Monday, February 23, 2015
What To Do With Feedback: Tackling Revisions #amediting
You’ve done it. You’ve written a book baby and sent it out into the wild, vicious world….or, in actuality, the open arms of your CP’s. Those wonderful, insightful, challenging CP’s who really want what’s best for you and your book baby.
And what do you get? Feedback. Hopefully buckets of it. Here’s the thing, not all of that feedback will be good.
In fact, if you are lucky, a lot of it will be difficult, hard-to-swallow, gut wrenching feedback.
Did she say lucky? About receiving difficult feedback?
Yeah, buddy. I sure did.
Positive feedback is great but it doesn’t help you grow. It’s the challenging feedback that makes us, and our books, better.
So what do you do with all that feedback? Every writer manages it differently. Here’s how I tackle revisions:
1. Read over all the notes in the MS in one sitting.
If you are receiving feedback in chunks (as in ch 1-6 one week and 7-10 the next, then read through all the notes in the chunk available).
2. Suppress all urges to defend your book baby. It’s natural for a momma bear to defend her cubs. It’s okay that you have that urge. But you need to suppress it to improve.
3. Separate positive feedback and put it aside. Positive feedback is the best. It feels good and makes you smile. ‘This person gets it,’ you think. ‘I am a genius, see, my CP gets me.’ Enjoy the feedback and then set it aside.
4. Consider storing positive feedback in it's own file. I like to store these self-esteem inflating nuggets of feedback in a separate word doc. Stuff that works. Put it aside and open it when you need a shot of confidence about your story or your writing skills.
5. Bucket ‘constructive’ feedback into two camps: Quick Fixes and Rewrites (I do this by color coding the notes. Easy stuff gets one color and rewrites get another.) Note: If the feedback isn't constructive at all (as in, is just shitty, then dismiss it.) I consider Quick Fixes to be any tense errors, missing words, necessary dialogue tags, copy/paste errors, etc. Rewrites, for me, are any questions digging into character motivation, suggested rewording, continuity errors, etc.
6. Tackle quick fixes fist. They're easy and completing these will feel good. Get them out of the way.
7. Take a break.Step away from the project and clear your mind.
8. Now tackle rewrites. I start by dividing rewrites into two buckets: rewrites I’m excited about and rewrites I’m not excited about (or don’t fully agree with - yet.) Why? Because rewrites are tough.
It’s hard to tear a story apart and stitch it back together again. It’s a bit like reconstructing Frankenstein’s monster from the inside out, with nothing more than a headlamp, a dull needle and some embroidery thread. So, if I’m going to dig into the monster and get dirty, I’m going to start with the rewrites that get me excited. Suggestions that totally make sense to me or the ‘OMG why didn’t I think of that’ ideas that really get my blood pumping. I work those items into my story first. Warning: This part of the revision can take time. Remember to be patient and kind to yourself during this process.
9. Next, I take a long, hard look at the stuff that didn’t resonate with me right off the bat and ask the following questions:
Why didn’t I like this idea?
If my answers are “it’s too hard,” or “they just didn’t get what I was trying to do” I mark those items as seriously need to reconsider. Just because a change is hard doesn't mean it would not be worthwhile.
How would this idea strengthen my plot? Seriously pause and consider this.
How would this idea strengthen my character? Again, seriously consider it.
10. What I’m usually left with after the question/answer reflection is a list of lots of tough rewrites. The didn’t-resonate-at-first-but-now-totally-makes-sense revisions are some of the hardest revisions, IMO. These rewrites sometimes require other, supporting rewrites. But by this time in my revision process I’m generally convinced they will make my story better and I’m actually excited about them. My blood is pumping. So I dig back into that rotting corpse that is Frankenstein’s monster - aka, the book baby - and start hacking and stitching until it’s done.
That’s it. That’s how I tackle rewrites.
It helps, I think, to remember your CP’s feedback is a precious gift. CP feedback is insight you cannot possibly have yourself because you are too close to the project. Treat their feedback with the respect it deserves. This means taking the time to truly consider it. Often we need to let the suggestions simmer in our brains before we can truly decide if it is right for our book or not. Revisions aren’t done overnight.
It’s not about what was ‘wrong’ with your book baby, rather, what can be done differently. Approach feedback as an opportunity and you might just find new skills, perspectives, or ideas you didn’t originally consider.
Sure, growth is hard. But it is necessary and, in the end, totally worth it.
What approach do you take to tackling rewrites?