|Raychelle Muhammad, Smart Girls Like You, 2012|
One of the most difficult experiences that creative people face is feedback about their work. I know first hand what it is like to have someone break the news to me that they don't like my writing or illustrations (or both). There have been some well-meaning individuals who offered constructive critiques that helped me improve and polish my skills. But, I have also encountered people who were downright nasty because of some other agenda. It is both uncomfortable and personal, but having your work reviewed is a necessary evil that can lead to growth and improvement-- if you handle it properly.
Here are my top 5 tips for making the review process more productive and less painful:
1) Outside of a critique/writing group, show no one your work until you have a polished, finished product. Have your manuscript edited for grammar, spelling, and punctuation mistakes to ensure a good first impression. These errors distract the reader from your story. It's like selling a house: declutter it and give it a good cleaning before you show it to anyone. You want the reader's attention focused on the positives. Don't give them anything to complain about.
2) Seek feedback from respected sources. If you want honest feedback, use experienced book reviewers, people who represent your intended audience, people you don't know personally, and writers who are at the level to which you aspire. Avoid paid reviewers, "yes" people, and "no" people. Don't request a review if you don't really want to hear what the reviewer has to say. You're wasting their time and yours.
3) Be not discouraged. Accept from this moment forward that some people are not going to be fans. They may not like your writing style, the pace of your story, your voice, your preferred genre, etc. and that's O.K. Their opinions about what you believe to be the next big thing are just that--opinions. However, there is something to be learned from even the worst of reviews. Try to re-read your story and see it through the reviewer's eyes. Remember, their perception is their reality, but always stay true to yourself.
4) Commit to getting better. If you decide to make your book the best that it can possibly be, then embrace the review process. Those of us who want to be great at anything will humble ourselves and become students of our respective crafts. Really think about the comments and suggestions you receive and turn them into something constructive. When we submit to the process of growth, we become less likely to let our egos get in the way.
5) Don't ever give up. Ever. Hindsight is 20/20. Maybe your book does fall flat at the end. Maybe you haven't fully developed your plot. Your book could also just be "out of season" and maybe the world just isn't ready for the greatness that is you. Keep writing. Keep finding ways to improve. Should anybody tell you to stop writing/creating, know for certain that they have given you a piece of advice that you should not take.
Keep your pen to the paper! Remember, inspiration is everywhere...