Taking feedback and criticism is never easy. Especially when the feedback directly relates to the body of work you have put so much time, effort and emotion into. Stepping back from the immediate reaction of a) ‘They only read 3 chapters, what could they possibly know?” b) “I just received an editorial letter, I must revise immediately” or c) “How am I supposed to make sense of all these revision notes and feedback?”
Whether the feedback comes from beta readers, agents, or editors, no matter what stage of the publishing process you are in you must be patient with yourself, don’t jump to conclusions and take everything with a grain of salt. There will be extremes; someone will think you need to cut and revise 100 pages to speed up pace and someone else will think the pace is great but the characterization needs work. Joni B. Cole says it best:
“Over the years, I have calculated that feedback on any given piece of writing always falls into one of three categories, and breaks down into the following percentages: 14 percent of feedback is dead-on; 18 percent is from another planet; and 68 percent falls somewhere in-between.” Toxic Feedback, by Joni B. Cole
Not everyone will ‘get’ your work. Not everyone will love it. What you are looking for is the agent, editor and market that suits your storytelling. To find those three pieces of the puzzle you have to go through rounds of feedback, rejection and revisions.
What I write in my personal rejection letters and tell my clients is that you want someone that can’t sleep because they are reading your work late into the night, will fight for your book, and will garner in-house support. So don’t stop until you have these people in your corner. While rejections can throw you off-balance they are only getting you closer to where you need to be.
The feedback will never end. From agent rejections along the way to editor revision notes upon getting a book deal, there will always be opinions about your work to sift through. What you want is an agent and an editor that ‘gets it’ and has the same vision for your work as you do. When that happens the feedback is constructive and moving your career in the right direction.