Preparing for Writer Feedback
“There is no failure. Only feedback.”
~ Robert Allen
So tomorrow I will gather with the Wild Writers, one of my critique groups, to receive feedback on the crazy YA I started during NaNoWriMo last November. Here’s what I’m doing to get ready:
Yes, that’s right. I’ve done absolutely nothing to prepare for tomorrow. Well, that’s not totally true (see below), but in terms of mental and emotional preparation, I haven’t done anything.
I have been so busy with If Your Monster events, trips, and family gatherings that I haven’t had time to think about the novel! I believe this is a good thing because it means I am less attached to the story and will be more open to feedback. Time and attention elsewhere have sufficiently distanced me from the story and that’s a good place to be.
It also helps that a good portion of it is pretty rough and I’m well aware of some problems. It will be interesting to see if others validate what I already see and also what they find that I hadn’t noticed.
Day Before Prep
So there are actually three things I will do before tomorrow and they are very practical.
Clean my house and prepare my snacks. Luckily, we hosted a party last weekend so the house is pretty clean. 🙂
Charge my laptop and get my notebook and pen. Depending on how extensive the comments become, I may use my laptop because I can type faster than I write.
Send important questions in advance. I have a few questions I’d like them to think about before tomorrow so I’ll be sending those today.
But that’s it. It helps that I’ve been in this group for over 15 years. I know the drill. I know and trust these writers. But it also reminds me that in between books I need to be living my life and letting my book live its life, no matter what stage it is in—drafting, revising, feedback, publication, reader response.
Feedback Prep Advice
If you’re newer to the game and are feeling some anxiety around receiving feedback, here is my best advice:
Breathe. I’m serious. A few deep breaths can do wonders for stress levels. And it also may keep you from jumping in to defend your piece. That’s not helpful.
Remember that it’s your story.You know it better than anyone else. You know your vision. So you can accept or reject anything that comes at you. Hold on to your power and don’t give it away to someone else who may not get your vision. (But pay attention if they don’t—they either aren’t your audience or, if others aren’t getting it too, it may indicate an area that needs attention).
Listen. Pay attention to the feedback and ask for clarification. Provide clarification when asked, but avoid getting defensive. Refer to the above—you have the power to accept or reject feedback. This is an information gathering session for you.
Give people the benefit of the doubt. If you are with people you don’t know well, start off with the belief that they want to help you make your story better. If someone seems to be harping on a point or even angry, that’s an indication that they are bringing issues that have more to do with them than your piece. Let those go.
Don’t take it personally. This can be the hardest of all for writers who are new to getting feedback. Everything we write is in some way an extension of us and to hear something “negative” may feel like a rejection of us as a person. But it isn’t. We must get some distance from our work so we can see it more objectively and hear feedback objectively. Remember the idea that you are gathering information; you will sort through it later to see what may and may not work for your story.
Next week I’ll let you know any universal lessons I learn from my critique group tomorrow. I’m sure they’ll be some excellent gems!
BTW, per last week’s post, I didn’t get to my picture books like I thought I would. I chose to do other things. And I’m still feeling guilt-free. 🙂