So you’ve decided on who you’ll ask to read and you’ve prepared your manuscript for them to do so (In case you missed it, read here on choosing your first readers). So now: How do you prepare your heart for feedback? Here are some tips for getting ready to hear the critique of your manuscript – and what to do next.
Think like Georgia O’Keeffe
Before the renowned painter would put her work into the world, she’d sit with it and decide for herself its strengths and flaws. “I have already settled it for myself so flattery and criticism go down the same drain and I am quite free.” O’Keeffe may have been trying to protect herself from the inevitable stings that come when artists share work or merely looking for validation of the work as she saw it.
Either way, the exercise of evaluating one’s own skill in advance prepares the heart for feedback.
Keep emotions in check
Whether you receive feedback in the form of an editorial letter or your trusted reader sits with you to discuss your novel, try to read or listen more than you react. No matter what the feedback is, it’s likely you won’t know what to do with it at first. You’ll need to give yourself time to consider what resonates and what doesn’t. Often trusted readers are good at pointing out when something’s not working with the manuscript, yet their suggestions for rectifying issues don’t always feel right for you or the story.
Give yourself space to think about how you’ll solve the novel problems your own way.
Reading a work-in-progress is time-consuming, and if someone has agreed to read for you, they’re making a commitment to you and the work.
Generous readers don’t set out to hurt you, though they may unintentionally trigger intense emotions.
You might be sad they didn’t rave about your book or fall in love with your characters. You might be angry, having mistaken helpful feedback for harsh criticism. No doubt you’ll feel disappointed to learn the novel isn’t perfect and therefore not ready for submission to agents or editors. My best advice here is to thank your trusted reader and set out to revise once more. Don’t let stubbornness be your downfall by ignoring what you’ve learned in this process.
It’s better to listen and then respond to feedback from trusted readers as best you can than it is to submit work that isn’t ready for prime time.
Remember, writing is revising. And getting to the heart of a story takes as long as it takes.
Lynne Griffin is a nationally recognized expert on family life and the author of the family-focused novels Girl Sent Away, Sea Escape, and Life Without Summer. She’s also the author of the parenting guides Let’s Talk About It: Adolescent Mental Health and Negotiation Generation. Lynne is available to speak to parents, teachers and healthcare providers about social-emotional learning, adolescent mental health, addiction, and behavior management.