Jody Hedlund has a wonderful post about how writers do react to feedback – and how they should. Intellectually, I agree with many of her points, and I've even stated some before on this blog. Readers' feedback is absolutely invaluable and crucial to the overall quality of the book. Receiving this feedback is inevitable if a writer is serious about creating a completed product, and considering this feedback – whether or not we ultimately choose to incorporate it into the work – will improve our writing.
Knowing this intellectually does not, unfortunately, change the trepidation we feel when giving our book to a reader for the first time, the anxiety we feel as we wait for a response, and the insecurity we feel when reading critiques and comments. I was about to write that I had only, so far, received a few general comments from one reader when a new email popped up in my inbox – with in-depth critiques from that reader.
Suddenly, before even opening the file (which I, for peace of mind, will not do before posting this), my heart is pounding. What if she hated it? What if the work I thought was almost done actually needs months of more revising? Or worse, what if it's actually a worthless waste of time, disc space, and, finally, paper?
So who is this expert reader whose opinion is so valuable? An editor? An author in her own right? A literary agent? No. She is, however, someone intimately familiar with the reading experience of a romance writer's target audience, because she is a long-time and avid romance reader. Beyond that, she is someone who has already given me feedback on the first few chapters – before they were revised as many times as they have now been – and she told me she loved them. Still, the anxiety builds.
Whether she loved it or hated it, does her one opinion decide the fate of my book? No. Yet it's easier to stay pragmatically detached when someone tells you they love your work than when someone points out all of its (likely many) faults, even when that person is earnestly and genuinely trying to help. As writers, we have to silence both voices – not only the one that has us jumping up and down when someone says something nice about a long-term project like a novel, but also the one that has us wanting to throw the manuscript out the window (not literally, I could never do that) because of all its imperfections.
So, I will now attempt to stifle all of my doubts and insecurities and open the marked-up file. Regardless of the content in the notes, I am grateful this reader took the time to read my book (she read it in one day!) and put in the effort to give me feedback.
How do you deal with feedback fears?