Hoping you had a nice holiday break. Are you ready to get back in the trenches?
Today we’ll talk about feedback. Here’s the basics for you:
1- As a writer, you’re too close to your own work to effectively see what’s working and what isn’t. That’s why every writer needs feedback.
2- Once received, take all notes into deep consideration. People rarely miss what flat-out doesn’t work, but feedback still needs to be taken with a grain of salt. In the end, it’s your book and no one knows it better than you.
Got it? Great.
Now, recruiting a feedbacker might be slightly complex. The number one mistake rookie-writers make is asking feedback to the wrong source. An easy yet deadly mistake. So here’s what you should expect from your feedbacker.
Critique Partner: This is a fellow writer who understands exactly what you’re going through. I particularly love CPs, because they’re every writer’s co-workers.
See that clever, witty line you just wrote? Common folk will pass by it without even noticing, but your CP will praise you for it. He’ll find your POV issues, your wayward plot and your weak characters; he will even correct points and paragraphs, but be careful with those. Not everyone is as good with grammar as they like to think.
Point is: The CP will help you with all the points you’re struggling with. Just make sure to let them know exactly what issues they should be approaching.
Now, there’s a high chance you’ll get a rookie CP. You usually know you’ve got one when they try to shape your book into their own vision of what your book should be. This is one of the reasons why you need that grain of salt mentioned earlier. And PS: There’s a high chance that you are a rookie CP as well, but don’t fret, we’ve all been newbies at one point.
Keep in mind you should share works with someone who writes in the same genre as you. A historical romance writer will have zero useful comments on a sci-fi that takes place in 3045. Of all things, they’ll think the story lacks torrid love scenes. No joke.
Also, try to keep a steady pace (and make sure you’re ready for it). One chapter every month isn’t of much help because in the meantime, your CP already forgot what the story was all about in the first place.
Beta: A Beta is not your co-worker, he’s your market. For MG writers that’s children before 12; for YA that’s teens from 12 to 18, and so on. Main problem with finding Betas is that not many common folk will accept spending their time reading unpublished work.
With a CP you have leverage: You critique my work, I critique yours. But what can you use as leverage with a Beta? They don’t write so their coin isn’t the same. That’s when the FREE T-SHIRT SYNDROME, a condition that afflicts mankind since the sixties, comes in handy.
Fact: Almost everyone will take a free T-Shirt if presented with the opportunity. Look me in the eye and tell me you wouldn’t. Same principle applies to books. You can use promotions in your blog, sending out ARCs, the sky is the limit and this is where you get to be really creative. But even if you take advantage of this glorious syndrome, it’s still pretty hard to find a Beta who’s not family or friends. If your acquaintances can be though on you and they are indeed part of your market, then you hit jackpot.
Fun piece of advice: Only show a beta an almost finished version of your manuscript, meaning you’ve ran it through CPs and thousands of rounds of edits. Remember, this person is your market. You want to sweep them off their feet and you can only do that with your best work.
Editor: This is someone you paid (or who is paid by your publisher) to rip your heart out. And it’s bloody (literally, ever heard of the red pen? Why do you think it’s red in the first place?). But in the end, it will be 100% worth it.
Whatever your editor says will hurt, because an editor is someone who’s paid to do this; a professional. Plus, he”ll go way deeper than a CP ever would; he’ll find your story’s heart and bones and rip them off your story’s body while it watches. And in the end, you’ll actually thank him.
Although you want your editor to be happy,you also want to stick to your story. Like with a CP, all you need to do is find balance. Don’t take everything your editor says as universal truth. If you find a good editor, he’ll tell you this before you even exchange business cards.
The cool thing about an editor is that he handles authors 24/7. The guy knows how you tick and he knows what you’re going through. He’ll calm you down when you freak out, he’ll help you out when needed, he’ll hold your hand, and despite all of this, he will kick your butt to make your manuscript the best it can be.
Reviews: Yes, they hurt. Why do you think so many writers fake them? But what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger. Writing is subjective and your writing will certainly not appeal to everyone in the world. There’s a taste for everything, I mean, there are people who like Kim Kardashian for crying out loud. It helps to think they’re probably the same people who didn’t like your book. Haaaa…no?
The bright side of getting reviews? Good, raving reviews. Just one will make your day, I assure you.
So basically this is it. There are many hybrids in between feedbackers (Agents for one), but now you have a fairly good idea where to start.
Off you go.