You made a brave move.
You sent your manuscript out into the world. Maybe you passed it along to a close friend, maybe a critique partner, maybe even hired a professional for a full developmental edit. The important thing is it’s out there, being read by others. That takes courage.
You wait until the email finally arrives. They’re done!
You open the document expecting to see all the praise and smiley faces. Instead you find maybe the words you stressed, cried, and sweated for aren’t quiet as perfect as you thought.
I liked it but…
You might consider…
This scene just didn’t work for me…
What do you do with that?
If you’ve been writing for a while and experienced this process, it might not be a shock, but it can still sting. If this the first time you’ve dared to let someone see your work, it can be devastating.
Here are some tips for evaluating critical feedback:
Take a breath
Your first instinct may be to defend your words. You wrote that! It’s exactly how you want it to be!
But is it?
It doesn’t matter how fabulous the story or the characters are in your head if they don’t show up that way on the page. Tell your pride to take a seat for a moment and try to process the feedback objectively.
Consider the source
This goes for overly-positive feedback as well as critiques. Does this person love you too much to offer anything more than, “WOW! You are amazing!” Do they have to sleep next to you or sit across from you at Thanksgiving? Are you the godmother to their children?
Sometimes family and close friends (especially if they aren’t writers) are so impressed that you wrote something, they aren’t willing to notice the flaws. And if they notice, they sure aren’t willing to point them out!
For critical feedback, consider the person’s knowledge and credibility. Are they an avid reader? A fellow author? A professional editor? Do they have any reason to give you faulty advice? Usually the answer is no. Most readers, writers, and definitely editors, have your best interest at heart. They see your potential and want to watch it grow.
Focus on one step at a time
This is especially true if you receive an editorial letter as well as comments on the manuscript. Read a few paragraphs and let that marinate, then read a little more. Don’t overwhelm yourself by trying to take it all in at once. It’s okay to take a few days or longer to work through all of it.
Take it or leave it
After you’ve taken some time to really ponder the comments, accept what resonates with you and ignore the rest*. At the end of the day, it is your story (unless you are working with a publisher—then you’ve got to decide what you’re willing to change and what you’re willing to fight. That’s a whole other blog post.)
Sometimes others just don’t get your story. A few years ago, I won first place in a writing contest. My entry had to be sent to an extra judge because I had three scores in the high 90s (out of 100) and one that was below 70. That one person either didn’t get my story or didn’t like my style. That happens. Most readers can tell you a book that everyone else adored and they hated. *But, if you are seeing the same critique from multiple people, dig deep into why you disagree before simply brushing it off. Usually there is truth to it.
Get a second opinion
Fresh eye are important. If you feel like your normal critique partner doesn’t see your vision for the story or the editor you’ve hired wants to lead you in a totally different direction, send it to a different person for a new perspective. If they point out the same issues, it’s time to a long look at what you are resisting.
Are you looking for an editor or story coach, check out my home page for how I can help!