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Learn to Listen to Critiquers

Listening to critiques is hard!

I have to remind myself that writing is communication, with a writer and a reader. When I get feedback, what I’m really doing is checking to see if I communicated what I wanted to. Well, no. I didn’t.

I have two choices:

  • Ignore the feedback. This guarantees that a chunk of readers will not understand my story, my essay, my attempt at communicating.
  • Clarify through revision. Revision is the process of clarifying the communication.

For fiction, this means partly that the reader has an internalized concept of story and your story must fit that concept, at least to some degree. You can break expectations, of course, and often the best novelists do, but the novel must fit some of these conventions, or communication breaks down.

Plot holes. The reader’s reasoning process say, uh-oh, that wouldn’t have happened that way. Or, you can’t have that happen at the same time as this other event. Whatever – the story violates the reader’s sense of what is possible.

Character holes. The reader just doesn’t believe this is a person, but just a collection of characteristics. Successful novels put together characteristics, emotions, actions, reactions in such a way that the reader believes.

Feel free to disagree with any and every piece of feedback you get. But only after you’ve listened, and thought, and thought and tried to make sure your communication is reaching your readers.

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