Monday, October 31, 2016

The Scariest Thing About Writing....

Happy Halloween!

Middle Grade Minded has spent a lot of time this month highlighting some amazing new books, some of which have spooky themes.

But I decided that today I would focus on one of the scariest things that all writers - whether newbies or seasoned pros - must wrestle with:



We've all been there.

You've been working on something for weeks, months, sometimes even years, and you're finally ready to have someone else read it.

Cue: sweaty palms.


Most of you no doubt have critique groups, beta readers, or your favorite reader, but whoever your first reader is, it is fair to say that you probably have a strong sense that you are putting your future happiness in the hands of this person or people.

I mean, you KNOW they're going to give you feedback, and not all of it can be good, right?

Like maybe you have a few grammatical errors, some minor punctuation, things that are easily fixed and then you're away to the races again.

Because really, you just worked SO HARD. How could they possibly think it is anything less than award winning?

What kind of suggestions could they possibly have? Why would they want to break your heart by finding those plot holes, those half-baked characters, your flawed beginning/ending/take your pick?


I'm never quite sure which is worse: feedback that basically tears your entire work apart, or feedback that isn't really feedback. Because catching typos, while helpful, is NOT what you need at this stage.

What you need are fresh eyes.

And like going to the dentist, getting feedback relatively early in the process (but not before at least two or three drafts) is needed even if it's a less than happy experience.

Having said that, I think there are some important things you need to ask of your first readers:

1) Recognize that not everyone likes their criticism delivered the same way.

Some of us like it hidden in a spoonful of sugar:


If you are such a person, make sure you tell your readers to:

a) share the good stuff first
b) share the harder stuff in the middle
c) end on something good

Others of us want just the facts. Give it to me and give it to me straight!


2) Give them a specific time frame by which you'd like their feedback

One of the worst things is not knowing when someone will get back to you. If you are a clock-watcher, you need to ask your reader by what date they will get back to you.


That way you're not worried that they read the book on day one and have been tortured ever since about how to tell you it's utter crap (Wait - am I the ONLY person who's ever thought this?)

Having a set date also gives you permission to check in a few days prior to make sure they haven't - AHEM - forgotten to read your book...

3) Work on other things while you're waiting for the feedback

People tell you this all the time. It appears that working on other things takes your mind off querying, subbing, waiting for feedback.

And yes, that's true. Mostly.

Because somewhere in the back of your mind you know it's out there. You imagine your reader, reading your book, eyes sparkling with joy, calling their friends and saying "truly, this is the best thing I've ever read!"


Eventually the feedback does come back.

Some of the comments will be wonderful - your reader got what you were trying to do!

Some will make you make you think "Doh! How did I miss THAT?"

Some will make you wonder if your reader was awake when they read your work.

Mostly, you will read it and be thankful, because those fresh eyes just made your next revision so much easier!

How about you - I'd love to hear how you handle initial reader feedback.

Until next time, have a safe and Happy Halloween and



Leah Henderson said...

Thanks for this! You can never be reminded about this stuff too much. As far as feedback: I read through everything with my mouth closed. Walk away and sit on, sleep on, stomp on, cry on the comments for a couple days then come back ready to truly listen.

Leah Henderson said...

Thanks for this. We always need to be reminded of this kind of stuff every now and again. As far as feedback: I read through it (with my mouth closed) then I walk away and sit on, sleep on, stomp on, and/or cry on the comments for a day or two, then I come back to the work ready to listen.