What to Do with Feedback

Critique given on an entire manuscript is different to feedback on an extract, and must be approached appropriately.

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Getting feedback on your finished novel is an invaluable insight into how a reader would see it. Whether you give it to readers or writers, their opinions will provide you with a fantastic tool to help improve your book. But, now that you’ve got all your feedback, and your manuscript is covered in scribbles and notes from a variety of people, it becomes your job to fix it. At times, however, that’s a lot easier said than done. But there is a process that, if you stick to it, will make your life a lot easier.

Congratulate yourself

Getting your first draft out of the way isn’t an easy task. Not everyone does get to this stage. So, good job, you.

Take some time away

You need some distance between you and your writing. How much time depends on you as a writer, what experience you have, and how capable you are at editing. To see things clearly you need to be able to see it as a reader, not the author. This comes with time. Put all the feedback in a box and ignore it for a while. That doesn’t mean an hour, but more like six months. Don’t even look at what people had to say. When you look back at something in the book and can’t remember writing it, that’s when you can move forward with the process.

Have a conversation

Personally, when I reach this stage with my current novel, I’m going to have a sit down with everyone, individually, that took a look at the book and go through everything that they noted. The two-way dialogue allows for a much clearer understanding of why something didn’t work so that you can fix it.

Compare everything

Hopefully you’ve had a few people provide their insight. Go through everything and see where people agreed or where one person didn’t like something and another did. Generally speaking, if nobody was a fan of something, there’s a problem, if one person had an issue it could be down to personal preference. This is the first stage of weeding through to find the feedback that you are going to act on.

Ignore suggestions

There are two different types of feedback.

Feedback 1: “They didn’t work as a character. They had no personality and you could have replaced them with a sign that said ‘Hero’ and the story would not have changed at all.”

Feedback 2: “They didn’t work as a character. They had no personality. They should be the leader of that biker gang, not just a member and they should lead the charge in defeating that rival gang.”

The first is constructive and highlights issues. The second is suggestive and is, in effect, the person giving critique pushing their own agenda onto your narrative. Ignore the suggestion in the second feedback. Maybe it’s good, but they aren’t writing the story. You are. You may end up going with that idea, but the writing needs to come from you. Write your story, not somebody else’s.

Fix things

Go through your book, page by page, and fix things that don’t work. Rewrite entire sections if needed. Rewrite the entire book if that’s what you have to do. Importantly, be open and honest with yourself about the problems – of which your book will have many – and fix them.

Go through it again

You’ve probably made some considerable changes to your book at this point, so you need to go through it again with a fine-tooth comb to make sure that your changes make sense. It’s not a bad idea to give a bit of time between finishing your first run through and this one, either.

 

Well done, you’ve got your book to a stage where it’s better than it ever has been before. Good job. Now, repeat the process.

David Chitty was born and raised in Thanet in the 90s. He devotes most of his energies to writing fantasy fiction novels.

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