Outside Opinions

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By now, you probably have a trusty writing group and/or a partner that you share your work with on a fairly frequent basis. I’m sure they give you good advice and suggestions, but they probably are also familiar with your writing and may know what you were trying to achieve, even if you don’t actually succeed in that achievement.

These are all good and important things, but sometimes it helps to have a fresh set of eyes look at something. Not only to possibly catch typos but also for a different opinion on your piece and writing style. When someone new looks at your work, they may bring up connections and ideas that you and your other writing partner(s) may not have thought of.  They may tell you they hate something or that the dialog doesn’t seem to fit the character. When you, as the author, know how you want something to be, you often read it a certain way to make it work. When someone else reads it, they may put the stresses in different places and it may make you see your characters in a whole new light.

When looking for outside opinions, look to a reader, rather than another writer.  Ultimately, you want people to enjoy reading your work, so look for book lovers to help beta.  That’s not to say your writing buddies can’t provide good feed back, but you’re really better off with a multitude of opinions.  You know not everyone will love everything you write, but if you get several of your betas to say they dislike the same thing in your work, you might be more likely to try and change it up.

Don’t be afraid to look for opinions of those who don’t typically read your genre as well.  They may pick it apart a little more if they typically don’t like romance or fantasy or whatever.

“That first kiss scene was totally unrealistic!”  “Even if dragons were real, they’d be considered reptiles, not mammals.”

It could be good to make you stop down and look at your work from their point of view.  That doesn’t mean you’ll necessarily change things, but it doesn’t hurt to look.  Who knows, maybe you’ll convert them to be a lover of your genre.

Value the opinions of your colleagues, friends and family, but don’t be afraid to ask someone out of the ordinary for their take on it. You never know what they might notice and it could improve your piece. Have an open mind and assure them you’re okay with constructive criticism. Everything is a learning experience. It  could help you learn how to better connect with your readers or it could help you toughen your skin.

Do you ever ask someone outside of your typical group to read your work?

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3 responses »

  1. Excellent advice. When I need input I reach out to readers — not writers. You’re so right on that one. Readers come with different assumptions and ask different questions. The trick is to listen to what they say and then figure out how much weight to give their suggestions. Sometimes a great deal and sometimes…. not so much.

    Fortunately, I have some patient friends. They read a lot, and not necessarily in my genre(s), and they don’t worry about my feelings. I have to be tough, but I’d rather one of them tell me “It sucks!” than to discover it on my own later on.

    • You bring up a good point in saying to figure out how much weight to give to their suggestions. I think this works with opinions from both readers and writers. Think over what they say, but remember you’re the author and it’s your piece of art so ultimately the decision lays with you on whether or not to make any suggested changes!

      • Right now I give seriously different values to the input. One outweighs all but my own. The rest, simply “weigh” less in the decision-making process.

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