Be prepared to listen to feedback – Kerry Fisher
By Kerry Fisher
One of the most important bits of advice I give at my workshops is ‘Be prepared to listen to – and hear – your feedback. Whatever stage you’re at and whether that feedback is coming from a creative writing teacher, writing group, agent or editor, you need to be open to constructive criticism.♥
Of course, it’s human nature to find only ‘brilliant’ or ‘work of a genius’ acceptable. It’s tempting to stick your fingers in your ears and sing when you know that fixing that plot hole, removing that character, rewriting that ending will lead to binning ten thousand hard-fought-for words. But sometimes you just have to press the delete button and take a (planned) leap of faith. After talking to my agent, I got rid of a huge chunk of the middle section of my third novel, After The Lie (about fifteen thousand words) and sewed it back together with another fifteen thousand … Not my finest and most joyful writing moment, but it certainly made the novel much better.
Obviously, feedback is highly subjective, so I’m not recommending that you take on board every suggestion because you can’t please all of the people all of the time – you only have to look at the one-star reviews for books you’ve loved to understand that. However, if several people – whose judgement you trust – raise the same points about your work, it’s a good idea to listen.
Although feedback can be painful – your favourite character doesn’t resonate with an editor, your witty one-liners have little notes by them: ‘I’m not sure I entirely understood this’, your brilliant plot twist has a question mark: ‘Is this a little far-fetched?’ – keep in mind that the editing process is aimed at making your book the best it can be. And often, if you are absolutely honest, your gut will tell you that the comments are right because you already had a few doubts you were trying to ignore.
That said, it’s your book. Ask yourself the questions that your editor/beta readers raise but hold onto your vision of your novel. Before I was published, one agent told me to get rid of the first line of The Island Escape: ‘I was wearing the wrong bra for sitting in a police cell.’ But even then, desperate as I was to get published, there were some lines I couldn’t cross (out). I kept it and still love it. Sometimes, you’ll have to be prepared to fight your (or your character’s) corner and to justify why you’ve written something the way you have. Most editors are prepared to compromise if they can see you’ve thought it through.
And finally, remember that all feedback, even if it feels like a blow to the solar plexus when it pops into your inbox, is excellent training for developing the rhino hide necessary for one-star reviews on Amazon…’A total waste of money…I wish I’d bought a Twix….’
Kerry Fisher writes contemporary women’s fiction. Her fourth novel, The Silent Wife is published by BookOuture on 24 February.