I can’t imagine anything worse for me as a reader than becoming friends with an author I admire who might then ask me to be a beta reader or even consult on plot points. And if you have a friend who writes and you regularly give them feedback…sooner or later they’re going to ask you not to read the new thing they finished but to tell them which version of a scene works better for their work in progress.
I just did this to one of my friends. I didn’t feel too bad about it (as a writer) because I did let her decide if she wanted to be my consultant, and she’s not really a romance reader–she just reads mine because it’s, well, mine, so it’s not like I was about to write her next favorite book of all time and ruined it for her. Still, though, she won’t be able to read the climax of the book without considering the other ways it could have played out.
Because that was the help I needed. I was outlining the end in a more detailed way than I thus far had, and I realized I had not one, not two, but three different versions of the climactic scene discussed in my notes. “Maybe he does X or maybe X happens to him or maybe Y happens, etc.” Was his doing X in character? Was X happening to him too reliant on luck rather than the natural outcome of the events that had gone before? And so on.
I know writers are supposed to trust their instincts, but I have found that when I have several conflicting instincts I need to get someone else’s perspective. Sometimes a confirmation that “yes, that’s too lucky” is all I need to recognize which instinct to follow.
What about y’all, fellow writers? How do you sift through competing instincts to figure out which one you should be heeding?