What to Do About Negative Feedback in a Manuscript Critique 

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A manuscript critique is a great way for authors to receive professional feedback on the book they’re writing before they send it to an editor or a publisher. It’s essentially an assessment of your story that looks at big-picture elements such as characters, plot, and theme and evaluates how the book fits into its genre. 

With a manuscript critique, you will receive a multi-page editorial letter detailing the strengths and weaknesses of your draft and possible ways to improve it. It’s up to you to implement the suggestions, but a critique can provide invaluable insight and shed light on issues you might never have noticed on your own.

While a manuscript critique can be quite useful, some authors skip it because they’re afraid of receiving negative feedback. Indeed, when you’ve poured your heart and soul into your book, the idea of a critic ripping it apart can be paralyzing. Nevertheless, a manuscript critique may be just what you need to make your book all it can be. 

If fear of negative comments has been stopping you from getting your manuscript critiqued, allow us to put your mind at ease. In this post, we break down what receiving negative feedback means for you as an author and how it can actually help you write that amazing book you’ve been envisioning. If you decide you’d like feedback from a professional, have us critique your manuscript

A manuscript critique will have negative feedback


The first thing to know about a manuscript critique is that you will get some negative feedback. It’s inevitable—no manuscript is perfect. Even the manuscript of your favorite book from your favorite author wasn’t perfect. 

The good thing is that if you know it’s coming, you can prepare for it so you aren’t deflated when you read it. You can rest easy knowing that even the most successful and experienced authors have issues with their first drafts, and their editors point them out. Anticipate negative feedback and remember that it’s just part of the full assessment of any manuscript.

It may help to stop framing it as “negative feedback” and start thinking of it as “constructive criticism.” Your editor isn’t here to shatter your dreams—they’re here to give you professional advice on how to improve your work. You want this “negative feedback” because it gives you a chance to make your draft even better—if all you’re prepared to hear is positive feedback, your manuscript critique will be nothing but an expensive ego boost.

A manuscript critique will have positive feedback


It’s not all criticism: Your editor will also point out what works well in your story. While a manuscript critique will list many things to revise—that’s the entire point of the critique, after all—there will be positives as well. The editor is not pinpointing issues for the sport of it. They are simply asking, “Is this working?” “Is this character working?” “Is this structure working?” “Is this theme working?” 

If an element isn’t working, the editor will bring it to your attention and suggest ways to improve it. However, if something is working, they will let you know that, too! It’s also important that you’re aware of the strengths of your story—this helps you hone your writing skills and pen even better manuscripts. 

A good manuscript critique will include both positive and negative feedback. Besides, editors understand that receiving a deluge of critical comments (however constructive they may be) can demotivate any author, and some genuine praise is a good way to soften the blow.

What to do with manuscript feedback


If you’re prepared for both positive and negative feedback, you’ll be better equipped to act on it. Still, no matter how much you prepare yourself, it can be tough when you finally face the criticism. Here are three things to keep in mind so you can gracefully navigate your manuscript critique.

  1. Detach yourself from your manuscript

We know this is hard, but try to read the evaluation as objectively as possible. It’s not your baby—it’s a book. It’s a good but imperfect book written by a good but imperfect author. Approach the critique with that mindset. If you feel you’re getting upset as you read, it’s okay to take a break. 

Do your best to understand the points the editor is trying to make, and if you don’t understand something, ask for clarification, if possible. Once you read through the entire editorial letter, wait a few days or weeks before you act on the advice since this will give your hurt feelings time to heal and the feedback time to sink in. You may find that the advice you reflexively rejected at first starts to make more and more sense.

  1. You can disagree but don’t argue

You should attempt to understand the editor’s comments. That said, you still may disagree with some of what they say. Writing is ultimately subjective, and no matter how experienced they are, it’s not possible for the editor to know your exact intentions with any given element of your book. Don’t get into a debate with them, though—there’s no point wasting both your time and theirs with arguments. Simply take the suggestions or leave them.

What you do with the editor’s feedback is entirely up to you—you don’t have to implement any of their suggestions if you don’t want to. However, you hired them for a reason, so consider their advice carefully, even if your knee-jerk reaction is to reject it. You may dislike the solution they propose, but that doesn’t change the fact that they’ve identified a problem, and you should contemplate other ways to address it.

  1. You will need to revise a lot

Revisions suggested in a manuscript critique aren’t likely to entail minor changes, so keep in mind that there may be a lot of rewriting coming your way. You may need to restructure the story and add or remove scenes and characters. It may also be necessary to change the point of view or tweak key plot points. 

Think of this as “major revision time,” not “final-stage tweaking time.” We get it—it’s way less exciting to rewrite your manuscript than it was to write it. However, this is a necessary step in the journey to crafting a great book. If you were able to produce an entire manuscript, you can definitely revise one.

Don’t let revisions discourage you

Writing is a long process, as you’re well aware. Though it will take time to implement all the revisions, your editor’s intention is to help you craft a better book. What’s more, a manuscript critique can save you time in the long run—the issues it unearths would likely have been discovered further down the road, when they’re much harder to address, so tackling them early is the best way to write a great book.

Ready to have your draft critiqued? Get one of our editors to evaluate your manuscript and help you take your book to the next level.

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