When Feedback Collides

PitchSlam is fast approaching, and one of the things that sets this contest apart is that writers can submit their pitch and first page for feedback before final entries are chosen. Feedback is priceless, and the more the better, but at the end of the day, remember to do what feels right for your manuscript.

Does that mean you should pick what you want to do or what you agree with any ignore everything else? Of course not. That’s a no win-scenario for you, your MS, and the people who took their time to give you advice. But weigh the feedback, consider it, and look for common themes. When I was querying, I received a revise and resubmit request from one agent with a lot of really helpful feedback. It was great to finally see what issues were keeping agents from getting past the beginning. I dove in excitedly and started to revise.

Three days later when I was only a few chapters in, I got a rejection from another agent with completely opposite feedback. Literally.

Agent 1: There aren’t enough scenes. There are two many parts where the story is retold instead of letting it unfold.

Agent 2: There are too many unnecessary scenes.

She must be querying

Both extremely good, well-respected agents. Both agents I’d have killed to work with at the time. Completely opposite feedback on the same story.

I’m not kidding, and I’m not exaggerating. I copy and pasted the above comments from two emails I still have. So, what to do? First, I threw my hands up in the air and banged my head against the desk. For about 10 minutes. Then I emailed my CPs. I paused the revisions I was doing. Then I stared at the window for two days.

And finally, it hit me: They were both right.

What? you say, How is that possible?

I submitted to Agent 2 first. After I did, I entered a couple of contests. Based on feedback I got from those slush readers, I wound up combining two scenes in my first chapter. When I started the R&R, after moving things around, I deleted another scene. I was wondering whether to kill a third when Agent 2’s email arrived (and yes, I deleted that scene, too). But there were other scenes that really needed to be expanded. I found those, I described them in more detail, and the entire MS improved as a result.

Now, sometimes, conflicting feedback is just a matter of taste. When all the feedback you’re getting is subjective (and really think about it – don’t just dismiss comments out of hand), that usually means that you’re on the right track. It’s just a matter of getting your MS out in front of the right people. Not every reader can love every manuscript.

So keep going. Write what you love, and keep searching until you find someone else who loves it, too. You can do it.

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