work. The readers do not, and if we want to share our vision, we have to do it as effectively as possible. Feedback provides the path to effectiveness.
What if I’m Wrong?
It’s possible a writer could be wrong, I guess. I think flexibility in approaching advice is an important asset for a writer to have. But something equally important is the ability to admit we were wrong. Sometimes the stories we create just don’t convey the vision we had, or the story has its own vision we’re ignoring.
This is the best part of taking and using advice, in my opinion. The real reason we’re letting people read our work to scrutinize it is we want to make it the best version of itself it can possibly be. And sometimes that version doesn’t follow suit with the way we envisioned it was going to be.
Be flexible. Let your story take control and let that vision fall to the wayside or save it for another day.
Or—you can rewrite. Take the reins of your story, force it in the direction your vision demands. If the feedback you’re receiving often enough tells you the story isn’t working, it’s not working. Change it—never stop working and never stop writing your visions.