Monday, October 17, 2011

How to Take Feedback

So you've written your novel (woot!), you've found a critique partner or vaguely impartial loved-one to read it, and they've given you an opinion (or several). Now comes the tricky part. Learning to take it. Maybe some people are born with this ability, but I think for most writers just starting out, it takes some practice to perfect. The trick, I think, is learning not to argue with your audience.

If someone says your heroine seems unmotivated, it's tempting to explain to them why their reaction is unreasonable. How you put in that one sentence in chapter three and if they'd only read it right they would see her motivation crystal clear. It's instinctive to defend our work, but every reader is going to react to it differently and you have to respect their reaction. Instead of trying to get them to read it right, or explaining why their reaction wasn't the one you wanted, consider how you can make your heroine's motivation more clear, how you can make it so your reader has NO CHOICE but to react the way you want them to. Box them in with your precision prose.

Think of your beta readers as people who are helping you find the places where your reader might escape your carefully laid path, and then patch the fences to keep them neatly corralled. And thank your betas. Profusely. Because it is much MUCH better to find out about problems in your book when you still have a chance to fix them rather than after the paying customers get their hands on it.

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