Receiving feedback on your stories is a critical step in the road to publication. The sooner you can get to grips with it, the better.
It’s a useful tool for growing as a writer, and good practice for when you land that publishing contract and have the dreaded REVIEWS to deal with!
Here are WriteMentor’s top five tips for absorbing feedback.
Give it time to breathe
Like a fine wine (or a particularly smelly cheese), it’s always best to let editorial letters and advice sit for at least a few days after you receive it. I know, I know, you’re excited to dive in! You left it for a month before editing it last time! You’ve waited for weeks for this feedback! But trust me, something as sensitive as critical feedback on your book baby needs time to sink in. It’s an emotional thing to let someone into your story. You’ve already done the brave thing by sharing it with another person that you trust to give you feedback. So read it through, then set it aside until any emotional responses have passed. This will give you fresh eyes and will help you and your novel tenfold.
Recognise useful feedback
Never forget that you are the writer. Your novel is your work. Only you know the exact vision in your head and how you want to get it onto the page. Some comments might contradict that vision, no matter how well meaning. It’s completely fine to wheedle those out and not implement them. You don’t have to follow every piece of advice you’re given, but you don’t need to necessarily point that out to the editor either. Be brave enough to know what advice not to take. Then, more importantly, which advice to take on board. You’ll know deep down if the editor is right, if changing that character WILL make the whole story pop. And only you can make those decisions. Listen to your gut!
Look for repetition in feedback
Have you had more than one person tell you that your story needs a younger voice? How about several comments within the same document that point out all your filter words? I get it – we’ve all had feedback that points out some seemingly glaring repetitions that we were SURE weren’t there when we hit send. But sometimes, it takes a new reader to see the wood from the trees. If you’re getting consistent feedback on something, that’s a good thing. It means your writing itself is consistent. If you can wheedle out that one problem, your whole book will be elevated.
Single out the important questions
Most editors will allow a little space for rebuttal on their notes. But if you take advantage of that and start sending the editor a hundred emails as things come to you, you are probably wasting both your editor’s and your own time. After sitting on those edits for a few days, think about what still sticks in your minds after the break from your manuscript. Are you still struggling to see how the voice could work using the editor’s notes? Did you use sarcasm on purpose, and it didn’t quite come across?
Set up a blank email with all your questions. Focus on the ones that are really sticking with you without looking over the edits again, and ask your editor for clarification. Then you are completely sure on the direction you’re going when you come to edit, as opposed to emailing them every time you come across a note in the text, which really isn’t helping your writing consistency.
Learn to accept the feedback
If you’ve sought out an editor for your book, you have presumably researched them, sought out testimonials, and checked their credentials beforehand. Ask yourself: is this feedback fair and balanced? If the answer is yes, accept that the editor knows what they are talking about. They are trying to make your book sing, no matter how difficult it is at first to read the criticism. Take these tips into account and turn them all into acceptance. It’s only a matter of time before your writing soars and you see improvement.