Your friends, your editor, your critique group members, your beta readers, and random people on the internet; at some point, everyone will give you well-meaning but awful advice that can damage your craft.

Early in my writing journey, I was told by a copy editor I trusted never to use passive voice, and to always show instead of telling. It took me half a year of writing to please her before I understood that passive voice and telling rather than showing both have their place in fiction.

Advice is cheap (time-wise) to give and expensive to do something about. Worse yet, instead of adding up, it multiplies and resolving it becomes an exponential problem.

Which Feedback to Take Seriously

Two kinds of feedback you should always take seriously.

First, feedback that resonates with you. Some had done you a favor by spelling out what already made sense to your intuition. Feedback from editors falls under this category as well.

Second, feedback that comes from multiple sources. If more than one reader tells you there’s an issue with chapter three; there’s an issue with chapter three. Though you should stop listening when they tell you how to fix it.

Also, you should distrust anyone who tells you there are rules to be followed. Sure, there are lots of rules, too many to keep track of, but most of them were meant as guidelines to help people write better, not as literary dogma. Dogmatic is worse than opinionated.

Your True North

It amused me to no end when I saw the term trademarked in one of the corporate self-help books I read, but trademarked or not, true north is what you’re after. It can help your writing career.

For example, for me, the work of Terry Pratchett is an ideal that all fiction should aspire to. My fiction specifically. I want it to have the same kind of clarity, subtext, pace, vividness, and quality of language that Sir Terry was capable of.

Having it spelled out like that, knowing where your true north lies makes writing, editing, and taking feedback a lot easier because you know where you’re headed.

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