I should be, at this moment, sneaking an illicit smoke before rushing into my Physical Anthropology class. Instead, I'm fighting with my body. Again. Since I've been absent more than I can stand already, I will win in time for American Identities. The struggle got me thinking of something my mom said just a few days ago as I lamented about the the pain I was in and the classes I was missing: "I don't know why you're even putting yourself through going back to school. Why don't you just stay home?"
It came from a place of love; she's the mother of a woman with a chronic illness--one I've managed very well by rejecting the steroids the docs would have me on, and by moderating my activity level. For all the great things about going to college, there has also been the painful reality of my flares increasing.
Why am I putting this in my writing blog? Because my answer to her question also applies to my writing: The benefits are worth the struggle. And it got me thinking about other advice that shouldn't be taken as well.
Someone recently suggested I change something about a group of people in a story I'd posted for critique because she couldn't relate to them. I had to fight down my knee jerk reaction to fix that. She wasn't supposed to relate to them. What she showed me, however accidentally, was my failure in showing how the main character is disconnected from them for much the same reason.
A better example comes from the experience of friend. She sent out several queries for her young adult novel, and got back some really good feedback--and some feedback from one agent saying that 85K was pushing the edge for YA and that she should scrap it and start over.
Anyone who's semi-actively followed this blog knows that YA isn't my thing, though that's changing slowly as I stumble upon (or have crammed down my literary throat) more and more YA that is good urban fantasy regardless of the intended age group. Of those, two seem thinner than the typical 85K plus I find in adult fiction. Even if I tend to read the exceptions, "pushing the edge" suggests the work needs to be trimmed not scrapped!
If, say, two out of three had given such advise, maybe the passive-aggressive message would have been, "You've got great story ideas here, but the delivery is all wrong." Don't just ignore the input coming at you; mine it for gems. But as it is, I think that agent's hidden advice was, "You've got talent enough for me to respond personally rather than shooting out a form letter, but I'm not really the person you should be wasting your time on."