Frustrated with Critique Process

Okay I haven’t been with Scribophile for very long and the people I have met so far are really great people. I’ve been able to read some really fantastic stuff. In fact I’m in the process of following along and critiquing one novel in particular I’m excited about. I’m enjoying it that much. When it gets published, believe me you’ll hear about it on here but for now “mum’s the word” I’m afraid.

My issue is I’ve started making a few revisions of my opening scene for my novel in response to some of the critiques I’ve received and already it’s starting to no longer feel like my it’s my story anymore. I don’t know how to address that. I thought that I had sat on it long enough to separate my ego from it. The critiques didn’t offend me and only one kind of confused me so I decided to set that one aside to brew.

I guess my question is how do you balance between responding to critiques while remaining authentic to your story? I’m really starting to get the impression from this community that there isn’t an interest in a character driven story at all. I’m not setting driven. I’m not plot driven. I never will be. Deep inside the character is where I belong.

Yes, I wanted Surge of the Soul Eater to be plot driven, but I’m pretty certain the characters felt otherwise and took the damn thing over on me. And knowing me I most likely outlined the damned thing with this in mind too even before they took it over.

So is there a place for me in this world as a writer? Have book trends shifted in such a way I don’t belong as an author?

I don’t understand the obsession with setting. I feel like I’m missing something seriously important here. With character driven stories the setting isn’t important – the location can be anywhere, it’s arbitrary, so you only need enough to anchor the characters somewhere so they don’t feel like “floating heads” but I’m seeing everywhere – and not just my own work – “more details on the setting” and I don’t get it.

Even with Surge of the Soul Eater, everything that happens in it could happen anywhere in the universe and it wouldn’t change a damn thing for the chain of events in the story. It wouldn’t change anything for the characters. Really and truly. So why do I need to go into detail to the point of slowing down pacing – even putting action on hold – just to establish a setting that ultimately doesn’t fucking matter to the story?

It goes back to my question of: “If the main character doesn’t care enough to look at the leaves then why am I telling you the color of the leaves?”

What happened to giving the reader just enough to spark the imagination? What happened to giving the reader only what is needed? Why are we expected to spell everything out in ridiculous detail?

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10 thoughts on “Frustrated with Critique Process

  1. Go with your gut and stick to character driven if that is your strong suit and passion. You will find a way to touch the setting as needed. Your post got me thinking about whether I am character driven or setting, as if some trench in the sand exists which is not helpful for us writers. If you write character driven and people buy and like your work, who cares? That has become your way, your signature.

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    1. There are people out there that claim the best books have it all: plot drive, character drive, and setting drive. I don’t agree. It is an exceptionally rare author that can combine a plot driven story with a character driven story with a setting driven story and not only make it work, but make it shine. Even Tolkien didn’t do that. He had a plot driven and a character driven story with a fantastic setting for a backdrop but the setting didn’t drive the story. Honestly I can’t think of an author that has pulled this off. Ever.

      It is incredibly rare for setting to drive the story. It’s even rarer for it to be the sole focus of the story. Alice in Wonderland comes to mind here. There is little in the way of plot and Alice doesn’t change at all as a person as she goes from one point to the next in the terrain until she returns home. BUT IT’S A CLASSIC. Because it’s done well. By today’s standards most people would tell you that you can’t do that and it’s not allowed and it would never get published because Alice is flat and boring. There are people out there today still reading Alice in Wonderland so I beg to differ.

      I think it’s important as writers and authors that when we are helping our fellows with their work to keep in mind the intent of what they are aiming to do with their piece. We shouldn’t be just focused on “the rules” of writing when we critique. We really ought to be asking, “What are you trying to do here?” and then help that writer achieve that goal through that individual piece.

      I do have some pieces where the setting is more important and I will go to great lengths to describe it while other pieces the setting isn’t important and only the crucial bits are given. I firmly believe that there is always a reason for what’s given. The more detail you give, the more important it becomes for the reader focus on and to pay attention to it. It’s all about what the story needs in order to be told correctly.

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  2. You and I have talked about this a lot. Be authentic. Write your style. When you read critiques remember a few things: 1. they are opinions and 2. it is unlikely that any of them are professional editors that are telling you what will or won’t get you published. Many people get online and read about writing then vomit back what they’ve read. Get that going enough and you get this cookie cutter concept of writing. But that’s not how writing works. There are many books that are character driven. There are many that spend little time with physical description. The spectrum of books is huge. Don’t let critiques stuff you into a small box. Ask your self if what you’ve written is working. Then ask if the changes they are suggesting going to make the piece better or not. Go with that. Listen to your writer’s voice. Critiques can be helpful, but remember that they aren’t a required part of the writing process. You’re all you need to write something amazing.

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      1. Just like you know if it’s working when you’re reading some one else’s work. Does it feel right? Print it out. Sit down with a cup of coffee, some smokes and your book. No pen or anything else. And just read it. Be a reader. Does it feel right? As writers, we really need to give ourselves permission to be readers of our own works. We are readers first. Reading is what drew us to the love of writing. Does your book excite and entertain you as much as the one you are reading on scribblephile?

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      2. I liked my original opening, a lot to be honest. But I have now worked it since that it includes some foreshadowing it didn’t have before that I think makes it better. I will need to sit on it a bit and decide later.

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  3. I didn’t read all of the comments yet, so I might still learn something, but my first reaction to this post is, “oh, maybe I dont want to look into that site afterall! Ha!” I am still finishing my story, but i have already been thinking about revisions. And It’s framed in my mind, and perhaps I could add some details, like setting, but most of it is in one location and mostis within the span of a few days, although it goes back well into the future atthe end and it does go a few months further before that….actually, I mean…well, haha you dont NEED to know all of this. My point is that mine is absolutely character driven too. And thatis the type of books I enjoy reading (well historically) and so I think if you want that too, well, then you should write that way. However, this is coming from someone who doesn’t REALLY have publishing aspirations just yet, so my writing perspective is entirely selfish. Justsayingthough, that there are folks out there who enjoy character stories. 🙂

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  4. Me again. (I can’t find the edit button) I forgot to say this. I remember getting frustrated with critiques in school and this was nothing like changing a major aspect of a story. During this writing process, the last few months (actually, i guess it has been longer)s, I have been asking myself if I want help writing this and how much. I really am interested in others’ thoughts and my thinking is this. Get a select few to review it at first. Dont have too many readers. Then have separate drafts for each critic, and rewrite your story each time (oh yes, because I have been toying with the thought about the different audiences imay want to reach. So obviously, I might have to change things to appeal to the younger generation or different again, for an older. Oh and this is only age. There is much more to consider). Anyway, so yeah. It is a lotofwork, thatis why I say have just a few critics, and then rewrite each version, making sure you hold tight to the original. Then, read through all and decide what you like best. Maybe you can combine elements in yourfinal piece. Yeah, haha, it sounds like a lot of work! And I truly hear you on the fearof changing your original thougts. Heck! I revise my everyday writings quite often, and I have only recently been able to remember to not change original thoughts, to revise my revisions if you will, and even then I sometimes forget to say something and get frustrated (oh geez! Like making two posts here?? I mean, that is a small thing, but that is exactly the idea. Oh man! Deadlines kill me! :P) Anyway, so that is my goal/thinking. 🙂

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    1. Visit my blog long enough and you’ll find that I rant a lot. So don’t be afraid of Scribophile. Leastwise, not on my account. A couple of things to consider here with my posts about Scribophile:

      There are writer groups on there you can join where you can share your work with only them. You can also post your work into spotlights and set it up where only people who have favorited you or you have favorited can see them. I’m posting my work into the main feed where EVERYONE can see it – including the newbie groups. So there’s that.

      The second thing to considering is one of the primary purpose of me ranting on here about my experiences about anything is to touch base with the community with how realistic I’m being. One of my concerns will always be whether or not my ego is too involved. It’s the curse of having the Bipolar illness. If I swing towards hypomania, I start to believe I’m brilliant. If I swing towards depression, I start to believe I can’t do anything right. This is the ego of a sick brain talking. And I have to keep it in check – all the time.

      So it is good to hear from other writers who share my concerns and echo the same questions that I have. There is a danger in any field to develop elitism. There is a danger of creating echo chambers as well. It’s part of the reason why I would like to have a select group of critics that I am familiar with as well as post my work into the public feed of Scribophile. My hope is by doing that I could guard myself from the dangers of both. I don’t want to be blinded by elitism. I don’t want to be trapped in an echo chamber.

      I want to have my own voice, telling my unique stories, but telling them well. I can’t do that entirely on my own and I can’t do that if I’m trapped or blinded.

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