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Do you find it difficult to accept critical feedback or editorial changes?

Occasionally, we ask a question and get a unanimous answer... The Write Yorkshire scribble have some good advice this week on bracing yourself for critical feedback and editorial notes.

Let me tell you a secret, we all do.

Nobody likes to be told that what you've made isn’t good enough. The important thing is that we accept and understand that more often than not, the thing we’ve made can be improved. Our writing isn’t perfect. Even after feedback, editorial changes, intense rewriting – our work will not be perfect. There’s no such thing. But it can be better. Especially our earlier drafts.

It’s important to remember that feedback is intended to be helpful. Well delivered, thoughtful feedback and editorial suggestions are one of a writer’s greatest tools – if we choose to accept it. That’s the hardest part. It can be difficult but my only advice is that when you accept and understand that feedback is an essential part of the craft, your writing will benefit greatly.

This can be a really hard thing to learn to do, but one of the most important things. The good news is, a bit like waxing, it hurts a little bit less each time you do it.

At the end of last year I got a draft back from a publisher with editorial notes and corrections. I’d been quite spoilt up to that point, because the first piece I sent them, they put into print with no changes. So when I opened this document and saw all the proverbial red pen, my heart sank to the soles of my shoes. I closed the file and walked away. Then, after I’d sulked for a bit (for longer than I’m proud of), I had a word with myself and went back to it. The editorial notes were all completely fair. I worked through the changes and suggestions. The finished piece was far, far better than the draft I started with. It stung but it was worth it.

A good editor will make your work better, but you are the writer. Work out which parts you’re prepared to bend with and which parts you’re going to stand your ground on, and then check with yourself that you have a good reason and it’s not just because your pride has been stung. I accepted all the editorial suggestions and requests except one, because out of all the changes the editor wanted me to make, it was the only one I felt really strongly about.

Never underestimate the vision a fresh pair of eyes can bring to your work.

Yes, yes and yes again! I struggle to share my writing at the best of times, so sharing it when I know I'm going to be receiving feedback and constructive criticism is so difficult. It's something I've learnt to accept but even now it can still be a bit hard!

The thing that helps me the most is reminding myself that everybody has different opinions and different ideas, and that doesn't necessarily mean one is right and one is wrong. Think about your favourite piece of writing to ever exist. There will be someone in the world who thinks it's an absolute shambles. Tastes, experiences and expectations all differ hugely from person to person. When it comes to feedback, take what you need and leave what you don't. You never have to change a thing you don't want to.

Another really big thing is making sure you're sharing in a safe place. Don't make it harder on yourself than it already is. I've been in situations before where the criticism has been anything but constructive, and no one needs that. It can be incredibly detrimental to your confidence and how you feel about a piece, even if you know better than to pay attention to people like that. It's so important to have a space where you'll be supported and given feedback in the correct way, otherwise it's just no good for anyone!

Overall, your writing is your writing. Feedback can be hugely helpful, but the only person your pieces truly need to please is you. You'd be surprised how far you can get with a little self belief, and a lot of hard work of course!

It can be hard, but I think it’s something that gets easier with practice - like every aspect of writing (or indeed, anything).

What I would say, though, is be careful not to accept every piece of critical feedback without question. Go to the source. Is this person knowledgeable? Do they have your best interest at heart? Is the feedback what you asked for, or are they giving you their subjective opinion on your work? Feedback can be helpful - reviews of drafts, not so much.

Listen to your gut. If you’re actually hurt, you might want to think about whether to ask that person for feedback again. Giving good feedback is a skill, and they might not have it. You don’t want to have your confidence knocked by their insensitivity as you are starting out.

Editorial feedback is a slightly different thing. You’re in the realm of professionals here, so it pays to listen to them - possibly literally. Do still listen to that gut of yours, though. It’s your work, so be prepared to defend your decisions if you feel you must.


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Cover image by iAmMrRob via Pixabay


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