Writing feedback is great-but only if you know what to do with it.
A healthy sense of your own unique goals, a clear mind, and a system for managing feedback will keep you on track with your vision and give you fresh insight and motivation to reach your personal success. Here are four questions to evaluate writing feedback and advice on your terms.
First things first: you should evaluate every piece of advice and judgment you receive. Including mine.
Naturally, I’m fantastic at giving advice and feedback. Comes from being an experienced teacher, publisher, coach, strategist, editor, and a kind-hearted, chaotic know-it-all who really loves to fix problems and help people succeed on their terms
But I’ve also been on the other side, where you are.
- I’ve gotten great advice from well-meaning people.
- I’ve gotten horrible advice from well-meaning people.
- I’ve gotten great advice from people who could be technically, scientifically classified as “meanies,” and I’ve gotten bad advice from these individuals, too.
The fact is, nobody’s perfect. Not even me. 😉
The “mean” person could have great wisdom, but is very blunt and/or hasn’t had their coffee that day. Or they could just be spiteful (because those people exist too).
The kind and sweet person could give bad advice, but doesn’t want to hurt your feelings or is just an indirect communicator. Or they could be really inexperienced or unqualified (those people exist too-we all start somewhere).
Bottom line: we’re all human. Even your perception of the individual giving feedback could be influenced by preexisting relationships, personality clashes, emotional attachment (or lack thereof) to the manuscript, or even whether or not you’ve had coffee. Or chocolate. Or enough sleep.
What’s an author to do? Use the following questions to get clear on you.
1.) Is my brain in a clear, coherent space?
Don’t immediately try to understand all of the feedback, especially if it’s critique that points out flaws. Go through the advice in stages when you’re in a healthy, balanced state of mind and ready to approach the critique with an open mind.
For some people, this might take half an hour. For others, it might take half a month.
If you’re getting online help, take a step back and exercise or cook or do something else to clear your head.
If you’re at a writing conference or workshop, step back and put the notes away. Have a glass of wine, go out to a coffee shop, watch a movie, or do whatever else in order to give yourself vital distance from your work.
Do not return to the feedback until you’re chill and ready to roll from an objective place.
2.) What are my reasons for writing this project?
Return to your notes, your motivation and vision statements, your direction for this manuscript, and your purposes behind its creation.
Get solid in your worldview and mindset, not so that you can cling to it excessively, but so you can understand outside opinions. Your biases and preferences aren’t bad-I’m all about the own it!-but the purpose of feedback is to be challenged as well as encouraged.
Own your unique vision, decide where you stand, and then get ready to engage with the idea of change.
3.) Have I received the same feedback many times?
Get a variety of feedback. Publishers. Agents. Editors. Fellow authors. Readers. Feedback from all of these individuals can give you a solid sense of what you have, what you need, and where you’re going.
And if everyone is pointing out the same issues–Houston, you have a problem. You might not have to make drastic changes to your plot or characters (I’m all about the minimal changes necessary to preserve your unique vision). However, in terms of feedback, the majority opinion is often right, especially if a variety of people are saying the same thing. Even if your idea is solid, you’re not communicating that idea in a clear way.
On the upside, if the majority of your readership absolutely loves an angle, then you know you’re on the right track! Unless you’re trying to upset the status quo because the status…is not quo.
In summary, if a lot of individuals from diverse backgrounds are giving the same feedback, listen up and take a closer look at your work.
4.) Is this individual familiar with my goals, my genre(s), and my desired audience?
Hopefully you’re getting feedback from people familiar with your genre, goals, and desired audience. However, sometimes that beta read email gets sent to a broader audience, or an agent is curious about your romance, but does more with action-adventure.
It’s fine to step outside of your comfort zone in receiving feedback and advice, but be aware that the critique given might not be helpful because the individual simply isn’t familiar enough with your work.
On the flipside, using outlier readers (aka, people who aren’t familiar with your genre, goals, and/or desired audience) can be helpful to catch little issues or errors that people who are familiar might gloss over.
Note: if you’re finding that your work is connecting more with the outlier readers, that’s a clue that you’re really in a different genre and don’t know it.
Feel free to revisit these questions for each of your projects.
Above all, keep seeking feedback and advice. Whether easy or difficult, getting critiques is vital to the writing process and story improvement. And your unique words are worth it.
And if you want feedback on your story from someone who is 100% always on your side and focused on your unique words, schedule a Breakthrough Coaching Session with me–or test-drive an editing project with an Exploration Chat.