If five people critique your work, you will receive five different opinions. And some in complete contrast to the others. With this being said, how do you know when to take advice and when to pass it by?
When rejected, if you're lucky, an agent will respond with comments. Should you rewrite your novel and apply each comment? How do you know which advice to accept and which to ignore? If you adapt every suggestion that an agent or someone in your critique groups makes, do you lose your voice? Have you ever had someone recommend to change something that was actually exactly how you had it in an earlier revision but someone else told you fix?
How do you know which advice to take and which to ignore?
Answer: Stay true to the goal of your novel. To the theme.
Listen to all suggestions, but don't react. Respond after analyzing your work. Analyzing their comments. Hear "what" they mean, not how they're saying it. Determine if what they say works. Take what feels right. You will know. Do not just change something just because someone said to... it might not be the right thing to do. If you don't feel it, understand it, and believe it... don't do it.
Recommendation: Ask yourself a couple questions and put the suggestion through the recommendation wringer before you do anything:
- "What" do they really mean by their suggestion?
- "Why" did they make that particular recommendation?
- Does it resonate with the theme of my novel?
- Envision the change as if it were a movie. Play the movie both ways. Which is more powerful?
- Is the suggestion something technical that you'd never heard before? Research.
Then the agent I really wanted to work with, my perfect match, sent me a rejection with detailed comments of what she liked, but also the one thing that didn't work for her. That same thing that I was in the process of working on. I immediately responded by thanking her, and told her that I agreed with her and was in the process of fixing that exact thing. I was already two-thirds through the novel with the fix. Would she be willing to read it a second time? YES!
Trust your instincts. You are the author and the creator of your work. If someone gives you a suggestion, run it through the recommendation wringer.
With all this being said, remember the "F" word when it comes to working with "your" agent. Be Flexible! If they love your work enough to represent you, then trust the relationship that they will give you guidance on preparing you for publication.
Happy writing! And remmember, today is your day to shine.