Foolhardy ideas on what to do with crackpot suggestions.
|Let me tell you a secret. I like harsh, negative, biting reviews. When I get one it makes me happy. I know that my work could be better; this is a truism. I strongly suspect that, if we wake Shakespeare right now, the Bard will want to do some revision. I need to know where to begin, but I do know where I can get a few ideas.
Recently, I was flipping through a book-- by Jack Bickham 1, which I highly recommend. In it he advises against getting advice from other amateurs. We don't know what we're talking about, and we're unlikely to even agree, leaving the erstwhile student flummoxed. An accurate prognosis, but it doesn't always have to be so.
Instead, be like Doctor House. For those of you who didn't watch "HOUSE"2, the uncontrollable scoundrel doctor House takes hopeless cases and discusses them with a team of what are — to him — inferior doctors until one of them comes up with a suggestion he can't dismiss. Then, he tries the plan, no matter how reckless, even at the risk of jail or termination. If the patient doesn't survive the treatment, so what? The disease would have gotten him in a few days. The first three experiments always fail, revealing new information about the patient's problem, until at last he "solves the puzzle" of the person's disease.
Remember, unlike him, you can always punch "save as...," if you're afraid that your new idea is going to "kill the patient"- I mean, manuscript. Like him, you need to have a little bit of contempt for the immediate well being of your story. Always be willing to try the radical treatment. Each failure will teach you something about the nature of your patient's condition. Eventually, you will emerge victorious.
Your story will make a full recovery, although people might not recognize it in the end. Given some of the things that go through our heads, that can't be such a bad thing.
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So perhaps you're asking yourself, what is this man getting at? What does some pixel sprite with a mad-scientist complex have to do with writing and creativity? A lot.
What I'm actually talking about is advice. There is more you can do with advice than pass it on. That may be the only thing you can do with "good advice," but we're not talking about that. We're talking about bad advice, so seeming.
The only thing you can do with bad advice (and I suggest that you assume that all advice you're going to get is bad) is to follow it. Don't just do it a little, but take it to its natural conclusion. No matter how mad or bad the result is. You don't always have to rewrite things to do this. Mock it, examine it until you really understand what will happen if you do this wild and crazy thing.
Examples of obviously bad advice: Adviser tells you to cut the word "innocence" out of a poem that is actually "about" innocence lost. But, how will they know what the poem is about? This is the pivotal line! Book author tells you to cut all the "barked Sgt. Jack" and "explained Dr. Theo" and just say "said." But, then people will get bored of listening to the word "said" and just know who said something. Same book author (Jack Bickham, above) says, end every scene with the situation getting worse. But, if I do that, then the story tension will mount, and the suspense will be overwhelming-- who wants that?
But wait, the above isn't bad advice, is it? It sounds bad, though, until you try it. Some of the best will. If you don't follow it, at least in your imagination, then will you ever know why they said it — let alone, whether it was good or no? You have room on your hard drive for a few abandoned rough drafts.
If not, buy an upgrade and store it on W.com! Just be sure to set the more monstrous versions to "Keep private, for MY eyes only!"