During the month of February, I took a synopsis class from Camy Tang (which I mentioned in a previous blog post). It was very helpful, and if you haven’t had the opportunity to try writing a synopsis yet — or if you don’t know where to start — she’s going to be running the same class sometime in May and I highly recommend it. You’ll get personal feedback and likely a new perspective on your novel that you can’t get from revisions alone.
I know — it happened to me!
One of the assignments in the workshop was a character synopsis, followed by multiple-page synopsis based on our 5-paragraph synopsis we did earlier in the month (the names for which escape me at the moment). After completing both of these, I submitted them for feedback and felt fairly confident about what areas I’d be told were weak. I thought I knew what needed to be fixed, so when the feedback came… I was a little surprised.
Camy has a gift for telling you what you need to hear, but doing so in a caring way that doesn’t make you feel upset or affronted — unless you allow yourself to react that way. She basically told me that my character’s motivation wasn’t believable, and it needed to tie in more to her external/internal goals.
Naturally, I went through several stages of emotions upon hearing this: confusion (maybe I didn’t explain things well enough in the synopsis?), frustration (is she serious?), contemplation (what would it be like if I *did* change things…) and finally, acceptance. Yes, she was 100% correct: my main character’s motivation was weak, wasn’t true to her personality, and didn’t really make sense in the whole context of things.
Imagine my surprise when I started brainstorming how to fix things, and realized that my story would be so much stronger for it!
However, I also realized that if I’d let my initial reaction control me, I would never have been able to rationally accept someone else’ s viewpoint. I was too close to the story, so I was blinded by what I *thought* needed fixing and unable to see the real issue.
After this experience, it dawned on me that taking criticism is definitely a learned skill. It’s natural to get defensive about our word babies, but sometimes we just need to step back and let someone else take a look and truly listen to what they have to say.
I’m extremely grateful for Camy’s feedback, and although it took me a few days realize that she was right, I now also know how to graciously accept criticism and put the advice into practice.
I know that not all critiques will have useful information, and sometimes the advice someone gives you will be wrong — but you’re doing yourself an incredibly disservice if you don’t at least consider what that person has to say, and do it seriously.
And let me tell you, if you want to figure out the weak spots in your manuscript? A synopsis is definitely the way to do it. When your story is broken down to the bare bones, can it stand on its own?
How are you at taking advice from critique partners and other sources of feedback? Have you ever had a reaction like me, feeling defensive until you realized that the other person was right?