Ever since I began writing, I have craved feedback. I needed to know whether or not the story made sense, the names were not stupid, and if it flowed well together. I have been blessed with many friends over the years who have volunteered to read my work. Largely, what they said has been helpful. But not everything you hear from a reader is something that you want to hear.

As I kept writing, I discovered that people whom I did not know gave me more useful feedback than those who had known me for years. While their feedback was helpful in improving my craft, it also exposed me to a world of comments that I didn’t necessarily like.

Pointing out which scenes didn’t work undoubtedly improved my writing.  But, man, it stung the first time I heard such a thing. I can’t wait to read what other people think of my work. And then I get mad with them over something they took the time to comment on. How can they not like that character? He makes the scene!

The downside of feedback is that not everything you’ve taken the time to pen works. And no matter how thick a skin you have, the writer flinches when someone points out such things.

I just got some feedback from a beta reader that I had been waiting on for months. The person who responded warned me of concerns, so she shared parts with some other friends, hoping she would find out whether or not she was reacting too harshly. I expected that feedback to center around certain scenes of the story that are, admittedly, intense. I was bracing myself for the concerns over that.

However, the feedback came regarding a completely different scene. While part of me was relieved, the words I’d been waiting months to read did not fill me with joy. I disagreed with the feedback, and knew I couldn’t change the scene.

When the makers of Toy Story were first collaborating with Disney, they gave the animators notes on how to make the movie work better. Though they followed the guidelines set out in every meeting, things went progressively downhill. At one showing of their newest scene, all the Disney executives were silent. As they left, one remarked, “They followed all the notes.”

From that point, the animators took the notes as more of guidelines than hard and fast rules. From that showing on, the movie started to impress the Disney executives. And it went on to impress the world.

Sometimes, you have to know which notes to take to heart and which ones to disregard. Since I have had time to digest the comments, I have kept the scene, but addressed my reader’s concern in another fashion. We both win. Hooray!

Enjoy these awesome clips from Toy Story. 



1 Comment

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One response to “Feedback

  1. Great post! I agree with getting feedback from people who don’t know you (and are more likely to tell you those hard truths you need to hear, sting or no). It is also important to understand what advice to take and what to ignore. If I hear the same concern from at least two betas/crit partners/contest judges, and/or editors, I’ll pay attention and rework the scene in question, whether I’m in love with it as is or not. Normally, it is something that can be fixed with more clarification, deeper POV/internal dialogue/action to show what’s going through the character’s head as she/he makes a difficult decision that may piss off readers in the short term, but pays off and packs an emotional punch later. Sometimes you have to do the brutal slash and burn rewrite, but more often than not, broad strokes and subtle reworks do the trick, at least for me 🙂

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