What Feedback Means for a Writer

I just received two very nice, very helpful emails from some beta readers for Scales. They contained some great compliments and some suggestions for improvement according to their viewpoint. They were well-thought out and very kind. I like that kind of feedback. What I usually do to evaluate feedback is lay it all out, read it about 800 times, and then start piecing together what I feel will work for the book and what won’t.

Deciding What Works

This is the tricky part, because I feel that writers really do value what others think of their work. But they also know that as the author, their own opinion is the most important. They wrote it. They’re married to it. They know it better than anyone. So what do they do when they get feedback and they really respect the person who sent it to them, and they can see their point, but they’re all wishy-washy on whether or not to use the suggestion?

The first thing I do is evaluate whether or not a specific point ever crossed my mind before it was mentioned. If it did, then more than likely, I will want to use that suggestion.

If a suggestion feels like it could maybe work in the text, but I’m not sure, I’ll look at it from all possible angles. Will it drastically change the characters, the plot, the themes? If so, do I want to do that much revision? Will it be small changes? Does it affect my original vision of the story?

If I initially feel defensive about a certain suggestion, about nine times out of ten, it’s something I should use. I think this is because I feel defensive when, deep-down, I know the person is 100% correct. Sometimes my ego gets a kicking. I get over it. The story is all that matters!

What Has Changed

I think feedback has gotten easier for me to work with the more I write. It’s not such a huge guessing game anymore, and I think that comes about with practice. I think it also might have to do with finding beta readers I’m compatible with. That’s a huge deal. But I also think it’s because I’ve become aware of my writing on a different level. It’s fluid. Changeable. I’m not afraid to let it evolve, but I’ve also learned that I don’t have to please everyone, even my betas, and sometimes the story is what it is and shouldn’t be changed.¬†Every time I talk to my husband about feedback I just received, he looks at me and says, “Remember the Steven King rule. If only one person mentions something, ignore it. If you get up into 5 or 6, you’re entering into consideration. More than that, do not ignore.”

Since I sometimes don’t use that many betas, I stick to percentages instead of numbers of people, but it’s the same idea. I’m not sure where my hubby read that, but he quotes it all the time. I’ll have to look it up!

What It Means

What feedback really means to me is something quite precious, actually. That there are people out there willing to read my imperfect, often dreadfully typo-ridden drafts and offer me suggestions is incredible. I’m deeply grateful for that, always. As more time goes by and I do this over and over, I think what I’ve learned is that while as much as I’d like to write in a vacuum, I know it’s impossible. My work always, always, always gets better when I allow feedback and actually use it to revise. And it’s not because I’m trying to please people – it’s because my focus is usually too narrow and I miss things.

I hope that if you’re a writer, you have found a good way to evaluate feedback. Honestly, it used to reduce me to tears. I used to stress about it, and I used to dread it. These days, it’s a breath of fresh air for a project. Night and day difference! It’s definitely possible.

Posted by Michelle D. Argyle