The Benefits of Professional FeedbackAug 31, 2021
Post written by Katie Wall.
Many writers instinctively know that they need to get objective feedback on their writing. They know that they’re too close to the story to be able to evaluate if it’s really working or not.
However, there’s often a lot of confusion about who to ask for feedback and why investing in professional feedback has some major benefits.
Writers can get feedback from all sorts of places. I’m going to break feedback sources into sets for this post so that we can discuss the pros and cons of each of these groupings.
The first set is writing groups, beta readers, and critique partners. While working with other writers can be tremendously helpful, one huge problem is that often other writers are not formally trained to identify what is or isn’t working in a piece. Nor are they trained on how to triage what problems need to be addressed first or how to deliver that feedback in a helpful and encouraging way.
The second set of feedback sources is creative writing classes, workshops, and conferences. While in these settings writers do get feedback from professionals—teachers, agents, successful writers, etc.—this feedback is often constrained in one way or another. Take a creative writing class, for example. While enrolling in a class is a great way to focus on developing various aspects of writing craft, often the assignments will be very specific or narrow in scope. This means that a writer will not have an opportunity to receive feedback on a novel outline or a manuscript as a whole.
A workshop or conference is also limited, though more because of time than anything else. An agent might give feedback on a pitch, but will likely not be able to invest the time to read a whole manuscript or to work with an author to figure out how to solve any problems that are evident. In this way, the feedback is professional but still leaves the writer to figure out how to apply it best.
A third place writers might seek out feedback is from an editor. This gets a little tricky, since, depending on the level of editing, an editor might give more or less feedback on the story idea versus the grammar and other line-level issues. Learn more about the different types of editing in this blog post. Also, it’s very important for writers to interview their editor and make sure that they can deliver what they are promising. The Editorial Freelance Association offers a job posting service and also has a directory of editors. Editors must apply to join, so choosing someone from their directory can help you feel confident that you are working with someone who has already been vetted.
The final source for feedback I’ll discuss in this post is a book coach, but even those aren’t created equal. Some editors have gained experience over the years to where they feel comfortable taking on the role of a “book coach” without formal training. While I’m sure some of them might be very good, a writer must be careful to evaluate if any particular book coach truly has the skills to help them with their manuscript and writing craft.
Working with an Author Accelerator certified book coach like me means that you are partnering with someone who is not only trained to identify what's going wrong and how to move forward, but also someone who is trained in how to deliver that feedback in a kind, constructive way. The certification process is rigorous and includes lessons, exercises, required reading, and working with practice clients.
Getting targeted, expert feedback is HUGE for writers, but so is how it's delivered. The delivery can be the difference between feeling crushed or feeling reinvigorated to write the story you truly want to tell.
Now that we’ve covered who you can get feedback from and the considerations for each of those sources, let’s list the benefits from getting professional feedback from a trained book coach!
First, a book coach is in your corner as the writer, not just the book’s corner. I want to grow my clients’ understanding of writing craft for their journey as a writer, not just improve the current manuscript. Offering feedback while recognizing the insecurities or challenges a writer is facing is one of the things I love about my job. This is very different than copy editing or proofreading; as a book coach I can really invest in a writer in addition to the manuscript.
Second, a book coach offers objective feedback that takes into account...
- The author’s vision for the book
- What agents are looking for when they read queries
- The layers of story and writing craft
- Genre expectations
- The author’s intended audience and how the tone and content fit that age category
While it is true that other professionals (and even some writers) can keep these things in mind, a book coach often specializes in specific genres and age groups and so are even better equipped to evaluate the strengths and weaknesses of a manuscript in those categories.
Third, a trained book coach is able to evaluate which aspects of a manuscript or story need to be strengthened first, and which should wait to be adjusted. This is a huge benefit of working with a professional. Trying to fix sentence-level errors when there’s a foundational story problem is like putting fresh paint on a house that has foundation problems. Even though the house looks nicer, it’s still going to fall down. If you’re working on revisions and haven’t yet read my guide for how to revise your novel, check it out!
My feedback letters to clients (also known as editorial letters) always include a “next steps” section where I lay out a logical plan for the author to move forward with their manuscript. This takes a lot of the pressure off of the writers I work with because then they can focus on executing the plan to improve their manuscript instead of floundering to figure out how to apply feedback.
If you're ready to benefit from the level of supportive feedback you deserve, contact me today!
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