By Kristi Belcamino
Being a published writer isn't for wimps.
You have to develop a tough skin and learn to let criticism roll off your back.
Otherwise, might as well thrown in the towel now. Because trust me, you are going to have people who HATE what you do, who RIDICULE your word babies, and who SCOFF at your life's work.
You can't give a rat's you-know-what if you want to make it in this business.
That's why it is important if you are a beginning writer to learn how to take feedback and use it to your benefit instead of letting it crush your little ego into smithereens.
Last week I raved about my writing group. And as I await their feedback on my third novel, I have no apprehension. I have spent years finding the right critique partners that I value and trust. I also use beta readers or critique partners SPARINGLY. What that means is now I only send my manuscripts to my writing group plus one writer friend who is a crazy good critique partner.
It wasn't always this way.
When I wrote my first book, I sent my manuscript out to as many people who would agree to read it. I'm pretty sure at least twenty people read that first book and gave me feedback.
As you might imagine, it was overwhelming. And soul crushing. And useless.
For many reasons.
It also was complicated. What one reader loved, another one hated.
One reader was incredibly upset that I had so many characters with names that began with the same letter. It drove her crazy. Couldn't even read my book it was so annoying.
So, I took all the feedback in and learned what to pay attention to and what to ignore and let slide off my back.
With hindsight, this was a good training ground for the rest of the publishing journey, but not always helpful at the time.
What I learned was some people have a gift for feedback and others ... not so much.
It had nothing to do with how good of a writer they were. It had nothing to do with how much I personally liked them. It was something some people had and others didn't.
So, what I have learned over the years, is that if you are lucky enough to come across someone who is gifted at giving feedback, do anything in your power to keep them reading your novels.
But here is a general rule of thumb I like to share with anyone who receives feedback —whether it is from beta readers, agents, editors, or someone else.
ONLY pay attention to feedback that:
a) is voiced by more than one person.
What that means to me is that I usually need at least three people to tell me the same thing about a scene or a character or a plot point before I seriously consider changing it. Every once in a while, I'll change it if only two people echo the same thing but usually follow the rule of three.
b) ignore the above advice if only one person says it but it RESONATES with you.
You know what I mean—when someone makes a comment about your writing and you want to slap yourself in the forehead and say, "By golly, you're right!"
If you follow this general rule of thumb about feedback, you have a good chance of keeping your ego intact at the same time you are most likely learning and growing and becoming a better writer.
This is great advice Kristi - and a lesson I also learned after sending my first novel to anyone who agreed to read it. At the end of the day, you should go with the people who you trust in terms of taste and ability, and even then you should learn to trust your own instinct. Not every note is written in stone, but the ones that ring true and don't alter the purpose of your work are probably the ones you should make.
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