Getting feedback on your novel is, I think, one of the most stressful parts about writing a novel.
You think you’re so smart and you wrote the perfect story, but then you send it off to beta-readers and editors and they all come back saying, “It was good, but…”
Getting criticism is never a fun thing and no matter how many times you submit your novel to be looked over by someone else, I don’t think handling the feedback gets any easier; especially when you submit a story to a publisher or magazine and you get rejected again and again.
However, there are ups and downs to feedback, both good and bad, and the only thing you can do is learn from it. Because that’s why it’s there in the first place.
Allowing your novel to be viewed by others
There are a number of people you can ask to review your novel. A family member, a friend, a beta-reader, a fellow writer, an editor, a writer’s group in person or online, etc. As long as it’s someone you can trust and count on, you should be good to go, but you should always choose carefully who you ask to critique your novel.
Be sure to keep in touch with the one doing the critiquing and stay in the loop. Be available if they have any questions and be sure to tell them what you’re looking for. Giving them a list of questions to think about is a great idea because it’ll help both of you be on the same page.
When the feedback rolls in
What exactly should you do when you receive the feedback on your novel? Should you open it right away or run and hide?
Look at the feedback when you’re ready. Unless you have a deadline to meet, or this isn’t your first rodeo, read your feedback when you’re ready.
You might be thinking, “What’s the big deal? It’s just red streaked across the page. Sticks and stones.”
If you’re not used to getting constructive criticism, or even if you are, your feelings may get hurt at some comments. And that’s perfectly normal… As long as you don’t take offense to those kinds of comments.
How to handle the feedback
Don’t do this:
1. Don’t defend your book.If the editor says, “This scene didn’t work for me because…” Don’t respond with, “Well, you actually just missed the point of the whole scene.”
If the editor says, “This scene didn’t work for me because…” Don’t respond with, “Well, you actually just missed the point of the whole scene.”
The editor is giving their thoughts, opinions, and suggestions on your work. They’re there to help, not insult you and your writing. If you start defending your piece, they’re going to think you don’t want to listen to anything they have to say. Then what was the point of it all?
2. Don’t ignore the feedback.It’s true that this is your novel and final decisions are made by you. You can take or leave the suggestions.
It’s true that this is your novel and final decisions are made by you. You can take or leave the suggestions.
However, it doesn’t help to ignore certain suggestions. If there’s a certain scene you love and thought you did a great job on, and for some reason, the editor wrote suggestions on how to change it, think about why they want you to change it. How did you write the scene to make the point go over their head? How can you add or take away from the scene so that your readers can relate to what point you wanted to get across?
3. Don’t think that any negative feedback is a jab at you as a person.
Writing is hard. We all have our own style of doing it, but it takes a while to find that style. If something isn’t working out in your novel, don’t take it personality. Don’t think your editor thinks you’re a bad writer. You just need to improve. Or, maybe you don’t need to necesarily improve. It’s only one person’s opinion, afterall. A different editor may love it.
1. Ask questions and understand all the feedback given to you.
You had a perfect vision for a scene in the story and your editor wasn’t a huge fan of it. Why? What went wrong in the scene that made your editor turn away? Did that scene hinder the character development of the protagonist? Was it pointless to the plot? Be on the same page as your editor, don’t let confusion or miscommunication get in the way.
2. Write down what they say.
Writing things down will help you map it all out and zoom in on each criticism one by one. Then you can say to yourself, “How can this piece of advice help me?” Remember, final decisions are made by you and this is your novel. If the critique helps, great. Figure out how to make it better. If you don’t agree with the critique for good reasons, don’t touch it, but keep that note just in case. If other editors say similar things, then maybe take another look at it.
3. Say thank you.
Your editor is only doing this to help you better your novel so you can live your dream of being a full-time writer. They’re not getting paid to insult you and tell you how terrible you are at writing. Editing is a tough, tedious job. Be sure to let your editor know how much you appreciate them, even if you don’t agree with most of their edits.
Writing is hard. Editing is just as hard, if not harder. Allow yourself to be prepared and willing to take on feedback. Otherwise, the process will be much more difficult than it needs to be.
How do you handle feedback from your novels? Let me know in the comments below!