I am just floored by how helpful the feedback has been on my recently finished middle grade novel. And I haven't had access to a bunch of professional readers, either. It's mostly been family and friends, with a few near-strangers I met through www.absolutewrite.com/forums.
But their suggestions and comments have been invaluable to me! After all the tweaking, revising, and proof-reading you do of your own work, there comes a moment in time when you can't see the trees for the forest anymore. Seriously, your WIP becomes this massive muddy forest that feels completely uncrossable. There's no path, no distinct tree-line. It's just words. Words that sound good to you...or not. But you've been looking at them that way for so long, you have no idea how to change them to sound better.
At least this is the way it is for me.
So when somebody says, "Hey, this part confused me. Is it meant to be a miniature rocket, a bomb, or a rocket-ship?" that's when I finally realize that they didn't get my "clever" ending AT ALL!
Time to rewrite.
When Tall Bright & Handsome points out a logistical discrepancy in a fight-scene, my palm meets my forehead. Duh! Why didn't I notice that?
But there are also those golden moments, like when my sister says there were passages she couldn't believe I wrote. Or when a complete stranger says they would give it to their twelve-year-old friend/cousin/nephew because they loved it and think he will, too.
Those are the moments that make my head feel like it's filled with glitter.
It's the criticism, however, that really saves a novel. Tonight, I'll go back into my word document, which has had about a week to rest now, and I'll implement the suggestions I've received so far. This won't be the end. (I feel like Boneclaw, spewing out catch-phrases: "You haven't seen the last of me, Repairman!)
There will be more work ahead, but I know that each step will only make the novel better. And that's exciting.
I can almost hear Robert--see him winking: "Prepare to be Repaired!" You, Typos and Plot Holes, are no match for the Repairman.