One of the most fun and valuable parts of what we do in the Picture Book workshop at Lighthouse Writers Workshop is manuscript critiques. Yesterday afternoon I was absolutely delighted to see the transformation of two manuscripts we had had the honor and pleasure of reading and critiquing previously. It got me thinking about the importance of not just hearing/receiving feedback, but also having the ability to process it and apply it to your work. This is a skill that writers who wish to reach a professional level will develop over time–our willingness to accept feedback and our ability to synthesize it and revise our work is an invaluable and necessary part of working with editors and even agents who offer editorial feedback. Not that you have to make every change suggested, but having the ability to do so–and to come up with something even better–will take us far as writers.

Here are some tips for getting the most out of the feedback you receive:

  1. Make sure you understand the feedback and how it connects to your story. Don’t be afraid to ask for clarification or examples. This is probably the single most challenging aspect. If you don’t understand the feedback and how to apply it to your manuscript, it’s worthless to you. If someone says “This character isn’t doing anything, I don’t think you need her,” what does that mean? Do you understand how every character should have a purpose in your story? That you can test this by taking the character out to see if it affects the story?
  2. Let all of it simmer for at least a week if you can, even the feedback that sounds “way off” initially. Don’t discount anything in the early stage, but don’t think you have to incorporate everything you hear either.
  3. On the other hand, if an idea you received excites you and begins to spark ideas, run with it!
  4. If you’ve let it simmer, review all the comments again and see which ones resonate the most. Note them. Do some brainstorming.
  5. Don’t be afraid to start over, try a new voice or format, or tell the story from another character’s point of view.
  6. Study books similar to yours and try to find examples of the feedback you received. How did they handle dialogue? Putting us in scene? Give us a peek inside a character with effective internal dialogue (mostly for novels)?

What are some of the things you do with feedback (besides set it on fire? :-))?