Tuesday, May 17, 2011

"You See, You Can't Please Everyone, So You Got to Please Yourself"

As many of you know, I’ve been neck-deep in reader feedback the last couple of weeks, and as many of you also know, it’s driven me a little batty. Knowing what feedback to take and what feedback to leave is almost as difficult as writing the stupid manuscript in the first place.

But today, a few lines from Ricky Nelson’s “Garden Party” came to me while I was weeping and wailing and generally making a fool of myself, and they were so appropriate--and yet so seemingly mundane--that I knew I had to share:

But it’s all right now
I learned my lesson well
You see, you can’t please everyone
So you got to please yourself

It may sound silly and cliché, but it’s also true: We’re not going to please everybody with our writing, so at the end of the day, we only have to worry about pleasing ourselves. I mean, wouldn’t you feel terrible, absolutely TERRIBLE, if you changed something in your manuscript because someone else insisted on it, and then you sent your precious manuscript off to your top agent, and she loved it and really got it, EXCEPT FOR THAT ONE PART, and she was going to offer you representation, but then that one part changed her mind?

I can take rejection, but I don’t think I could take that kind of regret.

So in the spirit of making decisions and not letting your writing drive you completely nutty, here are a few questions to ask yourself when you’re staring reader feedback in the face:

1. Am I excited about making these changes?

2. Do these changes match my vision for the project?

3. Deep down, do I think these changes are the right changes to make?

If your answer to any of these questions is no, you might want to take a step back and think about things a little longer. And while you’re thinking, check out Jessica Tudor’s brilliant blog post on the topic. (Did I mention it was BRILLIANT?)

Happy writing, happy revising, and if you’ve been feeling a little down lately, for heaven’s sake, have a chocolate.


Chelsey said...

The first one really hit home for me. it's important to be excited about your MS in all iterations

Jenilyn Tolley said...

I also love that first question. There are far too many times that I've revised to please someone else and it never works well. I think those questions will help me decide what advice to take and what to leave. Thanks for sharin!

Sarah said...

Thank you for this! I'm just starting to get reader feedback on my new project and it's already contradictory. You're right--ultimately, the author is responsible for the ms and has to make the changes that match the vision. Good luck with your revision!

Jemi Fraser said...

It's important to be true to ourselves while at the same time staying open to critiques. It's a tough balance some days :)

Liesl said...

Very VERY important. This is something that took me a while to get the hang of. But it's getting easier to feel what suggestions really resonate with me and which ones don't. Great post, Krista.

And I'm announcing tomorrow, fyi. :)

Ben Spendlove said...

Oh dear. Feel free to ignore anything I've ever said. I'm not really a writer. I only play one on the internet.

Jenny Phresh said...

I really think you should revise this post. You should put it in third person, and told from the perspective of a diabolical rodent. And add a lot more adjectives and semicolons, and maybe an M-dash or two. I know best!
Aw, never mind. Just stay the way you are.
Loved the post, really.

funny in the 'hood said...

Those are all excellent questions. Also, I love the song Garden Party!


Krista V. said...

Chelsey, yes! Because if you're not excited about it, you probably won't be able to stick with it. (I love Bob to death, but these last couple of weeks, I've just wanted to print him off on vellum or some other really expensive paper and throw him in the fireplace just to spite myself. (It would help if we had some vellum, or, you know, a fireplace...))

You're welcome, Jeni! And like I've said before, feel free to leave any of my suggestions. Feel free to leave them all, in fact:)

Sarah, good luck with your revision, too! Thankfully, I've never gotten out-and-out contradictory advice. One beta might mention one thing and one might not, but they've never directly contradicted one another. I can't imagine what I'd do. (If you have any advice, feel free to share.)

It is a tough balance, Jemi, and one I'm still trying to figure out. (P.S. Are you excited for the French Open? It started today, didn't it?)

Thanks, Liesl! And I'm looking forward to your announcement! I plan to shout it from the housetops with you:)

Ben, if I weren't already following your blog, I'd start right now. Your comment was clever and cogent, as usual.

Thanks, Jenny! The awesome em dash is actually my puncutation mark of choice. I tend to use one in about every other sentence - and then I have to edit them out:)

Tracey, the only thing I knew about "Garden Party" was its chorus, but then I Googled it as I was writing this and discovered it has some interesting backstory.

Read my books; lose ten pounds! said...

good, so good.

Laura Pauling said...

Usually my betas are spot on. Other times it might mean tweaking to make a scene fit rather than delete it. Sometimes it means deleting. I'm in the same position.

Shari said...

I absolutely LOVE this.

Feedback is obviously crucial to any manuscript, but at the end of the day, it's also important to remember that opinions are just that - opinions. As we've all heard so many times, it's such a subjective business, with a plethora of options and suggestions out there, and that can make it so tough sometimes to if/when to change something.

Your questions are so spot-on for determining the answer. The second one in particular jumped out at me, because it's something I just grappled with a few weeks ago. The change would have changed the very heart and essence of what the project is, and when it came down to it, I just couldn't compromise the book, the characters, and their journey like that. It was a stressful decision, but it was also the right one, and with some distance, I feel good about it.

Thank you, as always, for the insightful post!! :)

Anita said...

Excellent advice, Krysta. I've always been very partial to #2. It's actually something to keep in mind w/agent and editor revisions, too. ;)

Krista V. said...

Thank you, Read my books. Glad you liked it.

Laura, you're absolutely right when you say that you have to incorporate reader feedback in different ways sometimes. And no one says you have to take their feedback in exactly the way they meant it. For instance, as I was raking in the agent feedback a couple of months ago, none of them suggested flipping the POV characters. I just looked at what they were saying and decided that would be the best way to incorporate their suggestions.

Shari, you're so kind. Thank you for your comment. It sounds like you made the right decision for your manuscript, and I'm glad you feel so good about it.

You would know, Anita:) You're a great example of sticking to your guns and waiting for the right agent to come along.

Marian Vere said...

The fact that you can take comments in stride like this is a great thing! and Yes, above all else you have to be happy!

My MS is a chick lit/womens fic that I had at a word count of 64K. One agent said it was too short and should be 70-80K, another said it was too short and should be 80-100K, and a third said it was right on and should be 60-75K.

What the hell!?

Needless to say I was confused and wasn't about to have three versions of the same ms to make everyone happy. I decided to put back a few scenes that I had removed bringing the count to 70K, and said that I was willing to tailor it further to the standards of the agent who I will actually end up signing with, but until then, 70K was the story that I was most comfortable with.

Stick to your guns and you can't go wrong.

Anita said...

And may I please apologize for spelling your name wrong? LOL. My daughter's first name is Krysta, with a Y. I guess you can see the confusion. ;) But I haven't met a Krista, Y or I, that I don't liked. :) They're just good people, those.

Darke Conteur said...

I've seen a few MS where the author said "Well, I did this because so-in-so said to," and the poor writer ends up so confused and frustrated, they walk away from the project altogether.

I alwasy add a disclaimer to my critiques. "These are just my suggestions. Use if you want, trash if you don't." This way, they don't feel (or at least I hope they don't) feel obligated to use my suggestions.

Krista V. said...

Marian, just goes to show how subjective everything is. I'm glad you did what you thought was best. In the end, that's all you can do.

Anita, would you believe I didn't even notice? I've gotten so used to being called Kristy, Kristin, Kristina - anything but Krista, really - that Krysta's close enough:)

Darke Conteur, I always add the same disclaimer. Sometimes I forgot to apply it to myself, though...

Myrna Foster said...

Those are excellent questions.

Krista V. said...

Thanks, Myrna. I need to repeat them like a mantra when I'm working through reader feedback.

Christa said...

So glad you did this post. One of my betas just sent me a suggestion and I have been having a crisis of confidence over it. So much so that I had to contact 2 other betas to see what they thought. My instinct is to ignore the suggestion but I keep thinking...what if he's right???

Krista V. said...

Thanks for you comment, Christa. Have you decided what to do yet? If not, good luck making the decision. Those are some of the toughest we writers have to make.