How to use good feedback (and other stuff)

As a writer, I think one of the most important tools to have in your toolbox is…a good critique partner. Someone who is not afraid to tell you what’s bad and what’s good. What works and doesn’t. Someone who will point out the glaring errors and then force you to ask yourself what is the characters Goals-Motivation-Conflict.

As the e-submissions coordinator in my RWA chapter’s contest, I’m fortunate enough to see the feedback the judges give the entrants. I’m also fortunate enough to have a great panel of judges volunteering their valuable time to help make our contest a huge success. So in my perusal of one judges’ comments, I realized how wonderfully in-depth she was. And she was great at giving feedback without being harsh. So I told her so and one thing led to another and before I knew it, she was reading my work.

What she did for me was read my entire novella and comment throughout. On almost every line. Yeah, that sounds like a lot. But here’s what it did for me. It made me stop and really think about the story and the characters. While I thought the story was good, she pointed out things to make it even better. And she upped the conflict with the H/H.

Sometimes, it’s really hard to get feedback on your work and see the things that just don’t work for a reader. Because ultimately, that critique partner IS a reader, too.

When I first starting getting critiques on my work, I thought I had to do what everyone said. I had to make all the changes that several people made, even if the comments were conflicting. At times, it made me give up and stop working on the piece altogether. Now that I have experience working with editors, I’ve discovered that I don’t always have to take everything to heart. I’ve definitely learned to pick and choose what works and doesn’t work for the piece. Because, ultimately, I’m the only one that truly knows my characters and where their motivation lies.

So what I’m saying is, after nearly seven years of writing seriously, I’ve finally learned how to take that feedback, absorb it and then use it to my advantage to make the story even better than what it was before. I think you have to trust your reader/critique partner(s), but you also have to trust your instincts on your work and you have to believe in it more than anyone else. And believing in it more than anyone else makes the next person love it. It was a hard lesson to learn but one I think you can only learn by doing.

I truly appreciate the hard work, the effort, the insight from anyone reads my work. I may not agree with everything pointed out in the piece, but most likely I’ll take ninety percent and mold it to fit my writing style and my story. Writers who ignore valuable feedback are doing themselves a huge disservice. You can’t learn and grow and get better if you don’t accept a little criticisms every now and then. Right? 😉

Okay, enough of that. In other news, I’m working on Take Me I’m Yours again. I’ve put aside Delilah’s story while I get it done.

I think my five manuscript goal this year may have been too big. Yeah, I still want to write the books I have sketched out. But I’m starting to learn my limits. Plus, at times, I’m a super slow writer. Then other times, when I’m very inspired, I can spit out the words faster than the speed of light. So I think for me, writing comes in waves. I think this is my editing-wave. The more I do this, the more I’m getting to know my habits. And I think as a writer, you have to know your habits and what works and doesn’t work for you. It may not be the same thing everytime that works for you, so you have to be flexible.

And of couse, I’m using “you” here collectively. 😉

So it feels good to get back to writing and editing. I may not be creating any raw material, but it’s still good to get back into the swing of things. And it sure has taken me a while to get back here. I’m a routine type person. I like things to be the same (or nearly the same) every day. I like to know what’s coming around the next corner. I like to plan ahead. When I get thrown a curve ball and my routine is upset, it throws everything else out of kilter. And that’s what I’ve been struggling with for the last three-four weeks. I’ve been trying to figure out my new schedule since I have the kiddo here with me nearly every day. And trying to date in between there…yeah, um. Huge challenge.

We had more storms roll through the area last night. Luckily, none of the severe stuff hit us. It weakened and went all the south of us. Lots of tornadic activity though. Thank goodness it didn’t get near us. Had soccer practice anyway and it was very cloudy and humid. When lightning flashed and thunder boomed, though, we all picked up our stuff and headed for the cars. I was glad to be home in my safe haven watching Deal or No Deal and American Idol (I’m sorry – but Carly was ROBBED).

Got some edits done after that and then headed to bed. I was going to get the yard mowed tonight but it may be too wet since it rained pretty good last night. Okay I guess that’s it for me. Gotta head to school and work!

And hey…It’s Thursday. YAY!

By Michelle

I wish you all could be inside my head. The conversation is sparkling.