What to keep and what to change

A subject that came up one evening while I was talking to a friend was about feedback. Feedback is essential, it strengthens story lines and shows where changes need to be made to make things clearer for your audience. But knowing what to change and what to keep can be challenging.

Knowing your audience and having a group of people - other writers, friends, family - but mainly people who's opinions you trust and understand the way you think is the most important part of this.

I found Stephen's Kings 'On Writing' incredibly helpful as his method is to ask a group of people, 5 or 6, for feedback. If more than half say the same thing needs to change THEN you make changes, but if it's less than that you should leave it as it is - at that point it's most probably their personal preference, and you can't please everyone.

As soon as you accept that it is impossible to please everyone you give yourself permission to follow what makes your art yours. Staying true to your story and your characters and listening to your gut is vital. With each round of feedback I give it time, really think about it, see if it could be changed, and if it would strengthen or take away from the story. A lot of the time I instantly think 'ah yes, I see that', and often it just needed another line of explanation to be clearer for the audience (especially when it's a high concept like day eating monsters in a story for a younger audience). But there are also occasions where I feel that it's too important to the world I'm creating for me to make that change. Later I've been pleased I kept those pieces as they are what made it unique or relatable in some way. With Lucy's first story, Lucy Lick-Me-Not and the Day Eaters, I had a few comments from people, but none of them doubled up - it was a different personal preference for each person. For example, someone felt strongly that Lucy's birthday shouldn't fall on March 32nd, because it's a fictitious day and thus confusing. However I chose to keep it, as it made sense since Lucy is the only person born on that day, and that's why the Day Eaters ate it. If I had said that about March 31st, I'm sure someone reading the book would have said "Hey, that's my birthday!" Another person thought the whole idea of there having been more days in the past (that come back at the end) wasn't right either, but again these were logical to me for the world and story I was creating. 

Day Eaters

But all that said, when more than one person says something (even if it's not half) I think you definitely shouldn't ignore it. I have made many changes when this happens, and the stories are always stronger for it. 

As hard as it can be to trust your gut sometimes, it also helps to seriously consider every comment offered by the kind people willing to give you their time and opinions. If you feel strongly that it is something you can't change and only one person is mentioning it, you will usually be glad you kept it.

More soon,


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