Reflections on a self-edit

I’m a big fan of beta readers. I like to let people look at something I’ve written and give me notes on it, because I like to see how an audience will see the story once it’s out there. When I wrote the first 47 Echo book, I had a couple of thousand beta-readers, all reading live as I wrote each night. (I wrote the entire first draft live on Twitter over the course of a few months.)

The second 47 Echo novel has been a state secret compared to the first. To date, three people have read the draft. I got a lot more feedback from those folks, possibly because this time, they knew why they were reading it. And when the feedback came in, it was time to sit down and do the first self-edit.

I learned quite a lot about the way I write, both from this beta-read and from my wonderful editor on 47 Echo. I like to think that audience and editor feedback has made me a better writer, both technically and artistically. But it’s not the easiest thing in the world to take criticism, well-intended or not. The main trick I’ve found to dealing with it is to let go of the book before I send it out, to realize that any suggestions made are done in the spirit of trying to make the story the best it can possibly be. When viewed through that lens, criticism becomes easy to take, and actually kind of fun to look at.

What’s your strategy for dealing with edits and critique? How much do you allow it to affect the final work? Let’s converse on it in the comments — after all, I’m far more interested in you folks than I am in me.



  1. It’s tough. It’s like a parent being told their child is doing poorly in school. I’ve just gotten a wordpress for that purpose (aspiring author, not yet published) and people have been exceedingly positive so far. That’s the hardest part for me, not knowing when the POSITIVE comments are really thought out or if they come from the place of friendly oversights.

    I am often my worst critic, I think everything I write will be horrible to someone.
    But, if I truly believe in a passage or a sentence, despite all others seeing it as a black mark on an otherwise great piece, I absolutely follow my own heart.

    1. Couldn’t agree with you more. If I love a line or passage, I’ll keep it regardless of advice to the contrary. I already know what that line will be in the 47 Echo sequel — I’m just waiting for someone to hate it. 😉

      1. The way I see that little problem is: Out of all the people that will hate it moderately, there’s got to be someone, like me, who will love it more than greatly.

  2. I agree. Taking criticism is tough, but I think it is a necessary part of this industry. If we can’t learn to take criticism from people who know us and want to help, how are we going to handle a bad review? Not everyone is going to like what we write.

    I have learned so much from each and every critique I received. I admit, I was disappointed at first, but I feel it is the only way to become a better writer. As with any industry, we are always learning.

    1. I can best sum up my personal view on the purpose of critiques with a quote from Anna Quindlen… Before I use it, I have to say that I’m not one for quoting, so this is a strange act.

      The quote is this:
      “A finished person is a boring person”

      I think it illuminates the idea that we’re all constantly learning and growing in everything we do. Even the so-called geniuses of craft in every industry have new things to learn. Not even so much based on mistake, but more on discovery. A critique can encompass so much more than simple error picking, a truly marvelous critique can be one of opinion rather than fact that brings us into a completely new avenue. These types are, I’ll admit, hit and miss, but when they hit they can be incredible.

  3. My most important strategy is letting the critique sink in. Usually after much musing I can separate the good advice from the not-so-good.

  4. Obviously I surround myself with people who tell me they love whatever I write! Seriously, though, it is really hard. I spent a lot of time sending stuff out to contests, where I regularly had my heart ripped out… and therefore grew a few protective layers. But I learned a lot, and I learned to leave the critique (and editor feedback) for a few days, consider the comments objectively and whether or not addressing the comments would make a stronger story. That’s not to say the first day wouldn’t involve tears and a pint of ice cream, though 🙂

  5. I think a big part of the critique process is finding a great critique partner (or several) and that can take years! You want someone who isn’t afraid to tell you like it is but to also tell you when it works. You need both sides. But I agree with Diane whole-heartedly. You need to let those critiques sink in. You can get great feedback, bad feedback, indifferent feedback, but even if it’s GREAT feedback, it may not be right for that story.
    It’s such a balancing act.
    Either way, I can’t wait to read the next story, so hurry those beta-readers along!

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