Learning from Feedback
Okay, today’s post is a way for me to come to terms with my own feedback, but I also hope to help all of you with my words. I recently had someone read my novel – yes, I know, a totally preposterous idea right? Who would do such a nightmarish thing? Who would let themselves be vulnerable like that?
The truth is, writers should do this, writers need to do this, whether we like it or not. If we published our books before asking people for their opinions, the feedback we would get would be much harsher and more numerous than if we asked a few other writers for advice way in advance. Your work needs to be read before you publish – end of story.
But of course, it’s easier said than done. It’s not easy to hand your book baby over to someone and ask for an honest opinion. We pour our hearts and souls into these books; we don’t want to be crushed. The trick is to remind yourself that your book will be better off in the end.
So, my story. I had my book critiqued by another writer and I didn’t get the feedback I expected. I knew my book wasn’t perfect, but I didn’t expect it to have as many issues as my CP identified. I was really bummed out for a few days, am still a little upset as I write this, but that’s okay. We have to remind ourselves of that. It’s okay to be upset when you receive feedback you don’t really want to hear. It’s okay to take a day or two and mull over it. This is something you’ve worked so hard on, it isn’t easy to hear that you still have a whole hell of a lot of work to do for it. Take a step back, remove yourself from the story for as long as you need and then get back to it. Don’t give up. That’s one of the two dangers of receiving constructive criticism.
Some people will take one look at it and decide that, “that’s it. I’m giving up. I’m not going to write anymore. I will never be a writer. I will never be good enough...” and down the spiral goes. Don’t give in to that madness. I will admit, I had some similar thoughts, but I talked to a close friend who reminded me that I am an amazing writer. Sure, I still have a lot to learn, but I am not terrible. It would be a mistake to give up.
The other side of things is those who take one look at the criticism and give in to anger instead of sadness. These are the people that dismiss their CP or Beta Readers or whoever gave the feedback as crazy, as someone who doesn’t know what they’re saying or doing. They ignore every suggestion made and convince themselves that their CP must be wrong. Don’t be this person either. Sure, some of the suggestions made might be ones you don’t believe in. You don’t have to change everything someone else tells you to. In the end, it’s your story, but don’t ignore everything they said just because you’re upset over it. Don’t be so blinded by your love for your story and that you keep it from growing.
Okay, so I’ve said what not to do. You get it. What should you do instead? I’ve taken a day or so to think about the feedback I received. I’ve slept on it and now I’m going to develop a game plan. I’m going to talk with my CP and see what we can do moving forward. I’m going to take her suggestions, write them down and sift through what I agree with and what I don’t. Once I decide what I want to change, I will start another round of revisions. I will take it slow. I’m going to keep the old draft in a separate file, in case once I’ve changed things, I decide I like it better before. Sometimes revisions just don’t work out.
Aside from that, I’m going to ask for further opinions. I’m going to have a second CP read my work and I’ve asked a close friend who read Draft 1 if she would read it again with the changes I’ve made. I’m going to see if the second and third feedback align with the first, because it is important to remember that opinions are subjective. Something one person things you should change might be loved by another. I’ve learned that you should follow a rule of three. If one or two people say they don’t like something, it doesn’t necessarily need to be changed, but if three or more people have the same opinion about it, you should probably look into it.
That concludes my ramblings for today. Don’t let feedback hold you back. Don’t give up on your story. You’ve worked too hard to let this crush you. Remember why you started and make note of how far you’ve come. Your story will only continue to grow, if you let it.
If you have any questions or comments, let me know. I hope you enjoyed this topic; it has been liberating to write about. I’ll talk to you guys next week and as always, keep writing.