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Manuscript Feedback: Take It or Leave It?

September 4, 2010

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Opinions come in all shapes and sizes, so when you get feedback on your story, how do you know when to take it to heart, or when to let it slip out the other ear?

First off, LISTEN to what critiquers have to say, without interrupting to explain what you were trying to accomplish. That’s called defending, and well, it puts you on the defensive, your mind swirling with thoughts about how you will make this reader understand your literary brilliance. And when your mind is formulating a response, it can’t be listening. Remember, YOU asked them to read your work, so do them the courtesy of listening. Bite your tongue if you have to. And remember, when you send your manuscript off to an editor or agent, you will NOT be there to explain of defend anything. That’d be creepy.

Second, do multiple readers note the same problems? If everyone offers a different opinion about how to improve your manuscript, it’s not a good idea to incorporate every suggestion. From my experience, when there are too many differing viewpoints, the manuscript likely has big problems, so it may be time to step back, let it sit, and reread it after a few weeks to gain a fresh perspective. Sometimes readers, including agents and editors, can NOT pinpoint exactly what prevents them from connecting with a manuscript. But when you have multiple critique partners whom you trust telling you the same thing, then bingo, it’s time to tackle those suggestions.

Third, does the suggestion resonate with you? No one starts off writing The Perfect Story, but at some point, you have to trust yourself. So if a suggestion just doesn’t resonate with you, let it go. Maybe the issue will come up again, and you’ll consider taking action then because the longer you write, the easier it is to say goodbye to passages you once thought were brilliant, but in the end, this is YOUR story. And you are the only one qualified to write it.

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