posted on February 11, 2019 by Jennifer Shirk

Keeping Your Story Your Story

Hey, all! Jennifer here.

If you’re a writer, you are more than likely in a critique group or exchanging work with another writer. And if you’re not…

YOU SHOULD BE!  Ha! (Half kidding)

Personally, I feel I’ve grown as a writer by not only the feedback I get from other authors on my writing, but from reading their work and offering advice to them. It helps you to step back and really see what works and what doesn’t. However, it is true that you can’t please everyone all the time, so there should be a limit for how much advice you can follow.

One subject that comes up in my personal critique group every once in a while is story boundaries—not because we have problems with authors crossing them, but because it’s good to talk about these things and be aware of them so there isn’t future problems.

As writers we all feel and see stories differently. Even as a reader, I may think a story is going in one direction and be completely thrown off by where an author takes it. That was one of the reasons I started writing, because I started to rewrite in my head different scenes and endings to books I’d been reading. However, it’s one thing to rewrite in your head and a whole other issue when you start to apply those changes to other people’s writing in real life.

For example: A friend of mine went to an author discussion a while back where everyone shared chapters and people commented on the general feel of what writers were working on. Which is great. Feedback is encouraged and needed. But one woman went on about what she thought should be the focus of this one particular author’s story, what the plot should be and what, and in her opinion, would make it a great book.

Finally, after politely hearing that person out, the author looked the woman in the eye and said, “Hey, that’s a great book for you to write, because that’s not the book I’m writing.”

Well said.

Critiquing is a fine line to walk. As a writer, I don’t want any of my critique partners to hold back their doubts or feelings on a book, but ultimately I have to decide what fits with the vision I have. So I may take some suggestions, but I may not take all of them.

You have to go with your gut.

I’m so glad my friend shared that story because it’s a fantastic reminder to take to heart the feedback we get with critiques. But it’s also important to remember we can offer each other guidance on plot points and character traits and sentence structure, etc…but ultimately the HEART of the story remains with the author and how he/she sees his/her story.

Writers, have you ever felt a disconnection in your story vision with one of your critique partners?

Are you guilty of rewriting sentences for your partner? Do you care if that happens to you?

Thanks for having me!

Hope you all get to check out my latest romantic comedy ROMANCING HIS RIVAL out February 11th from Entangled Publishing!



Jennifer Shirk

Jennifer Shirk

USA TODAY bestselling author, Jennifer Shirk, has a bachelor degree in pharmacy-which has in NO WAY at all helped her with her writing career. But she likes to point it out, since it shows romantic-at-hearts come in all shapes, sizes, and mind-numbing educations. She writes sweet romances (some even funny!) and won third place in the RWA 2006 NYC's Kathryn Hayes Love and Laughter Contest with her first book, The Role of a Lifetime. Her novel Sunny Days for Sam won the 2013 Golden Quill Published Authors Contest for Best Traditional Romance. She's a board member for Straight Ahead Ministries, an organization involved in helping spread the gospel and aiding medical and pharmacy students in Russia. She's also a board member of the Ocean City Library Board of Trustees. She resides in a beach resort in NJ, and when she's not involved in all the above, she's taking care of her most treasured possessions: her husband, daughter, guinea pig (Rocco), puppy (Sox) and four hermit crabs.

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