I’m cycling through the final round critiques for LET IT BREATHE, and I’ve noticed something interesting.
More interesting than the fact that I used the word sorry 84 times and the word hand-job seven times, which is an imbalance I plan to rectify at once.
As I shared previously, I have two regular critique partners and three beta readers. I rounded things out this time by adding a third critique partner (my amazing agency sistah, Linda Grimes, who was worth every penny I didn’t pay her).
There’s a very deliberate balance in what each of these individuals brings to the table, and the idea of eliminating even one of them is like contemplating cutting off one of my nipples (assuming I had six nipples. Hey, I might. How do you know?)
One critique partner and one beta reader are particularly harsh when it comes to characterization. They have strong opinions, and aren’t afraid to share them. If my heroine is bitchy, they tell me. If my hero is wimpy, I hear about it.
These two come from vastly different backgrounds and often have different opinions, so when their critiques match up, I pay attention. That was the case with an early draft of MAKING WAVES, and the manuscript ended up much stronger as a result.
But what happens when they don’t agree?
That’s been the case with LET IT BREATHE. I suppose I could stage a cage fight between them, but I doubt they’d find that as satisfying as I would.
One of the two found my heroine too angry with the hero for past offenses and current difficulties
The other found her too understanding, too apologetic.
One adored a scene between the hero and the heroine’s cousin, describing it as her favorite in the whole book.
The other found it annoying and out-of-character for both of them.
In my earlier years as a writer, I might have found this frustrating. On some levels, I suppose I still do.
But in other ways, it’s thrilling. What better reminder that every reader’s experience is different, and that this whole business is so very, very subjective – with agents, with editors, with readers from all walks of life.
Since I’ve been at this for awhile now, I know to take a step back at this stage. Though I trust my instincts as a writer more now than I did a few years ago, it’s worth figuring out ways to smooth some of the edges.
The observation that my heroine is too understanding and apologetic is probably legit, given the number of times sorry appears in the manuscript. Can I tone that down a bit?
And can I find other ways to balance her sympathetic nature with her occasionally snarly urge to protect herself?
These are questions I’ll be asking myself as I go through a final round of revisions before handing this off to my agent
In the end, it’s true that you can’t please everyone. But it’s also true that if you plan to write for public consumption, you have to be willing to at least consider how readers from diverse backgrounds might be impacted by your story in different ways.
How do you find the balance between trusting yourself as a writer and making changes in response to feedback? What do you do when two readers disagree? Please share!
I have to go do something about that whole hand-job imbalance.