Insecure Writer’s Support Group – Confused


I am so confused, I don’t really know my next step.  Thank you in advance for your advice. It is appreciated more then you know.

I don’t mean to sound so desperate, but just when I thought I had my insecurities in check, another annoying one pops up and takes over my brain.

I received feedback from five Beta’s on my current MS. Three of them are writers, one is a friend in my reader’s demographic and the other is someone who the person helping me publish my book sent it to.

While I know my book needs some work and isn’t close to publication, the feedback from the first four people have been constructive and positive, and they loved the story. But, the last person. Wow, well, my thick skin is being tested.

Basically she/he said it was 100 pages to long and not serious enough and basically she didn’t like it. Or maybe she did, I don’t know. I can’t tell. Her comments were completely different than the other four.  She hated things about my MC that other reader’s liked. Her impression of the book was so far on the other end of the spectrum form the other four.

Now, I know what your going to say. Why am I giving so much credence to the one? I don’t know. She had some valid point’s too, but so much of what she said was complete new to me and I am not sure how to proceed.

That’s why I am confused.  What would you do? 

Thanks to the awesome co-hosts for the January 8 posting of the IWSG Bob Milne, River Fairchild, Julie Dao, and Sarah Foster! Take some time and visit other IWSG members. In my experience, we all share some the same insecurities. You may help someone or find a way to cope yourself.

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44 thoughts on “Insecure Writer’s Support Group – Confused

  1. Take the couple things you feel are valid and discard the rest. There is always one person who won’t like what you wrote. (Actually, many, but we won’t discuss that now.) Even if that one person was your target audience, it’s still just one person’s opinion. Maybe she really wasn’t your target audience.

  2. Balance all the advice out and try to determine what makes sense and what doesn’t. Is some of the positive advice merely flattery? Is some of the negative advice plain old mean? Throw that stuff out, and look at the brass tacks – the real advice that will help you improve your work to your own satisfaction. You know the old saying, “Take it with a grain of salt.” Use the good stuff when you do and keep moving forward.

  3. You’ve received great advice (above). You can’t please everybody. When you try to, you lose your voice and your story isn’t your own. Good luck.

  4. Is there anyone else you could pass the book onto, to look over it? You can never have too many opinions. Alex is right; there’s always going to be some people who don’t like your book, but that’s because their preference is different. If you’ve looked at the comments objectively and don’t agree with them, then don’t worry too much about it. Good luck!

  5. Sydney, my friend, in situations like this I’ve learned to take the approach my sociology prof recommended when he had us hand out “search of self” surveys and write a paper on what we learned about our self image v. how others perceived us. He said that there will always be that one person who has a completely different (and often negative) point of view from everyone else. If you see value/truth in anything they say, take that part. As for the rest, filter it out. More than likely that person either has a bias or personal issue with either you or the storyline. The general consensus is usually a pretty good baseline.

    Also, as Diane pointed out above, if you try too hard to please others, you lose your voice and often, the story you set out to write. Think about some of your favorite musicians and what happened to their music as they allowed production companies/agents to have too much say in what they put out. Often they were no longer the band you originally fell in love with. Just sayin’.

    1. Thanks Kitt I appreciate your advice. I am trying to pull out the valid points and ignore the rest. I also forgot that the issues I deal with in my book can evoke some strong emotions and one thing she pointed out kind of pissed me off because her response was emotional and not actually a critique, I’m going to take that as a good sign.

  6. I think this sort of thing really shows that you won’t be able to please everyone. This one person out of four is going to be the one who reads the back of your book and puts it back on the shelf. Look at their comments and see what really speaks to you as being helpful. Ultimately, you’ll know what will work for your book when you edit it.

    (January IWSG Co-host)

  7. Finding beta readers who can both be encouraging and provide constructive comments isn’t easy. I’m not surprised you encountered this problem, but you need to keep writing and keep looking for beta readers until you find a few of them who really get you and your stories. I also think that unless 2 or more people have given you the same negative comment, it’s not worth worrying over. Don’t lose your motivation!

  8. You’ve gotten some great advice already. I agree that you should take into consideration only the suggestions/comments that you feel will improve your story. But if you disagree with a comment/suggestion, it’s ok. Totally OK. Make the changes you feel are necessary and pass it through to a different beta and see how they react. But don’t feel like you have to change everything over one beta. Hang in there! (:

    1. I guess that’s the point. I just need to be ok with the fact that not everyone will like everything. I’m getting there. I have to remember, I asked for this persons opinion, I need to deal with it better. It’s not personal. haha.

  9. Four out of five liked those things though? Unless your gut tells you otherwise, I’d pay more attention to those four. We can’t please everyone with our work. If we did, then we’d all write the same thing, right?

  10. Same thing happened to me. We can be very surprised by the feedback when it is a complete diversion or even opposite of what others have said. Instinctively we want to quickly disregard it. Instead, take some time away from it. A lot of time! Then when ready, go back to it. You might find some valid points they caught that no one else did. Granted, this person may not ‘like’ the book, it doesn’t mean that the critique is invalid. In the end, it’s your name that goes on the front, so you should be the most proud of it, no matter what other say!

  11. In diving and figure skating, they drop the highest and the lowest scores. I think that’s my advice here. Don’t ruin your day worrying about the outlier. One day last summer I got two query letter rejections. The first one said, “Love the voice, but …” The second one said, “The voice annoys me.” Go figure. I blew it off. You should too.

  12. I’ve been in this position. I felt gutted after it. So many people had read the ms before, but this individual disliked so many things about it. In the end my CP talked me off the ledge and reminded me I can’t please everyone. I did make some changes, but left the big one she wanted me to do alone. And this was the part of my ms that caused me editor to tear up when she read the book. I’m so glad I listened to my CP and didn’t touch it just because someone told me I should.

    1. Thanks Stina. I called on someone I trust and she talked me down. Thanks PK. haha. I don’t know what I would do if I didn’t have access to so many supportive people who have gone through this before and are willing to share their knowledge. It’s been an education.

  13. A similar thing happened to me last year. I had been working on a TV concept (I’m a screenwriter) which I was (and am) completely and utterly in love with. I sent it to one of my trusted feedback circle (we’ve been in workshops together for years, she’s read almost everything I’ve written), and she EVISCERATED it. Five pages of single spaced notes slating every aspect, saying she had laughed out loud at some dialogue and accused it of being, amongst other things, misogynist. Now, I’ve been a writer for a very long time, and have received the whole gamut of feedback, and this one shocked me: my tummy was literally churning as I read.

    What did I do? I took a day or two to digest, sent her an email politely thanking her for taking the time to read it… and didn’t give it another moment’s thought. Well, until this morning, obviously 😉

    It’s a skill all writers simply have to develop: accept any and all feedback, digest it, mine it for what’s useful to you (you develop a kind of sixth sense for feedback that resonates) – and discard the rest. Everything we write, everything anyone writes, is so subjective. People are going to have wild opinions on it (there are plenty of Oscar winning screenplays or best sellers I’ve thought were rubbish) and by putting anything out into the world, we invite them and have to learn to deal with them.

    As to your situation, I’d say that as the negative reaction is in the minority, it’s not worth worrying about. Read it over in a couple of days to see if there’s anything worth taking note of, then send him an email politely thanking him for taking the time to read it, and don’t give it another moment’s thought!

    1. Claire, Thanks so much for your comments. They are amazing and I feel so much better and have a better idea on how to approach these type of critiques. It’s nice to know I’m not being irrational in my response, but I think I can gather some item that will be useful in making my MS better and that’s the point, isn’t it. 🙂

  14. Sydney, my advice would be to go with the majority. Four people can’t be wrong,can they. And there will always be one (maybe more people) who don’t like our stories and don’t identify with our characters. We can’t please everyone. Listen to your gut instinct and follow it.

  15. My best advice is to consider what everyone said and how it would affect your MS and let go of the things that you know will not help you or your story. Granted, my biggest writing test has been my thesis, but I learned that sometimes people just don’t get something or don’t like it. Sometimes comments are great and help us and sometimes they can hurt us. We just have to take what we can from them and try to keep writing. Try not to stress and remember that not everyone will like what you have to say. I hope this helps! Keep Calm and Write On!

  16. I agree with much of the above advice. There will always be someone who doesn’t like our work – but when you have four people who do like your work, and who have given you good feedback, that’s something to hang onto and work with!
    Even then, the ultimate decision-maker is: you, the writer. You know what works best for your story. You know your audience. Trust your instincts and trust those who have given you good feedback.

  17. Hey,

    I haven’t scrolled up to read the other comments (I *never* do… in case it influences me) but I would remind you of the old saying about you can’t please all the people all the time.

    So, if you feel the Fifth Reader (and there’s a title for a book 🙂 has some valid “claims” fine, and if your gut is saying she’s wrong on other comments, that’s fine, too.

    In any event, I wish you well and much success once the book is published 🙂

  18. I’ve just been reading Stephen King’s ‘On Writing’ and one of the things he said was that when he sends his manuscripts to beta-readers, he makes sure to get a range of views from people that he respects, but there’s always a few he respectfully disagrees with. There’ll always be someone who doesn’t like the genre or tone you’ve chosen to write in or with, so you’ll be fighting uphill trying to win them over anyway.

    Maybe discuss the criticisms that were ‘completely new’ to you with the other four, see if she had a point?

    Even the most talented writers in the world can’t please everyone – so think of this as
    preparation for when the book is published!

  19. So many great words of advice here Sydney! In the end it’s totally your book to write as you see fit. Learning to separate our emotions from our work is one of the toughest things we have to deal with. And now that my book is out in the world, I”m learning to do that even more. I think you’re right in the idea of taking some time away from it. That always helps me too.

  20. Hi, Sydney! Betaing is still fairly new to me, too, and I totally feel where you’re coming from. That said, I am no expert on the matter, but here are some of my thoughts:

    1) Don’t panic! You’re serious about making your MS better, and you will. That’s what’s important.
    2) I recently read somewhere that it is human nature to give way more (like, absurdly, disproportionately more) weight to negative feedback than positive feedback. We fixate. We brood. Personally, I like to do something physically active (get outside, workout, dance, etc.) to work through any panic.
    3) (After the panic stage, ha) I think it’s important to step back from the feedback for a while: Let it sit. Weigh the suggestions. Compare the compliments and ideas for improvement. Separate what helps your vision of the story from what is another’s vision being imposed on you. Ask yourself which suggestions will objectively improve the work.

    When you’ve done all that, you’ll be set to make your MS better. I once found this quote, and I love it. It has made having a good mindset for critique and revision so much easier: “The only feedback that doesn’t help me is dishonest feedback.”

    Great post. All the best in your revisions!

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