As a creative, receiving feedback, notes and reviews are part of the job. As a writer, regardless of how experienced you are, you need a peer group that will help you on the journey to publication. Some writers have a small and trusted peer group for decades. Some form their groups during a course and then continue. Some share their stories with one person, and some with a group.
I’ve been lucky enough to have had a group at every stage of my writing. Mostly online and then they became friends whom I met. Now I have a group I meet face to face (in person or virtual) every month to peer review my picture book stories.
Receiving notes and feedback is an iterative process. Even after a book is contracted, the writer receives notes and feedback from their agent, their editor and sometimes even the sales teams.
So receiving feedback in a positive manner and knowing what to do with it is critical for every writer. If you want to know how to give feedback, check out this blog post. But now, we are going to talk about how to be on the receiving end and survive the trauma.
Always keep in mind that the feedback is for the story and not about you. Even if the reviewer forgets this, you must not.
Here are the things I have always followed and I coach others to do so:
Before you submit:
- Spell check, grammar check your work before you submit it. Do not undervalue the time spent by reviewers and submit anything and everything. Be on time.
- Stick to the guidelines, don’t go over the recommended word-count. If someone agreed to read only 1000 words, send them only 1000 words. If there is an agreed format, stick to it.
- Know the rules – google for it. Whether it’s regarding the use of foul language or the subject or genre, find out if you’re breaking rules. If you’re breaking rules, know what you’re breaking and why.
- Never send your first draft to anyone. Write something, put it away, read it again, edit it, put it away, read again and then seek peer critique.
When receiving feedback (especially face to face or on a call)
- Leave the ego at the door. Don’t defend your work. Don’t argue with a critique or the person who gave it to you. Read the comments and sleep on it. If you don’t understand a comment, ask for clarifications. But don’t argue.
- If more than one reviewer is giving the same comment, take it seriously. Maybe it is something that needs to be given attention to.
- If there are cultural differences in understanding, always think about what you didn’t communicate to the reader. They didn’t get it doesn’t mean they are clueless, it means your text didn’t make it easier for them to understand. Know your audience and see what needs to change in your text to accommodate.
- Expect your work to be criticised. Remember the purpose of the group. It is better to hear these comments from peers than being rejected by commissioning editors and agents.
- Don’t take it personally. They are not critiquing your self – but your story.
- If you think the feedback was personal or abusive, then leave the group, find a moderator to report to. Creative spaces must be warm and nurturing.