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Writing Advice & Discussion > Be positive about negative feedback

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message 1: by Marco (new)

Marco Ocram | 56 comments There’ve been some interesting posts about the best way to give feedback, so I thought it might be interesting to hear views on receiving feedback. My impression is that many authors are upset by critical feedback, and I want to convince them that they shouldn’t be- that they should try to see all feedback as positive. Consider this simple story:

Imagine you’re on a desert island. You’ve been given a map showing the pirates’ buried treasure. It tells you to start at such and such a place, then take fifty paces east and sixty paces north and start digging. You’ve been digging for hours without any sign of the treasure when someone comes along and tells you that you’ve mixed up your east and your north, so you need to be digging over there (pointing at exactly the right spot where the treasure really is buried). Which of the following two sets of thoughts is more likely to reflect your state of mind:

Oh no, I must be an awful treasure-map reader. That person must really despise me for confusing north and east. I feel so stupid. Why can’t they appreciate all the digging I’ve done? I was so proud of my digging, and now they’re saying it’s worthless. How can they be so cruel. I’ve put so much time into digging that hole. How can they be so unappreciative? What’s wrong with my digging? Why are they picking on me? Can’t they see how deeply I’ve dug, and how neatly I’ve piled the extracted sand? That was the best hole I’ve ever dug. I took so much care to make it exactly circular, and they didn’t even notice.

Or,

Thank heavens for that. Now I’ll get the treasure. Whoopee!

Being told you’re digging in the wrong place is critical feedback, but you wouldn’t take it personally. That’s how you need to think about critical feedback from beta readers- think of it as pointers to the true position of the pirates’ hoard. Be glad that you’ll no longer be digging away pointlessly in the wrong place. Be glad that you’re now getting closer to the treasure.


message 2: by Annette (new)

Annette Abernathy | 158 comments My two editors tore up my first book and I had to rewrite it three times in about a year. I listened and the book is better. I cried but I listened. It feels good to have been steered toward the treasure.


message 3: by Dakota (new)

Dakota Rayne | 199 comments Mod
hahaha :) I found this awesome, Marco. I had to chuckle at the way you used this as a metaphor for writing a novel. Excellent. and very true, I might add.

It is very easy to take things personally and I've been privy to some beta readers being very (very) harsh and condescending with their feedback as well.

I can't emphasis enough the value of respect and consideration for your audience as well as the depersonalization of the feedback received.

Thank you for the wonderful post :)


message 4: by Geetha (new)

Geetha Stachowiak (geethastachowiak) | 1 comments Well put. You sound like a good teacher.


message 5: by Anna (new)

Anna Adler | 26 comments Hahaha! "You're digging in the wrong place." A great metaphor! :D

Me too, I rewrote my first book several times after wonderfully honest beta readers pointed out that it had pretty much everything wrong with it. They also gave me a ton of advice how to improve. I'm very proud of how the book turned out, and I want to hug all my betas for helping me.

Then again, I specifically asked my beta readers for brutal honesty, so I knew beforehand what I was getting. I'm sure critical feedback is harder to digest when it comes as a surprise.


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