12 Aug 29. Get Feedback on Your Writing
If you’re publishing with a traditional publisher, you’re going to get feedback from your editor, believe me.
But if you’re self-publishing, how do you get feedback on your work?
What should you do with the feedback you get?
And how do you know what feedback to take seriously and apply?
Let’s take that last question first because it’s an important one.
How do you know what feedback really has value for you?
Constructive feedback has value when it comes from someone whose opinion or expertise you trust.
So if you’ve paid an experienced author coach or editor for feedback, take it seriously. That doesn’t mean you make every change she suggests.
It DOES mean that you honor the work she put into reviewing your content by considering the suggestions.
Feedback has value when it comes from your intended audience.
I often recommend that my clients, especially first-time authors, send their finished manuscripts to beta readers before they go to editing.
Beta readers are people who volunteer to give you feedback on your work.
They’re not necessarily authors. They’re not editors or professionals.
They’re people in your intended audience who can give you their response to your book.
If you send your science fiction novel to someone who only reads political biographies, then you might not get the kind of feedback you’re looking for.
Your beta readers should be people who read books and people who read in the that same genre.
Feedback also has value when the same feedback comes from multiple sources.
If all your beta readers think your book needs a stronger ending, there might be something to that.
If, after you publish your book, 3 out of 5 reviewers think your book is great but they wanted more stories, consider that you might want to include more stories in your next book.
Always consider the source of your feedback. When I first started studying writing, I took a creative writing class at a local community college.
As students, we all gave feedback on each other’s work.
There was one young guy who hated my work. Every week, he had something negative to say. Usually it was that he didn’t like that my protagonist was a child. But he was a new writer just like I was. His writing wasn’t so great. The professor didn’t agree with him, and neither did anyone else.
Don’t get me wrong. My writing needed work, but there’s nothing wrong with having a child protagonist in a novel.
This guy wasn’t an expert and I didn’t value his opinion.
He wasn’t my intended audience.
And the rest of the class, including the expert teaching us, didn’t agree with him on this point.
I chose to ignore his feedback.
Get your feedback from trusted sources, from your intended audience, and when in doubt, from more than one person.
So what should you do with the constructive feedback you receive?
The first thing you need to do is get out of your feelings. Seriously. If you’ve invested months or even years in writing your book, even the smallest criticism can hurt.
It’s like someone telling you your newborn baby looks like a little old man. And she’s a girl.
So let it hurt. And then take a step back.
If you trust the source, you still need to assess the feedback.
Will it make a material difference to your book if you implement it?
Some changes you just aren’t going to make. They won’t make sense to you or for your vision for your book.
For example, if you intentionally wrote a short book and the expert suggests you double the word count, that’s a no.
Other changes are an obvious yes. If you changed your philosophy halfway through the book, then yeah, you need to fix that.
Other feedback you might not be so sure about. In that case, you can always get a second opinion, especially if you haven’t checked with a professional yet.
But before you do that, I suggest you try out the suggested change. Just seeing it on the page could make the decision for you.
Finally, let’s tackle the question I started with.
As a self-published author how can you get feedback on your writing?
I absolutely recommend author coaching. It’s what I do, and I do it because I believe in it. It’s a great way to get feedback as you’re writing. I also offer content review, so you can get feedback on your entire manuscript if you’ve finished writing it.
You can find out about my 1:1 coaching at Candiceldavis.com/authorservices.
But I also highly recommend writer’s workshops. The best feedback I’ve gotten as I learned to write like a professional came from writer’s workshops.
The important thing there was that the workshop leader was a professional, and she also chose workshop members who had all achieved a similar level of proficiency in writing.
Everyone had something to contribute.
I recommend writing classes, especially if you’re at the beginning of your journey.
If you’re with a lot of new writers, they might not give you the best feedback, but a great teacher can make up for that.
You can find those classes at community colleges and tons of places online.
There’s no way to become a strong writer or to write a great book without getting and learning from constructive feedback.
That’s how we grow. It’s how we create our best work. It’s how we publish books we can be proud of even years from now when we look back on our work.
Be open to receiving constructive feedback. Decide what it’s worth and apply what makes sense to apply. Learn from it.
And as a footnote, if you want to grow as a writer, you also need to be willing and able to accept and apply positive feedback.