The Three Person Rule

by Ellen Bedrosian

How do you know when to seriously consider revising your work based on the feedback you’ve gotten from your Write Group peeps? It’s often hard to know when the advice you’ve been given is valid, especially if your style and voice varies significantly from those giving the critique.

I recently shared a poem at the Poets’ Workshop, and was surprised that a couple of lines that I thought added clarity to the mood were deemed examples of being Captain Obvious by several members. That’s when I came up with my three-person rule. It goes like this:

If one person suggests, for example, that I cut out some lines, I’ll take note of the suggestion and consider it during a rewrite. If a second person makes the same exact suggestion, I’ll examine it a little more closely. Here’s when I’ll take into consideration whether or not I like the work these people have shared. If we’re honest with ourselves, we can admit that we don’t always like another member’s writing style.

But if a third member emphatically agrees with the other two, here’s when I’ll invariably make the change even if it means killing my darling. This particular poem I mentioned earlier fell victim to my three-person rule. I didn’t have the luxury of spending a lot of time debating the pros and cons with myself because I wanted to enter it in a competition with a deadline closing fast. I trusted the advice of the others.

Looking back a few weeks later, I can see more clearly that they were correct. I hope the judges of the competition feel the same way.

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