Last week, I talked about the value of constructive criticism with regard to our manuscripts. Whether we are gathering feedback from a hive mind of readers on a platform like Inkitt, or we’ve given our manuscript to trusted beta readers for review, good feedback is an essential part of the writing process. You can read more from that article here: Feedback – Why We Need It.
Once we’ve collected this feedback, what do we do with it? Well, notice I said good feedback is essential, not all feedback. Here are a few signs that the feedback is worthwhile:
You hear the same thing from more than one person.
To me, this says I have a problem. People aren’t reacting to a character or parts of the story the way I intended. Maybe they are all indicating confusion somewhere, or they’re bored by the same sections. If enough readers are reacting this way, you have some work to do.
In your gut, you knew this part needed work.
I once turned my manuscript over to my editor knowing my first three chapters were crap. I didn’t yet have a strong vision for the opening scene of my story. Her first comments were, no surprise, that those three chapters were crap. Yep, I knew it. Oftentimes, we’re uncomfortable with certain bits of our story. We know we need to work on those areas, and reader or editor feedback will confirm it for us.
It’s from a professional editor.
If you’ve hired a reputable free-lance editor, or you’re working with the publisher’s professional editor, listen to them. Their job is to make your story stronger. Ninety-nine percent of the time I pay attention when my editor says something needs work. On the rare occasion I disagree, we talk about it.
Here are a few signs that you should ignore the feedback:
It’s nasty and insulting.
Don’t even read that crap. Anyone who will insult you personally or your rip your writing apart in a scathing way should be ignored. We are insecure enough about our work. That kind of feedback isn’t intended to help us write a better story or become better writers, it’s just insulting and nasty. You’ve worked hard. You’re willing to continue working hard. Just hit delete on that nonsense.
It really doesn’t resonate with your vision for the story.
This is still our story and we should be true to it. Even so, if enough people have a problem with a certain section, it’s worth asking why. Is there a way you can address their concerns without changing your vision? For example, I had one of my main characters commit an ethically challenging act of violence. In his mind, it was the only way to assure the mission’s success and his team’s safety. The end justified the means in his mind in this case. It bothered some of my readers because he’s set up as a heroic figure. I believed this scene illustrated one of the terrible costs of war – the fact that good people sometimes have to make terrible decisions. Instead of changing his decision, I added more scenes showing fallout from that choice, mostly the cost to his mental health.
Use these tips to help you sort through feedback on your manuscript. Next week, we’ll dig into the editing process in more detail.