Receiving reviews on a story or manuscript feels daunting to authors. Until you realize it is like getting a performing review on your day job and that you should approach it like that too. Analyze what people say about your work to grow.
Feedback analysis for writers is the process of gathering and processing reviews and comments. By categorizing and separating constructive feedback from backlash, the author gets valuable insights into their work. It gives them a better feel for their audience, helps them to improve their work, and helps them grow as a writer.
I am a sensitive person, so I had a hard time dealing with criticism when I first started writing. It made me feel vulnerable, not up to the task, and like a downright imposter. But when you want to grow as a writer, feedback is essential. It will help you find out where you need to grow, what you are good at, and what simply does or does not work for your readers.
Feedback is a gateway to discovering your voice, shaping it, and polishing it. So if you are serious about becoming a professional writer, be serious about getting your feedback as well. It is a work thing. Approach the feedback on your writing as a performance review. Listen to it, analyze it, make a plan to move forward, and continue your day.
When you are ready to gather feedback, know where to get it. Friends and family are easy options, but they will not necessarily benefit you. You need people who are willing to go deeper. People who will tell you why something works or does not. People who read your genre, and others besides that. You want honest and direct feedback.
So who do you turn to? Editors, writing students, and proofreaders, are all valuable assets. Or you can do what I did and join a writing group. You will not only get feedback on your writing but learn to look more critically at other people’s work as well. You will get an overview, which will help you with your writing. It is all a learning curve.
Separate the good from the bad, and the ugly
You will find that not all feedback serves you. When I received feedback on my first manuscript, the writing coach wanted me to set the whole story in a fantasy world. Why? Because she was a fantasy writer. I got feedback from the wrong person.
Instead of working with my story and finding solutions that benefitted me, she wanted to do it her way. That kind of feedback does not serve you. Suggestions should always be welcomed and considered, but you do not always have to follow up.
Other feedback that will not serve you consists of comments like ‘oh, I just loved it,’ or ‘it is horrible,’ without an explanation. Sure it is flattering when somebody tells you they like a scene or story, but you want to know why. Why did they read on? Why did they get goosebumps? Why were they turned off?
Make sure that when you go through your feedback, you will shift between the good, the bad, and the ugly. That way, you get an overview of your constructive feedback. Keep as a rule of thumb that the feedback should never make you struggle to write.
You can get various types of feedback on your writing so it helps to categorize. I split my feedback into technical and personal. All grammar, punctuation, and spelling feedback goes into that folder. I often go through my text, change it, and do not give it much of a second thought. I think twice if I question the feedback, but that is rarely the case.
The personal feedback is a different story. All suggestions, questions, remarks, and other things related to the storyline, the characters, or the world, go into that folder. When I go over this feedback, I always ask myself what the change will do. If I think it will strengthen my story, I will adopt it.
This is the more painful type of feedback. When you make a spelling mistake and it is pointed out, there is not much room for debate. But when somebody suggests that you alter your story…
That is why I want to emphasize that the feedback is never personal. Consider it, toss it if it does not work for you. And when three people give you the same comments on the same paragraph, swallow your pride.
Now, I prefer to work with two categories, but you can create as many as you like. A different folder for grammar, for example, could give you a better insight into repetitive mistakes. Create a system that works for you.
Zip it up
The best thing you can do while receiving feedback is to keep your mouth shut. That instantly makes this the toughest hurdle to pass for most of us. We are trained to react instead of responding to what others say.
Calm down, take a breath and listen to what the other person is trying to tell you. Remind yourself that they are not criticizing you as a person, but they are giving you feedback on your work.
When I was younger, I struggled with this. I saw every remark as a personal attack and gave some pretty hotheaded replies. Until a schoolteacher prohibited me to speak. His words: ‘Stop defending your work, I am not interested in what you meant it to be. I am telling you how it comes across for me.’
Being shushed was painful. I am stubborn so I refused to say anything else. And when that happened, a world opened up to me. I heard how he wanted to help me create something even better, how he wanted to lift me to become better at my skill. He was not attacking me, he was doing me a favor.
Realizing that somebody is doing you a favor puts you in a different position. When I realized the value of constructive criticism, I became aware that people put time and effort in to aid me. They go out of their way to help me grow, become better or make my work the best version it can be.
Feedback analysis for writers is a humbling and amazing experience, that turns getting feedback into a much more pleasurable experience. Be grateful. Thank the person who gave you feedback. It is the least you can do.
I want to point out that if you struggle with feedback, a writing group might be the perfect solution. As I said before, you learn to receive feedback, but you will give it too. When you experience the other side, it might be easier to understand how it is never personal.
So, put on your best smile, sit back and hear what the reader has to say. Success guaranteed.