Getting Feedback on Your Writing

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How do you react to negative feedback?

I sent off my manuscript of “Karrana” (a novel) to a professional editor last year. I requested a structural edit. She gave me both positive and negative feedback. It was useful, and I’ve now started rewriting the first draft, and molding it into  a better shape.

My first reaction after receiving criticism was to withdraw from the project. I read only negativity into the feedback. Is this normal for most writers? We are, after all, such sensitive souls. Now that I’ve started on the second draft, I realise how useful the feedback was.

But have you ever been trolled? That is, targeted by unfriendly readers of your blog? I haven’t as yet, because the WordPress tools are so adept at blocking and preventing this.

I have received some nasty comments recently from someone who used to be close to me.  He’d started following my blogs, after I’d changed to the WordPress platform.

Having been brought up in a relatively dysfunctional family, my first instinct was to forgive his comments, as it’s all about projection on this person’s part.

In our family, I was often (overly?) sensitive. Fate had paired me off with a mother who had quite a thick hide. Small things upset me, and big things were crushing  for my very soul. One instance was the near-death of a beloved brother when I was five. I tried to conceal my “weakness”. I took on the guilt for some things that were not my fault: even this brother’s accident. It meant that I grew up carrying heavy emotional baggage on my shoulders.

Later on, after much work on my part, I was able to heal from my troubles. I even got rid of the “Black Dog” of depression, so that I could bring up my two children in a healthy environment. One of my main aims in writing is to destigmatise mental illness.

Sometimes I feel like The Idiot  in the masterpiece by Dostoyevsky, because I find it hard to give up on those who are suffering. The protagonist, Prince Myshkin, puts up with a lot, and comes across as being stupid; but he is the incarnation of compassion within the structure of the novel. The title is meant to be ironic.

When I was in fourth class at primary school, my teacher, a returned war serviceman, used to write this short poem on the blackboard. It was for cursive writing practice. I was never good at handwriting, but I loved poetry. The sentiments expressed in this poem made a great impression on me at the time.

Life is mostly froth and bubble,
Two things stand like stone.
Kindness in another’s trouble,

Courage in your own.
Adam Lindsay Gordon

This sentiment stood by me when I was being bullied at school around this time; when I felt terribly alone with no one to stand up for me. Many sensitive children go through this at some stage in their school days, I am sure.

How do you protect yourself from trolls and others who may wish to do you harm or to hurt you?

One thing I love about blogging is the friendships I make online, and the fact that I don’t need to be a neat writer!

2 thoughts on “Getting Feedback on Your Writing

  1. Yes negative feedback can be highly destructive to all writers, not only the ‘sensitive’ ones. The worst feeling is being misunderstood, and judged on criteria that simply don’t apply to one’s genre. I employed a structural editor who showed in her first few comments that she simply didn’t ‘get it’. Wasting no time on self-pity, I immediately found an editor who was empathetic, intelligent, and gave constructive criticism. Worth persisting, but only with the right editor.

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  2. Yes, great advice from someone who knows, Dina! With a little time and hindsight, I’m now able to get on with making the positive changes to the text that were suggested, without over-reacting and changing the whole story too much. I wish I had some of your chutzpa. Sensitivity is a must for the creative writing process, but editing and getting published often require almost opposite skills.

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