Emotionally Preparing for Feedback

Three images of people appearing nervous

When you hand your manuscript off to someone to read for the promise of feedback it can be nerve racking. There’s a pit in your stomach as you imagine all the horrible things they’ll think about your writing and thus think about you. There’s hope they’ll like it but then you start thinking of all the possible plot holes and typos and you spiral into a pit of agony. Why did you decide to write? Why? Why! You scream to the Gods. You’re in a dark room. Huddled in a corner. A meager spot light illuminates you as you rock yourself in the fetal position--clutching the sides of your head, yanking at your hair. What if they hate it and think I’m stupid? You mumble to yourself. What if they say it’s good but I know I KNOW they’re just saying that so they won’t hurt my feelings? You mumble louder and crazier.

So, yeah, it can be super dramatic. And then add paying a professional on top of that? Man, you’re a mess. Pull yourself together, dude!

I want to discuss emotionally preparing yourself for feedback on your novel. Either from a beta reader or an editor. Although, it can apply to reviews, I’m specifically talking about when someone is seeing your work in a raw format for the purpose of providing feedback on how they think it can be improved.

Let me talk about me. Because I’m a vain bitch. (Tell me I’m pretty and smart. And also a bunch of other wonderful things about me. *bats eyelashes*) A lot of the editing I do is critique. I can really burrow into that manuscript and nitpick the F*@K out of it. I’ll rewrite lines and cross things out. I even fact check when I feel something doesn’t seem right. (Don’t count on me to check all your facts. Or anyone else unless that’s what you’re paying them for.) I tear into character dynamics and if how they react to each other and outside things makes sense. I leave notes about how the descriptions are doing their job and the side characters are way more interesting than any of the main ones. I’ll let you know the way you set up events doesn’t even remotely make sense because of X, Y, and Z.

I mean, it can be absolutely brutal.

But that’s a good thing.

Take a deep breath.

Put your ego to the side.

And cuss me out and tell me I have no fucking idea what I’m talking about.

Then come back to the report and realize it’s all in the effort to make your work the best it possibly can be.

Once the sting is gone—and there’s always a bit of sting—let the excitement build of how you can edit your book into an even better book! After everything, I want you to have an excitement for getting into those words and building a stronger structure. You’ll build it better, harder, faster, stronger.

Confession time! I’m always nervous to hand in a report on a novel. I worry you’ll think everything I’ve said is rubbish and cuss me out (in your head or to other people. I’ve never actually had a client cuss me out). I spend so much time with a manuscript, analyzing, scrutinizing, and writing up my conclusions. I get emotionally involved in each project. I really try to emphasize that you know your book and the story you’re trying to tell better than I do. If my comments miss the mark on your story, it could indicate that the editing needs to focus on how to make your goals with the story clear.

That’s also why I like to have video chats with clients. So we can talk and they can get clarity on some of my comments. Or they can clarify what they were trying to do and I can provide additional advice.

When I’m editing a book, I don’t look at it and think it’s bad. If you’re worried that’s what I’ll think--STOP IT. I read a client’s work knowing this is raw material. It’s a bit like looking at an old house that needs remodeling and repairs. I see the shining potential and it’s exciting. I’ve only ever edited one book that I thought was total shit. And it was done as a sub-contractor so the author doesn’t know I edited it. Even so I’m not going to out him. It was a memoir and it wasn’t even that the writing was bad. It was that he was an awful person who thought he was a hero. My report was incredibly harsh. He took one piece of advice and left everything exactly the same. It was the equivalent of literary revenge porn. *shudders* I still have nightmares.

I’m not saying there aren’t arrogant editors and beta readers who think their opinions shine like rays of sunshine, glitter, and magical unicorns out of their anus but me and my colleagues ain’t them. As you’re reading the feedback keep in mind you’re reading opinions and all opinions don’t have to apply to your book.

Also, if I’m your editor…feel free to tell me how I’m wrong. It’ll hurt (I’m a sensitive and delicate soul after all) but having thick skin doesn’t mean it doesn’t hurt. It just means you’re able to realize the whole process exists for the purpose of improvement.

Gif. Pam from The Office, crying

Jeannette is the Lead Editor at Polar Bear Editing.

Her favorite things are being difficult, wearing make-up, talking to her children, and spending too much time hanging out on twitter.

Contact her to see how you can work with her Jeannette@PolarBearEditing.com

Follow on twitter: @Polar_Bear_edit

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