A few friends and I are in the middle of revisions (who isn't!), but in discussing our revision strategy, I've realized how much our views on rejection feedback has changed. We've gotten feedback in agent and editor rejections, but we are not jumping to implement it. This is quite a change from my previous views. My reaction to rejection feedback has actually gone through five different stages.
Stage One - Agonizing over rejection feedback without realizing it's a form
When I got my first few rejections, I parsed every word and I thought they revealed the truth about my manuscript. I tore my hair out because Agent A was intrigued by my premise, but not drawn into the opening chapters as much a she hoped. Agent B thought I had much to be proud of, but couldn't connect with the main narrative.
Argh!. I could make it to the next step if only I revise my opening chapters somehow, or make my main character more relatable.
Then I learned those were forms. The "feedback," positive and negative, meant nothing but no.
Stage Two - Wishing for feedback with rejection
Once I realized that general comments were forms, and I agonized because I WANTED feedback. If only the agents would tell me what was wrong, I could fix it. Why won't they tell me what is wrong? Don't I even deserve a REASON?
Stage Three - Revising to every comment
Finally! My rejections came with feedback. After every rejection, I would revise. But then the next revision had DIFFERENT feedback. How could I know what to do if everyone told me something different?
Stage Four - Wishing I didn't get feedback with rejection
And then I'd get a particularly stinging comment. Maybe it hit on a nagging problem I always suspected but didn't want to face, or is was way too blunt about something I never considered. Feedback like that got me thinking the opposite of Stage Two. Must rejections include feedback? Why isn't a simple no enough without sticking the knife in too?
Stage Five - Just another opinion, and I appreciate all opinions.
This is where I am now. When I get feedback on a rejection, I'm grateful. I appreciate the thought and time that went into reading and commenting, and I consider the comments carefully.
That doesn't mean I revise based on them. The agent or editor did not want my work. The comment is not the real reason why -- they just didn't love it, or just didn't think they could sell it. Feedback is just extra, a little parting gift in an attempt to be helpful. Unless they say they'd like to see the manuscript again if I revise according to the comment, it's useless revising to please them. The horse has already left the barn. I won't get another chance with that editor for this book.
So when I consider the comments carefully, I find that sometimes the reasons given by several editors contradict each other Sometimes it's clear that the book is not for them and no amount of revision is going to change that. I file those comments away.
But sometimes they are right. Some problems are fixable. But the final decision to revise or not comes from my own judgment. I'm looking for an editor who loves my work, and whatever makes that more likely is a good thing. I can't always see my own work clearly so I appreciate wise guidance wherever I get it, even if it has a big old NO attached in capital letters.
How do you use rejection feedback? Have your views on rejections changed and how?
And be sure to come back tomorrow for some big news and a contest from Operation Awesome!