When Bad Things Happen to Good Stories

August 19th, 2004 · 2 Comments
by Booksquare

We have a friend who shall remain nameless (no, it’s probably not you). She believes everything she’s told about writing. If someone doesn’t like something in her work, she’ll change it. No questions asked. She doesn’t trust her voice, her style, or her story. When she’s done with her novel, she will sound like her critique group. It won’t be her on the page. Which is a shame because when she does trust herself, she’s really good. But generally, a week later, sufficient second-guessing has happened and the good stuff has been revised.

Critique partners are wonderful things. We couldn’t live without ours. Okay, we’d probably survive, but it would be rough. Who else has the guts to tell us when we’re not funny? The husband wouldn’t dare. We know our critique partners don’t expect us to make changes just because they say so (we, of course, expect them to take our every word as gospel, but that’s the beauty of hypocrisy). We think about their suggestions, we fight the truth, and we accept that (sometimes) our friends are smarter than us.

So, yeah, we enjoyed this short essay on killing your voice. It’s easy to forget on those days when you’re convinced every keystroke just piles on the drivel.

File Under: Square Pegs · Tools and Craft

2 responses so far ↓

  • Lorra // Aug 20, 2004 at 7:09 am

    Question is: How do you distinguish between great editorial feedback, over which you should feverishly slave to incorporate into your masterpiece, and voice-annihilating, ego-crushing criticism, whose only purpose is to impose the critics voice into your work?

  • Larissa Ione // Aug 21, 2004 at 9:56 am

    Honestly? I think the only real answer is experience. I was happy with my historical voice, but when I tried my first contemporary, I was insecure. And my crit group was full of writers who had a zillion published contemporaries under their belts, writers who were too…literary-minded to “get” what I was doing, and writers who simply didn’t like my voice or story no matter what.

    And since I was so insecure and so new at writing contemporary romance, I listened to everything, turning that poor manuscript into a mish-mash of voices that weren’t all mine. It wasn’t a mistake; every critique taught me something that has been useful for future novels.

    That manuscript is currently undergoing major revisions to turn it back into “mine.” It IS better (much!) because of the critiques, but now it needs to be reworked with the critters’ advice in mind, but using my voice now that I have the confidence and experience to do so.

    So I think it’s just a matter of learning to trust your instincts and learning to use advice that makes sense…but using your voice instead of a bunch of others.

    Basically, if the advice “feels” wrong, think twice. Go with your gut. It’s YOUR story! *g*