So… my NWS report arrived. It came in the post on a lovely sunny day. The birds were tweeting as I sat down in a comfy chair with a coffee at my side and read it, absorbed it, re-edited and now I have the best book in the world as a result.
Did you believe me then? Did I sound laid-back and relaxed enough? Don’t tell me – it was the lovely, sunny day bit that gave me away. It’s not true of course. Nothing relaxed about me when it comes to getting feedback and reacting to a critique.
Here’s my real reaction: AAAAAH! MY NWS REPORT HAS ARRIVED. Oh blimey, it’s NINE PAGES LONG. That’s NINE A4 PAGES OF STUFF WRONG WITH MY BOOK! NINE PAGES OF MISTAKES! I’VE WRITTEN THE WORST BOOK IN THE WORLD!
Having discussed this with my fellow Romaniacs and realised it’s not just me who turns into a whimpering, gibbering wreck at the thump of an envelope on the mat, I thought it was time for some tips on how to survive and get the most out of a critique.
- When the envelope comes and you’ve had a look and realised the reader didn’t love every single one of your precious words, and you’re ready to give up and think you’re the worst writer ever and what’s the point in any of it, take the envelope and put it in the freezer. This is a technique I learned from Joey from Friends on how to deal with scary books, so I figure it applies.
- After a few days, take another look at the report, make a note of all the positives. Have some cake as a reward for your fabulousness. Be brave and look at the criticism as well – read it and if it’s too painful, pop it back in the freezer for a few more days.
- While it’s in the freezer, think about your book. Imagine making all the suggested changes, even if they’re huge changes. Go on, try it – it won’t hurt because at this stage you’re only imagining it. Imagine those changes made and then ask yourself – will it be a better book as a result?
- If the answer is yes, or even a reluctant maybe, take a notebook (go on – treat yourself to a new one. And a new pen) and start making notes, writing snippets of new scenes, new passages of dialogue. Doing this in a notebook is a lot less scary than wrestling with the 90,000 word manuscript.
- If the answer is no, that’s okay too. It’s your book and you need to believe any change you make will make your book better. If you don’t agree with something your Reader or Editor has said, think instead about why they might have suggested you change something. Buy cake and have a good think whilst eating it. You might not agree with their suggestions, but you might agree something needs to be changed…
- When your notebook is filling up and you start getting restless and desperate to get back to your book, when you can’t wait to start making some or all of the changes suggested, it’s time to get the book out of the freezer and put the fishfingers back.
- Buy more cake. Then get editing.
(currently on chapter 9 of editing and ready to buy my Reader a drink rather than weep all over her, wailing WHY? WHY? – that was last month.)
PS – From Celia
I also have the cake and am on chapter 5 of the editing process. And suddenly I GET IT! Dear Reader, whoever you are, you are a star. You make perfect sense. But I really want to keep one or two of my lovely semi-colons.
PS – From Jan
Cutting off a suitably large slice of that cake for my reader too. Such wise and invaluable words of advice. Thank you from this much uplifted aspiring author.