Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Thick Skin. Or getting feedback without wanting to give up.

If you write you know you have to develop a thick skin.  (and if you don't know that yet, well, if you're a writer, you will).

What does that mean?  To me, it means being open to feedback.  Being willing to consider that someone has a valid opinion about my words, my story, my direction.  It doesn't always mean I have to agree.  But it does mean I have to consider.

Some opinions are weighted more heavily.  There are crit partners, beta readers, family members, and of course industry professionals.  To get feedback from an industry professional is considered something of a coup--even if it ultimately ends as a rejection.  Because honestly, who has time to write a full page of feedback to someone to whom you're not going to offer representation?

My YA novel has been in full agent query mode since the end of June.  I've had a number of partial and full requests.  Getting requests from queries tells me that my story is relevant and interesting--or at least the premise is.  For the first time, I received a FULL page letter citing what worked and what didn't work in my full manuscript--and why the agent wasn't able to offer representation.

Here's where the thick skin becomes helpful.  It was a rejection letter explaining what didn't work about my novel.  I could scream and rant and get really sad about it.  BUT, it was a FULL page.  And it also included some compliments about my writing, my protagonist, and my concept.  I know for a fact that this agent has neither time nor energy to waste--so I'm thoroughly grateful that I was given such a gift.  I've got a lot to consider--to rewrite or revise.  Or to wait and see what the other agents holding fulls and partials have to say.

This agent also complimented my writing to boot.  OMG!  I must be getting close.

On a related note, I'm also working on some work-for-hire projects for an educational publisher.  The set I'm working on is incredibly challenging, but interesting and gratifying.  Without a thick skin I could start to feel over my head as I enter a new round of revisions.  But my editors are generous with their time, and acknowledge the difficulty of the projects.  I'm forging ahead with confidence and determination!  I am so proud to be getting to my final round of edits--and I can't wait to see the completed books.

Sometimes you have to remind yourself to have a thick skin.  You might have to talk to a crit partner.

Or write a blog post.  ;)

But remember it's the writing, not the person, being critiqued.  Agents and editors want you to produce your best work possible.  You want to produce the best work possible.  There's a process to getting there.  And the ability to consider feedback without feeling like quitting is priceless.

What does having a thick skin mean to you?


Tina Laurel Lee said...

Great perspective, Kris. So awesome that that agent took the time and now you are taking the time to learn from it. You must be getting close!

Kristine Asselin said...

Thanks Tina! I hope so...

Ansha Kotyk said...

I just wanted to let you know how awesome you are Kris. :)

Talli Roland said...

That's a great outlook to have. I try to look at feedback as an opportunity to make my project better.

Unknown said...

Kris--this is so true. And while I wish I would just grow thick skin overnight, I'm sure it takes practice and this kind of great outlook. Go you, for handling this awesome opportunity for growth and feedback so well!!

Kristine Asselin said...

Heather--mine ebbs and flows. But mostly I'm a positive person--and I acknowledge that its through the help and advice of others that I've gotten this far. And I'm truly thankful for that!

Laura Pauling said...

How did these posts sneak by? Thick skin to me is everything you mentioned. And I think getting a crit that shreds your writing but has truth behind helps to grow thick skin. Even if I don't agree that crits should ever be filled with so much negative that it outweighs the positive.