Feedback is hard to take. Let’s be honest about that. When you pour your heart and soul into your writing, you want it to be absolutely perfect right out of the gate. The idea that someone could find something less than stellar with what you’ve written is upsetting to say the least. Maybe even earth shatteringly horrible.
But, feedback is necessary.
Your writing may have some serious problems with it and we all know deep down inside that feedback from others is a great way to work out these problems. Since it’s hard to take, here are my thoughts on Five Ways to Tell You Do Not Want Feedback:
1. You Get Mad
This is pretty obvious. When someone tells you that chapter five is confusing… When someone tells you that your book has about a thousand more adverbs than it should have and you need to pull them out… When someone tells you that you are not only repetitive, but you also have a habit of repeating yourself…
Do you get mad? No? Let me ask it a different way.
Do you feel your face getting hot, your muscles tensing up and a feeling inside you that’s similar to when you are overcharged at the bakery for your cheese buns?
If you are feeling these things (or we could call it ‘getting mad’ if you don’t mind being honest with yourself), then you have a feedback problem. How are you going to improve your book when the readers, the very people you are writing your book for, cannot tell you what it is they need from your book?
Now, there are rude people. They have a way of upsetting even the most peaceful and steady of us. They will say things in an obnoxious way and use their words to tear you down. Here’s my advice… don’t ask them to read your book. 🙂
Aside from that kind of a person, if you get mad, that is a clear sign you don’t want their feedback. Your readers will quickly learn not to tell you anything you don’t want to hear. That’s not a good thing.
2. You Tear up
Pay attention to your eyes. If they are feeling like you are one step away from crying… you need to reevaluate your take on critique.
Why are you asking someone to give you feedback on your book? Is it because you want them to tell you that it’s the best book written in the last one hundred years? Now, obviously the answer to that is a strong, “YES!” But setting egos aside and engaging in a little more rational thought, we realize that the reason we’re asking for feedback is because we want to improve our book. It’s not perfect. We are not perfect people so we do not create perfect things. Expect that your book has faults and appreciate the love and concern coming from those who give you feedback to help you improve.
Pay attention to the way your eyes feel. Pay attention to the sound of your voice. If it starts to shake and your lips begin to quiver because the person giving you feedback tells you that chapter one was hard to follow… you need to step back and grab hold of the conviction that this person is helping you see things you will not likely be able to see on your own. Their feedback is giving you insight into your book. This is insight you need.
There are, of course, cruel people out there who simply want to hurt. They will say what they say in a cruel way. Don’t ask that kind of person to read your book. 🙂
If you break down in tears when someone gives you feedback, people will stop giving you open feedback. Instead they will dance around the problems and only tell you what you want to hear. In the end, that is the last thing you need.
3. You Want to Give up
When someone goes through your book and points out all the spelling mistakes… When they show you a certain character doesn’t seem real… When they tell you your writing style needs some work… When they ask you if you’re sitting down before they tell you about the problems in chapter eight…
When you hear their feedback, do you want to quit?
If so, you need to ask yourself again why it is you are asking for feedback. It’s not to simply be affirmed, is it? Are you not trying to perfect the book as much as humanly possible?
When someone makes all sorts of recommendations, thank them profusely! Gush over their critique because their words are like gold! They are a gift for you and your book!
If you walk away feeling like you want to give up, your readers will pick up on that and you will lose the honesty from them that you need.
4. You Go on the Defensive
Here is one that is easy to recognize, but hard to avoid. When someone tells you they don’t like something in your book, do you start explaining why everything is the way it is? If so… you probably don’t want feedback. You’re really just telling people you think their concerns are all wrong.
When someone starts telling you about how they found a part confusing and you respond by cutting them off to tell them why you put that specific part in there… it quickly becomes clear you do not want to hear what they have to say.
In fact, most people can pick up on that clue without too much difficulty.
If you receive feedback from someone, take notes. Don’t tell them why their feedback is unwarranted. Maybe you’re the one that’s wrong. Maybe you made your character far too complex. Maybe the concepts you raise in your book are so deep, not even the deepest swimmer can get to the bottom. Just because you have reasons for everything you put in your book, doesn’t mean it should be in there.
At the same time, not every critique is helpful. Listen anyway and pay close attention to everything they tell you. Their feedback is worth it!
If you find yourself explaining every criticism away, your readers will learn pretty quick that you do not want feedback.
5. You Cut Them Off
This is a hard one for lots of people. I find most people are pretty sure they already know what you’re going to say before you say it. Most of the time they’re wrong, but they are confident in their ignorance. 🙂
Do you cut people off every time they offer you a critique? If so, you are sending a clear message that you do not want feedback. You are also letting them know that to give you feedback is going to be a lot of work on their part. For example. Perhaps someone wants to tell you that your main character has too many friends–they can’t make sense of all the different people in their lives. Sadly, you cut them off every time they start to tell you this and never hear it.
Instead, you finish their sentence and tell them that they are concerned about something else….
Personally, if someone asks me for feedback (in just about any area of life, not just writing), I’ll only make one or two attempts to give it. After that, I will give up. If I really care about the person’s success and I feel it’s a big issue, I will try to push for their sake, but if it becomes clear they do not want to hear, I’ll stop.
Do you refuse to hear critique? If they can’t even get the words out… don’t expect to learn how you can improve your book!
There we go! Five ways to tell that you don’t actually want to hear feedback. What ways have you found yourself struggling to receive feedback?