As writers, we inevitably have to deal with feedback, whether it comes in the form of a friend giving you their opinion on your story idea; in the form of alpha/beta feedback from a draft; or from readers once the story is actually published. Feedback & reviews are everywhere – they will come from every direction whether you want it to or not, from family, friends, other writers & random people you don’t even know. So the best thing for us as writers to do, is to learn how to handle the feedback – good & bad.
Now my main experience with feedback is from beta reading so I’m going to give you some insight on personal experience. As previously mentioned in my beta reading article I had a load of ‘beta readers’ of which only 3 ever got back to me. Some of that feedback was incredible – a perfect mix of positive feedback combined with constructive criticism & suggestions on what needed changing. That kind of feedback is the best feedback you can ever get – to only receive positive feedback is actually not that helpful, it gives you nothing to improve upon, & there is always something to improve at this stage. Someone who knows the writing industry, who enjoys your work & is able to give you tips to improve, is priceless. Really try not to be upset with suggestions they’ve made. They’re changes but they’re coming from someone who likes your story! Hold on to the feeling of them liking your work.
The next kind of feedback was not so great. Some of it made good points – but there were no real positives, save for a tiny mention at the end which honestly felt more like a kick in the face than actual praise – it was a backhanded compliment for sure. The majority of the feedback tore the entire story to shreds using words like boring, passive & unlikely. As I mentioned there were some good points – some parts needed more research & depth, I already knew that, & it had been stated in other feedback but in much nicer ways. However, some of the feedback was simply wrong – questioning the likelihood of events that not only had I researched but had life experience with, I knew it was accurate which only made it hurt more that someone was questioning that. I will admit I did cry, I was angry, heck even my best friends were angry for me. I really struggled to react to this feedback in any way other than with sadness. It made me want to never write again.
BUT you’ve gotta deal in order to carry on with the book After lots of support from other writers, I came to the conclusion that the best way to deal with the feedback, was to take notes of the few points that were actually beneficial & bin the rest. If binning it doesn’t feel cathartic enough for you with horrible feedback – burn it, shred it, do whatever it takes to make you feel like you’re taking back control. It may be good feedback – but in order for feedback to be fully good, it has to be constructive. Good feedback (as we were taught in school as early as the age of 10) is to provide positives with negatives – & the negatives themselves need to be constructive. If someone gives you feedback that simply says ‘this bit is boring’ – that’s not good feedback; good feedback is when someone says ‘this scene didn’t have me on the edge of my seat, here’s an idea that might make that better’.
Now as for reviews/feedback from people once the book is published… some writers say to never read the reviews. I’m not sure if I could do that, I would want to see the positive ones & I’m too nosy to just ignore them all. Like I mentioned above with horrible feedback, do what you’ve got to do to make yourself feel better. Read reviews that are wonderful, glowing reviews that make you feel happy, that make you proud of your writing. One tip I heard from Jenna Moreci was to keep a folder of all the wonderful feedback so that when you’re feeling down, you can go into that folder & remind yourself of all the people who have loved your work.
Negative feedback is always hard to take – especially as writers when we pour our hearts & souls into our work. Try not to take it too seriously, try to take what you can from it, to make your work better & ignore the rest. Remind yourself of why you love writing; speak to friends who can tell you just how awesome you are; share your pain with other writers – we’ve all had our share of painful feedback, whether it’s helpful or not.