We have to be really good sifters. That's what comes after everything we already thought of.
Sifting is a skill required for getting through revisions, edits, critiques, etc.
Actually sifting runs deep. For ladies we are just beginning to learn how to sift when all that baby advice comes into play (do this, don't EVER do that and you'll be just fine). For men, sifting is what you start doing when you get engaged and all your married buddies have all kinds of advice on marriage. You realize at some point (usually years later) that most of the advice didn't really apply to your situation.
If you don't have kids and you aren't married then you might not understand these versions of sifting, don't worry, you're a writer. Your book is like a child and a marriage all wrapped into one. You've likely already been told what to do and what not to do and you've decided there's no way you can get it done without breaking some of those rules or going against parts of that advice, that's when you start sifting.
Let's say you put your query or the first 250 words of your story on a blog fest or forum. You know you're going to get comments and you're pretty sure some of them aren't going to be very nice. That's when you decide that you have to have a thick skin for this business so you'll take whatever you get, or you're waiting for some kind of external approval on your skill and if that means revisions then so be it. Before you go to such extremes think about what kind of commenters you're going to get.
Commenters are such interesting people. Some are doing it because the forum mandates a certain amount of participation via comments. Some commenters just love to go around and create controversy and spark confusion. Some are just being nice and are there solely to show their support so they won't have much in the way of constructive feedback. Some commenters are reading your posting first and some are reading your post after they've already used up all their judicious perspective on 40 other posts before yours. Some are awake and some are half asleep. Some are taking a break from a frustrating part of their own stories and are taking out their frustration on your piece. Some commenters just received seven of their own negative comments and need to prove a point. How can you know for sure what kind of commenter you're getting? BY KEEPING ALL THIS IN MIND AND SIFTING.
While sifting consider these points:
- Automatically dismiss any criticism that comes from commenters who replace words like 'the' for 'da' and have nothing but harsh things to say about what you've posted. That's a Keyword Dismissal. It might not be DA that ticks you off it might be some other careless word. Odds are pretty good that commenters that don't use proper English aren't going to have the type of knowledge or opinion that will have much of a bearing on the success of your writing.
- Tactless. If your query or portion of your story has been commented on and the commenter has just ripped you apart and shown, in bullet points (who knew a commenter could use bullet points), how you should have done it and they can't find even one good thing in your writing then DISMISS this comment. There's no need for anyone to be harshly critical about something they've only read a snippet of. And if they can't find anything good in your writing but think they could do it better then you know right away they are teachers and not doers. What if they've never even written a book before? What if they're just bloggers and not writers at all? What is their credential? Why should this comment matter to you?
- They start with, "I don't read this genre, but. . ." Be wary. They might be nice and they might have some creative advice but if they don't read Sci-Fiction or Paranormal and that's what you write then how do they know for sure your snippet isn't realistic for your character or that parts of your story don't make sense? If a commenter only reads adult fiction then how would they know if your character sounds more MG than YA? SIFT WRITERS SIFT.
- Conflicting advice should be taken with a grain of salt as well. The commenter may be too tired from reading several other posts and then reaches yours and gives you two pieces of advice that don't make sense. Realize you're not getting fresh eyes or an open mind and should move on to the next comment.
- Short Story Comments. To me, any comment that begs for more information inside of 250 words is a short story commenter. If they wanted to see more of this, or wished the character would hurry and do whatever inside of 250 words, they are, more or less, asking you to sum up thousands of words into a short story. Twilight is the best example for this. During the first 250 words of Twilight we realize the MC is a dark/negative character who is moving away from her "hair-brained mother" to a small town she's always hated just to live with her dad. That's it. A negative girl moving. Inside of 250 words she doesn't tell us why she's moving, what she's leaving behind other than her mother (no boyfriends, friends, etc.), whether or not she has siblings, etc. And who cares? Not me. I'm a patient reader. I know the MC has a purpose, that the story is about to get exciting, that other characters are going to come into play, I trust the writer. I don't need a lot of info in the first 250 words.
WHAT TYPE OF COMMENTS DO YOU AUTOMATICALLY SKIP OVER? HOW DO YOU KNOW WHICH ONES ARE THE BEST ONES TO CONSIDER?