To take advice or not to take advice. That is the question.


Several times now I’ve stressed the importance of getting beta readers and crit partners, but I’ve never talked about how to decide what advice to take.
If you’re just starting out and you haven’t found your voice yet, there’s no shame in taking all the advice and trying it out.  You’ll learn quickly what works for you and what doesn’t. 
And there’s also absolutely no reason TO take all the advice you’re given.  Unfortunately everybody is going to have a different vision of where you’re going.  Some will agree with yours, others won’t. 
The best thing I can tell you to do is to read ALL the advice and sleep on it.  Take as long as you need to really digest what they’re telling you.  Even if you completely agree with the advice, take some time.  You’ll find that you may not agree with it, or not completely, after you’ve thought about it for a while or just the opposite, you’ll find that that advice you thought was complete bunk was PERFECT. 
Sometimes you may even find that the advice is great, but it’s just not going to work with your story.  Sometimes you need an unreliable narrator or you want to have a hero/heroine that’s unlikeable. 
There is no cookie cutter in writing.  Everyone’s story should be different.  SO while you should take in all the advice you’re given the true skill to writing is determining which advice to take and which to leave on the wayside.

11 Responses to “To take advice or not to take advice. That is the question.”

  1. Adventures in Children's Publishing says:

    >I love your advice to sleep on it. I have been given advice that didn't click right away, but finally made sense somewhere down the road. At times, the advice was justified differently and just hearing it in a new way, or from someone else made more sense.

    Thanks for your post!

  2. incomparablyoffcourse says:

    >I wholeheartedly agree, Jess. There are often times I wish people would have had beta readers and listened to advice before they sent a submission to me.

    Trust your instincts on the advice, but please, please at least take it all under advisement.

  3. jasouders says:

    >Marissa, I've done that SO often. I'll get downright pissy with some of the advice, but then after I hash it over with my husband or in my own head, I think, "Well, duh, that IS good advice." I also have a habit of taking a lot of advice I shouldn't and screwing up the pacing of my story. It's a no win situation. LOL.

    Maggie: AGREED!! I read slush for a different publisher and let me tell you, some of the things people submit are like, WTH? Did ANYONE beside you read this before you sent it. This is a GREAT premise, but I can't read it for all the mistakes.

  4. Dorothy Dreyer says:

    >Great post! I totally agree.

  5. Elle Strauss says:

    >When I'm not sure about advice I've been given, I usually wait to see if someone else says the same thing. If they do, then I know I need to listen.

  6. Ezmirelda says:

    >Great Advice on getting advice! I try to go with the advice I know will help prgress the story rather than the advice that gets me stuck.

  7. Lindsay (a.k.a Isabella) says:

    >Hi, I'm a new follower. I came here via Adventures in Children's Publishing.
    Great post. Sometimes it is really confusing which advice to listen too. I try to sleep on all my feedback before I start changing stuff. 🙂

  8. Jessie says:

    >how true – I've heard people say that only about 5% of the feedback you get will actually be useful. that may be low, but the find the more confidence I get in my own writing, the less bad I feel about brushing off advice. it simply isn't all going to work.
    great post!

  9. Julie Musil says:

    >Great advice. Sometimes it takes me a couple of days before I realize the advice was just right.

  10. Sandy Shin says:

    >This is such a great advice!

    I haven't found my voice yet, so I'm still trying things out. But sleeping on it is a great way to not reject an advice prematurely. 🙂

  11. RaShelle says:

    >Hey Jess,
    Great info. I go by threes as well. If three different people have a problem with the same aspect of something I wrote, I know I need to change it.