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.
Have you ever had a manuscript that seemed to morph from one form to another? That’s been the case with “What’s Up Chuck?”
As I did the research for a book about why animals vomit, it became obvious that there was a lot of information. In fact, there was probably too much for a picture book. I was three chapters in when Get the Scoop on Animal Puke by Dawn Cusick was released from Imaginel Publishing. Eighty print pages her book touched on a lot of the same animals but didn’t go into the science like I had planned for my book. Still, I felt that the two books might too easily compete.
I took my manuscript to the Missouri SCBWI retreat and showed it to my critique group. “Rewrite it as a picture book!” they said.
So then I created the picture book version. Just as I was finishing that up, I needed a manuscript for the next Missouri SCBWI retreat. Naturally, I sent the editor “What’s Up Chuck?” I hoped to get a few hints that would make it sing. ::cue the music of doom:: To put it simply, the editor likes my voice but thinks this book is way too short to work.
Now I vaccilate. I’ll be talking to the editor in two days. Based on her comments, I think she considers this a much better chapter book idea than picture book manuscript. I still love the idea of this book and I have to admit that I really like the idea of writing it up as a chapter book. There is so much information and the science is really interesting. Yes, it’s gross but it is also interesting.
But my last critique group was certain it would work as a picture book. Certain.
I’ll be talking to the editor and I’m running three chapters through the peer critique group. I know that whether this book ultimately takes shape as a picture book or chapter book, the decision is mine to make. I just need to make up my mind.
Think . . . think . . . think . . .
My favorite Arthur Slade book.
Getting feedback on your writing can be tough. I’m lucky in that I live in a major metropolitan area with a strong writing community. Not only do I know a number of writers who live in my area, I’m connected on line with even more.
If this isn’t the case for you, getting feedback can be tough.
Arthur Slade is a Canadian author of young adult fantasy. I “met” him online through another writing friend.
Anyone who suscribes to his newsletter can get a critique of their first manuscript page. Anyone. Not one person. Not three people. Subscribers. This means that it might take him some time to get back to everyone but seriously? This is an amazing offer, but then again he’s just this kind of person.
The offer will go out in the June 16 issue of the newsletter which means you want to get hopping and subscribe. To do that, see the original post here.