When I decided to write my first novel, I didn’t know how to do it. I didn’t know if I could do it. It was a massive, incomprehensible project looming over me. I wanted to know, needed to know, if I could do it.
Before anything else, I find the most useful thing to do is to admit that I don’t know everything. I completely, 100 % admitted to myself and anyone who asked that I didn’t know how to write the novel that I so desperately wanted to write. I had no idea where to start. The first ‘chunk’ or set of scenes was the hardest.
This was fiction. This was ‘make belief’ laced with a high level of realism since I wanted my potential readers (if there were any out there) to get pulled into the fictional homicide investigation I was creating and become invested in the outcome.
I took a lot of classes in various forms. I digested a lot of information. I dug deep into my research. But these are all topics for another day.
Today, I want to talk about feedback. One of the most critical components of my success in putting out my first novel within the time frame that I wanted to, and not hating it when I go back and read it now, was receiving, digesting, and applying feedback. And doing this effectively.
We are human. We are sensitive. Our instincts can take us involuntarily to a defensive place. That’s ok. That’s the way we are wired. However, we can choose to respond in a way that allows to grow, and to make our writing better.
Today, I share with you a process of listening, digesting, and applying feedback in a constructive manner in the name of becoming a better writer. Cause I sure as hell never want to stop learning and improving.
When I did manage to write a few scenes, I had no idea if they were complete shit. I can pick up any book, by any author other than myself, and read it, and react. I know right away what I like and what I don’t like. Yet, I was too close to my own writing, and to my own being, to really know if what I was putting on the page was any good.
How did I solve this? I seeked feedback. There are a wealth of ways to get constructive feedback delivered in a meaningful and professional way. I am a member of a local writing society that offers feedback, given by experienced authors, of a portion of a manuscript. I signed up for several of those, at different stages of writing my novel. I also attend a local, massive, amazing writing conference every summer. At this conference, experienced authors and editors offer up one-on-one feedback sessions of a snippet of your writing that you can submit ahead of time. I signed up for several of those.
OK – great – I signed up for feedback. But how do you sit in a room with someone and listen without reacting.
Listen. First step – receive the feedback without reacting. Allow your internal system to do whatever it needs to do. Let the internal reactions do what they want. Let the voices in your head say whatever they want to. Let all that happen, in the background, while allowing yourself to truly listen to the feedback being given.
Allow those internal reactions and voices clawing their way out to surface. Let them happen and pass without dwelling on them. Focus on listening to what that person was saying.
All of the feedback is always a matter of opinion. It is up to you as an author to decide for yourself what changes you agree with and which ones you don’t.
IF you can open yourself up to really listen to them, make sure you understand them, then take them away to digest – you are growing as a writer and as a person, and you potentially walk away with some things that can make your book better. How great is that?
Digesting – Take time to really think about the comments that were provided. Let them sink in, mull over them, and decided how you really feel about them. You will likely find that some of them really make sense and improve that piece of the story.
Applying – After you’ve decided which changes makes sense to you and feel right, apply the easy quick ones right away, then take your time to think about how to apply the more extensive ones. Don’t rush. Let the ideas sink in, and possibly even brainstorm a few options for heftier changes.
At any point in time, if something isn’t panning out or doesn’t feel right, walk away and let it simmer for a bit. Let it churn over in your mind. I often find that when I do this, it works itself out, and I have an ‘a-ha’ moment where I know how I want to make the change.
Listen to feedback. Digest the comments. Apply the ones you feel right about. Take your time and be patient with yourself. It is totally ok to have reactions inside when someone is giving you feedback. Don’t be afraid of those feelings. Embrace them. Move past them. Learn to receive the gift of input.
Did you miss Killer Writing Tip #1? Not to worry. Read it here.