Receiving feedback is an essential part of being a writer, but it’s not necessarily the easiest or the most intuitive thing to learn. How did this inspire today’s blog post? There are way too many things that can knock a writer off the path. The only way to succeed is to keep going, to practice our skills, to put ourselves out there, and feedback has the power to usher us along or to put an avalanche in our road. In the hopes this will be helpful for other writers, whether newbies like me or long-time veterans, today’s article is the first It’s a Writer Thing post in a series that I hope will be a sort-of primer for receiving feedback, to help others get the most of out of it and to hopefully avoid the unintended pitfalls.
First, a little background on me. I wasn’t a literature/writing major in college. I jumped into this writing stuff just because I had a pull to do it. In other words, I started off with absolutely no idea what I was doing. I’ve been writing for five years, but I still have to ask friends what stuff means and without Google I’d be lost. The reason I share this is because for new writers, especially folks like me who are brand new to the entire scene, receiving feedback in those early days can feel very much like trial by fire.
I, personally, wasn’t ready for the kind of feedback I got at first. The problem was, I had no idea what kind of feedback I wanted or needed. It took time and reflection to understand what I was looking for back then. Unfortunately, what I was looking for and what I got didn’t match up. At all.
Let’s start with the givens.
Remember geometry class (I know you don’t want to, but it won’t be too bad, I promise)? The teacher started off each problem with some givens, the rules you could use to structure you efforts and eventually arrive at your desired solution. So, for today’s post, I’d like to focus on the givens of receiving feedback.
Getting feedback on our manuscript can be a little bit like picking one of those ‘chance’ cards in Monopoly. We think it will be something really good—maybe a couple extra hundred bucks or a get out of jail free—but, instead, we’re forced to pay back taxes. So, the first step in receiving feedback is simply self-preparation. In other words, we asked for it, so get ready because here it comes. If we know ahead of time that it will be a mixed bag, it’s a little easier to bear. Not a lot easier, but a little.
2. This is good for us.
And this is important to remember, because at the end of the day, this is good for us. We can’t get a book shelf-ready, or query-ready, or editor-ready without the valuable insights that can only come from other pairs of eyes on our manuscript. Failure to seek (and failure to implement) feedback results in one thing. Rejection. No one likes that. We simply can’t do it alone.
Though it’s not true that all critiques are worth implementing (more on that later), many are. Plenty of examples have been shared out there on the internet, and there’s not a single one where the author said: “Yeah, my CP came up with some important points that made my book way better, but you know, I really regret making those changes now. Dang him.” Facing and implementing feedback is a goal like any other, just part of prepping an MS; any time we reach a goal, we need to give ourselves a little pat on the back for growth we’ve accomplished. Same with facing those edits that just showed up in our inbox.
In upcoming posts in this series, I’ll discuss types of feedback, the many faces of critique partners, my basic process of dealing with feedback, and some tips for evaluating the merit of the input you’ve been given.
Until then, You can do it. You can write!