This post was originally written for the ShoreIndie Blog, republished with permission.
Note: This post was written for ShoreIndie, a Twitter contest, and while it was written for those participating, the advice can be applicable to processing feedback of all kinds. ShoreIndie is a contest where emerging indie authors submit their work to editors and then the editors each pick one manuscript to work on for free. After working with an editor for 7 weeks, there is a judging round where authors are eligible to win prizes related to self-publishing. To learn more, check out the ShoreIndie website
ShoreIndie is a community full of editors and fellow authors wanting to help your manuscript be the best it can possibly be. The community this contest fosters is one of the most valuable prize you could win. Even if you aren’t picked by an editor or you don’t win during the judging round, there is a lot of value to this contest. The ShoreIndie editors are a fabulous resource, and lucky for you, they are chomping at the bit to give you feedback. They all have your best interests in mind, and they want to help you make your best book.
The way to get all that feedback is to engage. Don’t just submit your manuscript, talk to the editors on Twitter. Ask them as many questions as your heart desires. It’s what they are here for. They want to get to know you and your book. And believe me, we love giving advice!
Now, once you have all that feedback, what do you do? It can become a little overwhelming to try to apply advice to your manuscript when the feedback is only 140 characters long (or if you got a couple of paragraphs back from one of the editors on your submission).
First of all, approach both praise and constructive criticism with curiosity. Open yourself up to the advice and feedback the editors give. Remember, no manuscript is perfect, and no advice is perfect; it is all about how you question both and find a way to meld them together. Approach the feedback with the intent to understand it, not agree or disagree.
Next, ask questions! If you need clarification, there is no harm in asking for it. The editors won’t mind, and maybe you’ll help clarify a confusing tweet for someone else. Understanding the feedback and the intent is key. If you don’t think it works for your piece, why? Ask the editor why they gave you that advice. The intent and reasoning is just as important as the advice itself.
Be prepared to have an emotional reaction to the feedback, and have a plan for how to deal with it. This is your baby, your darling. Whenever anyone gives constructive criticism, it can feel like just plain old criticism. But remember the benefits of constructive feedback. No author is an island. Every good book you have ever read had multiple eyes on it, helping the author tweak it to make it better.
Then, take some time and mull over the feedback. Remember, the editors only have a limited amount of information to go on. While their advice is good, it might be difficult to apply that feedback to your piece. Don’t dive right in and start deleting huge swaths of writing just because an editor says to get to the inciting incident quickly. Instead, take time to figure out how to best apply the feedback and what it really means for your piece.
If you disagree with the feedback, try to figure out why. You might not like the suggestion, but is there a kernel of truth within it that will improve your manuscript? There may be something about it that hits home, even if the details of the suggestion don’t work for you.
Above all, remember that the editors want to help you create the best book possible. They are invested in fostering authors and their manuscripts. They do not want to change your vision; they want to bring your vision to readers. The job of an editor is to give you the tools to create your vision, help you shape your book, and give you the support to publish it. Try to keep all that in mind if the feedback gets difficult and feels impossible.
Utilize the feedback, and not only will your manuscript improve, but you will become a stronger writer.