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