Conflicting literary opinion. What should you do?

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This is my weekly installment of “writing about writing,” in which I scan the world for material to help other writers. Today I discuss a blog post about a conflicting literary opinion…..

In medicine, it’s called a “conflicting opinion.” Two doctors disagree about a diagnosis or perhaps a treatment.

But what do you do if you run into such a problem with your writing?

That was a predicament facing Allison Williams in a question she needed to answer for an “Ask The Editor” column for Jane’ Friedman’s recent blog. The questioner — a writer who had a query letter to submit to publishers — had received conflicting advice from two different experts. One — which was positive — came from a well-known and respected agent (it appeared the writer received the comments at no charge via a podcast) and the other — which was much more negative — came from a paid editor.

“I rewrote the query letter as the [paid] editor suggested,” the confused writer said, asking whether she would have been smarter to follow the advice of the agent.

I absolutely loved Williams’ response to this bedevilling question about conflicting literary opinion. “Any feedback is valuable,” she wrote. “When you receive it, pay attention to your own reactions. What makes you think, “Oh yeah, I hoped that would work but it didn’t?” What makes you push back? Then analyze why. Why should the query/sentence/story be your way and not the other way? What can you do more of in your writing to support that choice?

Williams also provided a valuable line-by-line analysis of the query letters, adding her own suggestions to the mix. If you ever have to write query letters, I strongly recommend reading this blog post closely. Here again is the link.

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