If I had to title the month of May, I would call it “Feedback Frenzy.”
I am reading manuscripts for my upcoming Whole Novel Class for writers.com. I have also begun to receive manuscripts for Highlights’ Whole Novel Workshop!
Tami Lewis Brown just read my newest WIP and gave me GREAT feedback!
(I’m also anticipating my first editorial letter on my upcoming YA novel, BELIEVE, and already have a notebook full of ideas!)
FEEDBACK is an essential part of the process. But getting it can feel like showing up for a blind date naked. It can make us feel VERY vulnerable. And giving it…well….for me, this is about trust. When I read someone else’s book, I treat it like a baby! Reading is a HUGE responsibility.
Today, let’s talk about it!
First of all….I would bet we all have bad feedback nightmares.
My worst experience was this: a reader friend said to me, “There is NOTHING I like in this submission.” No laughter. No comment after that.
Not a good day.
And yet, in the beginning…..
I thought feedback was about figuring out what was going wrong. That was the kind of feedback I found most useful. “How do I fix this?” was my main question. “What is missing?” I thought the “positive feedback” was just my readers’ way of preparing me for the “real” comments.
Back then, I didn’t understand what it meant to “re-imagine” my stories. I thought that the structure was set in stone the first time. (hahahaha) I thought that my job was to write the first story better.
Now that I am often the commenter, I couldn’t disagree with myself more. Yes, what isn’t working is STILL part of my responsibility as a reader….but it probably ranks as #3 on the scale of importance. AND it means: how can we re-envision these relationships? These scenes? This story?
Now, I’ve come to realize that feedback is much, much more.
For today, here are my first BIG questions:
***WHAT IS WORKING? WHAT DO I LOVE, LOVE, LOVE ABOUT THE BOOK?
When a writer knows what is working (POV? VOICE? CONFLICT?), they can build on that. They can learn from their strengths. They will feel better about what ISN’T working….knowing what IS working gives a writer confidence and knowledge.
***WHAT ARE THE POSSIBILITIES?
When I read, I look for SEEDS….places in the book that need tending and nurturing, places that need more attention. I look for possibilities and places that seem out of order with the rest of the book. I look for places where I say, “YES!!!” and “HUH??” I look for moments where the character is ACTIVE…where they REACT….and where they don’t. I examine the flow of tension in the book.
***WHEN IS THE DREAM BROKEN?
I acknowledge that I am one reader. But I want my students and friends to know where I put down the book…where I became too aware of the writer’s hand. I also want them to know where I couldn’t stop turning the pages.
***HOW MANY TISSUES?
(I cry at the end of almost EVERY book I read.)
The responsibility of reading is a sacred one. When you get great feedback, you see the possibilities…you form ideas. You make connections in your manuscript that deepen the story.
Tomorrow, I will post my “questions for discussion,” questions that help us understand what is working…and not working…in a manuscript.
In the meantime, let’s talk about feedback. Got any good stories? Anything to get off your chest?