Effective Feedback

Many of you may be in the middle of revisions on a completed manuscript. Some of you may even be done with revisions, ready to send your work out into the world. Or are you?

Before you take that step, I caution you: Don’t do it until you’ve gotten enough feedback on your manuscript!

Many new writers make that mistake and it’s understandable. They want to get their book published. They want to send their work to literary agents. They want their book in the hands of readers. I get it. I want those same things. The problem is, if you haven’t gotten enough feedback from the right kinds of readers, you may waste your opportunity.

I’ll write a post about publishing some other time, but for now I think it’s important to talk about feedback. And I’m not talking about feedback from your family members. We all know they will love every word you write simply because you wrote them. (Honestly, it’s true.) I’m talking about feedback from other writers—preferably from writers who are at your same level or (if possible) even more skilled than you are.

It’s important to get feedback at several points during your revision process. Once you have a completed novel that has gone through basic polishing (like revised at least once) it would be helpful for a fellow writer to give you their thoughts on major areas like character, basic plot, prose style, and even dialogue. At this early stage, this information can become so important. Their comments can help you to see where you need to clarify world building, flesh out a cliché characters, or correct unrealistic dialogue.

Once you complete your revisions based on this information, it’s important to have another writer read through this version. If that original writer can take another look also, that’s great. If not, it doesn’t have to be a problem. A fresh set of eyes can give you their perspective on the current version. It’s important to have as many different writers give feedback as possible. This way you can notice themes developing. All your critique partners may notice the same problems. They may all love the same scenes. This is helpful because a comment that consistently shows up, may be one that certainly needs to be addressed.

But what if the comments aren’t consistent in a particular area? Don’t worry. It happens. Consider all comments, but remember, this is your story and at the end of the day, you know best. If you’ve had several writers read through your work and only one suggested a particular change, then it may not be worth changing- unless you want to make the change.

I’ve been fortunate enough to have some amazing critique partners work on my most recently completed manuscript. Very early on, I had one of my long -time CPs read it through. He was quick to point out world building confusion. Places that seemed clear to me, were pretty foggy to him. I knew right away I needed to make these sections clearer. He also seemed to click with my main character. This was so helpful to me because I knew at least one other person in this world was starting to love her as much as I did!

Before long, I did a thorough revision and I was lucky enough to connect with a new amazing critique partner—one who was soon to be published! Say what?? How did I get so lucky?? She was strong at things I wasn’t—character development, setting descriptions, and character connections. Yeah, she’s that good. She has a way with words that I can only dream of having one day. Did I mention her name is Beth Hautala and her amazing MG book is coming out in January? Anyway… her feedback allowed me to go back through my manuscript with a keener eye. Her feedback was spot on. But most of all, she loved my main character and the world I had created for her. That bit of information made me realize that even though I had areas to fix, they were absolutely worth fixing. And that’s a big thing.

For the longest time after that I worked on my own revising. I had a few beta readers read for me and that was helpful with overall plot issues. I have to say though most of my beta readers gave a lot of positive feedback and very little constructive feedback. That’s exactly why I say it’s important to get the right feedback. Yes, I loved hearing that they loved my book. But what I really needed to hear was what I could do to make my story stronger. I really needed to find someone who could tell me that.

And then I got an email. It came from a fellow writer I had connected with on twitter. Yes, twitter! She was looking for a critique partner. I could tell from where she was in her quest to get her manuscript published that we would be a good fit. And I was right! She’s been reading through my manuscript for only a short time now, but so far her feedback has been invaluable. I really needed a fresh set of eyes on my work and she has been able to provide that. And the best part…she really gets my main character! To me that’s so important. 🙂 So even at this advanced point in the life of my manuscript, feedback is incredibly important.

At all stages of my manuscript, it has improved because of the feedback I’ve received from fellow writers. And I’m sure I’m not alone. I’m sure many of you can share stories of how feedback from your critique partners has helped make your story stronger.

So if you’re wondering if you should have another set of eyes look at your work, I say do it! Even if you’re ready to start submitting it to literary agents, it can’t hurt to give it to one more fellow writer. Just be sure to return the favor! Effective feedback can make all the difference. It can lead to a stronger, more sparkly story. What’s better than that?

Thanks for stopping by the site today. It means a lot to me. 🙂 I hope your day is full of awesome and your words are too!

4 thoughts on “Effective Feedback

  1. bethhautala says:

    Awesome post! I remember being so afraid someone would steal my ideas back when I first started writing. It kept me from connecting with critique partners for longer than it should have. I can laugh at myself now, but I’ve heard other writers say the same thing since then (at least I’m not alone!) I’ve come to learn that neither fear nor hesitancy writes books, or polishes them for that matter. And part of finding a critique partner is all about fit—like you said. Basically, an advocate who believes in your story, your characters, and the future of your project. Talk about a friend for life! Thanks for being one of those for me! 🙂

    • swirlandspark says:

      Aww, Beth- thank you! A critique partner is a friend for life. What a great thing to say! 🙂 I had to laugh when you said that you were afraid someone would steal your ideas (way back when).I was like that too. I actually sent my first manuscript to the Library of Congress and paid $40 to get a copyright on it!. Yeah. paranoid or what?? lol I should have spend my time and energy having someone give me feedback instead! Live and learn, right? 🙂

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