Negative feedback and rejection are usually considered the worst parts of the writing journey. When your manuscript receives the dreaded form rejection letter from a literary agent or a publisher fails to respond to a pitch—it isn’t easy to view this feedback as “good”. In fact, you might be asking how a form rejection can even be considered feedback. They didn’t even respond! I promise you, all writing feedback is good feedback!
In the beginning of my writing journey, I avoided negative feedback like the plague. Since I dreaded rejection more than anything else, I never took a risk. As a result, it took me three years to finish my first novel. It was only after I embraced all writing feedback that I finally took major steps towards publication.
1) All feedback is an iteration compass
Sending your work into the void can be terrifying, but listen to the response. Or lack thereof. If you are consistently receiving rejections, that means it is time for some iteration experimentation. If you aren’t receiving any positive feedback or none at all, that means you have your first clue.
A request for more material is an invitation to come in the door. If no one has invited you in, your knock needs work! Get other eyes on your query and reconsider your approach. Send out different versions of queries in batches. Keep tinkering until you get a positive response. Every negative response is letting you know what you need to improve. Keep iterating!
2) Feedback can motivate
Outright rejection hurts, but sometimes polite rejections can hurt more. When my full manuscript was rejected, it was usually with notes such as “Lovely writing, but I didn’t connect with the mother/son relationship” or “I was enthralled by the story, but can’t sell it.” Generic advice without actionable feedback can be frustrating, but look at the big picture. You sent your full manuscript to an industry professional and they had something positive to say. If you are getting your work viewed by industry professionals, you are close! The finish line is in sight. Even if your current novel isn’t “the one”, your writing chops have reached new heights. Successful writers are resilient ones. Don’t give up!
3) Feedback increases your comfort and confidence.
When I first started querying, I would check my email constantly. With each rejection, my heart would break a little. In the few months it took to receive rejections to all the work I sent out, I wrote very little. Sharing my work with others made me quite uncomfortable, so I was holding my breath until they responded!
But like everything else in life, practice makes perfect. Sharing your work is leaning into vulnerability. Be proud! Let feedback remind you that you are giving writing your all. Busy yourself with a new project while you await response. Only a wicked hardcore writer can do that.
4) Feedback can help you find your writing champions
Seeking feedback is one of the best ways to find your audience. Whether you seek feedback from a writing group, fellow writers, editors, or beta readers, the feedback will lead you to your tribe. Positive feedback from fellow writers and editors encouraged me to keep going and let me know where I was doing well. Negative feedback provided a different way of viewing my work.
When faced with negative criticism, I had to consider the reasons why I chose certain scenes, characters, actions, and plot points. Most importantly, it gave me huge insight into how different audiences would view my book and helped me decide what feedback to use and what feedback to shelve. Finding writing buddies to support your work can’t happen without feedback. They have to read your work in order to love it!
5) Feedback reminds you what is important
The journey of a writer is never complete. Feedback reinforces your skills and strengths, but also reminds you that there is always room to improve. Writing in isolation is not only detrimental to your writing, but it robs you of the joy of participating in the writing community at large. Writing down thoughts is only the first step in the process. Putting those thoughts out there and engaging in a dialogue with the world is a very important part of life as an artist and word nerd. There is only so much we can grow alone.
The writing journey is one long feedback loop. Filtering positive and negative feedback into something you can use is a vital part of being a successful writer. It helps you put things into perspective and focus on what is important—becoming the best writer you can be.
K.T. Lynn is an American Muslim convert living in Dhahran, Saudi Arabia. She is a copywriter by day, and a novelist by night. Her hobbies include reading, scuba-diving, and traveling. She aims to promote cross-cultural understanding through her work, which has been featured in SISTERS, Blue Abaya, Saudi Life, and Productive Muslim. You can read about her misadventures at www.ktlynn.com, connect with her on facebook at @faithisgreaterthanfear, or follow her on Instagram at author_ktlynn.