Deciphering the feedback

My first post of the month and the month is nearly over! I admit, I’ve let the blog slip a bit, but I’ve had my reasons. Life commitments get in the way sometimes. At other times I’ve been trying to get book three moving, and finding a window to write blog posts seems to get smaller.

Anyway, a quick update.

Since my last post I have now had feedback from a publisher who had requested my manuscript ‘The Principle of Evil’, but I am still waiting to hear back from an agent who has had the full MS since December.

I had another rejection from a different agent a couple of weeks ago, who did offer a little more than the ‘form rejection’ based on my three chapters. I submitted back in November, and she said her reasons for taking so long to get back to me was because she had been inundated with submissions recently but my submission had ‘piqued her interest’ and she wanted to make sure she gave the submission ‘careful consideration’.

Yes I was disappointed, but at least she took the time to state my submission had caught her eye from among the hundreds she’s been receiving. This softened the blow of having another rejection email.

To date, I’ve had five agencies request the full MS of ‘The Principle of Evil’. Four of these agencies turned down the chance of representation and offered some feedback on the reasons why.

When I look at the points they’ve made about the MS, what they felt worked and what they felt didn’t, genuinely the positive points have all been the same.

Then they throw you a curve ball.

For example –

Agent one felt the police side of things provided great detail and it all felt authentic, but suggested the ‘killer’ side of things could have been done a little differently.

OK, I thought, maybe I could look at that. BUT . . . agent three felt the exact opposite. She really loved the killer’s scenes, but didn’t feel the police side of things ‘tied it up’ enough.

Both have a background in representing and editing books in the crime genre. Both had conflicting opinions on two of the main aspects of the novel.

This leads me back to the rejection from the publisher.

They stated that overall it was clear I write well, and had all the skills to write crime (or anything else) but then they were a little contradictory I felt, because they pulled apart the novel, particularly the structure, which has never been a point of concern for the previous four agents. In fact, the structure and pace of the novel has been commended by the previous agents.

Also, the publisher wasn’t so keen on the third chapter character interactions. I looked at whether they might have a point but had to remind myself that those three opening chapters are what have got me some full MS requests in the first place. Indeed, didn’t the publisher request the full MS based on these chapters?

It is so hard to be objective about your own work.

Yes, I know the novel could be improved. Even the best-sellers of traditional publishing methods have had their first submission picked and pulled apart in every direction by their agent and editor before it even makes it into print.

If I had an agent they no doubt could help me shape the novel to be better, and that’d be great. I’m open to fresh ideas and I do appreciate all the feedback, positive and negative, that I’ve had so far.

Leading back to the title of this post – Deciphering the feedback.

What do you do when different people in the business give you conflicting advice or feedback? How do you decipher what advice to take on board and what is just someone’s personal opinion, which may or may not be wrong?

You’re looking at this blog expecting an answer? Sorry, I can’t give you one at the moment. I’m still trying to work it out myself.

I guess maybe I need to take a look at everything and use my gut instinct.

For the moment, at least, ‘The Principle of Evil’ is staying as it is. Book three is my priority now, and I will be building on the feedback I’ve had about the first two books, take on board all I’ve learnt so far, so I can (hopefully) make book three the strongest in the series yet.

10 thoughts on “Deciphering the feedback

  1. Tania I think with each book we learn and grow in our writing skills. You should be proud of yourself that you are willing to go through this daunting roller coaster. Once I decided to have a break I felt such a flood of relief. Having said that there are still highs and lows to deal with, genuine enthusiasm followed by criticism and sometimes the latter is controversial – I feel there is a hidden agenda. I think what we need is to develop a very hard shell – armour so that we read and don’t feel pain, listen and try to distance ourselves from the project so that we can develop – it’s hard though, so very hard. All the best Diana

    • Yes you need a thick skin to be a writer. The armour gets chipped away sometimes, but if writing is what you love, you need to bounce back and just keep going. Besides, Roller coasters are fun in the end, after all the dips and curves 🙂

  2. This is the problem with feedback sometimes: it’s subjective. I think when you get conflicting feedback like this you have to go with your gut instinct. And as you said, the first three chapters have grabbed so much attention. Why would you want to change it that drastically?
    I agree, it’s hard to be objective about your own work, but you’ve got the feedback. You’ve done the right thing, and now you should ultimately decide what you agree with and what you don’t.
    Good Luck.

    • You’re right. You could spend hours taking apart everything based on different people’s opinions and end up with text that is nowhere near as good as it was. Will take on board some of the conflicting feedback for future reference and go with what feels right for me 🙂

  3. At least they gave you some feedback, whether you feel it was useful or not! You will find an acceptance soon I’m sure. Keep at it. You’re right about life getting in the way too. Good luck.

  4. I think this just goes to prove that different people have different ideas and opinions, and this applies to agents and publishers as well as everyone else. The difference, and the thing that winds me up, is ego. A reader will say ‘ I liked this, but I didn’t think that worked so well’, whereas a literary professional will often tell you the same, but with a conviction that borders on arrogance, as if their assessment of your writing is not opinion, but unquestionable fact. Which, of course, is exactly how other professionals will put across their opinions, even though they may be saying the exact opposite. I think we need to take note of feedback, take what we can from it, but ultimately follow our own convictions; trust our own judgement as to what works best.

    I have an idea that in some respects feedback from a reader is more valuable than feedback from a professional, because readers represent the people who will eventually buy and read your books, whereas professionals are once removed – their job is to try and guess what the readers will want.

    Keep trying, and good luck, but whatever you do, don’t let the B’s grind you down!

    • You’re so right – trust your own judgement overall, especially with conflicting feedback. So far I’ve not had an agent or publisher behave as if their opinion is 100% right. They have all said that ‘another agent may feel differently’ etc. I just always get that ‘nagging doubt’ after a rejection, then I try to put things into perspective and go with my gut feeling. Of course, It always helps when people comment on my blog with sound advice, so thanks for your comment 🙂

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