Taking Critique: That’s Not My Story

Monday, March 18, 2019
Fiction or nonfiction, poetry or prose, it doesn’t matter what you write. The best of your work always reflects your soul. That’s good and bad.

The good part is that it makes what you’ve written true with a capital T. Even if you are writing fiction, your work reflects what is real. People who can do this in young adult fiction create fans for life. Teens are all about speaking hard truths, even those that make people cringe. But that’s what makes Truth so hard to write. It can be a bit messy.

The bad part about being this connected through our writing to deeper truths is that we are also deeply connected to our writing. When people critique our writing, it can be hard to seriously consider even good suggestions. Instead we hear a screaming voice in our heads. “That’s not my story!”

Maybe it isn’t. But it could be an even better story.

This week, while icing cupcakes, an idea for a picture book popped into my head. I drafted this over-the-top caper and polished it and took it to my group. They liked it well enough but something was missing. The story felt a bit jumbled.

“Tell me about your characters,” said R. “Why are you writing about several kids instead of just one?” A friend had told me that she can find books about twins but she has two sets of triplet grandchildren. Two sets. She couldn't find any picture books with characters who are triplets.

In reality triplets tend to be a bit overwhelming. That had come through in my story but fiction often has to be better organized than reality to work well.

“Instead of having the characters bounce different ideas around, can you emphasize each child’s distinct personality?” said R.

We discussed it and I realized what she meant. One could be the Mom-ish figure, the kid who always does the reasonable, responsible thing. One is the scientist and super rational. The third? The wild child of the family.

My story had been about a caper pure and simple. This wasn’t my idea as I had conceived it, but now I had an idea for a caper with three unique protagonists who have to learn to work together. Not my story, no. An even better story.

Listening to what someone else has to say can be tricky. Sometimes their ideas take your story in a direction you hadn’t planned. Take a moment and hear what they have to say. It may not be your original story but it could be even better, one that now explores Truth with a capital T.


To find out more about Sue Bradford Edwards' writing, visit her blog, One Writer's Journey.  Sue is also the instructor for Writing Nonfiction for Children and Young Adults. The next session begins March 18th, 2019.


Sioux Roslawski said...

Sue--Pearl Buck once said that she got her best writing ideas while washing the dishes. You get them while putting the finishing touches on cupcakes.

I've got some organizing to do this week at home. I expect to get inspired...

Renee Roberson said...

It may not have been your original story, but I love the input your critique group gave you! I'm always pleasantly surprised (but not shocked) with the input I get from my fellow writers. My short stories in particular have gotten so much better by taking that feedback and running with it.

Sue Bradford Edwards said...

I hope you find some inspiration among all that requires reorganizing!

It definitely is surprising if only because . . .why didn't I think of that!


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