I am bang, smack in the middle of rewriting (and I mean rewriting) my cosy mystery story. I received some exceedingly valuable feedback from an agent about this piece, and what it needs to reach a marketable point. Scary advice – but once I stopped sulking, and really looked it, I realised that she was right. The suggested changes will make a huge difference to the readability (and saleability) of the piece.
So now I’m in the middle of an anxiety-producing rewrite. I have no idea if I’m going to make the Easter deadline either. Having said that, it cheered me greatly to see a post from a fellow writer on a facebook writers group (of which I am a member). She said that it had taken her 18 months to (a) deal with the feedback, (b) redraft her story, and (c) finish the draft to a submittable level. Good to know that I’m not the only one paralysed by fear at the prospect of a rewrite. So, its onwards and upwards with that one.
And just to make my writers journey more challenging, I’ve finished the rewrite of my new junior grade fiction novel, prepared the pitching materials and synopsis, and am about to embark of the process of submitting it to various publishers. Expect that rejection widget to see some action over the next three months. Hey, you never know, I may actually get an acceptance/show of interest!.
In addition to my writing, book reviewing and writers group activities, I review pieces of work for a couple of women who, for various reasons, are unable to join a writers group. One of them, a person new to the writing game, recently submitted a manuscript for a review with a private editing service. She was so upset by the feedback that she received that I thought it important to discuss feedback and rejection again.
I need to be upfront here and say that I didn’t see the actual response from the editor, so my reflections are based soley on the reactions of the receiver. The young woman was told that she needed to rethink her piece and maybe abandon the project. Needless to say she was devastated and began questioning whether she should write at all. I have personally read the material in question, and although it needs significant work, it is not a total write-off.
Feedback is about how you communicate – both the giving and receiving ends. Personally I’m grateful to receive any feedback. Even negative feedback – it gets me thinking about the work in question.
Giving feedback can be difficult. I have read a lot of dreadful material (most of it actually published/self published) and I know how hard it can be to remain neutral and not get annoyed about the time you may have wasted reading it. But you have to remember that someone has put their heart and soul into their writing and may genuinely believe that they have a best seller on their hands. Your feedback is essential but a gentle approach is more likely to have a positive impact. Things to remember when giving feedback/a rejection:
Learn a little about your author. How old are they? What experience do they have? What is their level of spoken and written English. Target your reply to suit the audience. Be clear and firm without being nasty and harsh.
Rather than saying “It’ll never sell”, “No one will want to read this”, try “Who is your intended audience?”, “What book is your story similar too?”, “What publishers put out similar books?”. Encourage the author to think about their work and potential readers.
If there are issues with the theme/story line, rather than saying “I have no idea what this is about” or “I can’t understand it. It’s dreadful”, try “I’m not really sure that I understood what you were trying to convey here.” Ask the author to explain what they are writing about. “What do you consider the main theme of the story?”.
Give constructive feedback, the hard truth needs to be told but keep it nice, and do refer the author to other texts and writing guides which may be helpful.
Things to remember when receiving feedback/a rejection:
Don’t lose your temper, throw out your work, write a rude email/letter in response, and/or through out the offending review.
Take a deep breath and put it away/out of sight for a couple of days.
When you go back to it read it carefully. Often when you do your initial reading all your see are the red marks and negative words.
Break it down into sections and really think about it. Why did he/she say that they didn’t think that character X was believable? Is this true? Why didn’t they find Joke 3 funny?
It’s very likely that there are some valid criticisms, questions and suggestions in the feedback. Don’t miss some really helpful advice because you’re upset by the style of communication.
Remember that you can use as much or as little of the feedback as you wish (unless its from the publisher in which case it’s put up or push off).
If in doubt get another opinion.
Don’t let a bad review, nasty rejection, no-feedback-standard rejection, or a total lack of any sort of response be the reason that you give up on your dream. Chalk it/them up to experience and get back to the writing desk.
Looking for more advice: I recently read an interesting article posted by Writers Victoria on Facebook about why rejections are important. It is well worth a look: “Why you should aim for 100 rejections a year” by Kim Liao (Link here)
During the writing of “Pete and the Persian Bottle” I learnt a great many things about being an author and the process of self-publishing and marketing. Along the way I made a great many mistakes. A scary number of mistakes. Probably the biggest mistake I made was rushing to finish. It was very important to me to get the book published and to have it published in hard copy (not just e-book), and although I would have really liked to go through a traditional publishing firm, it wasn’t as important as getting a product out there. If I’d been more patient and given the whole publisher approach a better chance I may very well have won a publishing deal (and hopefully had better access to marketing, distribution and sales).
So why was I in such a rush? I guess I had something to prove. To whom? Well me, my partner, my family, my friends, my colleagues…I wanted to be a published author, and I wanted it now. I have been fortunate in that I’ve done a pretty darn good job of whatever I turned my hand to and wanted writing to be the same. I had given up a well paid and perfectly good job/career to pursue my dream of becoming a writer and absolutely did not want to fail.
In the end the only competitor in the race was me. Most of the people I know are just happy to see me following my dream and enjoying my life. And those remaining negative nellies can go get lost.
I am a writer. I publish this, two other blogs, and a monthly newsletter for my writer’s group, I have four (soon to be five) science fiction short story e-books, and a published children’s chapter book. I have two manuscripts in edit phase (a non-fiction humour book and a murder/mystery) and another four manuscripts at various stages of production. I am a writer.
Okay I’m not making a fortune from writing. Not yet at any rate, but I am a writer and the more I write, the more I learn and the better I get at it. My life has changed from being all about business (and other peoples business) to one of Arts and Literature. I will be more patient with the next book and work harder to find an agent or a publisher. Lessons learnt.
The moral of the story: Be patient. Don’t give up on your dreams. Trust in yourself, and hone your craft.