Thursday, January 29, 2015

Receiving Feedback: Dos and Don'ts

Last year, I wrote a post on Editing Basics: Dos and Don'ts, which outlined a few key rules to remember when you're editing somebody else's work (on a non-professional level: beta readers, CPs, workshop settings).

And, just now, I realized that not only is the title of that post slightly misleading (sorry about that), but that I never did a follow-up: a few basic things to remember when you're the one receiving the feedback, not giving it. So here I am, and here are my own personal rules; I really invite ya'll to share your own in the comments, too!

Just for clarity, also: "editor," here, refers to your CP, beta reader, etc.

Do show your editor respect. This is a two-way street, but in regards to how you, in particular, should treat them: your editor just spent a good chunk of their time reading your entire work (whether full MS, SS, a single poem, etc) and providing detailed (hopefully) feedback. They're doing you a favor. Therefore, it's up to you to allow them the time and environment in which they can describe to you the good, the bad, the ugly, the absolutely beautiful.

Don't become defensive. Your editor is not attacking you. They're not attacking your work, either. In fact, they're not attacking anything. They're not ravenous wolves, they're a friend, a family member (well, hopefully not; most family tends to be somewhat biased), and they're one of probably many who legitimately want to see both you and your work grow.

Do take the time to seriously consider each suggestion and critique, as well. Sometimes your own work is too muddled in your head, so you can't even begin to think of new possibilities or how to patch up current unraveling threads. Being open to new ideas from your editor gives you the opportunity to potentially uncover new paths that you might not have been able to consider before.

Don't assume that every suggestion and every critique is something that has to be changed. As previously stated: take it all with a grain of salt. Consider each one; just as some suggestions might be great for your work, others might not be a right fit. Just remember: if more than one editor has the same suggestion, then it's definitely worth reconsidering.

Do ask questions. Questions, questions, questions. Be the thing that wouldn't shut up (brownie points if you understand that reference). When your editor says that something's not quite working, ask them how they think it could be fixed (remember: whatever they suggest you don't have to use) or even suggest an idea that you have, and see what they think. Asking questions is probably your best tool, and your best way to brainstorm. Talk it out, and see what happens.


These are extremely simple ideas, but they're also extremely important. Retaining a good and trusting relationship with your editor (CP, beta, both, whatever) is invaluable when you're trying to get a book publishing ready, whether you're going the traditional route or self-publishing.

What are some of your basic dos and don'ts of receiving feedback on your work?

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Receiving feedback on your work? Blogger @Rae_Slater has some basic dos and don'ts for good etiquette (Click to Tweet)

Do ask questions, don't become defensive, and other basic rules of receiving feedback from blogger @Rae_Slater (Click to Tweet)


  1. "Your editor is not attacking you."

    So true. Criticism is the single greatest tool for betterment.

    We should welcome more of it!

    1. It's something I not only remind others all the time, but that I have to remind myself. It's a wonderful thing to remind myself of, I find, so I definitely agree with you, Victor!