Now what? After you’ve finished writing and readers have reviewed your work, it’s time to evaluate the next step. The feedback you’ve received and the criticism of your project will probably be a whole host of things that cause stress and anxiety. Mainly: how do I know what to fix?
Interpreting these notes comes down to three simple things
- Can this improve my novel?
- Do I agree with the assessment?
- What can I learn from this?
A lot of the feedback might be straightforward changes that don’t require much reorganization or revision but others may need additional research, a change in the plot or character, something much more involved. Whatever the feedback might be, try not to have a snap reaction of disagreement, but rather be open to what your readers are suggesting and evaluate everything at face value.
Go through the notes and first ask yourself each question, following through to the answer and then subsequent questions. Even if you disagree with a comment, you should take it into consideration, ultimately trying to understand what there is to learn from the suggestion.
When evaluating feedback, you need to be self-critical and objective which in the world of subjective stories can be a tough skill to master. However, there will always be the element of subjectivity so keep that in mind to identify outlying reader comments (ie- suggestions no one else picked up on) and focus on the most pertinent issues.
A reader says your pacing is off in the middle of the book and the story drags.
Ask yourself, will this feedback improve my novel? Let’s say you say yes – especially because (hypothetically) many readers have told you the same type of thing.
Secondly, decide if you agree with the assessment or not. And you can disagree, but this step is only to highlight your bias not decide if the reader was right or wrong. For the sake of this example, let’s say you agree…the story drags.
Now decide what you can learn from this. This step is crucial because it will allow you to properly reflect and plan for the story’s future as well as your own. Perhaps you discover that while you excel at introducing ideas and wrapping them up, your middle connections, as well as development of plot and characters, tends to be lacking. Not only do you know what needs to be edited, you can also focus your development of craft on these very topics.
Create your edit document, or adjust the one you’ve been working on to include new fixes. I suggest organizing this document in a Beginning, Middle, and End format – arranged by chapters or sections may work better for you. There’s no right way to edit so do whatever is best for you but be sure to include all comments you plan to revise and keep an open mind as you plow forward into the next round of writing.
Focusing on how the feedback can help improve your story will also improve your abilities as a writer. View the criticism as an opportunity to learn; use the information as fuel to become better. That’s why I love hearing what readers have to say, even if it is a bit nerve-wracking, because it offers a chance to develop your skills. So absorb all you can and use this time to grow!
Last year I wrote a blog about my writing resolutions for 2016 and I more or less held myself to them all. Yay! Given the shit-storm that was 2016, I’m pretty surprised by that. Due to such an impressive feat, I’d like to complete a new list for this year and hopefully keep myself to those as well.
Read a book a week. 2016 sucked. I think we can all agree there. As a result of my 2016 version of suckage, I fell off the cart of reading a book or more a week. For this new year, I’d like to return to that plan and keep reading- specifically ownvoices books including more WoC. Suggestions welcome!
Finish current edits. I need to be done with this story I’m working on so hard. I cannot express how much (read: MUCH). So, more or less, it’s time to move on. I fully intend to complete this tale and get back to better things.
Complete new book. Speaking of better things! I finished a draft of this new story (omg epic!) last year but ultimately it needs to be mostly rewritten (not so epic). I got about halfway through these changes before 2016 attacked with a vengeance. This year I’ll get this draft polished up and off to betas!
Ignore self-doubt. Like most writers, I suffer from bouts of self-doubt, but I try to keep myself in check and block out those thoughts. That proved difficult this last year so I’m going to work more on being aware of those feelings and knowing that they’re total crap and I’m awesome. Hear that? Awesome!
Get back to that other story. This is my resolution from last year that has carried over. I have an old MS that I think can become something incredible if I foster some time into it. I’ve been slowly brainstorming and letting ideas percolate. Hopefully this is the year that I can revisit and rework it 🙂
If you have some resolutions to share, please do! It’s always encouraging to hear other people’s goals. Shared motivation helps us all so here’s to a successful 2017, writer friends!
If you’re like me and many other writers, sometimes you lose your way. Whatever the reason might be– inspiration feels like it’s missing or maybe anxiety has become overwhelming– we all have gaps in our process. The important thing isn’t that the blank space has occurred or how long it’s been, those are merely distractions to keep you down. What you need to focus on is how to get back into the groove.
That’s about as far I got into this post before realizing I don’t really know how to do that. I wish I could say here are some exact steps, but that’s unfortunately not how this works. Honestly, when you feel stuck, it’s the worst feeling for us creative types. Our muse stops talking to us and the shimmer of life fades. Sometimes inspiration returns easily, sometimes it takes a while. Right now is one of those longer moments for a lot of us, I think. And you know what? That’s okay!
Right now we’re waiting for something to tell us it’s time. And that eternal sign doesn’t seem to be showing itself so…here’s you’re sign. It’s time. Writing every day is great but don’t feel like you’re a failure if you can’t make that happen now, or even if that doesn’t happen when everything is looking up. You write when you can. That’s what matters. Little by little you get back to what feels right.
In these challenging times, ignore the doubt flooding your thoughts and try to open your notebook, or document, or scrivener, and write a few words. Don’t force it to get a scene out or a chapter, maybe just brainstorm and start there. Maybe write about your character’s likes and dislikes rather than story content. Jump-start your creative process in whatever way works for you.
Most importantly though, whatever you do, please don’t give up. In these bouts of doubt or insecurity or plain old blahs, remember that your voice is needed in the pantheon of stories. Finding your way back to wording is vital not only to your well-being but the success of our entire community. Believe me, you matter and your story matters and we need you! It’s time to write again.
Even if it takes weeks or months to return to your regularly scheduled creative path, it’s crucial that you do. Know that you’re not alone. We all face this struggle at some point, in some cases, a few times over, so know you’ve got friends going through this same thing. Especially now. Together we’ll get through this 🙂
He works long hours in the fields. Back-breaking work, he says each night, but still he returns to the fields every sunrise. I’d help if I could. That’s out of the question now, however. An unfortunate tractor injury has kept me inside, confined to canning and prepping our harvest for market. But those fields aren’t going to tend to themselves…so we’ve hired help.
I watch the group of them work, laboring under the hot sun. Sweating enough to fill the horse troughs. Something about the glistening, sun-soaked bodies makes me miss it. Their muscles tense and taut, as if they will nearly burst apart their skin. That’s where I belong, to be honest–after all, canning has never been for me. I’d sooner trade my life than willingly put myself through another season of this. I’m not sure what’s worse, the waiting while each batch is bubbling, or feeling like I’m losing my mind by misplacing jars and tops, never to find them again.
Come to think of it, more than just the jars have gone missing. My great-grandfather’s boiling pot isn’t on the top shelf where I last put it. And the other day I couldn’t find any packets of jello left. They’re my husband’s favorite. I assume the hands we hired have sticky fingers and empty stomachs. Either way, I’ve made due. Although, boiling jars in a substandard pot means boil overs burns are far more likely.
No surprise when one such boil-over nearly peeled a patch of the skin on my hand right off. I’ve been sentenced to bed rest as per my husband’s orders. I told him this burn didn’t require that kind of rest, but I obliged to sooth his worries. Yet each day, as he tends to the fields, I swear I hear someone inside the house. I’ll call out, but there’s no response. From the nearby window I can see the field hands outside, but still the clanging and chiming of noise downstairs carries on throughout the day.
After so many instances, I can’t take it anymore and check from the top of the stairs. I call out to whoever may be down there, but like always there’s no reply. I tell my husband at night someone has been in the kitchen. Chopping. Boiling. Canning. He tells me the stress of not meeting our quote has gone and spoiled my thoughts. He tells me after tomorrow’s day of work, he’ll prepare a meal for me himself, to calm my worries this time.
I wait the entire day, shuddering at each jingle of noise from downstairs. I can’t count everyone in the field like days before. Someone is missing this time. Perhaps that explains to noise. Perhaps my dearest is getting a jump on tonight’s meal. Finally, he appears in the doorway. He has an apron on and a smile like nothing I’ve ever seen. Dinner is served he says. I make my way down, one stair at a time, to witness a holidays worth of food spread across our dining room table. Fruits of our labor, he says.
Seated under the flickering light of the dining room, we tuck in. He scoops spoonfuls of deliciousness onto my plate, filling it up until no piece of the china remains visible. He is careful to watch me as I consume the meal. Each mouthful I take gives him a sense of glee, something that shimmers–but not a twinkle in his eye, rather…in his teeth, almost.
As my plate is cleaned, I peer across the table to the shelf above the fridge where new cans lay filled. Their contents a deep earthen red, tightly packed inside the glass. I cannot place what vegetable could create such a meaty hue, but my husband is more than please with them. His smile breaks so wide his face appears to split.
It is then I’m asked, How does he taste?