Categorizing Reader Opinion
In the last post, I suggested you decide on your own how to treat reader opinion of a piece of your writing or memoir. That leaves the question open, of course, on how to decide which to keep. Here’s my not-very-rocket-science way of doing it.
This one is, well, obvious. Spelling mistakes, seasons of the year out of whack, missing one place where you changed the character’s name from Wendy to Sue. These are no brainers but are nevertheless valuable as you need to fix them at some point.
This category you change immediately.
The doubtful opinion
Sometimes you’re not sure whether the feedback is applicable. Here are some examples:
Why you’re doubtful
The historical period you’re writing about doesn’t seem real or credible
If you know the period well, you might be unsure that this is a piece of feedback worth taking. Follow-on question might be: Were there particular points which didn’t seem credible to you?
The premise of two cats talking is not particularly funny
Well, you think it’s funny. The definition of funny is wide so you should try it out on others. Follow-on question: Can you point out where you didn’t think the humor worked?
The main character’s constant malapropism is annoying
You think it gives the character an eccentric appeal—at least that’s what you were going for. Follow-on question: Is it the quirk itself that is annoying or its frequency of use?
The subordinate characters take the spotlight off the main protagonist.
This surprises you as you know whom you intended to be the key character. Follow-on question: Where (i.e. what scenes) did you feel that the subordinate characters dominated the main one?
In all these cases, feedback from other readers would be helpful to allow you decide whether or not you agree with the initial feedback.
Okay, so you’ve gotten a range of feedback and the consensus seems to be that the cats really aren’t funny.
Generally speaking, it probably makes sense to look at your piece to see if it is salvageable or whether it is destined for the trash heap.
The only exception is if, all the feedback notwithstanding, you still believe in the potential of the piece. You might take some of the minor suggestions but fundamentally, you feel it works.
While I think this category should be used sparingly (i.e. not like Fred), it should be used. You need to think hard on it before you reject the reader reaction (especially consensus) but if you feel strongly about a point, do it. After all, whose writing is it anyway?