Recently one of my students came to me with a worry about her manuscript. How do you know when to accept good feedback (Love it!) vs bad feedback (This needs something more.)?
This is a really tough issue. Accept every comment as legitimate and you’ll be endlessly rewriting every manuscript you attempt. You’ll never get it “done.” Ignore everything but the compliments and your writing will never improve. The key is to find a happy medium.
Step #1: Accept the fact that there is absolutely no way on earth to please everyone. It is impossible. That means that some negative feedback is inevitable. But you’ll get a lot less negative feedback if you can …
Step #2: Identify your audience. And when I say identify your audience, I don’t mean something broad like 12 year-old boys. That’s still too broad. I mean that you should be able to say that your work will appeal to 12 year-old boys and girls who are STEM savvy. Or 12 year-old girls who love horses. Or 12 year-old boys who are studying tae-kwan-do. If you can be specific about who your readers are, you’ll know that you need to pay the most attention to feedback from these readers or from people who know/work with these readers. But even then, you won’t appeal to everyone. That’s why you need to …
Step #3: Keep an eye on your original inspiration and goal. What made you want to write this? What was your goal when you began? Does this feedback fall into place with these things or is it contradictory? Only you can say.
It is never easy to decide if you should accept or reject feedback. Sometimes it is a matter of really knowing the person who supplied the feedback. Some people get your work and give reliable feedback. Other people don’t get your work. Ever. If the feedback helps you create a better manuscript, run with it!
As we say in my critique group, it is your sandbox. You just agreed to let me in to play.