by Annette Lyon
I've said it many times: The single best thing I ever did for my writing was get into an excellent critique group. It gives me the feedback I need to know whether I'm getting close to the mark or whether I'm totally off track.
As you seek feedback, keep one very important thing in mind:
Don't rely on one opinion.
Feedback from one person isn't enough, no matter how good the writer, no matter how experienced or excellent they are.
Here's why: Writing is subjective. There isn't just one right answer. Surrendering to one person's opinion might not be the best way to go.
What if you relied so heavily on one opinion that you overhauled your entire manuscript . . . only to discover after the fact that your book was actually better before your massive revision?
Or what if your original manuscript did need a big revision . . . but in a totally different direction than your only reader suggested?
My critique group is composed of published and award-winning writers who know their stuff. But even they sometimes disagree about whether something should be changed or whether a story element is working. While I usually take their advice (they are frighteningly good at what they do), I've ignored suggestions from every single one of them.
Usually (but not always) that's when the group is split on an opinion, and I take the majority's view to heart. But what if I had only gotten one opinion? What if I relied so heavily on one person that I missed out on the (even better) insights I could have gotten from others?
If you don't have a critique group like mine, don't panic. You still need outside feedback, so seek it out. Just do so from multiple sources.
For example, attend writers conferences and writers meetings, such as local chapters of SCBWI, RWA, and other organizations. Network with other writers and exchange contact information, then swap manuscripts and critique one another.
Go online to find online writing support groups. Many offer critique exchanges. Don't worry that you don't know how to give a good critique; you learn how by doing it. The more you read with a critical eye, the better you'll get at offering helpful advice and at finding weak spots in your own work.
When you're ready, consider having a professional look at it (like one of the editors from Precision Editing Group).
Just be sure to give your work out to multiple sources for feedback. If one source suggests major surgery, hold off and get a second opinion before putting your book under the knife. If sources #2 and #3 agree with #1, then maybe your manuscript really could use some time on the operating table. But what if #2 and #3 agree with one another . . . in disagreeing with #1?
You'll never please every reader, and you shouldn't try to. But the more eyes that look at your work, the wider the perspective and opinions will be. That means your chances will go up that you'll hit closer to the bull's eye with what you're hoping to achieve.
And isn't that every writer's goal?