Getting feedback on everything from your idea to your manuscript to your query letter is and should be an important part of your writing process. What it shouldn’t do is give someone else creative control of your writing and your book.
Some of the most concerning things I hear coming out of writing circles are the so-called rules of publishing. Advice to writers on what needs to be done to succeed, what can’t be done, and the rules of writing and creativity. These so-called rules don’t help writers, they hold you back.
Feedback is vital to success, depending entirely on what you do with it. Before you can trust anyone else you need to trust yourself. You need to learn how to listen to your inner guide. Is the feedback you’re getting really the best thing for your book? Will it make your book better?
If you don’t believe it will, if you can’t see how to make that feedback work, you’re not going to be able to make it work.
Before taking suggestions from anyone, and that includes your agent and editor, you need to understand the feedback they are giving. Sometimes it’s not a matter of doing exactly what they say, but understanding why they are making the suggestion.
If, for example, they want you to remove a scene and alter it a certain way you need to understand the why before you can process the how.
I am going to use cozy mysteries as an example of the so-called rules. It’s where I see and hear these the most, but I suspect you’ve all heard them while writing your given genre.
The cozy mystery authors I represent who have had the biggest success–Ellery Adams, Sheila Connolly, Krista Davis, and Paige Shelton–have done so because they either didn’t follow or never knew the rules.
In a world where people are told a book has to be in a small town, they’ve set books in big cities. When told there can be only one murder, they’ve included multiple. In a genre where you are supposed to keep it light and sweet, they’ve written about real-world issues, dark ones.
But, these authors didn’t come out of the gate breaking the rules. In fact, I’m not sure they ever broke any. Instead, they stretched. With each book, they pushed a little harder. They expanded the box many wanted to put them in and made it bigger.
Most importantly, before they broke the rules of the genre, they understood the genre. They read book after book after book to understand what they were writing as readers first and then they analyzed each of those books as writers.
They knew exactly what the rules were, and then they pushed them. Inch by inch until they got on bestseller lists and became household names.