Welcome to Part Two of the Feedback series! Today we’re going to look at why you should ask for feedback in stages. Be sure to check out Part One: Finding the Right Early Readers for Your Writing, and keep an eye out in the coming weeks for Part Three: How to Give Good Feedback and Part Four: How to Evaluate Feedback!
As we talked about in Part One of this series, getting feedback is important! And it’s usually best if you have several early readers so you have the benefit of a handful of perspectives. Once you find your early readers, it might be tempting to give everyone your shiny new book right away. However, I would suggest instead starting with one or two early readers at a time. Then make changes based on their feedback, give the revision to another early reader, and repeat this process until you’ve run out of readers.
I’m a big believer in staggering feedback like this. In fact, it’s a major factor in my writing process. Here are four reasons why I’ve found this approach to be insanely beneficial:
1) You get fresh eyes with each revision
This is the biggest reason why I use this method. A reader can only experience your story for the first time once. Once they read it, they’ll point out things that are confusing or don’t make sense about your book. If you’re like me, you’ll also discuss possible solutions with your early reader. This means your reader will know what you want to happen and how you want to fix the issues.
Once you make the changes, it makes sense to have the person who gave you the feedback look over the revision. However, since this person has more background information because of your discussion, it’s possible they won’t be able to pick up on the problems in the same way a new reader would. But if you’ve saved some of your early readers for later, you can give your book to a fresh set of eyes, see what issues they point out, and check in with them about the changes or clarifications you made based on your first reader’s feedback. This can give you more confidence that you’ve addressed your book’s issues effectively.
2) You can play to your readers’ strengths
I have about five to seven early readers, and something I’ve learned over the years is that they all have different strengths. Some are stronger big-picture thinkers, while others are better at digging into the more technical grammar and logistical details of a story, and others have varying degrees in between.
Big Picture thinkers are more helpful with earlier drafts. They can often spot bigger character/plot problems and scenes that are either out of place or not working. Their strengths lie in giving developmental feedback that can make your story stronger and more complete.
Meanwhile, grammar and technical questions aren’t all that helpful in early drafts. It doesn’t make much sense to correct grammar and iron out the logistics of a scene if that scene really needs to be cut or rewritten. But this type of feedback is essential in the later stages of a draft. Before you send it to an agent or editor, you want to make sure your grammar is as clean as you can make it and the logistics of your story make sense.
If you learn the strengths of your reader, staggering your feedback puts you in the position to get the best possible critique at each stage of your novel.
3) Too much feedback can give you too much to think about
The good and bad thing about writing is that it’s all subjective. This means that there is no true “right” way to read something. However, that also means it’s possible to get conflicting feedback and conflicting advice. In the end, it all comes down to you as the writer. You need to decide what changes you will make to your story. But it can be hard to make a decision that feels right for your book if your thoughts are getting pulled in too many different directions.
However, if you only give your book to one or two readers at a time, you have more control over the amount of feedback you’re getting at once. This makes it easier to evaluate each opinion and make a decision that feels right for your story without getting overwhelmed.
4) It helps build your confidence
Sharing and talking about your novel for the first time can be a little nervewracking. If you let one (supportive) person read your book at a time, it can help you get used to your work being read. And if you’ve chosen your readers correctly, by the time you’re ready to share it with the world, you’ll feel supported, encouraged, and proud of the progress your book has made. You’ll know that you have a handful of ideal readers who like and believe in the book you wrote. Even if others don’t like your book, you can take comfort in the fact that readers like your early readers are out there. You just have to find them!
As always, I hope this helps! I’ll be back next week with Part Three of my feedback series! Next up: How to Give Feedback! Find Part One: Find the Right Early Readers for Your Writing here!
Don’t forget to sign up for my newsletter. You’ll get a bi-weekly email with posts like this one (plus a handful of email exclusives) delivered directly to your inbox!
Now it’s your turn: How do you get your feedback? Have you tried getting your feedback in stages? If you have, did it help? Tell me about it in the comments!