Writing is a personal act – even fiction stories usually have at least a bit of real life inspiration in them. So it makes sense that taking feedback in can be absolutely brutal. You put your heart and soul into this story, just for some schmoe in a tweed jacket and taped coke-bottle glasses to tell you the plot points are crap and your characters are dull.
But here’s the kicker – sometimes, the schmoe is right. What do you do then? After you’ve cried into your pillow for a bit, it might be time to reassess. This week, I’m sharing some of my favorite methods for coping with less-than-stellar reader feedback. The caveat with all of these, though, is that they only work if you’re able to put your emotions aside. Snapping at your beta readers, family, or friends is never okay. So march forward cautiously. It’s an emotional minefield out there. Take it slow.
Look for trends in the kind of feedback you get.
What I mean by this is, don’t worry about every little negative comment. It’s only worth looking into if the same issue is brought up by many of your readers. For example, if only one of your readers mentions that your foreshadowing doesn’t land – just go with the majority and don’t sweat it. But if almost all of them say that, well – it may be worth your while to reassess how you drop hints.
Stick to your guns.
If something isn’t having the desired effect on your readers, then adjust it so that it does. Don’t just drop your favorite scene because they missed the punch line. At the end of the day, it’s your story; not theirs. So instead, take a deep-dive into that section and make it do exactly what you hoped. Checking back in with those very same readers after you’ve made the changes is always a smart idea as well.
Let feedback roll off your shoulders.
Some people just can’t be pleased – so take what they say with a grain of salt. Other people might just be flat-out jealous. Either situation is far from ideal, but you can use it as motivation to make your story even better. Or, if you think you’ve already accomplished everything you wanted to with it, then don’t touch a damn thing. You can’t please everyone – but you can (and should) please yourself. For more help on managing conflicting advice, read this article HERE.
See your story with fresh eyes.
Too mired in work to really see your story for what it is? That means it’s time for a break. Let yourself binge your favorite show, or read relevant books in your genre to distract you from touching your manuscript. Once your head is clear, you’ll be able to better implement the feedback that matches your vision. The rest of it should be chucked out the proverbial window. But clearing your head is the secret sauce that allows you to accomplish your goals, so don’t forget to do it!
Celebrate your growth!
Writing is hard, okay? It’s so easy to forget if you find yourself only talking to people with a similar inclination. But take this time to look back at how far you’ve already come. Maybe your first story or book wasn’t formatted the best? That’s okay – I bet people still enjoy it. Things don’t have to be perfect to still be really, really great. Shake off that unreasonable expectation now, because you’ll be better for it. Your stress level will decrease quite a bit too. And now you know how to optimize your writing time that allows your whole life to thrive – how cool is that? Be present, and know that you can only go up from here.
The little-known secret with any creative endeavor – is to stop giving a crap what people think. Yes, it’s peer-reviewed for a reason – and you do want to know what relevant readers think of your book before publishing it. But you have to go into it without the suffocating level of reverence that tends to sap enthusiasm. Trust me, I know. The moment you master the art of wearing a tough outer shell that only filters helpful stuff in, you’ll be unstoppable.