7 Stages of Feedback

Rabbit - climbI’m starting to think the stages we go through after receiving feedback on our work is a lot like the seven stages of grieving. I’ve found feedback to be one of the most valuable ways to develop my craft: to see my writing more objectively and make it the best it can be. However the process of receiving feedback can be a bit challenging and at times even a little painful. Especially if it’s the first time we have sent our ‘baby’ (or manuscript) out into the world, when we are still feeling particularly enamoured by its magnificence.

Reactions to such feedback can look a little like this:

  1. Shock or Disbelief: OMG. Look at all those red marks. Every single comment is negative. They hate it. All of it. Not a single thing can be salvaged from my wreckage of a manuscript. And I thought it was ready to send out. Am I that delusional?
  2. Denial: OK, slow down. Maybe they were just having a bad day. That’s it – their boyfriend broke up with them, and they’re taking it out on my manuscript. Or maybe they’re just not into my genre? Maybe they prefer romance – so how could I expect them to understand my gothic steam-punk YA? They clearly just don’t ‘get’ my writing style.
  3. Bargaining: Well, maybe if I just alter this little part in the story, then my whole meaning will be clearer. Maybe if I make this one chapter then the rest can stay as is. Or maybe if I make this character a bit more likable / assertive / witty / intense / muscly they’ll understand my genius and take their comments back?
  4. Guilt: I can’t believe I sent them this dreck. What on earth made me think it was ready to be read? How could I have wasted their time with such a clichéd, flawed, mud-heap of a manuscript? Oh woe…
  5. Anger: I’m so stupid! In fact, the whole world is stupid. Everyone and everything in it. I hate it all.
  6. Depression: My writing sucks. I’ll never make it in this industry. Why bother? I shall never again burden the world with my atrocious writing, be it novel, blog entry, e-mail or shopping list.
  7. Acceptance and Hope: You know, on rereading their comments, they’re really not so bad. In fact, there are an awful lot of positives in there. Hey, I think they actually like it. Sure, there’s a fair bit to fix, but most of that I sort of knew anyway. This person’s actually quite astute. Their comments are spot on. And, with a bit of time, I reckon I can fix it. It might just be the next Harry Potter after all…

Ok, so maybe I hammed it up a little. I’d hope no one’s reactions are quite that extreme, but it can certainly be a tough process. I find my reactions are heightened if the person giving the feedback is within the industry: ie. agent / editor / respected writer, as opposed to my critique group (who I feel more ‘safe’ with). The quicker you embrace the stages you go through, the faster you’ll move through them. I used to wallow for a good week, but now go through stages 1-6 in the first day, and am at stage 7 overnight and ready to tackle the manuscript afresh.

So, I say embrace your neurosis, let yourself grieve any feedback a little, and then run through the writing fields of your mind wild and free and ready to rewrite.


16 Responses to “7 Stages of Feedback”

  1. 1 fabio, the most beautiful man in the cosmos March 1, 2009 at 12:09 pm

    so. you are great lady. wonderful writer. a little bit mad. which is fine. of course, fabio has no problems with a little bit mad. more mad more better. fabio wonders whether this process of which you write is like fabio as he gets older and uglier. maybe fabio can also come to terms with this.

  2. 2 Katherine Battersby March 1, 2009 at 12:33 pm

    Fabio, as the most beautiful man in the cosmos (including the black holes) I doubt you’ve ever received any negative feedback. I personally believe you are aging fabulously. Your grammar, however, could use some work.

    PS. Andrew, you are a dork…

  3. 3 Lynn Priestley March 1, 2009 at 1:14 pm

    Hi Katherine,

    This post was great timing for me and thank you so much for the above. As you know, I began the YOE and was up first for critiquing. I haven’t touched it since. Haven’t written a word. Can’t actually even face it right now. I remember how you talked about the task of rewriting for the mentorship being “terrifying” and at the time I could sympathise but perhaps not empathise, having not had that experience. I’m at that frightening “rewrite” phase now where it all seems so daunting. And terrifying.

    I have pushed it all to the side to allow the dust to settle before I start the clean sweep. Once I start cleaning it up, I will feel better but that moment of inspiration is still to come but most certainly coming. I’m starting to think about the story again, and it no longer pains me to consider starting again. And funnily enough, I did notice all these stages of grieving over the past 2-3 weeks. I’ve reached Stage 7 and starting tomorrow have 2 weeks vacation to start over again. Good timing all around it seems. Perhaps my story isn’t “done for” just yet.

    Thanks for the post. Very serendipitous!

  4. 4 Sally Murphy March 1, 2009 at 3:08 pm

    What a wonderful post, Katherine. You are right – except that, unfortunately, many people don’t get to number 7 – too caught up in disbelief or grief or anger to remember to learn from rejection. That’s sad, and soemthing we’re probably all prone to at times. Hopefully your excellent post will help otehr writers to work throught he stages and get to number 7 quicker.

  5. 5 Katherine Battersby March 1, 2009 at 6:11 pm

    Lynn – always lovely to get feedback that my ramblings have helped in some small way. Feedback can certainly be quite confronting and even a little paralysing. Probably good you laid the story aside for a while – I know when you do pull it out you’ll be more ready and will feel that energy again that drives us all to write in the first place. And it sounds like you’re not too far from that place.

    Sally – you are so right. I think a lot of people get stuck somewhere in the middle and don’t make it to the end of this process. I know I’m most prone to getting stuck at number 6, but luckily have wonderful people around me who have always gotten me through so far. And thanks for your lovely words!

  6. 6 Sheryl Gwyther March 1, 2009 at 7:37 pm

    That’s so true, Kath. And it does get quicker to get to Stage 7 over time, even if after every rejection you’re back at STage 1 again.
    Go get ’em, girl! :)

  7. 7 Katherine Battersby March 2, 2009 at 4:48 pm

    Yes, Sheryl, unfortunately we have to revisit most of those stages each time, but I’m glad it’s getting quicker for you too! Thanks for your encouragement!

  8. 8 tara March 3, 2009 at 11:54 am

    Faulous post! This sums up all the feelings I experienced this week.

    I had been brewing an idea in my head for several weeks, but it never came together. So I forced my butt-in-chair and pushed out a first draft. Eureka! I felt so accomplished! I was thrilled! Floating on air!

    And then my critique group told me it was confusing. And that I was trying to do too much in one story. Ugh. (And this directly after one person told me another story should be considered for magazine placement, not a stand-alone book. Just shoot me now, I thought.)

    I went through every single emotion above, but I’m still stuck on #6! WAAAAAH!

  9. 9 lawrenceez March 3, 2009 at 7:39 pm

    This is a good post. I’ve received feedback from a novelist group (based in London, UK) several times and I usually find the comments helpful, although sometimes I feel some of the other members are getting personal. I generally take most of the comments on board. However, I’m the only thriller writer in the group, so not everyone there quite understands the way I operate.

    I also do a lot of self-editing on my work, concentrating on story questions and character motives. This is fun, but discouraging at times, especially when the same problems occur again.

  10. 10 Katherine Battersby March 4, 2009 at 9:04 am

    Thanks Tara! And I feel your pain! Why do such comments always seem to roll in at once? Often when I’m trying to work through some tough feedback, the same day I’ll get a rejection in the mail – then it all falls apart :)

    Lawrence – not everyone seems suited to giving feedback. Some people aren’t empathic enough to deliver it in a way that can be heard and taken on board. It’s quite a skill. It must be tough being the only thriller writer in the group. I mainly get other children’s writers to review my work, because there are conventions within the genre that other writers often don’t understand.

  11. 11 brentoncullen March 5, 2009 at 5:47 pm

    Excellent article, Kath!

  12. 12 Katherine Battersby March 5, 2009 at 9:06 pm

    Thanks Brenton! I saw a few of your interviews on other blogs and am very impressed – I wish I’d started writing seriously at your age. I’m looking forward to watching your career develop :)

  13. 13 vicky March 8, 2009 at 4:00 am


    A friend sent a link to this post on our writer’s loop, and I loved it. Fabulous blog – I’ll definitely be back!

    On a side note, your blog name caught my interest. I’ve always adored bunnies, but never dreamed I’d own one. If you’re interested, you can see a photo of my pet mini-lop, Buttercup, on my blog and read the story of how I inadvertently became a bunny mom.

  14. 14 Katherine Battersby March 9, 2009 at 9:31 am

    Hi Vicky – thanks for stopping by and for your lovely comments. Buttercup looks like the sweetest rabbit. I look forward to reading more thoroughly through your blog!

  15. 15 Madeline Stephenson March 25, 2009 at 5:55 am

    This is a good way to think about how we handle critiques. I know I do the same but have not always been conscious of how I am truly feeling about it. I think this may be a good tool for working through the grief…just like normal grief counselors use it!

  1. 1 Links and more book-related movie news « Day By Day Writer Trackback on March 11, 2009 at 3:08 am

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About this Blog…

A blog of ramblings about the world of writing and illustrating for children, by an author / illustrator who might just have a thing for rabbits.

Katherine's picture books, 'Squish Rabbit' and 'Brave Squish Rabbit', are out with Viking (Penguin, US) and UQP (Australia). Please e-mail if you would like her to blog about something in particular.

All text & images  Katherine Battersby

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