32 thoughts on “Growing a thick skin

  1. Wow. I’m seething over here, on my side of the pond. I’m sorry, but this editor is full of crap. She was paid to assess and provide feedback on your writing, not compare your work to another writer’s in a disparaging way nor to make the determination whether or not you should seek publication. Publishers, and readers, are looking for great stories, full stop. And kids of any era will ALWAYS be looking for magical escape. Codswallop. Oh. I could just slap this woman silly. Take the good work she did, make the changes you feel good and right about making, and send this work into the world. You believe in your story. Fie on the old goat who chose not to believe. Keep writing.

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    • Thanks for your support Julie! You’re doing a great job of restoring my hope and crushed ego!! I think I now need to put some time between now and my next round of corrections and then regroup! I’m grateful for honest feedback for obvious reasons but many aspects felt unhelpful. So glad to have such a supportive blogging network around me xx

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  2. That doesn’t sound like very constructive feedback. Sure, elements of Blyton’s writing need to be resigned to history but there can be no denying that her books had many strengths not least of which was the appeal of an intriguing adventure. To be so dismissive just because of the unpleasant bits of Blyton’s writing is throwing the baby out with the bath water.

    Will you try another critique but this time without the merest suggestion of Blyton and see how that goes? I hope you keep your project moving forward.

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    • Absolutely agree re elements of Blyton’s work and it was never my intent to reinvent the wheel so to speak. Just kicking myself that what was meant to be a quote of personal childhood literary memory stunted the overall mood of the feedback. £281 for the pleasure. That said, there were some useful proofy & minor conflict points that make for easy and obvious correction before I get to the more meaty crux of whether the plot has mileage. Thanks for your kind words of support xx

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  3. Editors are hit and miss so don’t be too down. There’s some horror stories about “professionals”. Just think of it as a bad date. I’m no expert but it seems to me that if your coherence was good then I wouldn’t worry about what someone thought of about the plot. Self publishing might be a good way to begin anyway. I believe most authors are going the indie route these days. You can put me down for a copy. *Hugs*

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    • Thanks for your words of wisdom Maverick. Agree that it’s just one opinion but it still irks, although the mood is lightening with everyone’s encouragement. There were lots of useful points too to be fair but like any “job appraisal,” even with 98% brilliant feedback, it’s the 2% that defines it in the flashbacks. Shall try to keep calm and carry on 😉

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  4. Your title is spot-on – a thick skin’s exactly what you need, but it’s so hard. I’m still working on mine too. Take the useful bits from your crit, and adapt or reject the negative parts so that your book gets maximum benefit. A different editor could love it. And remind me to tell you about my first crit sometime… That book’s published now. Chin up and don’t you dare throw in the towel! 🙂

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    • Thanks Linda! I’m sorry to hear that you too suffer from sensitive skin but it’s also rather comforting (sorry! Hehe) would love to hear that story one day. Finding it really helpful to reach out into the blogging community, esp those who have been on this path before xx

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  5. No no, don’t throw in the towel. I’m sure there’s more, better and encouraging feedbacks out there, and you’ll get it pblished, I’m sure. Hang in there. I wish you all the best! 🙂

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  6. Some editors know how to edit to make a piece grammar and spelling mistake free. Some know how to tighten things up so they flow better and some have a real idea about what works in the market place.

    Not every editor can do all three.

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  7. My (4) kids all read Blyton in the eighties too. When we were moving and I was attempting to downsize the obscenely huge number of books in the house (we donated 1200+ to the local library. It wasn’t even 1/4 of them), the kids insisted that I keep those books for their children to read. I did. And I’ll happily add to that when your book is published.

    Feedback is important. But, as Chuck Wendig says, you should only pay attention when everybody starts to tell you the same thing. Until then, you are the world’s leading expert on your book.

    I hope you don’t give up on it though. I just found out that I’m about to be a grandmother. Obviously, I’ll be needing your book…

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    • Oh congrats Barb, that’s lovely!! Some great advices tom you here, thank you. I have just re-read the crit after about 3 weeks and doing-so with a bit of dust on it seems to make it feel more positive than first feared (albeit, I still feel that fiction for children doesn’t need to be as grounded in adult reality as my editor has suggested). Back to the drawing board tomorrow…. X

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  8. I grew up reading Enid Blyton books and I’m not ashamed of it. Even though I wasn’t encouraged to read her stories but they were what kept me reading and wanting to read. From her stories of pixies in the woods, to the adventure series, the Five Find-Outers and the Famous Five series to the school stories of Mallory Towers and St Clares, Enid Blyton accompanied me on my young reading journey. Don’t throw in the towel. Make the minor tweaks that you think will benefit your story and then try selling it again to someone else. Most important is the power of your story-telling and your belief in your story.

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    • Thanks Alison, I too thrived on the vivid imagination that Enid, Dahl et al provided me with as a child and believe that this was instrumental in kick-starting my lifelong love of both writing and reading. Yes, Enid has her critics, but surely what matters most is how much her target audience loved and still loves her? It’s funny how my comments in this post have turned into me defending the mighty lady herself. In actual fact, I didn’t set out to try and re-invent the un-re-inventible. I’m kicking myself for associating myself to her in the first place in my trying to invoke the spirit of adventure by quoting her ahead of the opening chapter (cf doffing my cap)! Thanks for your comment & advice Alison, much appreciated.

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  9. I loved disappearing into Enid Blyton as a kid. And I have saved them for my kids too. It seems to have been a red flag to a bull here. I think it’s a huge responsibility of editors to be honest in their feedback but to make sure that feedback is delivered respectfully, and I’m pretty sure the tone here was off!

    Try put some distance between you and the crit for a few weeks. You can then come back to edit the things you agree with. I agree with Barb above. More opinions are important. Find a critique group you trust, tweak the story, don’t let one tough encounter put you off, and hang on to the fact that even grumpy editor told you you can write 🙂

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    • Thanks Nillu, great advice. In fact, I have just re-read the critique today after nearly a month off and actually, the vast majority of comments are easy fixes, albeit she believes being too “Enidy” is a fundamental elephant trap not easy to try and get out of. I loved your post the other day, as commented on, and am going to look into all the tools and resources you suggest. It’s time to pick myself up and get my head down again. What a learning curve!! X

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  10. Totally off topic here, but I was thinking of you when I came up to Glasgow for the Karen Buckley vigil in George Square 1 Friday evening. My thoughts were for all of Glasgow that evening. A poignant time. Take care of yourself, and I love Enid Blyton ❤

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  11. It’s so horrible, isn’t it, but every writer’s been there (or else will be, sooner or later). A lot of this feedback sounds quite subjective to me. That’s not in itself a bad thing, and doesn’t even mean this editor has done a bad job, but needs to be taken into consideration as you work through the notes. Any editor will have his or her particular taste in children’s fiction, which may not map to yours (and certainly won’t map to the whole of the reading public.) Enid Blyton isn’t everyone’s cup of tea (and wasn’t even in her own time, at the height of her fame) but she is one of the most – if not *the* most – successful children’s writers ever, and influenced a lot of other writers (including JK Rowling). If you can separate out the ‘technical’ criticism from the ‘subjective’ criticism you can work out what you need to work on and what you need to ignore. Then it’s about finding an agent who has the same taste in children’s fiction as you do. For example, I had a book rejected by an agent for being ‘too dark’ when I know there is much darker middle-grade fiction out there. But I also know this agent likes very funny books, which are usually quite light on real-world content. It’s not that she’s wrong exactly – she’s got a right to her taste – but I’m not about to change the shape of my book to fit her list. For the record, I’m 100% convinced children still want magical adventure stories.

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    • Thanks so much for the advice and words of encouragement. It’s really great to be buoyed along by someone like you who is further along the journey. I sometimes wonder/worry that the whole thing hinges on luck of the right place/right time/right person variety. Not even achieving one out of these three factors will spell success. A slightly depressing thought but I’m pleased to say beta reader feedback from children and parents has been wonderful and so faith is slowly restoring! Fingers crossed. Thanks so much for sharing your experiences X

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  12. Children don’t want magical adventure stories?!!!!! Of course they do! It’s safe escapism at its best I think. I also loved Blyton growing up and it sounds to me as though this editor’s taste has blurred her judgement. Who else has read your manuscript? I’d get some more opinions and see where they leave you. I know that’s even more scary when you’ve had one tough appraisal but I suspect that this editor was more harsh than necessary. Make the changes she suggested that resonated with you and send it out again. As other commenters have said, if you get the same comments repeatedly THEN it’s time to make big changes but if not then it’s just one person’s opinion. Good luck and I look forward to hearing more about it (especially as I’m writing a magical time-slip novel for a similar age group!) Thanks for linking to #whatImwriting xx

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    • I know! I balked when I read that feedback from her. It was hard not just to pour scorn on the whole thing and write back demanding a new editor. I had to take a huge step back. Walk away almost. For several months until I could see the subjective versus the objective and decide what to take from it. Almost a year later, I edited again with some of her more objective correction points and sent out to little beta readers for feedback. I’m pleased and pleasantly surprised to say that it’s good news so far from the parents & children who have read it and so my faith has been restored in the story. Exciting you’re writing for young uns too! How are you getting on? I’m actually looking for a peer (children’s writer) to do a con crit swap/read with. Just a thought – could you be interested in doing this with our books? No pressure but if this could be of interest, let me know and I can drop you an email to chat some more about the art of the possible. Someone in the biz told me to get various perspectives at this stage before submitting and I’m yet to do a peer review X

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  13. I’d suggest getting more feedback on your manuscript before changing if I were you. Since when do children not like magical adventure stories? Harry Potter anyone? I mean really. It’s a ridiculous statement. Good luck with it, keep going. And don’t forget Harry Potter was turned down by loads of publishers before JK Rowling found someone who liked it. 🙂

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    • Thanks so much for the encouragement. I felt really flat for a long while after writing this post but I’m pleased to say that the MS has been out with little beta readers/parents and feedback has been wonderful & has gleamed some more sensible editing points. New year will see a further edit before heading out on the submissions trail!! Thanks for reading & sharing your thoughts x

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  14. So frustrating… Did you end up doing anything with this book? I adored Blyton when I was growing up – I reckon I must have read everything she wrote at least ten times. This does sound like incredibly one-sided feedback from this editor – like you say she seems to have got an idea in her head and then just run with it. My experience of the young adult market though (and I think children’s is the same) is that it is incredibly difficult to crack. My first novel was aimed at 13-15 year olds and it got me an agent who loved it, but she still hasn’t managed to sell it. The feedback from publishers was really positive about my writing, but they just could’t see a place for it in the market. Apparently. So rubbish! The way my agent explained the challenge is that with adult fiction you just need to find one person in publishing who really likes it and they’ll presume other people will be like them, but with kids/young adult it’s harder as publishers are constantly second guessing what their target market might want. And trends change so quickly that predicting them is almost impossible… but that’s a good reason to persevere too – get it out to some agents, see what the general consensus is. Much easier to make a judgement call yourself once you’ve got a bunch of responses to compare… xx

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    • Hi Sophie! I know, I felt angry and hopeless about it at first. I must admit that I wrote this post a few months ago as I think it is important to share the ups and downs of aspiring authorhood. The current state of play is that the MS is out with little beta readers aged 6-10 for feedback from parents/children so I can gauge my target audience. I’m pleased to say – and very pleasantly surprised – that the feedback has been brilliant and really constructive too. The plan is to edit again early in the new year and then start submitting. I wasn’t sure about agents versus going direct to publishers – any advice? I guess maybe start targeting great agents first then see where I land. I did salvage some concrit from this editor feedback but to be honest the biggest victory is keeping the faith with my story. It just goes to show that getting various types of feedback – especially from the right demographic is key. Thanks so much for reading. I shall follow your journey with interest! X

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      • Glad to hear you’re moving forwards with it! In terms of the agents v publishers thing, I have chosen to go down the agent route – at least for now. I think if you can secure an agent then it opens a few more doors as far as approaching publishers is concerned – but then I’m speaking as someone who is not actually published yet so possibly not the best person to ask!! 😉 x

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