Recently, on a LinkedIn thread I subscribed to, a woman posed a question to the rest of us pertaining to a critique she’d received from her group. Apparently everyone agreed she needed to deepen her character’s POV. She said she followed their advice, but she wasn’t happy with it.
This tells me one of two things: either she writes in a genre where the omniscient, or at least a more distant POV, is required (and yes, there are some genres that work best with a distant POV), or she doesn’t quite know how to deepen it effectively.
She wanted to know what the rest of us thought, and I was surprised by the vehemence of the responses. “Don’t let anybody tell you how to write your book!”
You’re kiddin’, right?
If you read my blog very often, you probably won’t be surprised by this: I jumped in with an opposing view. Yeah, yeah, I know–someday I’ll learn to keep my mouth shut. Anyway, I told her the truth: in some genres, the deep third person POV has become expected by readers and publishers alike, and it wouldn’t hurt to work with it some.
Apparently my response threatened to strip the veneer off the “We Are Perfect” award bestowed only upon those who write. I tell ya, they crawled all over me like fire ants on a hot dog. Eventually, I did everything but apologize for living and bowed out of the discussion. (I’m yellow that way, I guess. Though I don’t mind presenting an opposing view, I hate fighting over it. I’ll just use 777 Peppermint Place to skewer everyone who participated in dissing me–some of whom aren’t even published. I wonder why . . . )
Where on earth did authors get the idea that because they could string a few sentences together, they have obtained some sort of artistic nirvana and deserve to be worshiped? We’re authors–not gods. We haven’t been endowed with special wisdom. We’re not better than anyone else. The idea that these folks wouldn’t even consider a criticism bugged me.
Perhaps some of us need a lesson of humility.
The best way to approach any criticism of your work, either through a critique group/partner, contest judge, or an editor, is open-mindedly. Does it have merit? Is it worth experimenting with?
As I wrote before (see “First Round Contest Results are In“), critiques in general hurt. But once you’ve calmed down, study your work through the eyes of whoever offered something constructive. Do they have a point?
One of the editors looking at my novel suggested I pull a character out. After loosely skimming the manuscript, she wondered whether the cat lady’s role in The Cat Lady’s Secret was really necessary to the story. I’m not sure where she got that. Pulling the cat lady out would’ve done serious damage to my novel; it would’ve changed it entirely. That’s major. I refused.
Deepening a POV isn’t major. Repairing structure, changing wording, moving this paragraph from here to there–none of these are major. Cutting certain scenes may or may not be major–who knows? Try it and see if it makes the novel better. Keep in mind, many things our critics suggest aren’t intended to change the story, but to enhance it.
The lady who started the LinkedIn thread at least tried the suggestion. She approached it right. I wonder how many in that group would’ve pitched a fit. Their attitude, “the author is always right!” seems to answer that for me.
For those who are concerned: Mom’s better, she’s just weak. I managed to take care of her at home and didn’t even need a doctor, PTL! I’m going to be here a while until she gets back on her feet, which hopefully won’t be too long. I expect to be home by the end of the week.
Thank you to everyone who held us in their prayers. You couldn’t possibly know how much we appreciate it!