You’ve spent weeks, months, maybe even years, pouring your passion onto the page, refining the words, and having relationships (of sorts) with your characters. The manuscript is now done, and you’re ready to send your child out into the world – whether to agents, publishers, or the self-publishing avenue, you’re now going to start getting feedback on your story.
Feedback that you may end up classifying as ‘good,’ ‘bad’, and ‘ugly’. Or, perhaps, the categories will become words not spoken to a G- or PG-rated audience.
All constructive criticism has its place, and all writers seeking publication are going to encounter criticism of all kinds, not just the constructive type. To become successful as a writer, you have to know what to accept in and what to let go.
Receiving broad and general feedback gives the best value – depending on the source and how it’s presented, of course. Readers of your genre can give you the best information because they’ll notice holes and issues (if there are any) right away. Agents and publishers can be good folks to listen to, also, since they know the market.
If any of these people (readers, agents, publishers) say your story is too slow, it probably is. Other gems worth listening to, again, from people who know your genre, are: too confusing, too many characters, flat characters, typical/vanilla/I’ve read this before, it didn’t hook me, or I can’t empathize with your protagonist.
On the flip side, if someone tells you they don’t like how character X talks, or they find specific words or phrases or other small stuff that is more craft-related, this is when you filter out a lot of the feedback.
If you’re a mystery writer, Sisters in Crime is a great way to meet like-minded individuals to perhaps become writing or critique partners with or start a critique group. There are online groups, like the Guppies, that are very supportive, too.
It would be great if we could coat ourselves in Teflon, but that means the good and the bad would slide right off us. So the best we can do is learn how to listen, digest, decide to ignore or keep, and implement changes or move on from feedback and criticism.
How do you go about getting feedback or critiques on your work?
Lisa J. Jackson is a copywriter, editor, New England-region journalist, and a year-round iced coffee lover. She writes fiction as Lisa Haselton and has an award-winning blog for book reviews and author interviews. She is also a member and membership secretary of the New England Chapter of Sisters in Crime (SinCNE). She has a critique partner for her fiction and uses feedback and criticism to improve her writing.