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How To Handle Feedback On Your Manuscript

Getting feedback on your writing - whether that’s from a beta reader, a mentor, a literary agent, or your mum - is exhilarating but also slightly terrifying.

You’re putting a part of yourself out there for scrutiny - months and months of hard work with hopes that can be dashed in minutes.

What if they hate it?

It’s a treacherous path but one that must be carefully navigated if your work is ever to see the light of day.

If handled correctly, with the right mindset and attitude, feedback can help you write the best book possible, so in this week’s blog post, I’m sharing the 7 steps I follow. I developed these steps from my own personal experience as I’ve received comments that cover the whole spectrum, from terrific to terrible!

1. Acknowledge

As cliche as it sounds, it’s often easy to forget in the excitement of getting feedback, that someone has probably invested several hours, if not more, on reading and reviewing your book so always take the time to thank the person. Gratitude goes a long way in getting into the right mindset.

2. Breathe

Understand from the outset that it’s never going to be easy to get feedback especially if it’s negative. Read through it carefully and then put it to one side to let it digest. Whatever you do, don’t immediately fire off an email that may come across as defensive. I remember getting feedback on The Home, my second novel - my editor wanted to change a huge section of the book. This particular section was one of my favourite parts and initially I didn’t agree. I gave the manuscript a break for a few days and with fresh eyes, I understood exactly where my editor was coming from.

3. Clarify

If there’s some feedback that you don’t understand or you feel is particularly negative, then don’t hesitate to ask for it to be clarified verbally - it may be easier to understand. Take the time to listen and then repeat back what you think you’ve heard to double check and always keep in mind that such feedback is helping you to become a better writer.

4. Quantify

Ideally, you should have sent your manuscript to several people for review and if that’s the case, I would advise identifying where there are repetitions in the feedback. If everyone says your ending needs work, then most likely it does.

5. Refocus

If you’ve chosen the right person to review your manuscript, the aim of both parties is to make the book the best it can be. While it’s tempting to treat feedback as incredibly personal, refocus on the reader and continue asking yourself, how can I make this the best reading experience for them?

6. Remember

Writing is an act of creativity, and like any creation, the response will always be subjective. Saying that, if you’re receiving feedback from industry professionals with good track records, their feedback will be in line with extensive market knowledge so it’s worth taking it seriously. It might not always make sense though! When The Good Mother was in the final stages of publishing, the publisher and bookstore wanted to change the title (the novel was originally called Dear Michael) and every part of me resisted! Thankfully, I took their advice because I realised they understood British readers far better than I did and the book sold well.

7. Celebrate

Receiving feedback can be a huge confidence boost so revel in it. I have a folder where I keep a lot of positive feedback and review it whenever I need a boost. It’s a fantastic way to stay motivated.



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I'm Karen, a best-selling novelist who left her corporate life to pursue my dream of becoming a writer. Since then, I've written everything from travel articles to web copy before winning a novel writing competition which led to a 3-book deal. 


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