When I read through the forum, or threads on Facebook, the frustration I see from fellow writers often boils down to the same question. What do editors want? It’s not easy to quickly and correctly interpret the meaning behind a stock criticism from someone we don’t know and can’t question directly. Applying that criticism to the revision or the next article can be even harder. Yet we’re asked to do so every day. Unless you get very few revisions and very high scores, you need a system for dealing with those comments. I can’t promise my methods will work for everyone… But I can tell you what works for me when it comes to constructive criticism. I hope that it helps someone out there.
Read the Comment Twice
It doesn’t matter if it’s just a stock comment or if the editor added a few thoughts of their own. Either way, I always read the comment twice. Ideally, the second read-through happens after I take a five-minute break. But sometimes it’s enough just to read through it twice.
Why? Because my knee-jerk first response to a revision request, or a comment that suggests that I need to do something differently, is nearly always wrong. And I’m betting I’m not the only one. Often, my first impression is that the reviewer is telling me that my article needs to be completely rewritten. “Your audience is unclear” tends to make me jump to that conclusion, as does any mention of use value.
Upon second read-through, I usually realize that tightening up a paragraph, adding a sentence to the introduction and conclusion, or even just adding a word or two, makes the difference between an article that’s unfocused and one that’s directed at a specific audience for a specific purpose. These changes almost always are confined to the beginning and end of the article. Rarely is it necessary to touch the middle, where all the carefully researched information is. The problem is usually in the presentation — that is, the opening and closing paragraphs.
Read the WHOLE Comment
Sometimes one small part of a comment jumps out at me and appears to dominate the entire email. “Is it trending?” is a good example of this. The stock comment that begins with that question goes on to suggest a few approaches you can take to engage the reader, but it’s easy to get hung up on “Is it trending?” when your keyword is something that would never be trending, like lobe pumps.
“How do I make lobe pumps trending?” I ask the reviewer in my head, oblivious to the fact that in that one stock comment I’ve been asked several different questions, each of which is a suggestion to help me engage the reader, and I’m just hung up on the idea of lobe pumps as a trending topic.
In other words, if I catch myself thinking that the revision request is ridiculous, I’ve usually zeroed in on one part of a generic stock comment that may not necessarily apply to my piece, while ignoring the rest of the comment which might be (and usually is) helpful.
Read Like a Reader, Not a Writer
I don’t typically go through my articles checking them against each point on each tier before submitting. However, when I read my articles before and after submission, I put myself in the mindset of a web reader.
While that can be hard to do when you’re close to a piece of writing, it’s honestly the best advice I have for anyone who’s struggling for higher scores or less revision requests. We’re all web readers — we have to be just to research these articles. What catches your eye in the search results? Why aren’t you abandoning an article midway through? Which links give you the information you want, without causing you to navigate away from the site that gave you the link in the first place?
There are many answers to those questions because readers are different. And they want different things from different kinds of articles. I know I want different things from a how-to piece on winterizing my house than I want from an article telling me about a new medical treatment. But in my experience, if I can do in my article the things that work in articles that I read, the reviewers will like it too. And if I’m not doing those things, then I need to adapt for the readers, not the other way around.
Keep Working Hard
One last thing: Don’t forget to cut yourself some slack. They can’t all be perfect 5s, and scores of 3 or 4 both mean that you wrote an article that will be published online and read by others. And that’s an awesome thing! Take editor comments to heart, but a published and paid article means a good article. Job well done!
This article was written by one of our writers. The author’s views are entirely their own and may not reflect the views of WritersDomain.
A great read Cheryl, and very helpful to boot! Cheers Nick