Wednesday, May 18, 2016

Who Do I Believe -- My Gut Or My Critique Partners?

Last week I submitted the latest chapter of my story to my crit group, and while the response was positive (several members said it was my best chapter yet), one of the members expressed concern that even though there were some bits of action near the end, not enough had occurred that pushed the story forward.

In one sense, I have to agree with her. This chapter was meant to be more of a sequel, a time for the character to regroup after the excitement of the previous chapters. A chance for her to learn both about the trouble she’s in and about the new character she’d just found herself partnered with. There’s some action at the end, while she’s trying to escape the bad guys and make it to the bus station, but my CP didn’t think that this wasn’t enough to justify the chapter.

Which leaves me with a dilemma. Do I listen to her and get rid of some of the non-actiony stuff, or do I go with what my gut tells me: that the reader needs (and wants) me to spend some time establishing the relationship between the MC and her paranormal partner before the next wave of action engulfs them. I mean, isn't that pushing the story forward too?

Some of you may suggest the old adage that I should always go with my gut. Unfortunately, my gut has led to plenty of “too much dialogue, not enough action” comments peppering my critiques over the past year, so I know I still don’t have a good feel for the proper proportions. So what's a writer to do?

I guess I’ll just have to wait and see what my other crit group thinks when they get the chance to read the chapter.

Isn’t procrastination wonderful?


P.S.  How do you decide who to believe?


  1. If this is an early draft of your book, leave it. It usually takes me several drafts before I get the pacing right. I agree with you that there should be time to catch your breath between action sequences. As to whether or not the information revealed/exchanged in that chapter "moves the story forward" is something that might become clear later on. Maybe the problem is not the lack of action in the chapter but what you used the chapter for?

    I'm having a similar gut vs feedback issue right now. My MC is an apprentice for Tesla who is spying for Edison. Right before the climax begins, his conscience makes him tell Edison that he won't do it anymore. Angry at losing his spy, Edison deliberately leaks what he's done to someone who knows Tesla, and the MC gets fired.

    Some CPs (and one big name editor!!!) think it was wrong of me to have him decide to stop spying on his own. The editor thought it made him less engaging because he changed on his own rather than being changed by circumstances.

    But my gut says that having him decide to do the right thing and then have it backfire on him is more interesting than him just getting caught.

    I still haven't decided what to do ...

  2. If the others didn't mention it, I wouldn't change it for now. As Dianne said, let it go through a few rounds of edits and then check the pacing.

  3. I'm with Alex. In order to validate a change like that, I have to hear it from at least 2 people or more. I've had too many critique partners with whom I completely disagreed. You never know how this person would feel if they could experience the whole story at once as well, so keep that in mind.

  4. Definitely go with your gut. If one person mentions it, it's just their opinion. If all mention it, then there's a problem. And it sounds like you have a clear understanding of what you want the final chapter to do. Not every story needs a ton of action at the end. You can't please everyone.

  5. Go with your gut, especially since your gut is agreeing with a majority of your critique. I'm with Alex and Crystal. Don't let one person change your story. Keep on writing and keep it yours.

  6. I get lots of good feedback from my critique group, but their advice is often tempered by the fact they're reading my novel in pieces, usually spread apart over a year. That gives me a lot of latitude to explain away their comments.

  7. Usually when this sort of thing happens, I find some more CPs and see what their response is.

    That said, if you have a reason to keep the chapter as is, make note of the niggle here and get back to it later when the rest of your book is done. (If I remember right, you mentioned you recently started sending chapters you're writing specifically for the critique session?)

  8. My rule of thumb (we learned this in screenwriting, when talking about taking notes): If one person says it, I think about it, see if it resonates; if 2 people say it, I need to give it serious consideration; if 3 or more people say it, it almost certainly needs to be changed. But you can save heavy editing for after the first draft is done, unless the changes will significantly impact how you continue. Don't get caught in a writing loop that keeps you from making progress.

  9. Well, I guess there's nothing for me to add other than, "What they said!" Go with your gut and revise if needed later.