The Writing Process Pt. 8: Implementing Feedback

A couple weeks ago I gave the first few chapters of my current project, the Wars of Vedam, to a friend to provide feedback. This wasn’t really a huge endeavor as my current project (especially the first couple of chapters) has been read and reviewed at least a dozen times by fellow writers, my MFA cohort, and friends and family. But the feedback I got from this friend was unexpected and extremely helpful.

To provide some context, I’ve been working on this 9-book project for almost a decade, and it’s gone through more revisions than the average pubescent boy. I’ve revised the first five or so chapters a MILLION times or more working with various new chapter beginnings, event rearrangements, and character approaches, but everything seems to fall flat, and I haven’t been able to figure out what’s missing.

At this point, I brought the chapters to MFA students and professors who were able to give some great feedback and I brainstormed further with my own writing group several times. On top of all this, I’d been watching the Lord of the Rings movies, the new Amazon Original series Rings of Power, and reading other fantasy and sci-fi books. I even researched writing prompts and tips to try a new approach. All of these methods were exceptionally interesting, but nothing was helping me figure out what was wrong with my chapters.

And of course, any writer knows the pressure to get the first chapters PERFECT for submitting to contests and publishing houses. The pressure’s been on for a while. So, when I gave the first bit of the manuscript to another friend, I didn’t think they’d be able to provide anything new.

Well, I was quite wrong. After several long conversations and a reflective session with my characters and plots, it came together. With the help of my friend, I was able to realize that my chapters had everything they needed but missed some essential items like historical development, context, and clear motives. It seems obvious now, but after so much time with the same project, things can blend together. It’s also easy to forget that readers don’t know what you know about the book.

After I implemented the changes and feedback, I got even more feedback from my writing group (now renamed the UN). Their comments on my document and our long Zoom calls helped and eventually everyone had ideas about how to further develop the chapters into compelling and captivating works of art. Success could be seen at the end of the tunnel!

Okay, so having more readers is important. So what?

When it comes to revising your work and implementing feedback, it’s not about who gave you feedback and what it was about. It’s about how you approach and pursue feedback.

My initial reaction to my friend’s thoughts was defensive and I was justifying all my decisions, but luckily my friend is persistent and encouraged me to be open-minded and simply consider their ideas. From there, we worked collaboratively to come up with ideas that best suit the story while also implementing the basic suggestions that they had to offer. The process is complicated, repetitive, and frustrating, but working through each part of the feedback with patience and persistence is key.

So, as you continue to write and make revisions from feedback, always remember to approach each new piece of feedback with an open mind. You don’t need to implement any changes right away; you just need to consider them and talk with others about how to make these suggestions reality. Being stuck in a vacuum with your work can be overwhelming and detrimental to your creative process.

While this may seem like common sense, you’d be surprised how easy it is to forget that writing and implementing feedback requires humility. My job as a teacher and tutor is to constantly provide feedback and my MFA revolves around the concept of how to graciously and productively accept feedback. Yet, I still forgot to be humble and open minded when receiving feedback. So, it this seems like common sense, then take this as a reminder and use it to reflect on how you accept feedback from others.

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