So you just finished a draft of your book or script and need feedback. You give it to some trusted friends, or a consultant, and get back a slew of notes.
You thought it was pretty good, but oh Lord, there are NOTES.
Lots of them.
And not just the kind that point out typos.
So much feedback is coming at you– about your characters, theme, structure, scenes, dialogue– that it can feel like an onslaught. When I used to get feedback, my first instinct was to cry. My second instinct was to crawl into my bed and take a very long nap. My third instinct was to abandon the project.
But what I mostly did was run around like a chicken trying to do all the notes, without thinking, in a blind flurry. I often wasted hours fixing things, refining them, and then deciding they weren’t broken in the first place.
I basically lost my mind.
Then I devised a simple process for evaluating and implementing revision feedback. Here it is…
After getting a bunch of notes, take a couple of days off. Let the notes settle, and give your brain a rest. Cry a little. A nice bottle of wine helps…
Go through the notes and write down the ones that were consistent. If more than one person mentioned the same problem, pay attention. There’s an issue.
Write down the notes that resonate with you immediately and that you know will make your story better. For now, these are the notes you will tackle.
Brainstorm about how to implement these notes and solve the problems you know are there. If someone said they didn’t understand a character’s motivation, what was your intention for this character? How can you reveal this motivation more clearly through action in the story? If someone said they didn’t understand your theme, what IS your theme? Do you know? If your structure’s off, why? How can you create new scenes and delete the extraneous ones to solve these issues? Again, figure out a way to attack these problems through action in your plot.
Make a new outline that shows any structural/scene/character changes you are making. Lay in all the new character set ups and pay offs. Can you track the theme through action? Does your main character’s arc make more sense? How can you fix the structure flaws through new scenes and deletions? Make note of dialogue or action trims.
Analyze the new outline. Does it address all the problems that you wrote on your list? Does it “read” well?
Start rewriting from the new outline. Make the notes your OWN in the rewrite. You’ve identified the problems. Now solve them in your way. If someone gave you a good idea and it feels true to your story and style, use it. If the feedback solution doesn’t work for you, find another way to address the problem.
One caveat. Sometimes it’s not the note that you get, but the thing UNDERNEATH the note you need to listen to. For example, did your feedback person say that a certain scene didn’t work or didn’t move the story forward and you should throw it out? Take a look at that scene. Why did you put it in? What was your intention? Is there a way to make this scene move the story forward and fulfill your original intention? If the answer is no, is there a way to take the thing that’s important and move it to another scene that DOES move the story forward?
Take Action! When you get feedback, be open. Identify which notes feel right for your project. Listen for the note underneath the note. Make a new outline that spells out, through action, the changes. Revise the outline. Start rewriting. Repeat until your pages shine.
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