I'm about halfway through implementing my new idea into Project Demo. There's plenty more revision to do (it's the writing project that never ends!), and I'm not yet satisfied that my new idea is working, but I'm feeling more confident about it than I have in a while. I feel like I'm finally beginning to realize my original vision for the story.
In fact, I've spent much of the past few weeks pulling text from my first draft to insert in this latest draft. These were elements in my first draft that I loved, but I took them out on the advice of others because they weren't working. My readers were 100% right, but the mistake was mine. Instead of taking out those elements, I should've figured out how to make them work.
That's the trick with critiques. Sometimes a reader has profound, surprising insights that can make a story. Other times it's a balancing act, acknowledging a reader's feelings, without directly taking their advice.
An example: One of my beta readers LOVES my villain. She thinks he's sexy and charming and vulnerable, and she doesn't understand why the main character doesn't date him. Part of me is flattered that my villain is a real three-dimensional character. But the other part of me is screaming: "No, no, no! He's the VILLAIN! She can't date him! He's BAD!" So the solution wasn't to contort my plot to make the main character and the villain date, but rather to address my reader's feelings. She thinks the villain is charming. What if I do more to show that while he's charming, he's not a good person? What if I make him stand too close, push too hard, and violently lose his temper? That way I'm using my reader's input to strengthen my story, but also keeping true to my vision.
It's a difficult balance. Sometimes, as a critiquer, I try not to make any suggestions, only give reactions and questions. But reactions and questions easily bleed into suggestions. How do you make sure you stick to the story you want to tell in the face of criticism?