Vlog: How to Handle Tough CP Feedback

So you've traded with critique partners and now you have their feedback...and you have a lot of work to do. Today I'm talking about the very real reality of how to handle tough CP feedback.



What tips do you have for handling tough CP/beta feedback? 

Twitter-sized bites: 
Not sure how to process tough CP feedback? Writer @Ava_Jae vlogs about her process. (Click to tweet)  
What do you do when your CP feedback requires a lot of work? Writer @Ava_Jae vlogs some tips. (Click to tweet)


Alyssa said...

Really awesome vlog, Ava! It *is* really difficult to click "send" to anyone. I also read the critique quickly and then take a break, but that normally just means an hour or two after I've finished thinking "What? NO!" and "Oh damn they're right." Once I get over it, I spend a longer time rereading their notes and consolidating it into an action plan. At that point I like to take a day or two off -- mostly asking and answering follow-up CP questions -- before diving back into revisions.

But you're definitely right that it's difficult to process tough feedback, even though it's ultimately to strengthen the ms.

Sam Taylor said...

I love this one! Especially since this is a topic I've been thinking about a lot lately, because I've been on both sides of this difficult situation within the past several months. Getting tough feedback was NOT fun. Having to give the tough feedback ... was also not fun. Whenever I get feedback that I don't agree with or don't understand, I spend a lot of time trying to dig to the heart of WHY that person responded as he/she did. Oftentimes, I come up with fixes neither of us would have thought of on our own.

Ava Jae said...

Thanks, Alyssa! Yes, my break times can vary from an hour or so to a day depending on the critique/amount of work suggested/my mood lol. But you're very right—I often find that after some thought I usually end up either agreeing or at least understanding where they're coming from. And follow-up questions can also be really helpful, especially with bigger issues.

Ava Jae said...

Thanks, Sam! That's actually a really great point—giving tough CP feedback is no more fun than receiving it is (probably because we know how not fun it is to be on the receiving end).

Also, I think it's great that you dig into the heart of the matter—I think that's definitely important, even if you don't agree with the suggestion (and as you said, can lead to solutions you wouldn't have thought of on your own)!

SJ Mitchell said...

"Quit writing now before you commit career suicide."

This was said to me when I shared my first 3 chapters to a friend (who is self-published) of my brother who offered to critique my work. It crushed my spirits.

The quote is handwritten and taped to my monitor as motivation to get my novel sold. I don't need everyone to love my work...I just need SOMEONE to love it.

Ava Jae said...

Um, wow. If you don't mind me saying, your friend is a jerk.

Keep writing. Keep reading. Keep getting critiqued (from other writers who can give you constructive feedback). Keep doing everything you can to improve and make your novel as good as it can be.

Then start over. Write another book. Revise it to the best of your ability, then send it to critique partners and revise all over again. Rinse and repeat.

It may take you a while—everyone's journey is different (and if it's any consolation, it took me much longer than many). But in the end, if you keep improving and writing and editing and reading, I truly believe you'll reach your goal.

Don't let the haters get you down. :)

SJ Mitchell said...

I'll never give up. When I was in high school my father asked what I planned on going to college for. I told him I wasn't sure but I KNEW that I wanted to write a novel someday. He told me not to waste my time dreaming and to think about doing a 'real' job.

So I stopped writing. I let him convince me I was wasting my time and I ended up wasting a lot of time because of it.

I'll never let anyone do that again, no matter how harsh their words or criticism. I have a story to tell...and I have the resolve to make sure it gets told.

Darth Lolita said...

Hah, I totally needed this! In a few weeks, my short story is going up for group critique in my workshop class. It's really nerve racking--the exact same terror I feel when getting feedback for novels, except a bit more difficult because I already know my classmates and it ends up making it difficult to be thickskinned and subjective.

I don't know how harsh the feedback will be, but we've been pretty ruthless in previous workshops. I gotta be prepared.

I agree that making changes is always quite scary, but reminding myself that it's always for the best of the story can help a ton in accepting those changes.

Ava Jae said...

Hi Tonja!

These are really interesting! I think your story sounds super fun, although I'm wondering...is this a Mystery or a Thriller? It definitely sounds more like a Thriller to me.

Like Amelinda, with your first pitch, I don't see what the problem is—why WOULDN'T Deanna help the police? Nothing is stopping her from helping the police, especially given her other choice is dying. (Seems like no contest to me.)

I really like the countdown effect of your second pitch. I have no critique.

Your third one also works well. As a super nit-picky point, is there a way you could be more specific? A lot of Thrillers are about teens being murdered. What makes yours stand apart? Maybe you could give an example of how one of the murders happened?

Finally, does this take place outside of the US? If so, that's fine, but I'm just wondering because in the US 16-year-olds don't go to college unless they skipped a ton of grades and are basically geniuses (because "college" and "university" is used somewhat interchangeably here to mean higher education).

Good luck!

Genevieve Angelique said...

SJ, if you haven't yet read THE ARTIST'S WAY by Julia Cameron, do so. The part about your father reminded me about a section Cameron touches upon in her book. I think you might find a lot of healing from considering what she has to say, if you haven't yet read it. Good luck to you.

Tonja Tomblin said...

What separates a mystery and thriller?
I'm going to try and work on pitch 1 because I want to have 3 different ones to use during the day.
As far as pitch 3, and the MS as a whole, my setting is the US. My MC is super-smart (and so is her twin brother who attends MIT) and skipped 2 grades to start college early. That's why including her age is important to include. I'll need to figure out how to make that clear in my pitches.
Thanks for doing this for everyone!

Brenda Fine said...

Thank you very much - that was definitely helpful.

Here's my best stab at answering all four questions in less than 140 characters (minus hashtags, yikes):

A family disappears after a car accident with Kathleen. And if she doesn't find them, she could take the fall for their murder. #PitMad #A

Thanks again!

Tonja Tomblin said...

I like the third the best. I suggest dropping "that's". I think it makes the sentence stronger and gives you an extra few characters.

Karen Engelsen said...

Wondering about squashing punctuation to make it fit. First try gets me this:

MISTS of AVALON meets VIKINGS when a landwight must protect his village from conversion or death @the point of Charlemagnes sword #PitMad #F

Brenda Fine said...

One question that I'm not sure you can address in 140: what makes Deanna think she is going to be the next victim?

E.G. Moore said...

Thanks all for your comments. Man, so much to put into just 140 characters. I'll work on it.

Brenda Fine said...

Little thing: the first commas in the first and third pitches don't belong.

Also - I don't think you need both "over-worked" *and* "stressed-out" in the third pitch; by getting rid of one you may be able to squeeze something else in (maybe Mykia's job - or some reference to her perfect life from #2?).

ellenmulholland said...

Ava, this post is so helpful! Thank you. I am an obsessive, so I clicked every link and studied it all! Haha. Let's see if it helps.

What do you think of these? All for same manuscript.

Pitch1: 14yo Kathryn's obsessed w/Michael J Fox & his film Back to the Future. She believes the actor can fix her past. And her future. #PitMad #YA

Pitch2: Can you change your past b4 the future catches up? 14yo Kathryn believes anything's possible. The voices in her head tell her so #pitmad #ya

Pitch3: 14yo Kathryn follows the voices in her head trying to find her absent father. Can she hear the real voices right in front of her? #PitMad #YA

ellenmulholland said...

I would squish MISTSofAVALON and add the apostrophe in Charlemagne's. All is works :)

Tonja Tomblin said...

Deanna is the last person to see each victim alive. At the end, she does get kidnapped by the killers and barely escapes.

John Berkowitz said...

Thank you all for the terrific advice. Based on your feedback here are 4 fresh pitches. I'm a low priority since I've already gotten feedback, so feel free to pass these over in favor of new customers.

When 12yo Cat learns she's troll-born her dreams of being princess are shattered. But she must be the troll to rescue her friend #PitMad #MG

Admitting she's troll-born shatters Cat's dream of being princess, but she must be the troll to rescue her friend from a goblin. #PitMad #MG

12yo Cat's dream of being princess ends when she learns she's a troll, but she must be the troll to stop a power-hungry goblin. #PitMad #MG

12yo Cat's rival for the faerie crown is a ruthless goblin but to defeat him she must reveal she's a toll and abandon her dreams #PitMad #MG

Alyssa said...

Okay, so this is an interesting time-travel premise. But I think we need to talk more about the absent father, because that's the most specific detail for the possible stakes. What "the future catches up" means is pretty vague. Maybe something like, 14yo Kathryn must follow the voices in her head and traverse time or [something bad will happen to her father]?

ellenmulholland said...

Thanks for your inquiry, Alyssa. Actually, the search for her dad is the vehicle that takes her from inside her head to the world alive that surrounds her. No time travel. No paranormal. She's a little OCD. How can I convey this???

Alyssa said...

Oooh, this is much better. One minor thing I'm confused about is whether she's revealed she's a troll yet, but I think all the essential elements are down here, but try streamlining the more and make the conflict and stakes more explicit.

Maybe combine two and four into something like: To save her friend from the goblin, Cat must reveal she's troll-born and abandon her dreams of winning the faerie crown. (There are still several characters left, I believe, so play with those to work in more specifics!)

Julie said...

Delicious gelato and a sexy Italian man. Francesca got more
than she bargained for when she moved to Rome. #Pitmad A-CR

Dakota Shain Byrd said...

Hey Ava! Thanks SOOOO much for doing this. You're always amazing and this is no exception. I'll let you (and everybody else) choose which to critique. I've got five potential pitches because my novel has 4 POV's but focuses on the first mentioned character, the mage. The pitches arranged in the order in which the charas appear in the first pitch and in the book as well. It sounds confusing but makes sense when you read. And yes, they're all Twitter length. I triple checked. Lol!

A mage, freak experiment, hacker, and crazy actress go to a magic rave and discover a Chosen Ones destiny they rebel against. #YA #UF #pitmad

His best friend is missing. He's the cause. Now he must prove she's alive or lose his magic, mind, and the love of his life. #YA #UF #pitmad

What do you do when you've escaped from a top secret genetics lab and are being hunted down? Go to a magic rave. #YA #UF #pitmad

Hacking is easy. It's not breaking hearts that's hard. Where is the line betwixt love and friendship when magic secrets are involved? #YA #UF #pitmad

Magic=crazy. So when a teen actress's premonitions only show magic events, she has to question if she's sane or losing it. #YA #UF #pitmad

Dakota Shain Byrd said...

Hi Jenny!

So, I think all of these have a great voice, but choice C just does it for me.

It gives a great set up too, which is awesome! I don't know what the stakes are though. I'd need that to be clear. Otherwise I think you could use them all! :-)

I would change the first a bit though, so you can have the stakes. Use coding instead of programming, delete "and fortune" and "but." That might save you enough characters to add in the stakes. :-D

Dakota Shain Byrd said...

I like the first one best, but would suggest cutting out the 12yo and change the troll to a troll and add in "from a goblin" if you have the characters after those changes.

Otherwise, it works really well, in my opinion. That said, the last one works really well too! The two middle ones read almost the same, to be honest.

Karen Engelsen said...

Wight is a Norse loan-word meaning being. 'Land-wight' is English for 'Dokkalfar' or dark-elf (a loaded term with misleading expectations - historically land wights were believed to be created by a human dying into the land. NOT LoTR elves). Land spirit might be a reasonable term, but lacks Norse flavor. Does this work any better, hinting at the 'beingness' of a wight?

MISTSofAVALON meets VIKINGS: A half-human wight must save the Norse from conversion or death @ the point of Charlemagne's sword #PitMad #F

Karen Engelsen said...

While I agree that 'safety' is not a strong enough goal, I like the strength of the next line - Infected humans roam with one goal: murder.

Megan K. Jensen said...

This is my first PitMad, so I'm thrilled you are doing this! Thanks! Here are three
choices for my pitch.

When Gaby finds out the identity of the Mexican man who killed her parents, she must forgive or let hate turn her heart to stone. #pitmad YA

When orphaned 16yo Gaby goes to live with grandma in Mexico, she must forgive parents' killer, or risk ruining chances for love #pitmad YA

Gaby's parents are dead and she's stuck in Mexico. Hate will ruin her chances for love if she can't forgive the man responsible. #pitmad YA

Karen Engelsen said...

Julie, I think I'd be hooked more if I knew what Francesca's challenges or obstacles are. What was the 'more' that Francesca got?

Alyssa said...

I definitely like the second one (the one from the POV of the mage?) most, because it has clear personal stake, but the lack of characters make it difficult to relate to. Maybe you could try "[main character] must prove his missing friend is alive or lose his magic, mind, and the love of his life." That probably frees up a little space for expanding on the main character.

There are some interesting snippets in the other ones -- the genetics lab and rebelling against destiny -- but there's no clear loss of the character fails, which weakens the punch.

STW said...

Thank you for doing this!

Here's my attempt:

In this genderswapped fantasy retelling, Hamlette schemes to avenge her mother's murder but she doesn't know the ghost is a fake #YA #pitmad

STW said...

Hi Tonja,

I really like your second pitch! I think the countdown style should definitely catch an agent's eye.

STW said...

Hi Dwight,

For your first pitch, I'm kind of confused why Bixby would need to rescue the missing owner.
I think the second pitch is a little more intense, but the "& secrets" kind of takes away from the need to find Cody himself.
For the third pitch, that last "him" can be a little confusing; is it referring to Cody or Bixby?

Good luck!

STW said...

Hi Megan,

I think you've set up the character pretty nicely, but the conflict/stakes seems a little vague if it's just "forgiving". Your third pitch seems to indicate the forgiveness might be tied in with her own chance at falling in love -- I think that might be something to elaborate on.

Good luck, and I hope my comment was helpful!

Tiffany Simone said...

lol, alien, that's funny. ;-)

Alyssa said...

This is interesting, but I don't see how forgiving her parents' killer has any relation to finding love, unless you mean that her parents' killer is the one she's falling for. If that's the case, then making it more explicit would make this much stronger. And see if you can make it more obvious why she can't forgive him--it's implied here, but could be made more obvious.

Alyssa said...

Hmm, this is interesting, but I think you can cut out some of it, like "In this genderswapped fantasy" and "'s murder". That frees up some characters to explain: so what if the ghost's a fake? What happens if Hamlette doesn't avenge her mother? Try to use the "When [inciting incident], MC must [goal] or [consequence of failure]" template and rework it from there.

Aightball7 said...

Thank you! I will see if I can make things clearer and bring out more of what Jimmy wants =). Thanks for this opportunity!

Ashlyn said...

I like the second one best. I think you could replace "His" with his name to make it a bit more personal. I don't think you need the second sentence in there, since the stakes shown don't involve that.

SJ Mitchell said...

Thanks for the recommendation! I'll put it on my reading list :)

Robin Red said...

I recently got a lot of CP feedback from four people, and the reviews were all great, but I saw a pattern in two of them: my first chapter doesn't really go anyway. I realized that not only was I emotionally attached to the first chapter—it hadn't been revised like the others, only heavily edited—but I could see a dozen other possibilities for how the first chapter could go, and I found zero motivation to explore any of them. Still, I'm glad for the feedback. It's made me more prepared.

Heather said...

This is definitely pertinent to me right now. I think it's mostly just the overwhelming amount of work that gets me—I can be okay with negative feedback, or positive feedback, or whatever. It's just that getting in there takes a long time and then I have no motivation and even when I try to fix it it still doesn't feel fixed and I am whining. Apologies. *sucks it up and backs to work*

Ava Jae said...

I definitely understand that nervousness! I took a Creative Writing class last semester, and sharing with a whole class can definitely be scary. In the end, though, constructive critique is the best thing for you and your work—without it, it's very difficult to grow as a writer and see your manuscript become the best it can be.

Ava Jae said...

Common patterns in feedback are a surefire way to spot a problem. I've heard a rule that if you don't agree with one CP on a note, fine, but if two or more have the same note, there's definitely something there that needs adjusting. It's tough, but necessary!

Ava Jae said...

I find that breaking edits up into rounds can help me if I get so much feedback that I feel overwhelmed.

I actually thought I wrote a post about this, but I can't find it, so I guess I know what Monday's post will be. :)

Ava Jae said...

I'm so sorry you experienced that, but I'm glad to hear you're following your dreams now! Early discouragement can be really tough, especially if it comes from people we care about. This is definitely a difficult field, but if it's where your passion lies, then I hope you never let anyone discourage you again.

Heather said...

Thanks for digging the post out for me! I shall read and figure out what I shall do!

Ava Jae said...

Sure thing! Good luck! :)

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