The Funny Thing About Feedback

October 31, 2012

Writers crave feedback. We put massive emphasis on a qualified professional commenting on our words. We insist if only the feedback fairy blessed us, we’d be mere weeks away from a sale-a-month. The truth?

Sometimes feedback sucks. Sometimes it doesn’t do a damn thing except leave us worse off than before.

I’m not talking about feedback that’s hard to take because it’s brutally honest. I’m talking about fluff feedback. The kind that is given simply for the sake of something being given. And no, I’m not ungrateful for the feedback I’ve received. I’m simply saying in some scenarios what I received was worse than a form rejection, because it made me stare at the words, reading between the lines, looking for some editorial code to crack when there wasn’t one.

If not for the sane side of my brain (aka Nicole’s voice of reason), I’d still be staring. Instead, I’ve moved on.

The funny thing about feedback is sometimes it’s best forgotten.



4 Responses to “The Funny Thing About Feedback”

  1. nicolepyles Says:

    Boy can I relate to this. I hate when feedback leaves me with the feeling to throw up my hands and give up. I don’t like that. I DO like feedback that gives me valid reasons with ways to fix the issue, or ideas, or examples on the right approach. Just give me something to work with. Don’t describe how scary and awful the forest is, give me a map on how to get out of it. Or give me a damn flashlight or something.

  2. roamingelk Says:

    I don’t know if we should ever just forget feedback. Sometimes it can be really really hard to stomach, but it’s important to keep in mind that everything that we’re offered comes from somewhere, and that every opinion is valid. As well, if someone felt something about your work, chances are, they won’t be alone. Now, if someone suggests we completely change the ending, we’re probably not going to follow their advice. Still though, we have to think about _why_ they thought the ending didn’t work. Was it hard to believe? Was it not exciting enough? Being faced with critique is often the hardest thing artists have to deal with. All that doubt and reading between the lines your doing might be painful, but it also might lead you to conclusions that will make your work much better.

    • I was an editor for ten years…nonfiction, but still. 🙂 I have been guilty of one-line feedback that read something like this…”While your article idea has merit and is well written, it is slightly overdone at the moment and lacking in punch.” Proceed with form rejection.

      I was required to respond to every query or submission that a writer followed up on. (If you didn’t follow up, you didn’t get a response. Nice huh?) What the above rejection really meant was your writing, though without flaws, didn’t fit my editorial calendar, and it didn’t “blow me away” enough to bump something from the list. That’s it. Might that article blow some other editor away? Absolutely. So if I could go back and tell the rejected writer anything, it would be to not lose sleep over trying to figure out what the heck I meant by “slightly overdone” (I had a similar topic submitted the week before) or lacking in punch (It was missing the X factor).

      I agree with you that feedback is valuable, and I have had many, many experiences like you outline, where feedback has made my fiction better. BUT, there are those rare cases, when the feedback is so vague and even misleading that it’s not worth a second thought. 🙂

      Thanks for sharing, and good luck with your writing!


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