The CC effect

James Hannan  
The CC effect is when you get a multitude of differing opinions on your work. The question is, who do you listen to?

So, here I am. I have written my story. I have posted it to the CC story queue.

I’m excited. I have been slaving over this piece for months. It has potential (I think), it could be good but it’s not quite there yet. I really want to find out what others think.

As the crits start coming in, most people like the story but all agree it needs work. One critter says they want more from the peripheral characters. Another says it should be more overt that my main protagonist is a cad, while a third says the opposite. A fourth says the main character is not drawn finely enough.

This, according to one member, is the CC effect: when you get a multitude of differing opinions on your work. The question is, who do you listen to? Do you go with the person who most likes your story? Or, the person who most dislikes it? Do you listen to the person who gives you the most feedback? Obviously, you can’t listen to everybody, nor every idea that’s put in a crit. If you did, apart from going slightly nutty, you’d end up with a hodgepodge.

So, what to do?

Be judicious about what you take on board

CC is great for learning the intricacies of writing, especially when it comes to fiction. I've learnt about to be verbs, filter words, and that I get confused with my tenses. This is all great, and I’m glad I have received this feedback.

Yet, when it comes to the less technical/grammar aspects of writing, and what you are trying to achieve as a writer, I have found the need to be judicious in what I take on board and what I leave behind. You're the author and have the last say, so go with your gut.

Don’t let crits take you away from what you were trying to do in the first place

When I write, I have an inner dialogue about what I am trying to achieve and where I think the story is going. Sometimes, too many crits, and all the ideas in them can distract from that dialogue.

Indeed, when someone gives you feedback, there is an impulse to jump straight in and change your piece. I did this with the last story I put up on CC. Someone suggested something, and I thought, yes, great idea, and immediately put that in my story. With hindsight, it would have better to sit on that idea for a few days, letting it soak in, before returning to the story for another read and edit.

Be sure you’re ready for critiques before uploading your story to CC

CC is a great resource. You get free feedback on your writing, from other writers. What could be better, right? But next time you have story and you want to upload it to CC, ask yourself: are you ready for what might come back at you?

With the last story I put up on CC, I (probably) uploaded it prematurely. I wasn’t sure about what was happening in it, especially the motivations of the main character. The feedback I got was great, but perplexing because I couldn’t decide from all the contradictory views how the final version of the story would end up.

Contrast this with the story I put on CC before that. I was sure about what I was trying to achieve, and who the main character was. Again, the feedback was great, but because I was clear about the story, it was easier for me to take what I wanted from the feedback and incorporate that.

Build your tribe and cultivate their loyalty

There are always going to be critters out there who are not your ideal readers. They find your work too subtle, they don’t get why you don’t have a recognisable plot, and they want to understand every single motivation of every single character you put in your work.

Here’s the thing, not everyone is going to get, or (god forbid!), like your work. Do I listen to these people and make changes based on their feedback? Sometimes, but I also recognise them for what they are, and, if they give me a particularly bad crit, try not to get too hung up on that.

The funny thing is, I really like these critters and find their input extremely valuable. Why? Because I get to see the many ways my work can be interpreted and the reactions it produces, which also gives me perspective on what happens when I put my work out to the wider world.

Yet, for every critter that doesn’t get my work, I also want one (maybe two, three, or even four) that does. So how to do you get this? Be selective in the type (genre) of stories you crit, choosing like-minded writers or at least those you feel will have a handle on your style. It also helps to write back to those who crit your work (as soon as you can) to thank them for their crits, never bite back if they give you adverse feedback, and always give crits in return.

In this way you might find a good group that’s familiar with your practice, your themes and literary interests, which is (perhaps) the best way to get the most out of CC.

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