I have been doing a fair amount of critiquing these days. It clears my mind so that I can dive into my own manuscripts with fresh eyes. I have also noticed a lot of first page critiques up on blog posts. I read them, scan the comments, and often cringe.
First, hats off to those of you courageous enough to put your work out there for others to critique. It is a necessary and often difficult process. Let's face it, none of us want to hear that are ms is lacking in one are or overflowing with description in another. But we need to. Second, and more importantly, be careful. Sometimes we get so lost on other people's opinions of our manuscripts that we forget why we originally wrote it . . . we forget that it is our voice we are honing NOT SOMEBODY ELSE'S.
Now, what prompted this post of caution? No worries, it is not a critique we got back on SILO. That baby has left the hands of our "small group of well-seasoned" critique partners weeks ago, the revisions being read solely by Ginger. It's a couple of other things actually. I got a ms to read from a long standing CP of mine, one that was already full of comments. Content wise, I agreed with a very small percentage of the suggested edits, what I took exception to was her completely inaccurate use of grammar. My CP was stressed out, got the dreaded comment that her ms was riddled with passive voice. It wasn't, which has me thinking maybe it is time for another post on the difference between past-tense active voice and passive voice.
That afternoon I read a blog post for a fantastic author who was seeking a critique on her first 250 words. She was off to an amazing and strong start, better then three-quarters of the manuscripts I have read in the past year. She threw you right into the story, had the perfect amount of dialogue to action, and set the tense mood within a few well-crafted sentences. Ohh . . . but did she have comments. Problem was each one was telling her to switch something different up. There was no consistency in the suggested edits, just a bunch of personal taste floating around. And that is what scares the hell out of me -- that authors like myself will start changing things, start hacking up our manuscripts according the the personal taste of a few dozen beta readers.
My advice . . . DON'T. Remember that it is your voice, your story. Trust your instincts. Don't be afraid to revise, but you have to whole-heatedly agree with the suggested revision. And by all means, look for the common denominator. If three or four of your CP's are telling you the same thing, then address it. BUt please, don't ever change the way you write because some random commenter on your blog didn't like the second sentence of your third paragraph!
How do I get around it? Like I said, small, well-seasoned group of CP's who know my style, aren't interested in changing my voice, and read solely for plot and character inconsistencies. Took me a long time to find them, but they are fantastic!