Monday, August 25, 2008

Thick skin is in's a necessary evil.

Recently, I shared my entire manuscript with an agented writer in an attempt to get some good feedback. I asked her not to spare the red ink.

Be brutal, I told her. Be honest, I implored.

And she was...incredibly, refreshingly, wonderfully honest. Halfway through my mss, she sent me an e-mail regarding issues she saw with my scene goals/story goals. The voice, setting and stuff like that are your strong point, she told me, but she explained in excrutiating detail the problems she saw regarding the clarity of my scene/story goals.

The close of her e-mail, "Talk to you soon (I hope)," made me grin, but she told me in a subsequent e-mail that she was generally concerned about my reaction to her honest feedback.

But I asked for honesty. I asked for brutality.

Apparently, some writers don't like honesty.

My question is: What good is it to ask for feedback on a project if we disregard what we're being told? It's quite all right to send out a mss to a crit group and hope for them to come back with feedback like, I love it! Don't change a word! But if it isn't honest, feedback will do no darn good.

I know developing a thick skin to less-than-rave reviews from our crit partners is easier said than done. (I'd rather get them from my crit partners before publication than from the Washington Post afterward.) It's okay to sulk, cry, stomp around, get angry (although it's more productive to take your dog/cat/fish for a walk) to clear the emotions conjured by negative feedback BUT we should be grateful to our crit partners for taking the time to give us feedback.

After all, we asked for it.

* * *
Thanks JC -- you're awesome!


Sheri Boeyink said...

Oh boy. That's a tough one. Getting the honest feedback. But you're right. It's needed. God's asked us for a "teachable spirit" (I heard that in a sermon once), but when it's put to the test, it's so difficult.

I mean, you pour your heart and soul into a project, then get feedback that it's going to need dramatic changes. OUCH. But yes. Going for a walk, or whatever someone does to process it, is VERY needed.

The first crit I ever got back was, "OH, YOUR POV IS ALL WRONG." Now, that's a huge thing to have to go through and change all that. But after I prayed on it, researched it, got some more opinions, I dove in with a new attitude of "Ok, now I'm getting somewhere." Up until then, all I had had was grammar crits, etc.

Hang tough Kat. It'll help in the long run. Sounds like you have a great friend in JC if she felt comfortable enough to read it and give you such detailed feedback!

IRON sharpens IRON my friend.

Rick Baker said...

I appreciate honest feedback. I've received pleny from my writer's group (critique circle). I just wish that agents would take the time to tell you precisely why they are declining. I understand that they are deluged with queries, but when they take the time to read your manuscript, I think they owe you some explanation of why it didn't work for them.

TerriRainer said...

It's very refreshing to get HONEST feedback. I would actually NOT believe someone who told me my MS is "perfect", because I know it's not.

One of the benefits of having a new set of eyes, is they won't know the plot, the characters, where you are they catch things that you forget the reader doesn't already know. I speak from experience here...I had a writer friend read my prologue (after revising again) and she made a completely FALSE assumption, because of MY writing.

Easy fix, but PRICELESS!

:) Terri