You’ve written, drafted, and redrafted your novel. You’ve shared it with your writing group, your parents, and your best friend. You’re now ready to take the plunge and submit it professionally – but are you ready to receive critical feedback?
Whether you get the criticism from an agent, an editor at a publishing house, or an editor who you hire, learning to receive it is an important step on your writer’s journey.
And the very first thing to do is…nothing. Don’t react, begin drafting a rebuttal, get upset, or fire off a hasty email. Allow the feedback to sink in. Sleep on it. Remember that every writer gets something wrong, so if your editor feels your dialogue isn’t snappy or that every character’s voice sounds the same, this isn’t a criticism of you, it’s a critical analysis of your work and how to improve it. (Note: Constructive criticism should always be positive, practical, useful, and valuable, and any professional editor will deliver it as such.)
Do your homework. If your editor says “the inciting incident happens too late in the plot” and you don’t know what that means, research it. (For the record, it’s the main event that sets your plot into motion.) Consult one of the many excellent craft books out there. This knowledge will be invaluable to you throughout your career.
Finally, ask questions. If there’s something you don’t understand, ask for a specific clarification. You don’t instantly need to know how to fix the problem; you just need to understand it.
But remember, this is your work, your vision. You don’t need to change everything your editor or agent suggests. If you can make a solid case for why your main character should die in Act III or your book should open with a flashback, chances are your editor will agree…or, at least, agree to disagree.
—Dionne McCulloch, Cornerstones Literary Consultancy, cornerstonesUS.com.
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