February 18, 2010

Write for Yourself

While getting feedback and criticism from multiple sources can be an excellent way to improve your writing, often, you will find that there will be differing opinions. Just because person A says one thing, and person B says another doesn't mean either of them are right or wrong. Writing, like all art, is subjective.

Some people can only talk about their likes and dislikes, and may not even have any place to judge what is good and bad writing, or are biased because they are your friend, even people who are experienced writers and avid readers will still have conflicting points of view when it comes to analysing and critiquing someone's work.

So what do you do when you are inundated with contradicting advice? The best thing is to take every piece of advice seriously, and think about the reasoning behind each point. For example, someone might comment that you use too many different points of views, and another might say they like getting all sides of the story? Think as to why each point was said. Multiple points of view can be choppy and confusing, and it's a hard thing to actually pull off well. Even a genius like Virginia Woolf in Mrs Dalloway,  leaves me confused as I flip back and forth between the pages trying to figure out whose perspective are we looking at.  But seeing things from all sides also allows for a more complex story. I think one of the successes of Ian McEwan's Atonement was seeing the story from the different points of view, however each change was categorised by a chapter, making it obvious when one thing changes to another. In a short stories, chapters don't tend to work.

Think about criticism, particularly if you get conflicting views, question why those points were made, but ultimately the person doing the writing is you. You need to see objectively what criticism to trust and which one doesn't work for you. The danger of this is that our pride can get in the way of seeing clearly and we feel we are above criticism - hence why criticism must always be examined with the ego out of the way. At the end of the day, you can't please everyone; learn what you can from advice, but decide to implement it if you agree with it and think it will improve the quality of your story/writing; but ultimately you should be happy with your own work.   Open to suggestion, smart enough to question and implement that suggestion if it works for you.

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