Jul 10 2012

The Value Of Multiple Opinions

Lots of writers make a very deadly decision in that they do not get multiple opinions on their work. Instead, they write something and have one trusted source review their work. If they even do that at all. Many authors never seek opinions on what they have written.

The “trusted” source many authors turn to is usually a spouse, girl/boy friend, close friends or some other such person they feel comfortable with. Usually, the result of such forays is a comment like, “It’s great! Don’t change anything!”

If you are one of the lucky ones that actually do get good quality feedback from your single, trusted confidant, you are still short changing yourself. Even if you get comments that point out problems with your prose, plot, character development, etc., getting other opinions doesn’t hurt.

Why? Because opinions are opinions. You want as many of them as possible because they vary.

Ok, so one person reads your novel and tells you that character X’s motivations are poorly defined. You don’t think so, maybe because you tried to be subtle in divulging them and not forthright, and you then spend days reworking whole parts of your story based on this feedback.

But what if you had 10 people, instead of just one, read your novel and give you feedback? What if in said feedback just two people had problems figuring out Character X’s motivations while no one else commented on such? What if, after asking theses other eight people pointed questions and realizing that they all got Character X’s motivations without a problem, would you still spend all that time rewriting?

Probably not.

Sure, you might tweak things to make at a little clearer to those that sped read over something or were simply not sharp enough to notice important details. You certainly would not fret as much however and go into the same level of heavy editing as you would have in the first instance.

When I received comments back on my work in progress, Under the Darkened Moon, I kept diligent track of everything. If one person said something didn’t seem right but no one else did, I asked everyone else pointed questions about said concern. If none thought the problem was really a problem, I left it be. But, when nine or ten people all said the same thing and voiced the same concern, you bet that I delved right in and addressed it.

What learned however was that most “problems” were problems with someone missing something important. You know, drifting into that semi-distracted state readers fall into from time to time and not registering something clearly written because of it.

Did my story have real problems? Yes! But by getting multiple opinions I was able to weed the real problems out from those that were a consequence of bad reading by the reader, stylistic differences, etc.

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