Monday, 31 March 2008

Conflicting Critiques

I've been handing out two very different pieces in my writers group lately, a nonfiction book proposal on Confederate General Sterling Price's 1864 invasion of Missouri, and a horror novel set during the same invasion. Yep, a novel and a history book in the same period. I have to save on research time somehow.

Two of the regulars have read both the proposal and the first four chapters of my novel, but they have completely conflicting reviews. One really enjoyed the novel, but found the proposal boring. The other loved the history book, but was less than thrilled with the novel. I respect both of these people as writers, and more importantly as readers, so what to make of this? It's not because they like one subject and not the other, they're both too experienced at critiques to fall into that trap, they simply have opposing positions.

Every writer needs to listen to critiques, but every writer also has to know that they can't please everyone. The woman who didn't enjoy my history book loves reading history, but maybe my style of history writing isn't for her; it obviously works for the other reader, who's also a history fan. Fortunately they both gave more detailed critiques than simply a thumb's up or a thumb's down (otherwise it would be a waste of time giving stuff to them) so I was able to get some useful information.

Critiques can be like that. You have to take what you can use and leave the rest. You can't please everybody, but be careful if you aren't pleasing everybody. If five out of six people say the same thing, it's time to listen; if two people say opposite things, go with your gut.

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Looking for more from Sean McLachlan? He also hangs out on the Civil War Horror blog, where he focuses on Civil War and Wild West history.

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