This is one of my favorite pieces of writing advice that I often tell people:
Trust your first instinct. My 7th grade science teacher once told me, “Miranda, a human being’s first instinct is correct 90% of the time. If you’re going to deviate from your first instinct, you’d better have a good reason why you should.” When I send out a first draft (or portions of a first draft) to beta readers, I’m always open-minded when comments start coming back to me, but before I consider implementing any suggested changes – I have to remind myself to think about why I wrote what I did in the first place. It’s very normal to feel silly or dumb after hearing comments, and immediately feel like you need to rush to do exactly what that person says — But you’ve also got to remember that you’re smart, too, and you wrote what you did for a reason.
The reason I’m telling you this is because today I want to talk about feedback from beta readers, reviewers, and fans.
I love reading reviews. In fact, I recently received a great review from Kirkus that was mostly full of praise, but they also said I have a lot going on in my books, and maybe there might be a bit too much. I can definitely see where Kirkus is coming from. I’ll store that bit of advice for later… maybe I’ll think about digging deeper on a few plotlines instead of having lots of separate plotlines.
Some fans have recently been saying that maybe my books end too abruptly, and that they want to see more about what happens next to my characters. I have always been one of those people who believe that “the story ends when the story ends,” but I love this feedback. I’m glad to know that people want to see more of my characters! I want to try to incorporate it into my writing in the future.
When you hear feedback from people, you cannot immediately jump to make changes. What if the person giving you the feedback is wrong? What if it will mess up the story you wanted to tell in the first place? What if it messes up your characterization?
I think if you write a book with one fan in mind, other people are bound to like it too.
Sure, plenty of people won’t like your work either. I can’t tell you how many TV shows I hate. And sometimes I shudder when I see what some movies are about. We’re all different people and we all like different things.
So what I’m saying is, you need to write the story you want to tell, and learn how to weed through the feedback you get and choose what you want to use and what you want to throw away.
I love every review that people give me – positive and negative. It’s good to know what works and what doesn’t. I like hearing other people’s thoughts – it gives me something to think about. I want to better myself as a writer, and I can’t do that if people aren’t critical of me. That being said, I want to show you some feedback I’ve gotten on my books, and you tell me how my next book would turn out if I started trying to change my writing style based on this feedback:
- The book started too slow. It took forever to get going.
- The book started too fast. It went by too quickly.
- I loved her first book more than the second book.
- I loved her second book so much more than the first!
- I hated the first book, loved the second.
- I loved the first book, hated the second.
- I hate the main character.
- I love the main character!
- I don’t know why the main character chose to make this stupid decision.
- I know exactly why the main character decided to make that decision. It makes sense.
- The main character is selfish and mean.
- The main character is strong and determined.
- I thought the guy was hot!
- The guy gave me the creepers!
- Pretty much everyone likes my character Sam Henry, so at least you all agree on one thing. 😉
Remember to trust your first instinct, and think hard before making any changes in your writing. It’s YOUR book!
PS: From time to time, my writer friends do have to walk me off the ledge when I hear something I don’t want to hear about one of my first drafts. We all get the writing crazies! You’re not alone.
MIRANDA KENNEALLY is the author of Catching Jordan, Stealing Parker (October 1, 2012) and Things I Can’t Forget (March 2013). Miranda is the co-creator of Dear Teen Me. The Dear Teen Me Anthology will be published on October 31, 2012. She enjoys reading and writing young adult literature, and loves Star Trek, music, sports, Mexican food, Twitter, coffee, and her husband. Follow her on Twitter or Facebook. Miranda is represented by Sara Megibow at Nelson Literary Agency.