So you’ve written a book. Hopefully you’ve edited it, revised it, polished it to an eye blistering sheen. Now it’s time for someone else to take a look at your baby, these ideas that you’ve woven into (what you believe is) a totally original, massively entertaining piece of art, and ask them to give you feedback.
Then you wait. The anticipation is killer. KILLER. The silence is not deafening, it’s blaring. Sometimes it’s so loud it’s hard to focus on anything else like…folding laundry or making dinner (or at least that’s my most current excuse). When the silence is broken by an email DING, all else falls away. You open your email and read. I don’t know about you but when I get a new critique my brain goes a little fuzzy and everything comes out something like this:
|What They Say||What You Hear|
|“Show, not tell”||You need a total rewrite because YOUR BOOK STINKS!!|
|“Didn’t interest me as much as I hoped”||Didn’t interest me because YOUR BOOK STINKS!!|
|“Sorry it took me so long”||Couldn’t get through it because YOUR BOOK STINKS!!|
|“It was…good”||I’m just being nice because I really think YOUR BOOK STINKS!|
|“I found that part slow”||I skipped big chunks because YOUR BOOK STINKS!!|
|“I didn’t connect with the characters”||Your characters are one dimensional because YOUR BOOK STINKS!|
|“This is a difficult genre to sell”||This book will never see the light of day because YOUR BOOK STINKS!|
If you’ve ever felt this way then repeat after me: Your book does not stink. Or….maybe it does (I don’t know, I’ve never read it) but I’m willing to give you the benefit of the doubt. Remember- we are in a profession where we WILL be judged by peers, agents, editors, publishers, reviewers, readers. This is what we signed up for when we decided to follow the path that hopefully leads to becoming a published author.
Let’s look at it this way- even if the feedback is crappy or vague or just down right wrong– it’s feedback! You know what feedback does (especially the good stuff)? It makes you see your writing from a whole new perspective. I’ve always found that even if I disagree with a critique I still appreciate the way it makes me take a second look at my work and helps me make it better.
It is easy to allow critique and rejection to pull you down and really make you question your abilities as a writer. As a rule I always allow myself a few minutes (sometimes hours and in one or two cases a few days) to freak out over any feedback that hits me the wrong way. It’s OKAY to allow yourself some moments of self doubt but just make sure you keep your life line tied safely to the shores of reality.
I always think of it as going out to dinner with a friend. We’ve had a wonderful time eating and chatting and then I go into the bathroom and realize I’ve had lettuce in my teeth the whole time we’ve been sitting together. Instantly, I feel a little betrayed and question if we are really as close as I thought. Friends don’t let friends walk around with foliage in their teeth! I know it’s awkward to tell a friend or peer about green stuff in their teeth or, for that matter, errors in their manuscript but a GOOD FRIEND does it. Just like a good critique partner or beta reader does the same thing…but, you know, with words…not vegetables.