I began the Christian Fiction Writers’ Clinic as a means for sharing what I’ve gleaned over the years concerning content editing. I learn best by example and like to use memorable rules to help myself remember how to avoid particular pitfalls that I’ve read in books or that have been exposed in my own writing. For years the rules have been hidden in a shared document between myself and Dana Kamstra.
These “rules” while being helpful can be ignored if the author desires. I never want to set something up as an unbreakable rule. I certainly have not invented the art of fiction writing. However, each of the rules are meant to be guidelines to help you stay away from troublesome areas.
You’ll find a live video within the Facebook Clinic group discussing this writing rule.
This month in the Clinic, the topic has been Critique Partners. So I wanted to offer the first official rule from the troubleshooting file because it’s not like the other rules. This one is a little more personal.
Symptoms: Argumentative, Denial, Clinging to a particular idea
The Mother Hen Knows Best rule is meant to zero in on the author who is refusing to see the truth about her draft. This is the sort of problem that typically only surfaces during the critiquing/revising process.
You might be the author who has dug in her heels and refused advice. Or you might be working with an author who is refusing to see reason.
If you’re the author, recognizing that you’re guarding your baby should cause you to snap out of it and think a little longer before tossing aside the valued advice of your critiquer.
But if you’re the critiquer, you might gently let them know that they’re being a little overly protective of an unfinished draft. Try to encourage them to pray and to give the draft a little more space before making any final decisions.
This rule came into existence because I WAS the mother hen. I forget now if it was me or Dana who had created the rule, but it’s something that we both point back to.
Sometimes feedback just doesn’t jive with your plans. Sometimes you just want to keep things the way they are.
Over the years, I’ve had to admit that I was being the mother hen and needed to back off and think objectively instead of like the creator.
What would I have said if I was reading this draft and it wasn’t mine? If I would expect someone else to make the revision, then why wouldn’t I?
After being honest about being overly protective, it opens the door for me to dig deeper into why I’m so against a particular change. And it allows me to be honest with Dana and myself about what is holding me back.
From there, we’re able to work together to find a way to fix it. Maybe I DO just need to come to terms with the problem and fix it as suggested. But sometimes, we can find a different alteration that can bridge the gap between what I want and what the story needs.
But the mother hen is too occupied with protecting her baby that she can’t consider the other options around her. Learning to let go and at least consider the options are the first steps for a mother hen.
While the other rules in the troubleshooting file focus on the draft, the Mother Hen Knows Best rule focuses on the heart and attitude of the author. So keep this one in your back pocket. I promise you, it’ll only be a matter of time before you find yourself with a death grip on your manuscript.
*As mentioned in the Critique Partner series, the author is not obligated to take 100% of the suggestions offered. A general rule of thumb is that you’ll likely accept 80-90%. I don’t think I’ve ever accepted 100% of the feedback from any of my drafts. So don’t feel like you have to. But this rule is meant for those times when the problem is more obvious to everyone except the author.