Sunsets, Lenses and Second Opinions

This is the same sunset that I posted a picture of on Tuesday. I took the two photos only minutes apart, but with different lenses.

I would say that I was being a good kitty and practicing to see what different lenses would do, but in truth, I forgot the telephoto lens was on there instead of the broader landscape lens. Some of the difference is that the telephoto lens focused in on a smaller part of the sky. But you can also see that the longer focal length (shorter focal length? My college physics professor is shaking his head) changes the perspective so that different shapes and colors predominate.

It’s common advice these days to always obtain a second opinion on medical diagnoses. In fact, articles recommend that, if your doctor doesn’t like the idea of you getting a second opinion, then that’s a big red flag. Patients can be misdiagnosed 25 to 50% of the time, depending on whose numbers you look at. Is this because 25 to to 50% of doctors are idiots? Well… Okay, no no no, it’s not. It’s because everyone brings a different lens to the table. Where one person sees the whole sky, another sees just one peak against a wash of crimson.

This is why having a writing group or multiple critique partners can be very important. It’s not that half of them could be flat wrong. (Well, depends on the CP, eh?) It’s more that each reader sees the story through a different lens. What’s a glaring problem to one, another breezes right past. It’s important to carefully consider the feedback a reader gives you, just as you would a medical diagnosis, but it’s equally important to evaluate it in context of how other readers see it.

I was in a writers group for many years where one member would change every single thing anyone criticized about her story. We worked mainly short stories and essays in that group, so the revision process was fairly fast. She brought the same story back to the group several times, looking for that perfect, thumbs-up moment. Finally, on somewhere around the fourth time she brought it to the group, someone pointed out that, as a critique group, someone would always find something for her to fix. This idea she had in her head that at some point we would declare it scintillatingly perfect would never occur. That only she could decide when it was done.

In the end, only one perspective is the definitive one: whichever sings to you.

6 Replies to “Sunsets, Lenses and Second Opinions”

  1. This is oh so true! I have 2 CPs I rely heavily on and one I use mainly for beta type readings. They each see the story in a different light and give me different comments on different parts of the story! To my surprise, when my agent read my latest story, she said it was very polished and only suggested changing four things. And that's thanks to my wonderful CPs.

  2. I'm the poster girl for this. I'm sure you remember that first chapter of BoD when I first let you read it and what an overpolished mess it was.

    I still suffer from that "make everyone else happy" mentality, but I'm trying to be better about it..

  3. Sometimes you just want to shake a writer in this situation and say, "There is no RIGHT WAY. There's only the way you're choosing to do it." *slap* (OK, maybe the slapping was taking things a little too far…)

    Then there are those people who change things just to change them, thinking any change at all is an improvement. One of the hardest skills to acquire is being able to simply make a choice and stick with it. You'll just bog down if you keep thinking of all the other ways you could write a scene.

    Great post! Oh, and a very lovely sunset picture. 🙂

  4. That's right, Danica, we luvs our CPs!

    I do remember that, Allison – but it was also a classic newbie thing to do. Everyone does.

    LOL, Kristen! Sometimes the urge to slap is dire. You're right on about the changing just to change it. Thanks!

  5. Super post, Jeffe! My four CPs and two beta readers all catch different things, and sometimes disagree vehemently about what they like or don't like. It's only when all/most of the them agree about a certain point that I know I have to change it. Otherwise, I go with my gut.

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