Two Questions to Ask When You’re Struggling with Feedback

Even if you’re looking forward to receiving editorial feedback, processing a detailed set of notes can be overwhelming. Having to dive back in and do even more hard work after you’ve completed a manuscript can feel like running a marathon . . . and then being told that you’re only halfway to the finish line.

So what can you do if you’re struggling with a tricky revision suggestion? When you first heard the suggestion, you might have had an immediate gut reaction, positive (That’s a great idea! Why didn’t I think of that? Can I pull that off?) or negative (That’s a terrible idea! Who would suggest that? No one could pull that off!). Either way, I’d encourage you to resist immediately making revisions or responding in detail. Instead, give yourself some time to process the feedback. When you feel ready, consider evaluating the suggestion by asking two questions:

Question 1: Why is this change being suggested?

Often our minds focus on how much work and time a revision will take, which makes it easy to lose sight of what the end result could be. Before you start thinking about how or when you’d accomplish a suggested change, consider what purpose this revision could serve. Is this change meant to add tension and suspense? Will it deepen readers’ emotional connection to the characters? Will it improve the story’s pacing or simplify a confusing plot point? Will it make the story’s climax or resolution more satisfying?

Question 2: Does this change align with my story goals?

Once you understand the purpose of a suggested change, you can use it to inform your revision without losing sight of your goals for the story. Often, a revision suggestion is just one possible solution for addressing a larger underlying issue.

For example, maybe your editor recommended building your main character’s love interest, but you don’t want romance to be a primary focus of your novel. After thinking about why this change was suggested, you might realize that your main character spends most of the book alone and that this suggestion is aimed at adding interest and dimension by utilizing more of your existing cast. If that’s the case, you might choose to expand the role of your main character’s best friend or to incorporate more scenes with the antagonist, rather than overemphasizing the love interest.

Alternatively, maybe your editor made this suggestion because your main character’s relationships currently feel underdeveloped. In this case, you might decide to build several supporting characters’ personalities and friendships with your main character, rather than focusing solely on the romantic relationship.

Ultimately, if you are struggling to make a particular revision or are uncertain why it was suggested, please don’t be afraid to ask! As an editor, I’d always prefer having a chance to expand my reasoning and to brainstorm solutions, rather than having an author remain silent and ignore or misinterpret a note.

Your Editor Friend,


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