Facing Feedback… Backwards!

After you’ve sent out your writing out to beta readers, writing mentors, or professional editors, there comes a day. A day in which they send you *dun dun dunnnn* feedback.

And then? You actually have to screw your courage to the sticking place and read it.

Some only give a few lines of feedback or a few pages — an overall impression or general advice.

However, a decent percentage (especially if they’re like me) are going to give you line edits, phrasing suggestions, requests for more details, and notes. Notes about plot holes or improvements, suggestions about how to fix things or improve them. And all of this feedback is mixed together.

So when you open your document, especially if you’re using the ‘suggestions only’ option on Word or Google Docs, you’re faced with an enormous list of those little comment boxes on the right side of the document. Dozens on each page, until they don’t align with the manuscript and you can’t even see what you’re working with.

Most of the advice I’ve seen has told me to deal with the big stuff first. It makes no sense at all to tweak each line before you even know if the scene is going to be cut or not.

I do it backwards

But me? I can’t see the forest for the trees. I can’t decide a line needs to be cut unless I see it polished and shined.

Remember, you are reading the blog of a person who, during a document review at her day job, fixed a typo in a line that she was about to delete.

The first thing I do when I get feedback is clean up all of that ‘low-hanging fruit’. The typos and line edits barely take longer than reading through the comments themselves. While I’m contemplating the larger changes, I can quickly accept (or reject) the little stuff and clear it from the queue.

This way, next time I review the feedback, I can see the shape of the story and start to look at the big picture.

There is one type of comment I leave for the polishing round.

Those comments that say “nice description” or “good point.” The ones that compliment the story or the writing, the ones that yell at the characters because I’ve made the critiquer care that much.

It’s always good to keep track of what is working.

How do you clear your feedback?

Do you start with the big stuff or the details?

Morgan, sitting on a bench outside, typing.

Text: Morgan Hazelwood: Sharing writing tips and writerly musings

Title: Facing Feedback... Backwards!


  1. Yeah, the line edits I do first, along with the typos, though I don’t correct something I’m deleting… On the other hand, sometimes you go back, and discover you need to delete, or rewrite, or actually move that part of a paragraph to another.

    You didn’t mention the utterly useless “feedback”: oh, it’s so good, I have nothing….

    Liked by 1 person

  2. First off, this is one of my favorite sentences ever written: “Remember, you are reading the blog of a person who, during a document review at her day job, fixed a typo in a line that she was about to delete.” I love the sentence for its own sake, but also because it’s nostalgic; there was a time that a dirty little secret of mine (far more than once). On the other hand, there were a few times that changing a doomed sentence caused me to stay the execution and eventually issue a pardon.

    How do I handl feedback? It varies, but here’s my general (ideal?) approach. For starters, I try to just scan through it as it comes in, then put it aside until all the feedback is in or my feedback deadline has arrived. Then I go through it all, making notes, aggregating the big stuff. I’ll run much – possibly all – of it by my wife, as well. Once I’ve made decisions on this, I delete, expound, and rewrite as necessary. I’ll then reread all the changed parts in context, and do the same thing again if necessary.
    Now that the forest is mapped, I’ll go after the trees and their component parts. (Dealing with the big picture usually eliminates 10% to 25% of the tree and leaf work.) I’ll then reread the newly marked up parts, both as individual bits and in context.
    My wife will then review it (possibly rereading the whole book). I’ll wait a week or two, then reread. I’ll change anything new we came up with, and quite possibly send key revised parts (or possibly the whole book) to one or more of the readers for further feedback. Repeat on smaller scale until happy enough.
    On at least one occasion, a reader decided after reading the changes that they preferred the original version. We went back and forth; I don’t recall what I did in the end (it wasn’t a major plot point).

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I couldn’t pretend I didn’t do it, 4 coworkers were watching and called me out on it. Then proceeded to tease me for a month…

      That’s a pretty nice process, and reinforces WHY I save old drafts.


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