I’ve talked with a writer friend of mine lately about some of the feedback she’s been getting on her manuscript. Some of it has been valuable and helped her improve the story in places. Some of it has been…less so. But as a writer, how do we tell?
Not all feedback your receive is going to be good. Not all of it is going to be valuable. And yes, they are very different. We all need constructive criticism to help us improve our skills as writers. Which means we have to be willing to accept it. Easier said than done sure, but when you look at it as an opportunity, it can almost be exciting.
But what happens when you get feedback that you question? There are a few things you can do.
- Get a second opinion from a trusted source. Hopefully you have someone who will be honest with you about your work and their opinion regarding what you’ve been told. \
- Ask yourself about the reader. Do they typically write/read in your genre? In your age market? Both can make a difference in what their expectations are.
- Ask yourself about the outcome. If you use their feedback and implement changes, how does that change the overall story? Are you comfortable with that?
The trick to that last one is that you have to be willing to be objective about your own work to really decide if the change will be a good one. Sometimes that means sitting on the feedback for a day or two and giving yourself time to mull it over. A lot of people get defensive about their work, but if we aren’t honest with ourselves, it will only make the journey take longer.
In the end, the story is still your story. You are the only one who can change it. Look through the feedback. Is it something that more than one reader has pointed out? Then you probably need to take it seriously.
On the other hand, if you find yourself getting feedback that feels wrong, you’ve examined the source, contemplated what the changes would mean for your manuscript and still think it’s just not going to work for you. That’s fine. If it happens a lot, ask why. Maybe you need to be more selective in your readers. It’s not necessarily true that the more feedback the better, if it’s coming from the wrong audience. That’s also when a trusted second opinion is most valuable. They can help you filter out what is usable commentary and what’s not.
But before you can get to the part where you are sifting through feedback, you have to finish your project (totally calling myself out here). Get writing!