Today’s post is most definitely inspired by a great thread by Lindsay Galvin on Twitter on this topic.

We announce the long list for the 2020 WriteMentor Children’s Novel Award at midday.

Shortly after this, I will begin distributing feedback to everyone who entered. That’s 447 of you.

Many of you chose to receive all of the feedback, that’s the readers comments, scores, YES votes, ranking, and some chose just a few of those and only a couple chose none of the above. All valid and that’s why we give you the choice.

I’ve questioned at times whether the feedback model is the correct one. After all, it’s massively time consuming for all the readers, for myself to collate and send it, and I suspect that not everyone will necessarily read/appreciate/agree with what is sent.

But I then remind myself of all the times I’ve entered contests and received nothing. I spend £X and the only correspondence is to not see my name on a list (or sometimes to see it but still get no further insight).

The 4 sets of comments, 2 from adult readers and 2 from kid readers (subject to them leaving one – all adult readers have commented but a very small minority of kids didn’t want to and we had to respect that) provide additional insight into WHY your novel wasn’t selected for our list, and maybe gives you a starting point in terms of revising those first 3000 words or full PB ms.

The YES votes too, are something I know I would value greatly – I often wonder if anyone liked my book when it was read, even just 1 reader liking it would mean the world to me. Of course, there is the possibility that nobody said yes, but again this is valuable information for us writers. It suggests we’re not there yet, the ms needs more revision, or perhaps it’s just simply that the 4 randomly chosen readers did not ‘click’ with your ms or story.

I’ve seen a few comments in the spreadsheet to that effect – ‘I don’t really like stories like X or Y’ – and so you must always take all feedback like this with a pinch of salt.

If all 4 readers say the exact same thing though, that’s mist certainly worth dissecting and breaking down your story to see how you can ensure you don’t have that particular issue going forward.

And of course, there’s always the option that you disagree entirely with the feedback given – that’s happened with me many times, despite how much I respect the opinion and ability of the person reading – and you do need to have the ability to say, ‘agree to disagree’ on that point. It is your story, after all, and while the ability to take on board suggestions and ideas and constructive feedback is essential, so is the ability to know when to stick to your core story principles.

Feedback, even the harder to take stuff, does make us stronger and I’d advise you to remember this when you receive is today or this week (it might take me a few days to get it all out). I’ve often responded with immediate denial to feedback that suggests bigger, fundamental issues with my story, only to take a few hours, a few days or weeks, to realise that in fact the feedback is spot on and I do need to act upon it.

My best advice is this:

In the immediate term, focus only upon the positive aspects of your feedback. Take that and run for a few hours. You’re likely also nursing the disappointment of not making the LL (and I know that feeling all too well) and so please cloth those positives initially.

Then tomorrow, or next weekend or even at Easter, have a look back, coldly and objectively look at what has been said and see if any of it rings true with your own thoughts. I always say there’s no harm in trying to implement feedback and if you find it doesn’t work for you, you don’t need to stick with it – the original version will always be there to fall back upon should you wish.

But I also know that 99% of the time I do act upon feedback I receive, that I do in fact improve my story.

As humans, our first instinct to change, to people suggesting we can be better, is to reject it. To be defensive. To brush it off. But often when we search deeper within ourselves and our manuscripts, we find that a change is indeed what is needed. That to change our manuscripts, like changing ourselves, is hard to do at first and takes great will to begin with, but once we start, we rarely look back.

Good luck to everyone today.

And May the Force be with you.

Read Lindsay’s thread here.
Read my tweets here.