Thursday, July 5, 2012

The Quest for Quality Feedback

Getting feedback on our writing is easy these days.

From the barage of writing contests out there to the numerous online critique groups to one-on-one relationships you've formed, the "HOW" to get feedback, on at least a portion of your writing, is a pretty easy question to answer. And most of these methods are fairly inexpensive and have a decently quick turn around.

At some point in the journey though, we need to get beyond the "get as many opinions as possible" way of thinking and take a ride on the "Quality vs Quantity" train.

I'm not discounting the easy methods. I used them myself in my journey to publication. They are needed and helpful.

But there needs to be a transition.

Reminds me of labor. (men... and women who haven't given birth... I apologize for this analogy.)

You're going along... contractions 5 minutes apart... you're breathing fairly easily... it's hurting but you can deal with it. But in order to get that baby out, you have to go through transition. It's the moment that the squeeze around your belly goes from not just hurting pretty bad to "Blank-ity-blank-blank-blank, get this baby OUT OF HERE RIGHT NOW." The hurt goes deeper, gets more productive, and instead of having nurses coming in and out every once in a while to check on you, trying to remember everything you've read in those child birthing books, or listening to your husband beside you trying to fumble through helping you breathe....  you have a doctor and a dedicated nurse who tells you exactly, specifically what to do so you can deliver this beautiful, sweet, wonderful baby.

Our writing needs to transition as well. At some point, the feedback you receive needs to go deeper, get more productive. Instead of having multiple people telling you different things to try (which might not all work for your story), you need to narrow your focus, get experts in there that know exactly what you need to do, who can tell you what to do without a lot of fluff.

So... how do you find this quality feedback?

Here are two of the main ways to get that deep, lasting, productive feedback.
  • A FANTASTIC critique partner - This is someone who gets your voice and doesn't try to change it (unless your voice is getting squeeky and annoying...) Someone who has no problem giving you tough love and telling you like it is. Someone who understands the genre that you write in. Someone whose strengths complements your weaknesses, and visa versa.
    • Pros: 
      • Doesn't cost any $$
      • Can grow into a long-term arrangement that is mutually beneficial, a personal touch
      • Can include indepth discussions on items, brainstorming help, and general encouragement at all stages of the process.
    • Cons:
      • Hard to find
      • If it doesn't work out, it can be very humbling and difficult to dissolve the relationship.
      • A large time investment is needed, as you're "paying" them in edits of their own work.
  • HIRE A PROFESSIONAL EDITOR - One good way to get solid, thorough feedback on your writing is to hire an editor. This is someone who has a proven record in editing and knows their stuff well. My agent, Rachelle Gardner, has a good list on her website of credible editors that she recommends here.
    • Pros: 
      • You know you're getting GREAT feedback and can vet the person before hiring them.
      • A timely turnaround
      • If it doesn't work out... you just use someone different next time. Hard feelings need not apply.
    • Cons:
      • Costly. Price usually depends on what time of edit, how long the work is that you are submitting to them, and sometimes is a customized price based on how much editing will be needed.
      • This is usually a one-time edit with opportunity to discuss, but is not a long-term relationship for this book.

Not everyone is  ready for this level. Really, this shouldn't come until you've done the whole crit group thing, done the contest rounds, gotten some feedback and done a LOT of editing on your manuscript to make it the best you can. So don't feel like you have to go spend a grand on editing right now.

Wait until you've exhausted the rest of your resources and are ready to transition.

Discussion: Have you ever hired a professional editor? What was your experience with it? Do you think you are at or near the transition point of your writing career?

Krista is a follower of Jesus, a wife, a mother, and a contemporary romance author. She blogs about the amazing things God has been doing and her journey as a busy momma of 4 and caregiver to a daughter with a rare congenital heart defect at She is represented by the fab agent, Rachelle Gardner, and her debut novel, Sandwich, With a Side of Romance, releases September 2012.


Sherrinda Ketchersid said...

My dad is a professional editor, and he has edited most of my first manuscript. I have to was a bit daunting at first, until he shared with a peek into a couple of pages of other famous authors that he edited. I didn't feel so bad after that...most people need editing...even after editing the pants of it themselves.

I will say that it is important to find an editor that edits your type of story. My dad mainly edits non-fiction, so he didn't always get my "romance". So it's probably a good idea for find someone who has edited a lot of the same type of work as yours.

Good post!

Question for you: Did you hire an editor for your book? Will you next time?

Mary Vee Writer said...

I am working on finding the perfect fit crit partner. The crit loops give great help, but sometimes, you're right, the help is conflicting or is contrary to my voice.

I have a fab friend, an Alley Cat who has help me with my current WIP. I have loved everything she says.

This is a difficult step to take, like you said.

Cindy R. Wilson said...

I have gotten most of my feedback through critique partners and I was blessed to find a very talented and helpful group early on. We've been together for years and I trust them and their feedback without a doubt. I'm not sure if I would ever hire a professional editor. I guess I'd have to think about that if I ever got to the point that I felt I needed to do even more with my work.

Krista Phillips said...

I did not hire an editor. The cost was the deciding factor, but for those who CAN "spring" for it... it's a great way to help transition to that next level.

I did have critique partners.

Another note, though: I had a VERY brutal edit from the editor my publishing house used. It was a fantastic edit, hit at the heart of the issues, and had I gotten an edit like that BEFORE contract, it would have made the edit process much less painful.

Haylee said...

I'm still in the process of finishing my novel and these things are in the forefront of my mind. My friend is a writer as well and we bounce ideas off of each other, but we're on the same level which I think is difficult. It would be great for either of us to have someone ahead of our game who can give us a leg up. Maybe soliciting advice from an editor will be the path we take when the time comes. Great post!