What To Do With Bad Feedback

So, it happened. You gave your manuscript to someone to read, expecting accolades, messages of praise, or at the very least, confirmation the story and characters are good—and the feedback wasn’t what you were expecting.

In fact, it signaled that your MS is bad. Really. Bad.

While this kind of feedback is enough to crush you as a writer, especially when you’re at the start of your journey, they say every cloud has a silver lining, and in cases like these, that lining is actually a good thing.

What To Do With Bad Feedback

Now, what you could do with bad feedback is to write it off. They were wrong! They don’t know what they’re talking about! They must have read something else because the MS is perfect!

You could throw yourself a pity party. Cater it with copious amounts of chocolate and you’ve got yourself a good time, perfect for mulling over that feedback and deciding exactly how you will write it off because it’s wrong!

That party could also double as your farewell to the writer life. You clearly aren’t good at being an author. It’s time to find something else to do with your time, something where the feedback is always positive and you’re never wrong.

Or, what you could do is listen to the feedback.

It might be wrong. The person giving it to you could have completely misinterpreted your MS and what you were going for, but if you don’t look at the reasons they gave your MS less than glowing feedback, you might overlook that and believe it’s bad—that you’re a bad writer—when it’s just a misinterpretation.

They could also be right and the feedback they give, as much as it hurts, is exactly what you need to hear (I’ve been there). The way to grow as a writer is to get better, and the way to get better at writing is listening to the feedback that tells you something is off about your MS and figuring out how to fix it.

The feedback might paint your words as bad. Or it could nail those doubts you’ve always had but are afraid to admit. Sure, you did some telling instead of showing, maybe a lot of telling. Maybe every sentence in the book was told to the reader, but some books are like that, right? Maybe it would be better if you added some show. Maybe they are a little right and not completely wrong.

You can let bad feedback throw you off, give up, or not improve your words out of sheer stubbornness. Or you can make the most of it, find the nuggets of truth and push yourself to write better.

Who knows? The worst feedback you’ve ever gotten could spur you to write the best thing you’ve ever written! And if your next manuscript needs a villain, you know exactly who to name them after.

— K.M. Allan

You can find me on Instagram, Facebook, Twitter, and Goodreads.

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34 thoughts on “What To Do With Bad Feedback

  1. While I’ve never received really bad feedback, I’ve received feedback that’s left me feeling flat. The first person I’ve received feedback from was a professional editor. While she didn’t tell me to stick to my day job, she wasn’t that enthused with my first ten pages. That said, she told me exactly why my MS left her cold and so I was able to fix it accordingly.

    Round 2 of receiving feedback went better. My sister read my MS and while she enjoyed it, the issues the editor identified were still a problem , so back to the drawing board for me.

    Since then, I have had a second professional assessment. Again, I found that while I got some sound advice, the professional detachment left me feeling somewhat raw. It’s like the schoolteacher telling you your child’s not up to scratch.

    Still, I’m glad and sought and received feedback. While it wasn’t always what I wanted to hear, it’s helped me grow as a writer.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Thanks for sharing, Naomi 😊. I have similar stories too, both with professional assessors and betas. It does hurt to hear what you’ve written hasn’t worked in the way you hoped, and after particularly honest feedback, I once considered giving up writing all together, but I listened, took it on board, and learned how to fix what needed fixing. Good luck with your editing!

      Like

  2. Great post! Writers aren’t the only ones who get negative feedback. I advertise myself as a proofreader that specializes in spelling and readability. I admit that I don’t know everything about grammar. One author, an ex-client, was unhappy because I didn’t do everything he thought I should do. It forced me to tighten up my message and improve clarity. No more complaints since that one. I will share this widely.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Pingback: What To Do With Bad Feedback | wordrefiner

  4. Ruth Miranda

    The first time I had REALLY bad feedback I stopped writing for close to 20 years. Then I went back to it, slow and carefully, and the feedback I got still does not make sense to me because mainly what I was told to do was to stop writing as I do – my writing voice and style apparently are wrong for the market – without pointing out anything clearly obvious I could fix. This person sent me a sample of how she would edit my work and basically what she did was re-write everything in her own writing style. That really did leave me flat, because I’ve since received the exact same type of feedback, where I’m not told there’s too much telling or that the grammar is off (though my split infinitives always seem to drive betas crazy) I’m just told that the writing is appalingly bad. Honestly don’t know how to deal with feedback like this or how to work with it to make it better. I once got some feedback I thought might be useful, as someone said a certain book was too heavy on dialogue, but the next day another beta emailed me to say the same book was missing dialogue to make it more active, it had far too much narration! Maybe I keep choosing the wrong people to give me feedback? I don’t know. Most days I simply want to hide in a black hole and not let anyone read my work ahah

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Sorry to hear that, Ruth. I would never tell, let alone rewrite, another author’s voice into my own and give it to them as feedback. That’s not what betas are supposed to do. Does what you write make you happy? If so, that should be what matters most.

      Liked by 1 person

  5. So true. I can usually handle criticism, but every once in a while something will slip through the net. I received a one-star review on one of my books that flat-out made fun of it; it insulted by writing, the plot, and my character – I was upset. It ruined my entire weekend. I mean, I fell into one of those depression pits and it took three days to crawl out of.

    I see now that the reviewer just didn’t like my book, and that is okay. Not everyone will. And what they really meant was that they didn’t connected with the character and didn’t fully understand the character’s motivations. My writing wasn’t the best in that book, and it’s only improved since.

    So, bad feedback sucks. It hurts. But I pulled out the stingers and went on my way.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Sounds like you handled it exactly how I would. It does suck to hear someone doesn’t like things, and it’s enough and perfectly fine to get upset about it. It’s how you bounce back and keep going afterward that matters, and you did that 😊. Thanks for sharing your feedback story.

      Liked by 1 person

  6. This is such a sensitive topic and I’m glad you wrote it. For me, if I believe in the story a bad feedback does not bother me. I will do one of two things: 1) Listen and the follow the advice or 2) Listen and realize the story I wrote is not what they read.

    Be careful who you give your work to. Some people will not see what you’re trying to do because they are not your reader to begin with.

    Liked by 1 person

  7. Hahaha. My first book was ‘hate read’ by a known troll and she gave me some very valuable feedback. My use of pronouns needed serious sorting out. Her other complaint was about the nature of the story, “Hippy dippy goblins” which just told me I depicted them as desired. The pronouns have been fixed and I don’t make that mistake any more.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Wow, hate read! I think you’ve made it when that happens 😅. Love your attitude towards it, fixing things that needed it and being happy with the rest is definitely the way to handle that kind of feedback. Good for you!

      Like

  8. I guess the answer is to not become emotionally entangled with your writing; to see the words in the abstract and to receive comment on them in the same sense. Part of the problem, of course, is that beta-critics (and, often, literary critics once something is published) don’t draw such distinction either, often rendering criticism personal. It need not be.

    Liked by 1 person

      1. It was all part of the Goodreads troll wars. If you were friends with the wrong people (even if you didn’t really know them) you got targeted by a specific group. It was all rather juvenile.

        Liked by 1 person

  9. Awesome post K.M. – I recently have been reading this Novel called “Grit” by Angela Duckworth – it explores the ideas of failure and how failure and perseverance is what creates a true expert. We must fail at what we are passionate about to truly learn how to hone our craft. I can say that I’ve failed a million times as a writer, but hey, I love it!

    So keep on writing, and fail daringly.

    Liked by 1 person

  10. No one likes negative feedback, but every writer must learn to listen and learn from it. If something isn’t working, then the readers almost always right.
    I think it’s important for anyone giving feedback to be kind, concise and helpful, otherwise all they’re doing is stomping on someone’s efforts.
    Great post, Kate.
    You’re one writer that has always graciously taken feedback and used it to grow and develop your writing. I’m super proud of you! 💜💜💜

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks, Rainy! And thank you for being one of the betas who has given me the kind of feedback that helps me grow. I’ve become better thanks to your help and I will always be thankful to you for that 💙.

      Like

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